Clergy and lay leaders of four new parishes in the diocese say they are excited about the potential of their faith communities as they seek new ways to welcome and worship with one another.
Emily Lohr, who serves on the senior leadership team of two parishes in Allison Park and Glenshaw that will become Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, launched a Young Families Group to provide support and build community.
Members cook meals for new moms, organize family Masses and a monthly meet-up in local parks, put together lunch bags for the Red Door ministry downtown, and even connected with elderly parishioners isolated during the pandemic.
With public health conditions improving, they plan to re-open a nursery during Mass.
“I grew up here at Saint Mary of the Assumption Parish and school,” Lohr said, “but when I became a mom six years ago I didn’t know many other young families and felt like I needed more support. So far we have connected with about 140 families.”
Dave Sharick and Jane Ann Regan of Saint Ursula Parish, who also serve on the senior leadership team, said the group was formed to support their journey to implement the new parish vision, “We welcome all to encounter Jesus, and serve others with love.”
With support from diocesan Parish Services, the parishes are following the evangelization model outlined in the book Divine Renovation by Father James Mallon.
“Our focus is on evangelization, especially among youth and young adults,” said Father Tim Whalen, who will become pastor on July 1.
In the lower Allegheny Valley, Father Dale DeNinno said parishioners “exploded in applause” when he announced their new name, Christ the King Parish, bringing together four parishes in Sharpsburg, Aspinwall, O’Hara, Blawnox and Harmar.
“I believe that rediscovery, reconnection and recommitment will be the lifeblood of our new parish community,” said Father DeNinno, administrator. “We need to inspire people, get them thinking, then unpack the vision at every level.”
A man came up to him after Mass, Father DeNinno said, and told him that after 50 years he’s decided to return to the Church. They embraced as Father thanked him for recommitting to the practice of the faith.
There was similar excitement when the announcement was made in the Beaver County grouping that soon will be called Mary, Queen of Saints Parish, said Father Jean-Luc Zadroga, OSB, administrator. The new faith community brings together parishes in Aliquippa, Center Township, Hopewell Township and Monaca.
“We’ve been trying to offer something for every age group, especially youth and young adults who are working alongside Father Canice, and students with Father Joachim at Our Lady of Fatima School,” Father Zadroga said. “The faith and devotion here runs deep and inspires us Benedictines every day.”
The parishes have offered prayer services and safely staged social events including a spring fling and a parish family pig roast and hoedown.
In the Butler area, five parishes are merging to form All Saints Parish. “The announcement received positive feedback and the name seems to fit,” said Father Kevin Fazio, who will become pastor. “Our patron saints are Andrew, Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Michael the Archangel, Peter and Paul.”
Also, Butler Catholic School, which merged 51 years ago, has the nickname of the Saints.
“We’ve shared a common heritage for a long time,” said finance council member Ron Weleski, a longtime member of Saint Fidelis. “The clergy and parish team have done a masterful job of using technology and communications. The merger is going to be a good result.”
The final seven groupings totaling 20 parishes are working closely with diocesan Parish Services to navigate their more complex consolidations. The mergers are part of the On Mission for The Church Alive! strategic planning initiative, which is designed to help parishes mobilize their resources to prioritize mission over maintenance.
Its goal is to help Catholics have a deeper relationship with Jesus and His Church, and empower them to reach out to others with His love and mercy.