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Holy Fences: Archdiocese Confirms Safety Fence Construction at St. Laurentius, Meeting Tonight at Shissler Rec

There is a metaphorical barrier between the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (AOP) and members of Save St. Laurentius (SSL) — one that limits their communication and understanding of one another regarding the future of St. Laurentius church. This chasm will be deepened in a physical sense by a fence that is set to be built around the Fishtown church in the coming weeks.

Father John Sibel originally announced the construction of the fence during a July 26th mass at Holy Name of Jesus. Ken Gavin, AOP Communications Director, confirmed this in an email to The Spirit. The fence will be constructed in accordance with recommendations made to the Archdiocese by the engineering firm O’Donnell & Naccarato (O&N).

“[The fence] is being erected as an additional safety measure at the recommendation of the structural engineers,” Gavin said.

Following the Philadelphia Historical Commission‘s decision to grant St. Laurentius Historic Designation status last month — a decision that protects the church from demolition — the AOP still saw the building’s continuing deterioration as a safety hazard. The construction of a safety fence as a means to protect those walking in close proximity to the church was mentioned by O&N during both hearings to the Historical Commission. The exact length, size and perimeter of the fence are all yet to be confirmed by the AOP.

But members of SSL see the construction of this fence as only one part of a larger issue. John Wisniewski of SSL says the bigger problem is the lack of communication by the AOP throughout the continuing dispute surrounding the 19th century church. Though Sibel has made public announcements regarding St. Laurentius during mass at Holy Name, Wisniewski said,

“We have received nothing from the Archdiocese, the parish council or Father Sibel in writing.”

The enclosure of St. Laurentius isn’t the only fence that’s taking heat from the public and the media in the city of Philadelphia, as talk of “The Pope Fence” has been the topic of numerous headlines in recent weeks.

Mayor Nutter confirmed in July that certain sections of Philadelphia will be fenced in for security purposes during Pope Francis’ visit in last week of September. Nutter was quick to dispel speculation that the “Pope Fence” would place all of Center City behind chain links.

“Some fencing — height and type to be determined — will go up in parts of the city where the pope is expected to appear,” Nutter said.

The Mayor added that it wouldn’t be the first time Philadelphia had ever erected fences for a security purposes.

“There was fencing out at the July Fourth show… fencing is not a new concept in this city,” Nutter said.

Both “The Pope Fence” and the fence set to be erected around St. Laurentius church figure to be a continuing topic of discussion debate in the weeks and months to come.

Save St. Laurentius will be facilitating further debate tonight, Tuesday August 4, at 7PM during a meeting at Shissler Rec to update the public, local community and the press on recent events involving the church.

“We want to keep everyone’s spirits moving forward because people have a tendency when they don’t hear anything to think that things are falling apart… We just want to keep people informed about where we are and what we are still trying to do,” Wisniewski said.

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