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Catholic parishes in the Valley could merge under proposed plan

Megan Guza
| Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, 4:39 p.m.
Members of the Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Natrona Heights, Harrison, attend Mass on Saturday, May 20, 2017.
Michael Swensen | Tribune-Review
Members of the Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Natrona Heights, Harrison, attend Mass on Saturday, May 20, 2017.

More than a dozen parishes in the Alle-Kiski Valley would merge into one of four larger parishes in the area, according to recommendations from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The proposal is part of a wider plan to restructure 188 parishes in the diocese into 48 groups, the diocese said.

The plan aims to address declining attendance and number of priests, according to a report released by a diocesan commission.

The diocese's On Mission Commission said each of the 48 groups would “become one parish over time,” but no church buildings are scheduled to close when the groupings take effect in fall 2018.

The plan would group six parishes from Springdale to Harrison into one parish: St. Alphonsus in Springdale, Holy Family in East Deer; Holy Martyrs in Tarentum; St. Joseph in Natrona; Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Natrona Heights; and Our Lady of Victory in Springdale Township.

Four parishes in the Lower Valley would merge into one: St. Joseph in O'Hara; St. Juan Diego in Sharpsburg; St. Pio of Pietrelcina in Blawnox/Harmar; and St. Scholastica in Aspinwall.

Six parishes near Oakmont and Penn Hills would merge into one: St. Bartholomew in Penn Hills; St. Gerard Majella in Verona; St. Iranaeus in Oakmont; St. John the Baptist in Plum; St. Joseph in Verona; and St. Susanna in Penn Hills.

Transfiguration and St. Victor, both in West Deer, would merge into one, according to the plan.

Bob De Witt, a spokesman for the diocese, said the commission report is just a proposal. No final decisions will be made until next year, he said.

Bishop David Zubik is expected to announce a final decision on the groupings plan in April. No church mergers or closings would take place until 2019 at the earliest, De Witt said.

“Bishop Zubik has said the first step is helping people come together. We must develop our relationship with God and with people in our parishes, and get to know one another,” De Witt said.

The commission's report is part of Zubik's restructuring plan announced earlier this year. At the time, the diocese said 86 diocesan priests were working past the retirement age of 70 or planned to retire within five years and the number of priests was expected to plunge from 211 to 112 by 2025. The diocese includes parishes in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Lawrence and Washington counties.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, mguza@tribweb.com or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.

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