A historic Pennsylvania Roman Catholic church was demolished this week after the local diocese failed to secure a buyer for the century-old building.
The steeple of St. Joseph’s Church in Nanticoke crashed to the ground on Monday, as some former parishioners looked on.
“It’s a sad day,” Lorraine Beck, a former member of St. Joseph’s choir, told local ABC affiliate WNEP. “It’s hard to watch.”
St. Joseph’s has been vacant since 2010, when several local Catholic parishes were consolidated into one church ― the Parish of St. Faustina. The diocese previously sold the building’s stained-glass windows.
Nanticoke is a small former coal mining city in the Appalachian Mountains. The city’s Catholic community, buoyed by immigrants from eastern Europe, Italy and Ireland, founded six parishes between 1874 and 1942. St. Joseph’s was founded around 1889, according to the Diocese of Scranton’s historical records, a spokesperson told HuffPost. St. Joseph’s had a significant number of Slovak families who worked in local coal mines, according to The Citizen’s Voice, a Pennsylvania paper.
But the community has changed drastically in recent years “due to the lack of priests, diminishing financial resources, and, shifting population demographics,” according to St. Faustina’s website.
St. Faustina, named after a Polish saint, now serves about 2,800 families.
After years of attempting to sell St. Joseph’s, the Diocese of Scranton decided last year to demolish the church building and adjacent rectory. A spokesman told The Associated Press that the diocese will try to find a buyer for the property after the demolition is complete.
The Diocese of Scranton was one of six Pennsylvania dioceses named in a landmark grand jury report into sexual abuse published last year. The report identified over 1,000 victims and 301 “predator” priests in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.
The grand jury identified 59 sexual offenders linked to the Diocese of Scranton ― including one priest who served at St. Joseph’s in the 1960s.