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St. Katharine, academy buildings sold

People around the Panther Valley may have noticed something different at the front of the former St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church in Lansford recently.

The scaffolding has been removed from the front of the historic structure.

The former church, which was first known as St. Michael the Archangel, as well as Our Lady of Angels Academy school buildings have been sold.

The Rev. Allen Hoffa, pastor of St. Joseph Parish of the Panther Valley, who oversees those buildings as part of the church consolidation, said Thursday evening that the sale was finalized.

Both buildings are now owned by Ericka Williams-Rodriguez of Catholic Worker, who initially planned to purchase only the school property to create the Dorothy Day Community Enrichment Center, a community center and learning hub complete with a science lab, computer lab, photography room, Lego and building lab, GED classes, workshop area for a variety of classes and a Carbon County home schooling co-op.

“The Catholic Worker has been a significant part of my priestly ministry,” Hoffa said. “I am thrilled that these buildings that have served many of the aspects of the church will now serve the evangelical mandate of a preferential option for the poor. I am certain that the Catholic values that are instilled in this valley will only grow now because of the work of Ericka and other Catholic Workers like her. We also ask Dorothy Day’s intercession on this new apostolate.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Allentown, Paul Wirth, added that the Diocese is grateful that a landmark in Lansford will remain, and that the sale will result in the continuation of the Catholic mission.

Williams-Rodriguez said she decided to purchase both properties, which are still on the same parcel, after she heard the initial investor who planned to buy the church dropped out. She said the purchase price was $80,000.

Thomas Bartholomew, the previous buyer interested in the church, posted on the Lansford Historical Society’s Facebook page, “As we couldn’t obtain a subdivision from the diocese in 2019 and I wanted to purchase the church while Catholic Worker wanted the school/rectory it was decided that Catholic Worker would purchase the entire property which they have. A future subdivision remains a possibility with preservation of the church, its organ and interior furnishings a priority.”

He added that he met with Catholic Worker and the pair are developing plans that will follow everyone’s visions of preservation and enrichment in both buildings.

He also recently posted additional photos of the bells, tower and organ, talking about what will be done to maintain them.

Williams-Rodriguez is in the process of organizing a committee to help raise money for the projects.

She also said Friday that Catholic Worker “intends to donate the church to an organization that needs space and wants to preserve the memory of the miners who funded the building of St. Michael’s.”

A donation site has also been created to help with the upcoming task of creating the center Williams-Rodriguez envisions.

If you would like to help or for ways to volunteer, visit https://cccfoundpa.org/catholic-worker-fund.

Chris Reber contributed to this report.

The former St. Katharine Drexel and St. Michael the Archangel Catholic church, right, and the former rectory and Our Lady of Angels Academy school, left, have recently been sold to Catholic Worker to create a community enrichment center. AMY MILLER/TIMES NEWS