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Congregation dedicates new St. Margaret Mary Church

| Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, 12:02 a.m.
Valley News Dispatch
St. Margaret Mary Church in Lower Burrell welcomed parishoners into its new worship space for the first time Saturday with the help of the Most Reverend Lawrence Brandt, Bishop of the Greensburg Diocese. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
The Rev. James Gaston holds up the keys to St. Margaret Mary Church after being given them by the Most Reverend Lawrence Brandt, Bishop of the Greensburg Diocese, before a dedication mass at the new worship space in Lower Burrell on Saturday, October 6, 2012. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
The Most Reverend Lawrence Brandt, Bishop of the Greensburg Diocese, blesses the newly expanded St. Margaret Mary Church in Lower Burrell on Saturday, October 6, 2012. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
The Most Reverend Lawrence Brandt, Bishop of the Greensburg Diocese, processes into the newly expanded St. Margaret Mary church in Lower Burrell on Saturday, October 6, 2012. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch

LOWER BURRELL — The congregation of St. Margaret Mary Church celebrated a homecoming on Saturday with the dedication and blessing of its new church.

During the afternoon ceremony, Lawrence Brandt, bishop of the Diocese of Greensburg, sprinkled the walls and congregation with holy water.

The facility on Leechburg Road seats nearly 800, and was full. Before Brandt lead them through the doors for the first time, they gathered in front for a photo under a bright, sunny sky.

“I think it's wonderful,” said Rick Dunmire of Lower Burrell, a 20-year member of the church. “It's almost as nice as a wedding.”

“It looks so beautiful,” said Jo Ann Coleman of Leechburg. “I can't wait to see inside.”

Work on the $4.6 million project began after a closing Mass on May 29, 2011. The parish had been celebrating weekend Masses at Charles Huston Middle School since June 2011.

In his homily, Brandt invoked the autumn season, when schools celebrate homecomings and welcome back those who have been away.

“You have been away from home and have greatly missed it,” Brandt said. “Welcome home.”

The project more than doubled the worship space, from 5,400 square feet to 13,000 square feet. Seating was increased from 435 to nearly 800; if the gathering area is used, it can accommodate nearly 1,100 people.

Seating more people at one time and reducing the number of Masses are part of the idea as the church is faced with a shortage of priests, said Bill Staniszewski, St. Margaret Mary's business manager and manager of the building project.

“We really were short on space,” he said.

The church wasn't quite ready for its dedication, with some work unfinished. There had been a flurry of activity in the past week to get as much done as possible for the scheduled ceremonies. The Rev. James Gaston, the church's pastor, called it a “photo finish,” with the church's altar arriving Friday night.

“I could not be happier. Everything has come together in such a wonderful way,” he said. “It's a happy day for the people of the parish.”

The former church, used since 1957, was intended as a temporary worship space. The new construction wraps around it.

The church is “built for the future,” with technology such as video projection that will eliminate the need for hymnals. It is set up to be able to use solar power.

“This is about the next generation, not the next couple years,” Gaston said.

The first wedding in the new church is scheduled for Oct. 13.

The first couple married in the church previously — Paul and Loretta Petrosky of Lower Burrell, married in 1954 — were among those celebrating.

They had seven children; their two daughters were married there. Their parents' funerals were there.

“It's our life,” Loretta Petrosky said of the church. “We're just happy that we're here.”

They didn't have any problem accepting the changes.

“It's beautiful,” Paul Petrosky said. “They needed it. They needed more room. People were standing all the time.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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