Fate of Churches May Be Announced

By Mike Faher
The Tribune-Democrat

November 28, 2008

The fate of five historic Johnstown churches may be announced next week.

The Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese confirmed that Bishop Joseph Adamec will visit the city Tuesday for meetings with priests and parish representatives.

The sessions, to be held at St. John Gualbert Cathedral’s activities center on Adams Street, will focus on “the future of the Cambria City parishes,” diocesan spokesman Rob Egan said.

Egan would not say whether the bishop intends to disclose which of the five churches will remain open under a merger plan to take effect in July.

But last weekend, parishioners in some of the affected churches were told to expect an announcement Tuesday.

Some parishioners also were told that Adamec will speak with the media immediately following the meetings.

The diocese announced in February that the five churches – St. Columba, SS. Casimir & Emerich, Immaculate Conception, St. Rochus and St. Stephen – would be merged into one parish with one worship site.

The news was a blow not only to parishioners, but also to local historians who see the ornate churches as a vital link to the city’s ethnic heritage.

But Adamec said declining population and a dwindling number of priests have forced the diocese to consider “readjusting parish structures” for the past 14 years.

Since that February announcement, the diocese has held meetings with Cambria City pastors and a parishioners committee.

The diocese also conducted an engineering study of the five churches, which date to the early 1900s.

Results of that survey have not been released.

As part of the planned church merger, West End Catholic School in Cambria City was closed in June.


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