A group of parishioners is getting the chance to buy its closed Catholic church.
The former St. Katharine Drexel Church in Lansford closed in 2016. After two appeals were denied, it was decided the church will stay closed for good.
Now parishioners fighting to preserve St. Katharine's are being given a chance to purchase it. They received a letter from the Allentown Diocese on Saturday, offering them the church building and the land it sits on for $50,000.
"The Diocese doesn't seem to get that we're trying to preserve a church, not necessarily a building," said Jim Hrubovcak, one of the parishioners now faced with the decision to buy the church.
But a building is what parishioners are being offered.
"It does not include the rectory or the school building and under Canon law, contents of the church must be removed, the altar, the statues," said Matt Kerr, director of communications at the Diocese of Allentown.
Church pews and stained glass windows must also be removed. Services will not be allowed to be held inside.
"So you're basically getting an empty building," said Hrubovcak.
An empty building the Diocese says is in need of some repairs.
"There are both cosmetic and structural issues with the church, I assume, that a new buyer would have to take care of," said Kerr.
Right now those issues are an unknown to parishioners.
"We haven't been in the church so we have no idea really [what the] condition is inside," said Hrubovcak.
The Diocese cites financial strains and low attendance in explaining its decision to consolidate St. Katharine, along with two other Panther Valley churches, into one parish.
"There were in many cases small towns that had multiple churches, Lansford was one of them that had three churches at one point. There's just not a need for that many churches in one town," said Kerr.
But parishioners fighting for the church to reopen disagree.
"There are almost 1,200 registered families in St. Joe's in Summit Hill. That's far too many for one church," added Hrubovcak.
The group has until August 1st to make a decision.
"We certainly appreciate that we're being given the chance to buy it, but again there are just so many unknowns here," said Hrubovcak.
According to Kerr, proceeds from the sale of St. Katharine Drexel, no matter who buys it, would not go to the Diocese. Instead, they would go back to the church it was consolidated into, St. Joseph Parish of the Panther Valley.