As part of her reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods and PlanPhilly Sara Khan checked in on the vacant St. Michael's Business School at 2nd and Jefferson, a property the Philadelphia Archdiocese is anticipated to sell off as part of its efforts to deaccession surplus properties.
[UPDATED 3/1/13:] The St. Michael Roman Catholic Church in South Kensington plans to sell the vacant property it owns across the street.
The building, located at Second and Jefferson streets, was once the St. Michael’s Business School, which provided business technology training for women hoping to enter the job market.
St. Michael’s Church shut down the school in the early 1990s, primarily because of low enrollment, tuition and new technology replacing the skills taught at the school said church office manager Grace Galaschewski. The La Salle Academy and charter schools have leased the facility temporarily since then.
“We don’t have a school any longer, so it would be foolish to hold onto a piece of property that may be of value to someone else,” Galaschewski said. “It’s an expense that… weighs on the parish as far as finances are concerned.”
Galaschewski said that it is a time of renewal for the church, which holds a good financial position within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Current church enrollments rival those held in the early 1800s when the church was first opened and popular in the community because of new immigrants.
“Most of the churches in this area are fairly fortunate that their parishioners are mostly of older generations and they believe in supporting the church as much as they can even with their limited incomes,” Galaschewski said.
The development of lower North Philadelphia has also brought in new parishioners to help the church.
“Because the area known as Northern Liberties* is a gentrified area, younger people are coming and some of them are willing to join an organized religion,” Galaschewski said. “And in doing so they, present their time and talents, along with their finances to help the church.”
Parishioners from the St. Boniface Church—a primarily Hispanic North Philadelphia church that closed in 2006 (Ed.- demolished in 2012 to make way for an affordable housing development)—have joined St. Michael’s, bringing greater ethnic diversity. “We were very fortunate that they chose to come this far to come to St. Michael’s,” Galaschewski added.
Because of the growing number of parishioners, St. Michael’s covers most day-to-day expenses through Sunday collections.
“We live on a very strict budget. We do our part to keep the cost down and they [parishioners] do their part in keeping us afloat financially,” Galaschewski said. It is part of maintaining this tight budget that St. Michael’s plans to sell the vacant building.
“The cost of maintaining a building that we’re not using? It’s not astronomical, but it does put a drain on our budget and doesn’t allow us to do some of the things that we think would be more important to the parish itself.” Galaschewski said the saved maintenance costs of the building could be applied to church education for children.
-- Sara Kahn, Philadelphia Neighborhoods
This spring Alyssa Saylor and Sara Khan are bringing Eyes on the Street and PlanPhilly dispatches from South Kensington as part of their work for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a publication of Temple’s Multimedia Reporting Lab. PlanPhilly is a Philadelphia Neighborhoods partner.
*Northern Liberties, South Kensington, Olde Kensington? Read Sara Kahn and Alyssa Saylor's exlploration of this neighborhood of many names.
Note: The video states that the St. Michael’s Business School once offered a 2-year business program. This is true, however, starting in the late 1970s, the school changed into a 3-year program to better accommodate its students in a different work environment.