Germany-based spiritual group buys former West Elmira Catholic Church

WEST ELMIRA, NY (WETM) — A historic Elmira church that closed last fall has reportedly been purchased by another spiritual group who say the building is their first temple in America.

Bhakti Marga, an organization that describes itself as a “spiritual movement and organization” focused on “developing a personal relationship with” God, reportedly bought the former Our Lady of Lourdes parish in West Elmira in January. The transaction was reported in the Star Gazette real estate transaction database.

Bhakti Marga America reportedly bought the building for $240,000 on January 20, 2022. The organization later released a Youtube video explaining the purchase and briefly outlining future plans for the ashram, another word for a spiritual dwelling place or retreat in Indian religions. According to the organization’s video announcement, this will be the first Bhakti Marga ashram in the United States.

Last month, the official Facebook page of Bhakti Marga in the United States pictures posted of the interior of the church, showing the renovation work of the temple. More photos were posted later figures known as saligrammes who would be housed in the temple.

18 News has reached out to Bhakti Marga America for more information on their future plans and organization.

“It’s beautiful that we can build on the spirituality, love and grace that was already there,” Swami Tulsidas said in the video. Swami is a title for a male religious leader in Hinduism. Tulsidas—who oversees the organization in Canada and the United States– also said that the stained glass windows in the church would remain a way “to honor the past” and that the Catholic diocese would have allowed Bhakti Marga to keep the primary mother Mary.

According to the Bhakti Marga website, the Based in Germany The organization focuses on achieving a deep, personal relationship with God through a four-armed approach or through yoga and meditation, rituals, knowledge, and devotional arts. Members of Bhakti Marga also follow the teachings of Paramahamsa Vishwananda, who is described as “the source of infinite grace” and “an enlightened, God-realized Master”.

Our Lady of Lourdes closed last fall along with Ss. Peter and Paul Church in downtown Elmira. Parishes closed in mid-November due to declining attendance. The original notice posted on the parish’s website said all sacred objects would be removed. Our Lady of Lourdes was formed in 1940 and opened her church in 1941.

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