MERIDEN — A giant claw took out the side of the old wood building Friday morning, and two hours later the three-story former rectory was a pile of splintered wood and broken glass.
Parishioners of St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church stood off to the side and watched as the 100-year-old rectory that at one time housed four priests, slowly came down.
“Of course it makes me sad,” said the Rev. Edward Ziemnicki. “You’re losing part of the parish history.”
Ziemnicki said some parishioners teared up at the sight of the old rectory coming down.
“They used to come in here and meet with the priests,” he said.
The old parish rectory was a welcome area for parish families to arrange baptisms, weddings and funerals. But the number of priests dwindled from four to one and the building faced $700,000 in repairs.
“For one priest, it’s not worth it,” Ziemnicki said. “In today’s world we have to make decisions for our neighborhoods and schools.”
The area where the rectory stood will be paved over for more parking and room for the schoolchildren to play. Ziemnicki has moved into the second floor of the convent next door, and the first floor serves as church offices. The convent, which used to house 22 nuns who taught at the school, doesn’t have any today.
“In Poland, we still have lots of nuns,” Ziemnicki said.
Ziemnicki has been pastor at St. Stanislaus for eight years and recognizes changes in the church that have led to a priest and nun shortage in the United States. During his tenure, he has overseen $1.2 million in improvements to the convent, the school and the church. The grassy area next to the convent will be converted into a prayer garden. The parish is waiting for a marble statue of St. John Paul II to arrive from Rome and will host an event on April 27.
“We’re going to have a big celebration with a polka band and refreshments,” he said.
Longtime parishioner Geri Kogut was filming the demolition with her iPad on a small hill behind the building.
“As you can see its all wood,” Kogut said at the growing heap on the ground. “We’re utilizing the other brick building with the sound construction. It was a good decision. It will be very nice with more parking.”