Mater Dolorosa among sites for day reporting center

Mater Dolorosa, once a place the faithful went to ask for redemption before God, might find a second life as a place where offenders of society may pay back sins to their fellow man.

Lycoming County is looking at the church as a possible site for a day reporting center, Judge Nancy Butts said at Friday morning’s prison board meeting.

The former Catholic church at 634 Hepburn St. was closed in October 2011, and its final mass was celebrated July 8. Since then, the United Churches of Lycoming County has used the adjacent Castellano Center as a food pantry.

Father Brian Van Fossen of St. Joseph the Worker Parish said an exploratory committee was formed in February to look over ways the church building may be used “to do outreach to those in need.”

“Everything’s preliminary, nothing’s definite,” he said. “We’ve been asking, ‘What are some of the needs we see?’ in the city. We’re looking at other needs of our city brothers and sisters that aren’t fulfilled.”

The possibility of converting the church into a women’s shelter has been discussed, Van Fossen says.

“We don’t really have adequate housing for women in the city. Family Promise does amazing work with parents and their children and the YWCA does amazing work with those who are abused, but there’s always room for more work there.”

The county has been exploring the creation of a day reporting center since last year. Officials also have toured a four-story building at 301 W. Third St., among other sites, but no bids have been made on any site.

A day reporting center likely will include offices for adult probation and supervised bail, increasing the ease of reporting for those nonviolent offenders who may be heavily monitored without committing them to a crowded county prison. Other programs that have been mentioned as possibilities by officials for such a center include counseling for substance abuse, job training and GED classes.