stmaurI am entering the mid-30s.. (shhh, I am sort of already in my mid-thirties, but it sounds good pretending I am just starting) .. And throughout my life since birth, I saw my town of Centralia go from populated to ghostly.. I have seen each and every single grade school and high school,I went to be knocked down (except one at this time) after Catholic Church decisions led to closures..  Thankfully the college I attended is firmly still there. I hope I did not curse its existence with my attendance.

The coal region of Pennsylvania, the expansive locale where coal WAS king and the kings made the land dry up.. die .. become spent. The barons of yesterday did not just create a depleted landscape filled with sulfur creeks — some of us have a less kind name for them– but also a cursed future. Industry is drying up, almost gone. Drugs and less than valuable habits now reign supreme among the populace. There is still hope. I firmly believe there is always hope. However, the darkest is typically before the dawn. And right now, as you drive around the towns of Schuylkill County PA, it’s only a bit after midnight..

There is something about the coal region that has been a long standing tradition.. An old adage of the area once would have said that there was a bar and church on every corner. In every town. In the current age, those bars are fewer and the churches are almost non existence.

As happened in several other dioceses across the United States, the Catholic Church has consolidated parishes in this part of Pennsylvania.. and with that new found reality, old buildings have been vacated of the relics once revered. Some buildings have become dilapidated, or for sale. And others? Well ..  they are gone.  And quickly gone in some cases.

In May 2015, St. Mauritius and St. Joseph’s in Ashland PA became affected by the closing times.. Joseph got renamed. Mauritius got shuddered. 

As with any church, school, town, or building that housed any form of human interaction, there is history in St. Mauritius.. Marriages. Baptisms.. funerals… confirmations. Deep  moments of prayer, elated times of laughter. All in the confines of a beautiful building that had stained glass windows mirroring the faith of the patrons who attended weekly mass. Also, tragedy. In 1990–a story I recall from my childhood–the pastor of St. Mauritius was killed after being shot attempting to settle a marital dispute.

The steeple of this church was visible from Centralia where I grew up. I have family who lives nearby and the cross on top was a mainstay of the view from the back door of the house. It’s gone now. It was demolished.. The steeple topped down. Along with the crucifix that symbolized the faithful who attended..

BILL N TONIA on Facebook have a few good videos, including one of a steeple climb but perhaps more importantly, this one of the church steeple and cross falling down.

The video proves the scenario.. the building is gone.

You’ll note the video’s ending.. as the video closes, the steeple comes down. There appear to be a few cheers from the construction crew. Yes, a victory for machinery.. but a loss for so many others, and generations of them. However.. the message. To the sky.. a sign? Or a cloud?  Chemtrail? or symbol of strength at a time when many feel loss?

BILLNTONIAPHOTOThe cloud formation looks like a cross, no doubt. There obviously could be coincidental reasons, including the aforementioned chemtrails from jets above..  However, this video made the local rounds on Facebook and I took notice.

There will be two schools of thought. One being scientific.. there will be no proof, regardless of what anyone will say, that the cross in the sky was anything more than clouds and that’s it. Period. The other school will pooh pooh scientific realities and got with a gut feeling. A feeling that God in a sense was either showing anger or empathy.. There may be a vast amounts of reasons you’ll fall within the boundary of whatever feelings you bring to the table on this.

But there was a cloud that formed a cross above a church that was being demolished. And that, my friends, seems to be a fact that some, perhaps, should not ignore.

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  1. Very well written. Even through my tears I was able to read it aloud to my husband. I wasn’t a member of the church, but it was up on the hill directly behind our home & I enjoyed hearing the bell ring on Sunday’s & the clock chime on the hour for over 30 some years. Those sounds have been silenced now, but I will never forget how beautiful it was. Our hearts ache for all those faithful parishoners who have lost so much and we share in their loss. God bless.

  2. A beautiful tribute and very meaningful to those of us who grew up while attending that Church and School. Thank you.

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