The Diocese of Allentown has reached agreement to sell the former Saint Stephen Church in Port Carbon to the Saint Stephen Society, a group of former parishioners dedicated to preserving the historic church.
The group is an established non-profit organization sanctioned by the Diocese.
St. Stephen Parish was merged into St. Clare of Assisi Parish, Saint Clair, in 2020 because of declining attendance and financial struggles. Some former parishioners appealed the closure to the Diocese, and eventually reached agreement with the Diocese to purchase the property.
The group expects to sponsor the celebration of two Masses per year at the church, one on the Feast of St. Stephen, December 26, and another on the anniversary of the dedication of the church, February 7. Funerals for former parishioners may take place in the church, and it may be open for private prayer and other devotions organized by the Society.
The funds received from the sale will go to Saint Clare of Assisi Parish in Saint Clair, which received the assets and liabilities of Saint Stephen Parish after the merger.
This is the first time the Diocese was able to work out such an agreement with a local group wanting to retain use of a former church building, a type of arrangement that became possible after direction from the Vatican that opened a path to explore creative ways to allow continued limited use after a parish merger.
St. Stephen Parish was established in 1847 by St. John Neumann.