On Tuesday, August 18, the Albany Diocese sold St. Rita's Church in Cohoes to Heritage Baptist Church for $595,000. The sale was just one of many that the Diocese hopes to have completed by the end of the year.

"We're very happy that we've been able to find appropriate new uses for these buildings," said Ken Goldfarb, spokesman for the Diocese. "That means these communities are going to see some other vibrant activity in their area."

Currently, nine other church buildings throughout the Diocese are under pending sales contract. Sacred Heart, St. Bernard's, and St. Joseph's in Cohoes; St. John the Baptist and the Holy Cross rectory in Schenectady; St. Francis de Sales in Troy and three mission churches - St. Teresa's in Brant Lake, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Roxbury and St. Mary's in Schenevus - all have offers from potential buyers.

Up for sale
Under the Called to be Church pastoral plan to consolidate and merge many operations, the Diocese will be closing 33 parishes by the end of 2011. Some previously closed churches have also been purchased and converted to other uses. 

St. Anthony's in Albany, which closed in 1972, was eventually sold to a civic group and reopened in 2005 as Grand Street Community Arts center, with classes, programs and a gardening project. In 2001, Good Ground Family Church purchased St. Agnes Church in Cohoes.

In Troy, among many other sales and conversions over the years, the former St. Mary's rectory is now a private home and St. Jean's Church was sold to a Pentecostal congregation.

Parish proceeds
Though details of the other nine pending contracts were not discussed, Mr. Goldfarb explained that the money from the sales of the buildings goes to each church's successor parish.

Mr. Goldfarb understood that while it was a good sign that the buildings would still be useful, it is also disappointing to see these buildings being closed.

"Of course it's difficult for the parishioners who spent their lives in these parishes to see that they've been closed, so that certainly makes this process a little difficult," he said.

Still, the fact that there has been so much interest in these buildings is encouraging.

"I think this is a good sign," Mr. Goldfarb said. "It's still very early after our announcement and we've been at least able to [get a] contract on a number of church- owned buildings. It shows these buildings mean something to people."

Editor's note: By the end of Called to be Church, the diocesan realignment of parishes, 33 churches will close and most of their buildings sold. In recent decades, others have already been converted by new owners to shelters, schools, treatment programs and Protestant churches. The Evangelist will periodically profile the process and some of these buildings in their new lives.