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Centralia Ghost Town Church: stronger than the fire ~

2 min read

A mine fire has been burning under the deserted town since 1962, but this church is still standing!

Over 50 years ago, a mine fire started below the small town of Centralia, in Pennsylvania. Some people says, that it was caused by a pile of rubbish that has turned on the coals in the pit, but no one knows the truth. Some attempts were made to put out the fire, with about $7 million spent, but at the end efforts were interrupted. In the 1980s, the underground blaze had spread and dangerous gases started to enter into people’s homes.

In Centralia, at the time there were about 1,000 residents living in some 400 to 500 houses, and at the end the government decided it would be more expedient to move out the town’s residents than spend the money to put the fire out. Today there are only about six daredevils left in the hilly country town, where the streets are empty and silent. Very few houses are left standing, and the underground fire is still burning: there’s almost nothing left in Centralia, except a white church with a blue dome that rises above the trees.

Before the fire started, there were five churches in town. One by one they disappeared, but in 1986, at the peak of the crisis, archbishop Stephen Sulyk ordered a survey. The survey team discovered solid rock, not coal, under the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Ukrainian Catholic church. So, the building was saved. In 2015, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, led a pilgrimage to the curious Pennsylvania church while he was on tour in the U.S., and more pilgrimages followed.

Now the structure is the only church that remains in Centralia and one of the few buildings saved. Former residents come back to Centralia to attend services at the church, where pastor Michael Hustko offers doughnuts and coffee to parishioners afterwards, because there’s nowhere else to go.
Meanwhile, even if the government says the fire could burn for 100 more years, some locals don’t believe that it will a problem. The Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church continues to stand on its solid rock foundation as a symbol of strong and steadfastness, and also Father Hustko thinks it will outlast him.

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