Contractors Blamed for Church Demolition on Ash Wednesday

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WILKES-BARRE – A spokesman for the Diocese of Scranton told Newswatch 16 that demolition work on St. Therese Catholic Church on Old River Road was scheduled to start on Monday, but contractors were delayed by another project and decided to start tearing down the church on Ash Wednesday.

The Diocese consolidated St. Therese with the nearby Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church and closed the doors after a final service in 2011.

Teresa Hustey stopped her car in the street and said she was stunned to see the former house of worship being demolished as she drove home.

"My daughter was married here, both of my girls were raised with the church,” said Hustey. “Monsignor Callahan watched them grow."

Ned Blaum told Newswatch 16 that he drove from Hanover Township to take a brick home, after a friend told him that the church was being torn down.

"I said ‘What do you mean the church is gone?’ She said ‘They're ripping it down.’ I said, ‘On Ash Wednesday?’ I couldn't believe it because I was a lifelong member of St. Therese church. I went to grade school here as a kid. It was my second home,” said Blaum.

Former parishioner Mary Carr said some of the most exciting moments in her life happened inside the church, which was a few blocks away from the home that she was raised in.

"In grade school, I went here for eight years. It was my first holy communion, my first penance, confirmation and I was married here,” said Carr. “There’s a lot of fond memories."

A diocese spokesman said the parish will sell the property when the debris is cleared.