WEST ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – A historic church in Elmira that closed last fall has reportedly been purchased by another spiritual group that says the building is its 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 purchased the former Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in West Elmira in January. The transaction was reported in the Star Gazette’s real estate transaction database.
Bhakti Marga America reportedly bought the building for $240,000 on January 20, 2022. The organization later posted a YouTube video explaining the purchase and briefly laying out 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 Bhakti Marga’s first ashram in the United States.
Last month, Bhakti Marga’s official United States Facebook page then posted photos from inside the church, showing work being done to renovate the temple. More photos were later posted of figures known as saligrams that would be housed in the temple.
18 News has reached out to Bhakti Marga America for more information about their future plans and their organization.
“It’s beautiful that we’ll be able to build upon the spirituality and the love and the grace that was already there,” said Swami Tulsidas 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 the stained glass windows in the church would remain as a way to “honor the past” and that the Catholic Diocese has reportedly allowed Bhakti Marga to keep the primary Mother Mary.
According to Bhakti Marga’s website, the Germany-based organization focuses on achieving a deep and personal relationship with God through a four-arm approach or 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. The parishes closed in mid-November due to declining attendance. The original notice posted on the parish website said all sacred objects would be removed. Our Lady of Lourdes was formed in 1940 and opened its church in 1941.