|Holy Family Convent, as it appeared around the turn of the 20th century|
With a population of just under five thousand, the sleepy town of Danville, in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley region, is generally the last place one would expect to find nearly three hundred dead nuns rising from the grave, but thanks to the unstoppable forces of progress, that is exactly what's happening in the tiny county seat of Montour County.
As visitors approach the tiny but historic town, which was once the cornerstone of the state's iron mining industry, gigantic glass and concrete buildings loom in the shadows of Montour Ridge, sprawled across the base of the mountain and giving visitors to Danville the impression of a miniature city skyline. These buildings belong to Geisinger Medical Center, which has grown from a small local hospital built in 1915 to one of America's most expansive healthcare systems. Today, Geisinger is Montour County's largest employer, with thousands of doctors, nurses, and administrative personnel who oversee the medical needs of 2.6 million people from 44 Pennsylvania counties.
|Aerial view of Geisinger Medical Center|
Not far away from the titanic medical center is the Holy Family Convent, which has been owned and occupied for the last 115 years by the Society of the Sisters of Christian Charity. The convent is home to 60 retired nuns, most of whom will be relocated to the order's mother house in New Jersey, because the property now belongs to Geisinger System Services, which purchased the 19-acre Holy Family Convent property in early January for $4.5 million.
Geisinger plans to renovate the six-story building for office use, which will create good-paying information technology jobs for up to 400 people, in an economically-depressed region of rural Pennsylvania where citizens haven't had much to cheer about since 1972, when the devastating floodwaters of Hurricane Agnes began to subside after inundating much of Danville. In the decades since Agnes, the Susquehanna Valley has struggled to recover and, even today, high-paying jobs are hard to come by. Normally, the addition of 400 jobs would be terrific news for an impoverished community of under five thousand souls, but lost somewhere in the story are the remains of 289 deceased members of the Society of the Sisters of Christian Charity which currently reside behind the convent. Who will be responsible for the daunting task of re-interring these remains?
Four companies submitted proposals to the Society of the Sisters of Christian Charity, and the contract for the job has been awarded to the Brady Funeral Home, reports the Shamokin News Item. Brady Funeral Home will have the unenviable and challenging task of relocating the graves of the 289 sisters- which were buried between 1927 and 1947- from the convent grounds to St. Joseph's Cemetery in Danville. This task will be especially daunting since Geisinger plans to occupy the office space by fall.
Written by JOTB Contributor Marlin Bressi, who was, incidentally, born at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.