MONONGAHELA – A Roman Catholic priest’s decision to suspend Sunday Masses at a Monongahela church has met with opposition from its parishioners.
A group of people who attend St. Anthony’s worship site of St. Damien of Molokai parish protested the decision Wednesday at the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Downtown offices, diocesan spokesman Rev. Ronald Lengwin confirmed.
“They said they were not looking to cause problems,” Lengwin said, adding they came to deliver a letter opposing a move that could eventually lead to the closing of the church at Chess Street and Park Avenue.
The parish priest, the Rev. William Terza, decided Sunday would be the last day for regularly scheduled Masses at the church. Those services in the small city will continue to be held nearby at the Transfiguration worship site, Lengwin said.
Terza also decided to continue to hold special Masses, weddings and funerals at St. Anthony’s over the next year until a final decision is reached on that building, Lengwin added.
St. Anthony and Transfiguration churches merged into the new St. Damien of Molokai parish in July 2011. The new parish was given then a two-year deadline to decide which building would be kept open. St. Dominic Church in Donora was closed in that reorganization.
St. Anthony’s member Angelo Ripepi said its members believe the diocese is moving in the direction to close their church built in 1949.
“Our beef is not with Transfiguration Church,” said Ripepi, of Monongahela. “Our goal is to have both churches open, with one priest, but that doesn’t seem to fit into the plan.”
He said the two Sunday Masses at St. Anthony’s, combined, draw nearly 350 worshipers, some of whom belong to Transfiguration.
“Our parents, grandparents struggled to build that church,” Ripepi said.
The Monongahela parish is experiencing a loss of population just like those in most towns along the Monongahela River valley, Lengwin said.
“The problem in most of these cities is that most people agree it would be best to worship in one place,” he said.
But, at the same time, no one wants their church building to be the one that closes, Lengwin said.
Terza could not be reached for comment Thursday.