Historic Church Buildings Torn Down

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SHENANDOAH -- The site of two church buildings in a Schuylkill County community will soon become a parking lot.

The buildings in Shenandoah are being torn down even though one housed papers from a man who could become a saint.

Rubble is all that remains of a former rectory and convent in Shenandoah. The demolition at St. Casmir's Church started last week and there's not much left standing.

It all comes after the Divine Mercy parish had some engineers come to check out the more than 100-year-old buildings.

"They felt the building was structurally unsafe. They thought the building was going to pancake."

But it's what was inside the buildings on the corner of Washington Street and Jardin Street that was also historic. The former rectory was home to the Fr. Walter Ciszek prayer league.

"Fr. Walter Ciszek is a native Shenandoahan. His native parish was St. Casmir's," explained Monsignor Ronald Bocian.

Fr. Ciszek studied his faith overseas and spent 23 years as a prisoner in the Soviet Union.

"He followed his parishioners into Russia and ended up being accused of being a Vatican spy."

Fr. Ciszek died in 1984 but the prayer league in his name has been working to get Fr. Ciszek canonized. Now, every document from the prayer league is being held in Allentown until the league moves into its new home.

"The new prayer league museum and office will be in the former Annunciation rectory on the second floor."

Some people in Shenandoah were sad to see the buildings come down.

"I don't think they should have torn it down because it's history," said Anthony Swetavage.

"Three quarters of this town is structurally unsafe, but the building looked fine to me," added Sean Foley.

Msgr. Bocian says right now it looks like a snow-covered construction zone, but come this summer the area will be a parking lot for the church.

The former convent near the church is now at St. Stephen's rectory across town, and is now called the Fr. Walter Ciszek convent.

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