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Catholic Church in Williamsport Torn Down

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WILLIAMSPORT -- On what may be the last time Phil Noviello walks out of Mater Dolorosa, a Catholic church in Williamsport,  he took a pew from inside as a memory.

"It means a lot, you know? It's a piece of this church that our whole family belonged to forever, so yeah, I'm all about it,” said Noviello.

About eight years ago, the Diocese of Scranton consolidated some of its churches. That's when the oldest Italian Catholic church in Williamsport closed. Now, it’s being torn down.

"It's being deconstructed. In other words, we are not demolishing it because it is a sacred structure," said Father Brian VanFossen.

Reverend Brian VanFossen told Newswatch 16 the construction crew from Steinbacher Enterprises is working to ensure what is sacred remains sacred.  They are at times taking bricks down one by one.

Back in the 1930s, the church was built on top of Grafius Run. It’s a stream that runs under Williamsport.  The church is being torn down now because the ground underneath it has become unstable.

"This southeast corner is what we are afraid would fall. Once it would fall, at that point you are looking at demolition and not deconstruction. At that point, you are reacting and not being proactive," said Father Brian.

Once the church is down, Father Brian hopes in its place the Diocese of Scranton will erect a shrine to Our Lady of Fatima.

"Being the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, it's rather appropriate to continue the Mater Dolorosa, the Mother of Sorrows, and the connection of Mary in this particular area," said Father Brian.

"We drive by here and you know you always make the sign of the cross when you go in front of the church. I'm still going to make the sign of the cross when you go by here," said Noviello.

The church is expected to be down by next week. The shrine should be up by the end of the year.