GREENSBURG — A historic, Catholic Church built in the 1800s now has a new purpose in Greensburg.
Emily Manship opens the large, wood doors at the top of the steps of what used to be St. Mary's Church Parish.
"I think a lot of folks have deep ties to this space," says Manship. "Down to my great -grandfather, everybody's attended church and mass here."
Manship's maiden name is Oesterling, and her family settled in this part of the state decades ago with generations of family members attending this Catholic Church.
"I grew up here, and had my First Communion here," says Manship, as she recalls her time as a server and a singer in the parish. "So many of my childhood memories."
The building as it stands today, was erected in 1884, and the parish formed before the building. There is a building next door that served as the church rectory, where the priests lived, that was built in 1923.
Manship attended St. Mary's School that still stands on the other side of the church, pre-k through 6th grade. The preschool building sits behind that.
But the massive property and 4 buildings have been empty in recent years, as the Archdiocese moved the parish to a newer, bigger home that could better house a growing congregation.
"We were somewhat sad to see it sit vacant for a while," says Manship. She says the Archdiocese tried to keep unwanted visitors out, and secure the properties but over the years the buildings still became the victims of vandalism.
"There was graffiti and a lot of damage and vandalism and things like that," says Manship. "Windows were all smashed out, ya know, boarded up. I would like it say it was almost a little bit post-apocalyptic looking on the inside."
According to Canon Law, when the Catholic Church no longer has use for a space that has been blessed, there is a process the bishop will lead to move the sacred and blessed relics and structures out of the space, before it can be sold.
The Manships, who got engaged in 2017, tossed around a dream of buying the empty, former church building and hosting their wedding there. But that dream was too big for that moment in their lives, however, the idea seemed to stick, and they revisited the property.
"It is no longer a Catholic Church its no longer considered sacred ground," says Manship. "It is officially decommissioned, but hopefully we blessed it with new life."
That new purpose and new life is an event center called Heritage Hill, a name with a nod to the past generations who made special memories in this space.
It was no easy feat. Manship says over the past few years they have replaces the roof, floors, built a new grand staircase, paint, new windows, HVAC, plumbing and more.
"In tearing up the floor and redoing all the flooring, we found the original tile below it," says Manship. They also turned what used to be the Sacristy, where the priest prepares the Holy Communion before the start of mass, into a new bar space for the events.
"And we took the Sacristy and now have returned wine to it, but in the form of a bar," sas Manship. "We really were trying to preserve and make things as authentic feeling as possible, so it still felt like the church many people knew, just with an updated purpose and updated amenities."
One of the most unique parts of the venue is the Heritage Wall up in the bell tower, which is the only remaining stained glass windows from when it was a church.
The tall bell tower walls are filled with framed pictures dating back to the turn of the century when the church was built, to modern day.
Manship put out a call on social media for the community to submit pictures from inside the church, and the parishioners delivered.
The wall shows weddings, Baptisms, First Communions, family reunions, class pictures and more, highlighting the memories made inside this space for more than 100 years.
"Hopefully, there's a whole lineage of folks who can enjoy this space and make more memories here," says Manship.
Heritage Hill hosted their first wedding in the beginning of August. If you would like to learn more or contact them, you can visit their website