As contractors slowly remove the burned remains of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church here, about 300 parishioners are determined to keep the congregation together, regardless of where they worship.

Members of the parish learned about a month ago that the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has no plans to rebuild the 100-year-old structure.

Fire ripped through the historic church in September a few days before its historic birthday, rendering it a total loss. Since the fire, members have been attending Mass in the nearby church hall.

According to Rob Egan, spokesman at the diocese, Bishop Joseph Adamec met with members of the parish on Oct. 27 to discuss the church’s future. He had good news and bad news.

“The bishop told them the rebuilding of a new structure is not possible,” Egan said. “But, they can continue what they have been doing by having Mass in the church hall.”

The Rev. Brian Saylor, parish priest, said members have chosen to stick together.

Few, if any, have decided to attend Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ashville or at St. Demetrius in Gallitzin. Both congregations are within a four-mile distance.

“Everybody has stayed, and we are continuing onward,” Saylor said.

“The people know there are financial issues that prevent us from rebuilding.”

Egan said the bishop is supporting the congregation’s desire to stay together.

“As long as we have a priest available who has a diocesan ministry, and can continue to pastor at that church, it can remain as it is,” Egan said.

“My sense is most of the community has stayed there to celebrate as a community.”

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