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Mergers result in the closure of three churches

Dwindling congregants and financial concerns have led to the closure of three Catholic churches, effective April 28.
 
According to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Holy Cross Parish in East Pittsburgh will merge into Good Shepherd Parish in Braddock. At that time, the two church buildings now in use by Holy Cross Parish, Saint Helen and Saint William, will close.
 
Good Shepherd parish will retain its name and its current pastor, Father Albert Semler. Father Miroslaus Wojcicki, the current pastor of Holy Cross, will be reassigned.
 
Only six months after Bishop David Zubik assessed the need for a Catholic Parish in Monongahela, he announced that there will be one parish with one church building on Main Street. This merger will result in the permanent closure of Saint Anthony Church.
 
In 2012, the Holy Cross Parish had one baptism and 19 funerals, and that trend was unlikely to reverse according to the Diocese. The general population of the territories of Holy Cross and Good Shepherd has declined 21 percent since the 2000 census.
 
The merged parish will have 1,744 registered parishioners. Holy Cross currently has 346 registered members and Good Shepherd has 1,398. The Diocese of Pittsburgh currently has one parish priest for every 2,800 parishioners, which was one of several reasons for the merger.

With a total of three new closures, Pittsburgh is no stranger to vacant church buildings. According to the Diocese's website, more than 130 church properties have been sold since 2003. 

Some of these sites, with approval from the Diocese, have gone on to be transformed into residential properties, breweries and more.

"Different buildings have different feels and configurations and some may lend to  dining venues, some may lend themselves to art galleries, some may be good for a banquet facility, some may work for music studios and some may work for housing," said Sean Casey, owner of The Church Brew Works, a repurposed church on Penn Avenue. Casey also  purchased St. Kieran's in Lawrenceville last year, which will be converted into residential property. 

A closed church building remains the property of the parish and it is up to the parish to determine the fate of the building, explained John Flaherty, Secretary for Parish Life at the Diocese of Pittsburgh. 

"They can mothball the building against some future use, demolish the building, lease it, sell it or re-use it for some other parish need," he said. "The Diocesan bishop would have to approve any lease, sale or demolition of the former church building."
 
Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Sean Casey, John Flaherty
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