MONONGAHELA – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh will return one Mass a week to a Monongahela church where it canceled regular services in May, leading to protests from its congregation.
Bishop David Zubik on Thursday informed a St. Anthony’s Church committee he’d decided to return a 4 p.m. Saturday Mass to the building, where Masses were suspended May 27 as part of the merging of two parishes in the city, said Angelo Ripepi, chairman of the Society for the Preservation of St. Anthony’s.
“It means we got our foot in the door,” said Ripepi, of Monongahela.
The St. Anthony’s and Transfiguration churches merged in July 2011 to become St. Damien of Molokai Parish because of a shortage of priests and a declining population in the Monongahela area. The suspension of Masses at St. Anthony’s came a time when a two-year study was under way to determine which building would remain open. The decision was reached at that time to just hold weddings and funerals in the church at Chess Street and Park Avenue.
Ripepi said Zubik had received a lot of complaints about St. Anthony’s and decided to reschedule Mass there to “get the people back in the church.”
Following the May decision, a group of people from St. Anthony’s conducted a protest outside the diocesan offices in Pittsburgh. More then 100 supporters of the church then held a prayer vigil outside the church in August.
Some of the 300 members of the church had been attending the Transfiguration site since May, Ripepi said. Others either went to a different church or stopped attending Mass altogether, he said.
“(Zubik) felt as if something had to be done,” Ripepi said
Mass will return to the building Dec. 15.
The Rev. Ronald P. Lengwin, spokesman for the diocese, on Saturday night confirmed the decision to restore Mass at the church.
He said Zubik had met more than once with members of St. Anthony’s, which is six months away from completing the study to determine its future.
“He reflected on it, and decided to allow them more time without division to determine what is in the best interest of Monongahela,” Lengwin said.