The first of five parish mergers in the Pittsburgh Catholic Dioceses’ reorganization plan will go into effect July 1.
In the midst of declining mass attendance and a priest shortage, The On Mission for the Church Alive! initiative already took parishes across the region and created 57 parish groupings last October.
Now, five of those groupings will be merged into individual new parishes, with new names. Those parishes are located in New Castle, Lawrence County; Greene County; Castle Shannon/Mount Lebanon, Allegheny County; and Pittsburgh’s North Side.
“These five parish groupings have worked extremely hard since last October to foster relationships and, after consultation in the groupings, were prepared to share with me their desire and readiness to form a new parish community,” Bishop David Zubik wrote in a letter to the clergy and faithful of the diocese.
Some of the parishes in those groupings had already been interacting in some capacity for years, according to spokesperson for the diocese Father Nick Vaskov. Some were quicker to begin the merger process for financial reasons he said.
Vaskov said although the groupings already share pastors, staff and ministries, some of these parishes are hoping that the merger will continue fostering relationships, and better serve the people of those parishes. “But just having that new name and that new identity, there’s just something about it that flips that switch in people to really start to see themselves as one,” he said.
The ongoing mergers will likely be a rolling process, Vaskov said, and as groupings are ready to take their next steps they will inform the diocese. Announcements will likely come every few months for the next few years.
For now, none of the merging parish buildings will close – a concern for many in the church.
However, the Diocese also announced this weekend the closure of the Corpus Christi church building in the East End. And in March, four church buildings in Washington County were shuttered.
The Diocese also announced another change this weekend: A 58th grouping will be the new Shrines of Pittsburgh Grouping. It will bring together the parishes of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Most Holy Name of Jesus, Saint Nicholas, and Saint Patrick-Saint Stanislaus Kostka. These parishes include five buildings near Downtown Pittsburgh which house collections of relics, murals, and other items of historical significance. Vaskov said the intent is to be able to promote the buildings together, and attract more visitors from Pittsburgh and across the world.