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                              Continuing  St. Ignatius  Church  history

   Father Phelan's body laid in state in Saint Ignatius Church from Friday the 29th of March until the following day when a Solemn Pontifical Requiem Mass was offered by the Most Rev. George L. Leech, Bishop of Harrisburg. The church was filled to capacity and over a hundred priests and about fifty sisters were in attendance. The body was then taken to the home of his sister, Mrs. Nellie Phelan, in Fall River, Mass. accompanied by Father Woodrow W. Jones, the assistant pastor. A viewing was held there on Sunday evening and on the following morning a Solemn Requiem Mass was offered in Holy Name Church, Fall River, with the Most Rev. James L. Connely, Bishop of Fall River presiding.                                     On May 23, 1957, Father Francis X. Butler was appointed as twelfth pastor but because of illness never could come to Centralia to take over. Father Woodrow W. Jones was pastor pro-tem from the time of Father Phelan's death until The Rt. Rev. Monsignor William J. Burke was appointed pastor on November 8, 1957. Monsignor Burke is a native "coal cracker" having been born and reared in the Springfield section of Coal Township. During Monsignor Burke's pastorate extensive improvements were made on the parish properties. The convent and rectory were both remodeled inside and out. The convent had been faced with stucco on the outside which was removed and aluminum siding installed. New front porches were also added to both the convent and rectory. The bell tower on the church was also repaired and repainted and the school hall was given three coats of white paint by the men of the parish. Monsignor Burke remained as pastor until June 1969 when he retired to the family home in Shamokin.                                            The Reverend  Joseph P. Smith, was appointed to succeed Monsignor Burke. Upon arriving in Centralia, Father Smith set about immediately to improve the condition of the cemetery. A new lawn and garden tractor was purchased with all attachments, and a man was hired to operate it. This made it possible to cut all the grass in the cemetery at regular intervals throughout the summer. This tractor also has a snow-blower attachment and was used to clear the parish properties in the winter. Many of the graves in the cemetery were noticed to have sunk. Father Smith then had clay hauled in and men hired to fill in the groves and build them up to the level of the graves surrounding them.      
     The main roads through the cemetery were paved with amesite. Major improvements were also made on the church building in preparation for the Centenary. The entire outside of the church was given two coats of white paint and much patching and repair work was also done on the outside. The statues inside the church were redone by a professional artist, and brought back to their original beauty. The inside of the church was completely painted in off-white colors and trimmed in gold-leaf effect paint. The capitals of the columns were also repainted gold and red and the window sills and baseboards were stained and varnished. All of the work was done by men of the parish on their own time. Some of the paint used was also donated by parishioners, and the remainder was bought by the parish. During the painting of the inside of the church less than a half-pint can of spackling compound was used to seal a few small cracks in the walls attesting to their remarkably good condition. In the school all of the classrooms were given two coats of paint and the hall and kitchen were each given three coats. The front vestibule of the school was also painted, three coats having been applied there. This work was all done by the men of the parish. Father Smith's keen interest in the parish is evidenced by the great deal of work done around the parish properties in scarcely a year's time. 1969 marked the one-hundredth anniversary of the parish which in 1869 was formed from a part of Saint Joseph's Parish in Ashland. Father Joseph P. Smith died November 23, 1969.
The next priest assigned to the parish was Rev. John J. Sukniac who became pastor December 16, 1969.
     The last 27 years were hectic for the parish as well as for Centralia. The mine fire problems escalated to the point that a large number of people relocated to other areas. The school closed in 1981 and later the priest took up residence in Mt. Carmel because of fears of the fumes from the fire. Eventually the convent and the rectory were torn down.
     A few other priest were also assigned to the parish during these last years, Father Woodrow Jones, Father Anthony McGinley and Rev. Thomas Marikovic who was the last pastor. He was assigned to another parish when the church closed.
     The last Sunday Mass in St Ignatius was June 25, 1995. The final Mass was on the next day for a funeral.

     The history of the church is far from complete. Many of the stories have yet to be told especially from the years 1969  to 1997. This is where I need your help with stories, pictures, events etc. Maybe we can add a "DO YOU REMEMBER " page. I will give credit on site to whoever submits ideas that I add.
                                                                  Thanks   Mike Reilley