Parish of Guardian Angels set to close 5 of 7 churches

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Lean finances and dwindling attendance will force Guardian Angels Parish at Harrison to reduce its seven churches to two campuses later this year.

“Decisions to recommend churches close are never easy and never taken lightly,” Reverend John Lendvai said in a letter to parishioners. “It’s a very difficult and difficult process for all of us. And yet, one that we cannot ignore.

Lendvai referred further questions to Jennifer Antkowiak, spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. She could not be reached for comment.

Guardian Angels consists of seven churches and 15 related buildings in a wide area from Harmar to Harrison. They are:

• St. Alphonsus in Springdale;

• Holy Martyrs in Taranto;

• Holy Family in Creighton;

• Saint Ladislaus in Natrona;

• Most Blessed Sacrament at Natrona Heights;

• Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Natrona Heights;

• Our Lady of Victory in Harmar.

A parish assembly is scheduled for July 24 at 1 p.m. at the Very Blessed Sacrament in Lendvai to reveal recommendations that will be submitted to Bishop David Zubik.

The parishioners, although saddened, seem to take the news head on.

“It’s the normal course of business these days,” said longtime parishioner Marilyn Huey, who attended Mass for six decades at one of three Roman Catholic churches along West Ninth Avenue in Taranto. . She went through three mergers and said “it’s nothing new.”

“I grew up in St. Peter’s, which merged into Sacred Heart, and then we merged into St. Clement’s,” Huey said.

In 1992 Holy Martyrs was formed.

“If you don’t have the parishioners, you can’t maintain the buildings,” she said. “It’s sad, but with the low number of people coming, what are you going to do?”

Like Huey, other parishioners seem resigned to the impending closures.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review

Reverend Andrew Fischer delivers his homily during a mass culminating the end of Catholic Schools Week 2020 at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Natrona Heights.

Ed Mahdik and his wife, Lucy, have been attending services in Natrona Heights for over 50 years. When they met, Lucy was a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help along 11th Avenue and Ed was a member of the Most Blessed Sacrament along Montana Avenue. Their children went to primary school at the now defunct Blessed Sacrament Primary School, which operated for 66 years.

As they attend the Most Blessed Sacrament on Sundays, the couple know each of the seven parish churches as they move for weekday Mass between the different buildings.

“We have to accept that it is what it is,” said Ed Mahdik.

“We accept the fact that you can’t go on like this. We have 22 buildings, and there’s no way to deal with them.

The parish of the Guardian Angels came from diocesan groupings almost two years ago.

Since then, expenses related to buildings represent 72% of the non-staff expenses of the parish. Nearly half of all parish expenses are related to buildings.

In his letter, Lendvai said a decline in weekly offerings, as well as construction spending, could force the parish to run out of money come fall or early winter.

Church leaders spent several months conducting focus groups, interviews and surveys. The main comment from people, he said, was that the parish should reduce the number of buildings.

Comments show that 100% of parishioners indicated that the parish cannot continue to maintain 22 buildings, he wrote.

In total, Guardian Angels includes approximately 3,000 families.

Lendvai wrote that it is likely that the ministry could be supported by a single church, but, given the vast geographical spread, he thinks it is best to keep two.

In the coming months, all churches and ancillary buildings will be assessed for their condition, necessary repairs, utility expenses, seating capacity, accessibility and parking.

Decisions will be made based on what the parish can afford, what it needs to deliver ministry and missions, and what it can support. Updates will be provided in weekly newsletters and on its website.

“We realize that such closures involve a sense of loss and grief,” Lendvai wrote.

Longtime member and music minister Verne Bergstrom couldn’t hide his disappointment, but said he was waiting for the news.

“You walk into the church, and they’re all white-haired people,” he said. “The decline of people attending church, especially young people, is sad.”

Bergstrom attended the Blessed Sacrament for over a decade and taught CCD for the parish, as well as played piano for several church choirs.

He struggled for years against the lack of involvement and volunteerism of young people in the parish.

“I often think, ‘What can I do?’ said Bergström.

He lamented the loss of history and architecture that is found in many older church buildings, such as at St. Ladislaus in Natrona.

“The building is so beautiful,” he said. “And it’s walkable for people from Natrona. Same with St. Alphonsus in Springdale. What are people going to do there? »

Tawnya Panizzi is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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