Closed Catholic Church Reborn
REILLY TOWNSHIP -- The transformation of a closed Catholic church in Schuylkill County is complete.It’s St. Mary’s, a former Catholic church in Branchdale, near Minersville. Former parishioners are very proud of what they have accomplished with the help of Philadelphia businessman Ron Coles.The Diocese of Allentown closed the church four years ago. Coles, who has family ties in Schuylkill County, bought it and encouraged people to come together and repair the church.Jeff Tobin helped with the repairs.“I got in touch with people, the drywallers to do the drywall work, the painters to get the painting done, the electricians to fix the wiring, the stone masons to do the stone out back,” Tobin said.Tobin said he has many memories."My wife (and I) were married here, my kids were baptized in the church and just to see it, it closed up and just sat," added Tobin.The church, which is still called St. Mary’s, is now a non-denominational house of worship.Rose Smith said that’s okay with her.“It's wonderful! It's going to be independent but that's okay. It's one God that's who we pray to,” she said.Coles now has his eyes set on another church in Port Carbon.He plans to buy St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. He said it doesn’t have many members and wants to come up with ways to keep the church an important part of the community. A brainstorming session will be held December 23 in the house of worship.
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