In order to prevent Johnstown landmarks from being stripped of their history and possibly even being torn down, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cambria County will formally transfer the ownership of three former church buildings to 1901 Church Inc., a not-for-profit corporation that focuses on preventing church structures in the Cambria County area from being neglected.
The three church buildings — Immaculate Conception, St. Columba's, and Sts. Casimir and Emerich — will be transferred from Resurrection Parish to 1901 Church, Inc. this afternoon.
Teresa Marafino, President of 1901 Church and the Steeples Project, said the purpose of these transfers is not to preserve the structures, but rather to conserve them so the buildings could still be used by the community.
Last year, 1901 Church had not planned on obtaining these buildings. But with no one else looking to purchase the structures, Marafino said they felt somebody had to step forward.
One of the church buildings, Immaculate Conception, will be used this year by a non-profit art company that needs space over the winter to construct a mosaic.
Unlike Immaculate Conception, St. Columba's repurposing won't be done right away, but Marafino said the buildings will become part of Cambria City's cultural district.
"The idea for St. Columba is for it to house a theater space that would be used to house a tourist attraction," Marafino said. "And that tourist attraction would be a historical pageant that demonstrates to the people who see the show what the immigrant's experience was on the east coast of the United States."
According to Marafino, the historical pageant would run through the summer. During the offseason, other groups could use the theater for their own purposes.
Although they hadn't planned on originally purchasing these three structures, Marafino said they are now excited to see these church buildings being put to good use.
"We are looking forward to this project because we have people behind us who value this very much and want to make Cambria City a cultural district for not only local people to enjoy, but the entire region to enjoy," Marafino said.
The ceremony will occur Wednesday, January 25 at noon at 300 Broad Street, the location of the Immaculate Conception Church building.