Castle Shannon parish plans special Masses for 125th anniversary

Matthew Santoni
| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Having celebrated the 120th anniversary of its school this year, St. Anne Catholic Church in Castle Shannon is ready to kick off its 125th anniversary celebration.

A special Mass at 4 p.m. Saturday — the feast day of Sts. Joachim and Anne, traditionally regarded as parents of Mary — will begin several months of anniversary events at the church on Hoodridge Drive, according to Lori McMahon, a pastoral associate at the parish, which is the oldest Catholic church in the South Hills.

It boomed in the 1950s and '60s.

“There was just huge, huge growth, population-wise and parish-wise,” McMahon said. “The school was just overflowing.”

St. Anne began in 1894 when German-speaking Catholic farmers met in the farmhouse owned by the Opferman family, on what became Oregon Trail in Bethel Park. Priests would travel from the Passionist Monastery in the South Side to celebrate Mass there until a church was built at the corner of Rockwood and Willow avenues, along with a cemetery and small schoolhouse.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh began oversight of the parish in 1896, and the Sisters of St. Agnes took over for the lay people running the school in 1899.

Like the surrounding suburbs, the parish grew and became “mother church” to other parishes, such as St. Winifred in Mt. Lebanon and St. Valentine in Bethel Park.

At its peak, the current school building, which was added in the 1950s across the street from the old church, had more than 1,600 students. Enrollment declined to about 160.

The pews and parking lots were filled beyond capacity, so the parish began a capital campaign in 1957 for a new church building.

They raised more than $500,000 in its first year.

In 1962, the parish dedicated its current facility, which has a modernist mix of Byzantine and Egyptian styles of art and architecture. The building is about a half-mile from the old church, which was demolished with a controlled burn by fire departments.

“I was one of the servers for the dedication of the new church,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, an alumnus of St. Anne's school and the cardinal-archbishop of Galveston-Houston. “Those kinds of events stick with you, and those kinds of places stick with you.”

DiNardo grew up in Castle Shannon, and his class was among the first to use the school. He noted that when he went to seminary, about 30 aspiring priests were there from St. Anne Parish.

The 10 a.m. Mass on Sept. 14 will commemorate the anniversary of the parish's first Mass. Bishop David Zubik will be the celebrant, and it will be the official installation of the pastor, the Rev. Mike Caridi.

The 4 p.m. Mass on Nov. 15 will close the anniversary festivities, with a celebration by Cardinal DiNardo.

That Mass will be followed by a banquet in the Hilton Garden Inn in Southpointe.

Volunteers with the parish recorded interviews with older parishioners and school alumni about their memories of St. Anne. Those recordings are being edited into a video that will be screened at the banquet, McMahon said.

She is working to publish a booklet of parish history.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or

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