Zubik to host town meeting about merging 2 parishes
Seeking unity in a divided Catholic community, Bishop David A. Zubik will hold a town hall meeting Monday night at the former Transfiguration church in Monongahela.
The meeting will follow a 6:30 p.m. Mass at the former Transfiguration site.
Late last week, parishioners received a recorded message from their pastor, the Rev. William Terza, reminding them of the meeting. They were first informed about the session two weeks ago in a letter from the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
In August 2011, the diocese announced it was merging St. Anthony and Transfiguration parishes in Monongahela into one Catholic community, citing dwindling church attendance. The new parish was named St. Damien of Molokai, after the priest who served the leper community in Hawaii.
But late last year, the diocese announced it would reopen St. Anthony Church in Monongahela for Saturday night Masses. That ruling came after a series of meetings between the bishop and members of The Society for the Preservation of St. Anthony's.
Currently, Mass is celebrated 4 p.m. Saturday at the St. Anthony site and 8:30 and 11 a.m. Sunday at the Transfiguration site.
Ironically, Zubik said in December restoring unity was the reason for his decision to reopen St. Anthony church for Mass.
“This readjustment of the Mass schedule is made to highlight the critical need for all of St. Damien of Molokai Parish to work together for greater unity,” Zubik wrote late last year.
“The Mass must be the place where that unity begins,” he wrote. 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.”
But while Masses resumed at the former St. Anthony site, the timetable for a decision to seemingly close one of the two Monongahela Catholic churches remained.
In his recent letter to parishioners announcing the town meeting, Zubik noted, “When I made the announcement of the establishment of St. Damien of Molokai Parish, formed by the merger of the former Saint Anthony and Transfiguration parishes, the new parish was to retain two church buildings with the expectation that, within 24 months, the parish would offer me a substantial recommendation as to whether it is necessary to maintain two church buildings for worship and whether the parish has the resources to maintain this arrangement.”
Zubik further said in his letter that although that two-year window expired Aug. 15, he received a joint statement from both the pastoral council and finance council of the parish indicating that they could not reach a consensus on any recommendations about the parish.
Attempts to reach various members of both councils for comment were unsuccessful.
“Your parish has faced a number of challenges over the course of the last two years,” Zubik said in his letter.
“Coming together has not at all been easy. I am told, not only does a division exist within the parish, those divisions have even split families within the parish as well.
“This causes me grave concern.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.