Archives tops 10,000 volumes

Archivist Sophia Olson McGonigal, director Dennis Wodzinski and former director Ken White stand amidst the 10,000+ volumes of sacramental registers now archived by the diocese.

The diocese’s Archives and Records Center moved into a larger space in 2017 with the goal of preserving the past while planning for the future.

As parishes merge, their sacramental records have been transferred to the new center. Archivists recently processed their 10,000th volume in what is now considered to be one of the largest collections of sacramental registers in the world.

Four years ago, they had 4,454 volumes.

“We have archived the records of all the parishes merged to date,” said Dennis Wodzinski, director of the Archives and Records Center. “Baptisms, First Holy Communion, Confirmation, Marriage and death records are all preserved.”

The staff takes information from the registers and issues certificates to those who request them. When preparing children for First Holy Communion or Confirmation, the archives staff encourages parish directors of religious education to contact them directly for baptismal information.

Previously, diocesan policy required records of closed or merged parishes and schools to be kept in the successor parish. With the consolidations involved with the On Mission for The Church Alive! initiative, those files are being moved to the diocesan archives, now housed in a former church building.

The new parishes started new sacramental registers.

Since June 2017, the diocesan collection of volumes has increased 123 percent. There are 50 percent more boxes processed during that time—a total of 6,676—with many more to come.

Jay Conzemius, moderator of the diocesan tribunal, has teamed with Wodzinski to train about 300 parish staff and priests in the diocese on sacramental record keeping. A past president of the Canon Law Society of America, Conzemius also conducts webinar trainings and will be presenting at a pre-convention gathering in October with officials from the Archdiocese of Seattle.

“No other dioceses that I know of have a centralized system like us,” Conzemius said.

The first Mass in the territory of what would become the Diocese of Pittsburgh was celebrated in 1754 by Father Denys Baron, a chaplain to the French garrison at Fort Duquesne. The Diocese of Pittsburgh was established on Aug. 8, 1843, in the western region of Pennsylvania that was part of the Diocese of Philadelphia.

Anyone whose parish has merged and needs a sacramental certificate should contact the Archives and Records Center at 412-456-3158.

The signatures of St. John Neumann and Blessed Francis Seelos in the sacramental register of St. Philomena Church, Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh,1846.