Catholic churches closed by diocese sold to Buddhists
AMSTERDAM The Albany Roman Catholic Diocese has sold the remaining two churches it closed in the city last winter.
Both St. Michael’s and St. Casimir’s have been sold to the World Peace and Health Organization, Inc., a Buddhist organization currently based at the Auriesville Shrine in Fultonville.
The diocese closed St. Michael’s in February and St. Casimir’s in May as part of a plan dubbed “Called to Be Church.” The initiative closed or consolidated 33 churches throughout the Capital District to address a growing priest shortage and a population shift from cities to suburbs. The closed churches were put up for sale.
The diocese sold a third closed church in Amsterdam, St. John the Baptist, in March to the Latin American Pentecostal Church of God for $100,000.
St. Michael’s was also sold for $100,000 and St. Casimir’s for $150,000, according to Ken Goldfarb, spokesman for the Albany Diocese.
Any proceeds from the sales will go directly to the successor parishes. St. Mary’s Church is the successor parish for St. Casimir’s and Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the successor parish for St. Michael’s.
Jennie Wong, the secretary for the World Peace and Health Organization Inc., said the group plans to hold classes in the churches, which need to be fixed up.
Currently the group hosts classes, which are based on Buddhist teachings to improve health and world peace, in rented spaces throughout the county. Last summer the group hosted a series of classes over a weekend in the Riverfront Center.
Wong said the group’s headquarters at the Auriesville Shrine will remain for a while, but eventually the group would like to move it’s operations to Amsterdam because the shrine is closed for the winter.
“Amsterdam is a more easily accessible place,” Wong said Thursday.
The World Peace and Health Organization, Inc., follows the teachings of Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi. Wong said about 100 people are members of the organization. Most are Chinese, but the organization welcomes and encourages all people to get involved.
Goldfarb said the Albany Diocese has been “more successful than anyone might have guessed” in selling the closed parishes. St. John the Baptist in Schenectady, for example, was sold to the Schenectady Light Opera Company, who plans to turn the facility into an education and performing arts space.
“Considering the housing market and the fact that you’re putting up many similar type buildings in the same market at the same time, we are doing a fairly good job of finding appropriate new uses for the parish properties,” he said.