The St. Mary’s Convent, a fixture of in Avoca since 1923 and home to hundreds of sisters from the Immaculate Heart of Mary order, has a date with the wrecking ball on Monday.
The Rev. Phillip Sladicka, pastor of the newly formed Our Lady of the Apostles Parish, said the building hasn’t seen any major use in about eight years
“It’s very sad to see it go,” Sladicka said as he walked through the building as it was being prepped for demolition on Thursday. All of the furniture, window, fixtures and molding have been removed from the brick and wood building.
Sladicka, who previously served as assistant pastor at St. Mary’s in the late 1970s into the early 1980s, remembers the beloved nuns such the school’s principal Sister Laurentia Mayan, Sister Themla Gutz, Sister Maria Goretti, Sister Moira and the music teacher, Sister Lucy.
“(Sister Lucy) was a wonderful piano player,” he said.
Sister Jane Mary Duke, pastoral assistant at the church, said the architecture of the building is stunning, including the statue of St. Joseph built into the outside of the second floor.
She never stayed in the convent, but she knows many of the aging sisters who have. “They have very fond memories of this convent and of the children they taught.”
The building, on the corner of Hawthorne and Spring streets, received a major renovation in 1996. A computer lab was added for the students at the nearby St. Mary’s School and the sisters ran a daycare out of the convent.
A paved church parking lot is planned for the lot, with room for 30 to 50 cars.
“We really need a parking lot. Parking really became an issue,” Sladicka said. “During Masses, cars are parked all over the neighborhood.”
He said the narrow roadways make for a dangerous situation if emergency vehicles need to pass while parishioners are at Mass. “If a firetruck came down on a Sunday, they wouldn’t be able to get through.”
Also, churchgoers park in a nearby vacant lot, but that lot has the potential of being developed.
The four-story building has more than 20 small bedrooms, a loft, several living and community rooms, a chapel, a sun porch, a kitchen and dining area.
The nearby school, separated from the convent by a small playground, is still in use. It is used for parish functions, religious education, community events and scout meetings. Part of it is also rented out to Agora Cyber School.
St. Mary’s on Hawthorne Street and St. Peter and Paul Church on Main Street were combined in 2011 under the name of Queen of the Apostles Parish.
The Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, also serve at Marywood University, Friends of the Poor and St. Joseph Center in Scranton. The order follows the spirit and purpose of St. Alphonsus.
Stell Enterprises is completing the demolition which should be complete in about a week. Most of the items in the convent have been sold off or donated or saved. Some items, such as statues, have been saved and are kept in the school.
“My heard is broken,” Sladicka said. “It was a good building that housed a lot of good Sisters.”