A century-old, forged iron statue of the Virgin Mary that when supplied inspiration to Roman Catholic worshipers at Immaculate Conception Church now stands because the creative and religious centerpiece of the newly christened Piazza Maria, just some blocks away from her former house in Johnstown’s Cambria Metropolis neighborhood.
It was put in two weeks in the past by Stella Property Growth & Occasion Manufacturing, an organization owned by Steven Biter and Chad Pysher, who’re working to repurpose components of the group’s ethnic and non secular historical past in trendy methods.
On the opposite facet of Chestnut Avenue, hand-carved stone statues of the Sacred Coronary heart of Jesus and St. Columba – as soon as discovered at what was previously St. Columba Church – are on show outdoors of Brigid’s Cross, a non secular and religious retailer opened by Stella in late June.
Resurrection Catholic Church, a parish shaped when the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown merged the neighborhood church buildings – Immaculate Conception, SS. Casimir & Emerich, St. Columba, St. Rochus and St. Stephen – is seen from the location. Casimir Cultural Middle, which Pysher and Biter plan to formally open later this 12 months within the former SS. Casimir and Emerich Church, is close by, as is the ever-evolving Shrine and Backyard of Our Girl of Mariapocs.
And on the coronary heart of all of it is Mary.
“Her being so central to a number of the spiritual cultural life right here, bringing her again to the middle of the neighborhood – it means quite a bit,” Biter stated. “It actually means quite a bit to us. I do know it means quite a bit to the people who had been members down right here and worshiped down right here, too.”
Biter and Pysher plan to wash and illuminate the statue and adorn the bottom round her with flowers.
“Generally she’s known as ‘the brand new Eve,’ ‘the brand new starting,’ ” Pysher stated. “It’s fairly symbolic.”
Piazza Maria is a part of Emerich Place, the place there may be additionally an empty constructing and one other construction that’s house to Cambria Metropolis Flowers, a enterprise Biter and Pysher just lately relocated from what’s now Brigid’s Cross. The statues on the two areas – Mary, Jesus and St. Columba – had been gifted to Stella by Resurrection parish.
“The three statues are a part of the historical past of Cambria Metropolis,” stated Tony DeGol, communications secretary for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. “Moderately than hold them in storage, the pastor of Resurrection parish (Rev. George Gulash) made a sensible and forward-thinking choice to present them in order that they are often preserved and proudly displayed in the neighborhood for all to understand.
“We’ve got little doubt that of their new areas, the beloved statues will proceed to function a supply of magnificence and inspiration for parishioners, residents and everybody who visits Cambria Metropolis.”
Downtime throughout the COVID-19 pandemic supplied Pysher and Biter the chance to reassess their plans for the properties. They moved the flower store, developed Brigid’s Cross and tweaked their SundayMarket@CambriaCity gatherings that are actually held within the piazza.
“I believe final 12 months gave us the time – with out the occasions – to essentially simply step again and rethink and relook at every little thing we had been doing and take the time to essentially, actually make this all join how we’ve been wanting it to and the way we’ve seen it,” Pysher stated. “It’s not nearly us having all these properties. There’s a true connection as an organization for Stella that every one of it’s collectively. All of them coordinate with one another.”
In addition they labored on the Shrine and Backyard of Our Girl of Mariapocs, the place individuals come to mirror, gentle candles, pray and spend a while in peace with themselves or others.
Biter constructed a secondary shrine to the Toddler Jesus of Prague from random gadgets, comparable to bricks from SS. Casimir and Emerich, crystals from the Badlands and items of neighborhood buildings and alleys.
“It’s all accomplished from rubbish or issues that had been laying round. … Actually, every little thing in right here was rubbish that we simply stacked collectively,” Biter stated.
Biter sees the shrine as being symbolic of the neighborhood and their effort to repurpose the previous.
“Every part in Cambria Metropolis, it appears, is made up from different components,” Biter stated. “All of it was once one thing else. Every part we’ve accomplished particularly is manufactured from one thing else. The cultural middle is comprised of an previous church. The brand new flower store is manufactured from buildings that was once different issues.
“Spiritually, this complete shrine, lots of people that discover solace right here can’t discover solace anyplace else. They really feel like they don’t have a house. So coming right here provides them function. It provides them a spot to be. … The facet shrine, a number of individuals take it in. I believe it’s particularly these people who don’t fairly have a spot to slot in. They’re manufactured from damaged items, so this actually speaks to them.”
A grand unveiling of the Casimir Cultural Middle is anticipated to occur quickly.
Pysher and Biter took possession of the previous church in 2015. It has been open to the general public a number of occasions. The bells have been rung on particular events. Work has been accomplished on the outside and inside. A silver-and-gold-colored statue of St. Casimir, which was as soon as situated excessive up on the entrance of the constructing, is now on floor stage for passersby to view. The ceilings are being repaired and beautified.
Some plans for the property have modified; the concept of placing a Carpatho-Rusyn restaurant known as Pivo within the basement has not been eradicated, however has been de-prioritized.
“Everybody could be very anxious for us to get began right here,” Pysher stated. “Belief me, nobody is extra anxious than we’re. We’ve put a number of time into this. We had been able to go for 2020 (earlier than the pandemic hit). We had a schedule of occasions. and it simply wasn’t meant to be. You realize, that’s okay.”
Pysher stated to present the church and statues again to the individuals “is known as a present to us.”
“We’re honored by it,” Pysher stated. “Sure, they’re our property now, however we do really feel like we’re stewards of them, too. This stuff are very a lot important to the historical past right here. It’s actually like a museum.”