OAKLAND, Pa. (KDKA) — For more than a century, its intricate stone carving of Jesus, Mary, the Angels and Saints have graced the corner of Fifth Avenue in Oakland.

But now, St. Agnes Church stands in the way of Carlow University’s College of Health and Wellness and may soon have an appointment with the wrecking ball.

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“It is necessary for that building not to remain in its current position,” Carlow Senior Vice President Davi Meadow said.

Carlow would like to capitalize on its proximity to Oakland’s hospitals by building a new lower campus for graduate students in healthcare.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

But the demolition plans come as a terrible shock to Kathy Gallagher, whose grandfather Patrick Francis Gallagher was the church’s master builder under the watchful eye of renowned architect John Comes.

“This is a treasure for our community, one we’ll never see again,” Kathy Gallagher said.

“We need our history. We can’t tear down our history,” she added.

The church hasn’t been a functioning church for 25 years, but the debate over its future is being played out across the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Since initiating its reorganization in 2015, 19 churches have closed, including most recently St. Peters on the South Side.

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Dozens more will likely be mothballed over the next decade as parish groupings make painful decisions.

KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: What do you do with all of these places?
Kathy Gallagher: Hopefully, community centers, senior living, maybe affordable housing.

For its part, Carlow says it will attempt to preserve some of the church’s unique features and integrate them on campus.

But some students would rather the church remain intact.

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“They should keep it as is, keep it as history,” student Edward Scott said. “It’s a landmark.”

Although the church hasn’t been functioning as a church for more than a decade, it hasn’t been desanctified.

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The diocese says it must be “relegated to profane but not sordid use” before it can be torn down.