EYNON – More than two decades after permanently closing its doors, the former Saint Mary of Vilna Church on Third Street was taken down by demolition crews March 13, 2024.

Workers from Stafursky Paving Company began shortly after 8:00 a.m., and after more than four hours of steady and meticulous work, the building was mostly gone by noon.

A small metal canister containing a letter and photo from 1915 were recovered from the former Saint Mary of Vilna Church in Eynon. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

“We want to remember the history here, the parishioners who built Saint Mary of Vilna, and the many sacraments celebrated here,” Father Ryan Glenn, Pastor, Christ the King Parish in Archbald, said. “We recognize the church as a living organism and this particular site has been closed for more than 20 years.”

The church permanently closed in spring 2001 due to a mold problem after being plagued by moisture and water drainage issues. After final consultation with parish leaders in 2023, a decision was made to bring down the church building.

“This is really an act of being a good neighbor, making sure this building doesn’t cause any harm,” Father Glenn said as he personally observed the demolition. “It is a sign that we’re continuing to move forward as parishes here in the Mid Valley.

During Lent, we’re reminded that something has to die for something new to be born. That is our faith.”

Christ the King Parish – with its worship sites of Saint Thomas Aquinas Church, Archbald, and Saint Mary of Czestochowa Church, Eynon – recently linked with Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Parish in Jermyn.

Lovey Wargo has lived across the street from Saint Mary Vilna Church since she was nine years old.

As she watched the crews work, her mind filled with many memories, from the baptisms of her five children to previous pastors who had served there.

“I used to help with the collections and I used to help with the flowers,” Wargo explained. “My sister-in-law also fixed anything. When the Sacred Heart (statue’s) fingers were broken, she fixed all that and we repainted every one of them.”

The church plans to retain the land and plant grass at the site.

“That will provide access to the cemetery and we’re hoping that it actually allows easier access to the cemetery, so people can visit their loved ones without the risks and hazards of having the old church on the grounds,” Father Ryan said.

Before moving forward with demolition, Christ the King Parish hired Alicon Environmental, Inc., to do an asbestos survey of the site. As part of its work, the demolition company consulted with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to ensure the work could be completed safely.

One last remaining artifact from the church was retrieved on the day of demolition – the cornerstone that contained a small metal time capsule from more than a century ago.

“We’re very excited to see what’s inside that time capsule and to share the contents with the parish. It’s that living link with the history of the parish,” Father Ryan added.

The container contained a letter and photo from 1915. The photo is believed to be of the former pastor of the church, and the letter, which is mostly intact, is written in either Lithuanian or Latin. The parish is currently working to translate the contents of the letter and will plan to share it with the community.