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Regular Saturday Mass returns to St. Anthony Church building

| Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, 12:17 a.m.
Angelo Ripepi, 82 of Monongahela (left), representing the Society for the Preservation of St. Anthony's Church, talks with vicar ceneral of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Rev. Ron Lengwin about the future of St. Anthony's at the diocese's office Downtown, Wednesday, June 27, 2012. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

Sitting in the St. Paul Seminary in Crafton, Laura Magone was uncertain about the message she was about to hear from Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik.

What she and three parishioners of the former St. Anthony Church heard might be described as miraculous.

“Everybody thinks this is the best Christmas gift they've received,” Magone said. “And they are very grateful to the bishop and Father Terza.”

The Roman Catholics received this answer to the request made to the diocese: Masses will again be celebrated in the former St. Anthony Church building in Monongahela.

Most Masses had been discontinued at the church, which joined with the former Transfiguration Church to form the St. Damien of Molokai Parish.

“When the bishop read the letter, three of the four of us wept,” Magone said. “We were absolutely thrilled. The bishop could not have been more gracious.

“We were extremely humbled. And we became very emotional.”

In the letter, Zubik said that in the best interest of the unity of the parish, and after consultation with the Rev. William R. Terza – the St. Damien pastor – the Mass schedule is to now include a regular 4 p.m. anticipated Mass at the St. Anthony building. Both 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Masses on Sundays will be celebrated at the Transfiguration building, effective the weekend of Dec. 15-16.

“That is a very popular Mass time,” Magone said of the St. Anthony building celebration. “Obviously, we're very humbled, and we came away knowing that we will do everything we can. We want this merger to work.”

Magone said former St. Anthony parishioners have written letters to Zubik over the past few months requesting Masses be re-established.

“He read every word we wrote and referenced things we said in these correspondences several times (Thursday) night,” Magone said.

Angelo Ripepi was present at the Thursday afternoon meeting.

“We're happy about it. It's a step in the direction we want to go,” Ripepi said.

The announcement seeks to unify the combined parish – a source of disunity in the Monongahela Roman Catholic community, Zubik acknowledged.

“As your bishop, I would be less than honest if I didn't tell you how troubled I am when there are serious divisions in a parish,” Zubik wrote in a letter to St. Damien parishioners.

“Believe me, that such realities give me sleepless nights. As your shepherd and as we together are church, we have the serious responsibility of reaching out to each other, especially when there have been disagreements among us.

“As Church, we cannot do less. It is truly sad that even families in your parish have become divided over Church. How tragic! Jesus Himself intends the Church to be the source of unity.”

The diocese began a study more than five years ago that determined there should be three parishes to serve the three communities of Donora, Monongahela and Charleroi.

As a part of that decision, Zubik issued a decree Aug. 15, 2011, establishing St. Damien of Molokai.

The decree stipulated that within 24 months of that date, the new parish should “submit to the diocesan bishop a recommendation regarding the necessity of using two church buildings for worship in the new parish in the context of the pastoral plan of the parish.”

Zubik said in his letter that since the formation of one parish in Monongahela, he has received information of unrest.

“As a result, I called a meeting of representatives of those desiring to restore Saint Anthony's Parish,” Zubik wrote. “I made clear then my firm intention that the decree establishing the new parish will remain in force and that the former parishes of Transfiguration and Saint Anthony no longer exist. There will be no turning back from that decision.”

Those meetings followed protests by nearly 40 parishioners of the former St. Anthony Catholic Church outside the Diocese Pastoral Center on the Boulevard of the Allies in Pittsburgh in June.

“This readjustment of the Mass schedule is made to highlight the critical need for all of Saint Damien of Molokai Parish to work together for greater unity,” Zubik wrote. “The Mass must be the place where that unity begins. From the Mass and the gift of grace that comes with the Eucharist, the faithful have the spiritual resource to build the unity of the parish outside of the church buildings where the faith must be lived. This is a critical time in what I trust will be the long history of Saint Damien of Molokai Parish. Please use this time prayerfully, wisely and in the spirit of the unified community of faith to which Jesus calls us.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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