Bishop to announce fate of Mon City parish Saturday

March 18, 2014
The Transfiguration worship site of St. Damien of Molokai Parish in Monongahela. - Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

MONONGAHELA – Members of a divided Roman Catholic parish in Monongahela will learn the fate of their two churches at a Saturday afternoon Mass in the small Mon Valley city.

Bishop David A. Zubik will make the announcement at a 4 p.m. service at the St. Anthony’s worship site of St. Damien of Molokai Parish, said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Zubik in September threatened to eliminate the parish unless the congregation at the Transfiguration worship site and another at St. Anthony’s set aside their differences on how to survive under a priest shortage and shrinking church base.

He made that announcement during a town meeting at Transfiguration after saying a parish survey indicated there would be “disunity” among the church members regardless if the diocese closed one of the buildings, kept them both open or created one parish for the entire Mon Valley in Washington County.

The diocese at the time didn’t have a clear reason for why the parish is splintered, Lengwin said. Transfiguration, at 722 W. Main St., was organized by Irish immigrants and the other, at Park Avenue and Chess Street, by Italian-Americans. Some of the old ethnic differences may have survived, he said.

Zubik gave the congregations until Nov. 4 to send him letters expressing a solution to bringing them together, saying he would disregard any that involved pleas to save a building. Angelo Ripepi, chairman of the Society for the Preservation of St. Anthony’s, said he would honor Zubik’s request that local church leaders refrain from commenting about their problems in the media.

He said it’s anyone’s guess what Zubik plans to say Saturday, that he would remain patient for a decision.

“What else can you do?” Ripepi said.

Masses at the St. Anthony’s site had been temporarily canceled until that congregation staged protest meetings in 2012. Since then Mass has been celebrated there on Saturday afternoons.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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