It's been almost five years since the Diocese of Springfield closed six of Pittsfield's 10 Catholic churches as part of a restructuring move, a decision that left both physical and psychological holes in the hearts of many. Only one of those former church properties has found a new use since then -- the Brien Center purchased the former Mount Carmel Church property on Fenn Street two years ago. Now it looks like a second property, the former St. Teresa's Church on South Street, is about to have a new use. A proposal to place a $10 million, 54-bed retirement home on that site is currently awaiting state approval, which is one of the last regulatory hurdles it needs to cross. Although the project would involve the razing of the church building itself, which is a historic property, it's hard to imagine a more suitable use for that property. A facility that once saved souls will now be used to nurture them in their retirement years. Berkshire County has an increasingly aging population, so a new facility would be more of a welcome, not a hindrance. It will also allow Berkshire Place to replace its small 44-bed facility that it has operated on South Street since 1888 with a more modern facility.
One hopes that the movement on the St. Teresa's parcel will trigger action on the four remaining sites, All Souls' Mission on Pembroke Street, St. Francis on Morningview Drive, Holy Family on Seymour Street and St. Mary's on Tyler Street. Like silent sentinels, they have quietly stood guard over their former parishes for several years now. A church's closing often leaves a gaping hole in the heart of its parishioners. For them, it may be difficult to see a property that once had such meaning in their lives be used for another purpose. But a new use that will benefit the community might heal that gap somewhat. So far, Pittsfield has gotten lucky in that respect. The Brien Center's use of the former Mount Carmel campus also benefits the city as well as the county as a whole.