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Longtime Holy Family pastor 'Father Miro' to leave East Deer church for Bridgeville parish

| Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Richard Schnepf, left, Polish ambassador to the United States, was among those who attended a gala in May 2013 honoring the Rev. Miroslaw Stelmaszczyk -- Father Miro -- of Holy Family Church in East Deer by a nonprofit group that promotes educational and cultural exchanges between the U.S. and Poland, and the understanding of Polish culture and history.

East Deer soon will lose one of its most recognizable citizens.

The Rev. Miroslaw Stelmaszczyk, better known as “Father Miro,” the longtime pastor at Holy Family Roman Catholic Church in the Creighton section of East Deer, will be transferred next month.

“Effective Oct. 28, Father Miro will be the pastor at St. Barbara's in Bridge­ville,” said the Rev. Ron Lengwin, a spokesman for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. “The pastor there is retiring.”

The move was a surprise to Stelmaszczyk, who started at the parish in October 1998.

“I came in October and leave in October,” Stelmaszczyk said. “I was in Bridgeville, and the parish there was Holy Child.

“I always said, in Bridgeville I had only a child and, when I came here, I had Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the whole family,” he said, referring to the names of the churches.

Lengwin said the Rev. Aaron Kriss, the pastor at Holy Martyrs Church in Tarentum, also will serve as Holy Family's pastor.

Lengwin said the two churches aren't merging and there aren't currently plans to reduce the number of Mass celebrations at either.

“We need to make moves periodically. (Stelmaszczyk) is included among a few others who are being transferred over the next couple of months.”

Stelmaszczyk was informed personally by the bishop about the transfer plans, something he couldn't refuse.

“When I was ordained, I asked my father if I could stop listening now. He said to me, ‘My dear son, after your ordination, you have to listen to your bishop and to your people.'

“This is like a new challenge for me,” he added. “My new chapter and new challenges for Holy Family. These were a wonderful, wonderful 15 years.”

During his time at Holy Family, Stelmaszczyk became somewhat of a celebrity throughout the A-K Valley. Stelmaszczyk was known to frequent many local farmer's markets and food events selling his famous potato pancakes, to raise money for the church of about 300 people.

Because of this, many folks dubbed him the “Potato Pancake Prince.”

Stelmaszczyk, a native of Kraszewice, Poland, was honored this year by the The Pittsburgh chapter of the Kosciuszko Foundation as the Polonian of the Year.

Stelmaszczyk gave the opening prayer for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011.

“Father Miro will be a loss for our community because of the enthusiasm he brought to everything he did and all of the activities he was involved with,” said Tony Taliani, the chairman of the East Deer Commissioners and a member of Holy Family. “He's been very good for our community. I can't say enough about what he's meant.”

Stelmaszczyk said he will always cherish his time at Holy Family.

“The people were a wonderful inspiration in my priesthood and faith,” he said. “I've been a priest for 37 years, almost half of them have been spent at Holy Family.

“I know that they will keep strong faith, a good spirit and always support the church and the mission of the church,” he said. “This is not about you or me. Simply, this is God's kingdom — where we all belong.”

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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