CENTRALIA, Pa. -- Years ago, it was nearly demolished because of ongoing issues with underground mine fires. Now, a church just outside Centralia is receiving national attention thanks to a well-known publication.
Sitting on a big hill overlooking Centralia, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukranian Catholic Church is almost impossible to miss. Now, people from all around the country are becoming familiar with the local staple.
When you drive through the heart of Centralia, you don't see much. Over the past few decades, burning coal seams have turned this borough into a ghost town.
But one prominent structure still remains, and it's getting attention from millions of readers across the country.
"People have been forced to relocate to many different areas throughout Northumberland, Schuylkill, and Columbia counties. By this church continuing to function, by opening its doors every Sunday and holy day, those who lost the sense of community can still find it here," said Rev. Michael Hutsko, pastor of the church.
Assumption BVM Church in Conyngham Township is the cover story for the latest edition of Reader's Digest. Writer Bill Hangley Jr.'s story, titled "The Church That Wouldn't Burn," will be in the hands of 2.5 million readers in the United States.
"He felt that that's really the story of a miracle of how one building can remain while everyone else is relocated, and he wanted to know the story behind the fact that this church was allowed to stay here when everyone else was forced to relocate," Hutsko said.
Assumption BVM has been around for 109 years and still has nearly 70 members. Dozens of parishioners from across the area still go to the church for prayer every Sunday.
"This church was slated to be demolished, as were all of the buildings. The bishop at the time asked the state to drill boreholes on the property. What they found when they drilled the boreholes was that this property sits on solid rock," Hutsko said.
This story in Reader's Digest is available now, and Hutsko also adds anybody is welcome during Sunday Mass.