Phila.'s oldest Hispanic church holds final mass

SPRING GARDEN - June 23, 2013

Church leaders say the century-old Latino landmark at 19th and Spring Garden streets was sold to a developer to be turned into condominiums.

"The Latino community right now is in mourning," said Marisol Liceaga-DiRenzo, church member.

Children shed tears during the church's final Sunday morning mass. The priest was interrupted more than once as members protested the closure.

Officials say the Vincentian old order priests headquartered in Barcelona, Spain sold the property to pay for an aging priest population.

"It's a difficult situation because everyone figured the Archdiocese owned the place but they didn't," said Epifanio DeJesus, Archdiocese of Philadelphia Deacon.

Members still think the Archdiocese could've done more to preserve the historic Latino chapel.

"It's our history, our piece of American history that was given to us," said DiRenzo.

In recent months, parishioners held rallies and sold tee shirts to try to raise money to save the only all-Spanish-speaking church in the city but it wasn't enough.

Even after the final Sunday morning service, members gathered on the front steps of the church and voiced their anger and frustration.

Father Bruce Lewandowski of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia says their hands are tied.

"The church is changing, it's very difficult to change and painful to change," said Lewandowski.

In an effort to accommodate members of La Milagrosa Catholic Church beginning next week ,every Sunday at 12:30 p.m. there will be a Spanish service at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

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