Hi tech helps overcome obstacles

Father John Skirtich

By Bill Hill

Technology is playing a critical role in helping to bring together the South Hills parishes of Nativity, St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin, St. Germaine and St. Valentine in January.

To keep the merger moving in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Father John Skirtich and his staff used Zoom videoconferencing for virtual parish assemblies.

“We preferred to meet face-to-face because you get the dynamics of a large group, the give-and-take, but when that couldn’t happen, we turned to Zoom,” he said. 

“Our virtual parish assembly in September to discuss our progress on the merger was well received,” Father Skirtich said. “I think it demonstrated we’re moving forward on this journey, growing closer together, toward becoming one people, one parish.”

Parishioners agreed.

“I truly appreciated the good humor of the clergy as well as the comprehensive and informative reports,” said Lisa O’Malley of St. Valentine Parish. “I’m especially looking forward to how our new parish will reach out to our larger community.”

Added Theresa Yauch of Nativity Parish, “Nicely done and easy to understand. Thank you!”

“I was extremely impressed by the collaboration between Father Skirtich and his staff,” said Linda Ritzer, diocesan secretary for parish services.  “There was a hospitable feel to the video, like a fireside chat, even without an in-person presence.”

The 40-minute video included presentations by pastoral associate Mary Beth Green on statistics for the grouping and common ministries that are being combined.  Director of operations Debbie O’Brien discussed staff and parish operations, noting that all four churches will remain open, with more Masses being added as pandemic restrictions ease. The staff will remain mostly intact with some jobs realigned.

“I am truly fortunate in these four parishes, each with robust faith formation, prayer and outreach programs that complement each other,” Father Skirtich said.

Merging into one parish will require one administrative center. Father Skirtich plans to use funds from Our Campaign for The Church Alive! to create a working area for the staff at St. Germaine.

Parishioners now await Bishop David Zubik’s decision on their new parish name, due in November.

“In early January, our grouping officially begins operations as one people, one new parish, fully engaged,” Father Skirtich said.