STEUBENVILLE - The owner of a funeral home has signed a tentative offer to purchase the former St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, rectory and convent on South Seventh Street.
Hardin Martin, owner of the Williams, Gregory, Martin Funeral Home on North Seventh Street, said Thursday night the transaction still is pending as he proceeds with financing and applies for a rezoning of the property in order to operate a funeral home at the site.
"Hopefully with the grace and focus of God it will be a new funeral home facility. Our direction will be to have a full service, multi-cultural funeral facility in the community," said Martin.
CLOSING AT ST. ANTHONY CHURCH — Parishioners of the St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church carried a statue of St. Anthony from the church following a June 8, 2008, Mass by former Bishop R. Daniel Conlon. The church was closed and the parish was merged with five other parishes to form the Triumph of the Cross parish. A tentative sales agreement has been signed to sell the former church, rectory and convent on South Seventh Street to Hardin Martin, who plans to convert the building into a funeral home.
"We will richly value the church's historical background," he added.
The church was one of three Catholic parishes closed on June 8, 2008, as part of a consolidation of six city parishes that were merged into the new Triumph of the Cross parish.
The closing of three church buildings and the merging of six city Catholic parishes into one parish was first announced in 2005.
Former Diocese of Steubenville Bishop R. Daniel Conlon officially signed the pastoral plan, renewing the church in Steubenville into effect in July 2005 that called for the merging of "Holy Name Cathedral, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Stanislaus, Holy Rosary, St. Pius X and Servants of Christ the King. This new Parish shall be formed gradually, as provided in the Steubenville Task Force Pastoral Plan: Renewing the Church in Steubenville. I further decree that the name of the Parish shall be Triumph of the Cross Parish."
In an April 5, 2008, interview, Conlon described the merger of the six parishes "as an opportunity for new growth. The closing of a parish is like losing a loved one. You have to accept the reality. But in this case we can move forward with the new parish."
Conlon planned to build a new church near Catholic Central High School but construction of the church never took place.
According to diocesan spokeswoman Pat DeFrancis, "Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton has gathered information on the plans to build a new church and is weighing the input. He will make a decision on a new church building in the next several months."
The former church, rectory and convent have been for sale since the church was closed in 2008.
"An offer was made on the property through a local Realtor. The parish finance and pastoral councils recommended the sale to Diocese of Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton," said the Rev. Thomas R. Nau, pastor of Triumph of the Cross parish.
"The sale is contingent on rezoning of the property to commercial and obtaining of financing by the buyer," Nau said.
Nau said conditions of the sale exclude the former St. Anthony School, now used by the Jefferson County Community Action Council Head Start, and provides access to the former convent for a period of time by Urban Mission Ministries.
Martin said the Williams, Gregory, Martin Funeral Home on North Seventh Street will remain open and operating while the purchase of the former church proceeds.
"We have been told the rezoning application will take from 60 to 90 days. We also have to have an architect come in and look at the buildings as we prepare it for a funeral home facility. Once we move our funeral home to the new property, we will be revamping our business and it will be under new management," said Martin. He said the lease for the North Seventh Street funeral home will go back to the owner.
"We are excited about this opportunity and are working hard to make this happen," Martin said.
"The church has been sitting empty since it was closed. This will be good for the South End of the city," remarked Tony Guida of Guida Realty who handled the transaction.
Diocesan officials declined to discuss the financial terms of the tentative purchase agreement of the St. Anthony property.
The former St. Stanislaus Catholic Church and school building were sold in 2010 for $50,000.
DeFrancis said the stained glass windows and all religious items in the St. Anthony church were removed following the closing of the church.
St. Anthony of Padua was a national parish that was established in 1906 at the Holy Name Church.
By 1910, construction was started for the church on South Seventh Street that opened later that year with, according to the Herald-Star, "a ceremonial procession that ended at the church where Bishop John Hartley of the Columbus Diocese knocked and the church doors were opened."
The 2008 closing of St. Anthony Church drew the most vocal opposition when the six parishes were merged into the Triumph of the Cross parish.