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Rebuilt pipe organ at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church symbolizes merger of several Homestead parishes

| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
Jasmine Goldband
Pipe-organ builder Peter Luley of Highland Park plays one of the large base pipes as his assistant Joseph Tuttle of Point Breeze listens. Parts from three organs from different parishes are being used to build a new organ for St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Homestead. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
Parts from three organs from different parishes are being used to build a new organ for St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Homestead. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
The organ materials from three organs from different church parishes are being used to build a new organ for St. Maximillian Kolbe Parish in Homestead. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review

St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church organist Tom Coyne looked forward to an organ reconstruction project at the parish that would symbolize the consolidation of several Catholic churches in Homestead.

But the project stalled. Estimated to cost $43,000 — even by paying labor only at cost — the rebuilding was more than the parish could afford, and it could raise only $17,000 of the money. Started in January 2011, the organ renovation soon languished.

That changed last week. A parishioner donated $26,000, the amount remaining to move the project forward.

The Rev. Daniel Sweeney, pastor of the West Eleventh Avenue church, said the donor wishes to remain anonymous and that the money has been received.

Coyne said the donation will allow renovations to resume on Jan. 11 with completion expected by the end of July.

“I'm pretty excited about it,” Coyne said last week. “I am optimistically cautious this is going to happen.”

“We have three organs that do not work individually and haven't worked for years,” Sweeney said. “But by coming together and rebuilding it as one organ, we're going to get a very valuable organ. We're looking to do the same with the churches.”

St. Maximilian Kolbe was founded in 1992 through consolidation of six Roman Catholic parishes in Homestead, a town whose population has declined since the downturn in the steel industry and heavy manufacturing in the 1980s.

In 2009, the Diocese of Pittsburgh shuttered three of the parish's worship sites and designated St. Ann Church on West 11th Avenue Extension to reopen as the merged St. Maximilian Kolbe Church.

“Our thought is the people could not survive separately in their worship sites. But by coming together under one roof, there is strength in numbers. Rather than paying (separate) light and gas bills, we can work on the ministry of the church,” Sweeney said.

The reconstructed organ will bring liturgical music alive in the parish. The church building, constructed in 1950, has never had a pipe organ, said Coyne, who uses a keyboard.

Joseph Tuttle of Lincoln Place, who will work on the project, said the organ will be a “very diversified instrument” and “a community effort.”

The organ will be installed in the choir loft, which will be slightly reconfigured to accommodate it. It will have around 1,000 pipes, with the best equipment selected from among organs at the three closed churches, said Tuttle.

The composite organ will bring “significant parts of the past into the present church,” which already has pews and windows from its member parishes, Coyne added.

“In the end, it will yield an organ of nearly new condition that will last for several generations with very little maintenance,” said Peter Luley, of Luley & Associates of Highland Park, who is doing the restoration with Tuttle.

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a freelance writer.

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