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The Legend of Our Lady of the Snows
During the pontificate of Pope Liberius, the Roman patrician John and his wife, who were without heirs, made a vow to donate their possessions to the Virgin Mary. They prayed that she might make known to them how they were to dispose of their property in her honor. On August 5th, at the height of the Roman summer, snow fell during the night on the summit of the Esquiline Hill. In obedience to a vision of the Virgin Mary that they had the same night, the couple built a basilica in honor of Mary on the very spot that was covered with snow.
Today it is called the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the largest church in Rome dedicated to Mary.
Religion is part of the fabric of Northeast Pennsylvania. In addition to deepening our faith, our cathedrals, temples and other houses of worship strengthen the bonds of our communities. In many ways, Our Lady of the Snows' century long history mirrors this sentiment exactly.
The Abingtons' first Catholic church began as a mission parish in the late 1890s, around the same time as the first general store opened in what was then known as Clark's Summit. The fledgling church shared a minister with St. Patrick's Church in Nicholson.
Two lots at Zimmerman and Davis streets were purchased in 1898 for $400 and construction on the church began, according to newspaper archives. On Oct. 4, 1899, Bishop Michael J. Hoban dedicated the original Our Lady of the Snows. Led by the Rev. Edward J. Flood, the congregation boasted 25 families, according to news clippings and a parish bulletin for the church's Diamond Jubilee in 1986.
At the time, Clarks Summit itself was growing and changing. Northern Electric trolley cars carried passengers between Scranton and Clarks Summit, attracting residents and supporting a hotel, a handful of businesses and a railroad stop.
In 1921, Pastor Michael F. Shields, who followed Flood as pastor of Our Lady of the Snows, purchased a property along State Street for $12,000 meant for the church's next chapter. Shields did not live long enough to see the new church built, however. He died in 1923, six years before church leaders began a fund drive to build a bigger church on the State Street property.
By March 19, 1930, crews broke ground for the church building we all know today. The Italian Romanesque-style church was built of blue stone excavated right from the building site. Bishop Thomas O'Reilly dedicated the church on May 31, 1931. The cost to construct the church, which featured walnut pews that provide seating for 400, a basement hall and a beautiful rose window, was about $60,000, according to Scranton Times articles. The church grounds also contain a rectory, built in the late 1970s.