On June 1, 2008, the Rev. Monsignor Lawrence J. Bukaty sadly broke the news to parishioners of Ss. Peter and Paul Church, Lansford, that the church, founded more than a century before to serve the largely Polish congregation, would be closed, and its flock folded into the new St. Katharine Drexel, a stone's throw away.
Since then, the Allentown Diocese has been trying to sell the church, one of 36 in Carbon and Schuylkill counties closed by the diocese in 2008. Any items of religious significance – stained glass windows, icons, altars – were removed. The stained glass is being sold by a Philadelphia auction house to other religious venues.
While some of the closed churches have been sold, Ss. Peter and Paul's had no buyers. The building, at 213 E. Abbott St., sat vacant and deteriorating.
Last week, T. Brennan Heavy Equipment, of Carbondale, Lackawanna County, began the work of tearing it down. The work began with the removal of asbestos and oil tanks, said diocese spokesman Matt Kerr. Kerr said St. Katharine's parish reluctantly made the decision to demolish the building.
Ss. Peter and Paul was among six churches in Lansford and Coaldale that were consolidated in 2008 into the new church, formerly St. Michael the Archangel.
The closings and consolidations came as diocese restructured 151 parishes in light of an anticipated shortage of priests.
The diocese projected that by June 2009 there would be 115 priests available for parish ministry.
The decision hit the Panther Valley hard. In Summit Hill, St. Stanislaus parish was consolidated with St. Joseph's. In Coaldale, St. John the Baptist, St. Mary, and Ss. Cyril and Methodius were closed.
In Lansford, St. Ann's and Ss. Peter and Paul were closed and consolidated with the former St. Michael's Church. In Nesquehoning, Immaculate Conception, Sacred Heart, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, were merged to become the new St. Francis of Assisi parish.