He said Archbishop Nelson Perez met with him on June 18 to discuss parishioners' upset reaction to the renovations.
"The archbishop was frank and clear about his deep concern with regard to these renovations and directed a pathway to move forward," the priest said. The renovations took place "without the proper permission and oversight" from the archdiocese. There was no "broad consultation with parishioners," Chagala acknowledged.
The protocols of the archdiocese's Office for Divine Worship require plans to be submitted for review and approval by the archbishop before any work begins, and the archdiocesan moderator of the curia reviews the project for financial feasibility.
Chagala said the renovations have divided the parish and there is a need "to focus on greater transparency and communication among us."
He praised the legacy of the parish and its current parishioners.
"I have a pastoral duty to reach out to all of you and support you in your life of faith," he said. "In order for me to do this more effectively, I pledge to take the needed steps to bridge the divide that now marks us, and with your support, to build up the parish of St. Michael's," he said.
Another renovation controversy took place at St. Charles Borromeo Church in south Philadelphia, where parish administrator Father Esteban Granyak this summer removed the marble altar rail, moved the main altar, renovated a chapel and converted a basement gym into a worship space for members of the Neocatechumenal Way, a Catholic movement of spiritual formation and evangelization.
The changes were made without consulting parishioners at the 152-year-old historically African-American parish.
In addition to objecting to the lack of consultation, Some Black parishioners objected that the parish has stopped using a cross long used by the community during Mass.
Parishioners also said Black parishioners traditionally used the basement gym for social gatherings or for receptions after funerals, and that the parish does not pay enough attention to Black parishioners, or the social issues relevant to them, such as the death of George Floyd while being detained by police in Minneapolis, Minn.
Some parishioners accused Granyak, the parish administrator, of engaging in insensitive and racist practices and of giving preferential treatment to the Neocatechumenal Way.
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"We are being tossed aside. We have no connection to what is going on at St. Charles Parish at all," 76-year-old Carolyn Jenkins, a lifelong parishioner and member of the parish council, told the Inquirer in July.
Jenkins and others have protested outside the parish church. She said they wanted the priest removed.
"There's no way he can stay here with all the bad history and signs of racism we have experienced," she said.
Gavin responded to some of the claims against Granyak.
"Allegations of racism are not taken lightly by the archdiocese," he told the Inquirer in July. "Racial hatred has no place in our Church or in the hearts of people. Racism is a mortal sin and an attack on the gift of life. No complaints of racially motivated behavior have been lodged against Father Granyak with the archdiocese."
He noted that parish communities include people from various age groups and cultural and ethnic backgrounds.