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St. Molokai parish ruling imminent

| Saturday, March 8, 2014, 12:06 a.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik talks to reporters before a news conference on Wednesday March 13, 2013, at St. Paul Seminary in Crafton. He spoke about the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis of Argentina.
Chris Buckley | The Valley Independent
Bishop David A. Zubik speaks to Frances Affinito during a town meeting Sept. 23 at the Transfiguration worship site of St. Damien of Molokai parish in Monongahela.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik prays at the podium before the start of a news conference on Wednesday March 13, 2013, in St. Paul Seminary in Crafton. He addressed the media about the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as the new pontiff. Pope Francis becomes the leader of more than 1 billion Roman Catholics.
Jeremy Sellew | For the Valley Independent
Angelo Ripepi, left, speaks to Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesperson for the Pittsburgh diocese outside of the diocese office in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. Parishioners of the St. Damien of Molokai parish hand delivered letters requested by Bishop David Zubik during a town hall meeting in Monongahela back in September.

The responses came in letter form and on 3- by 5-inch cards. They represent a cross section of ages of Monongahela Catholics.

And they have touched Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik.

His impressions from the responses will be evident in a decision, likely to come later this month, about the future of a parish in Monongahela.

During a meeting Sept. 23 in the former Transfiguration church, the Roman Catholic leader directed parishioners to respond to two questions via letter:

• Do you want a parish in Monongahela?

• What are you going to personally do to make that happen?

They faced a Nov. 4 deadline to submit the letters to the diocese.

The bishop receive 414 responses, he told The Valley Independent Friday afternoon.

Zubik said the responses will drive his decision.

Asked about his impression of the responses he received in the letters, Zubik coyly said, “When the decision is announced, all of that will come out.”

“I was very, very pleased with the responses,” Zubik said. “I had hoped for a number of responses and I received them. I'm glad the people took it seriously.

“I think every step we've been taking has been serious, and the decision will be as a result of serious deliberations.”

Zubik declined to discuss how his decision on the fate of the Monongahela parish will be made – in person or through a letter to parishioners.

“I wrote to the people that sometime this month a decision would be announced and I hope to do that,” Zubik said of a letter he sent to St. Damien of Molokai parishioners in January.

At stake is the future of the Catholic community in Monongahela.

In announcing last summer the Sept. 23 town meeting, Zubik said he was going to Monongahela because of concerns over disunity among the city's Catholic community.

In August 2011, the diocese – citing dwindling church attendance – announced it would merge St. Anthony and Transfiguration churches into one parish. It was named St. Damien of Molokai, after a priest who served lepers in Hawaii.

Initially, all Masses were celebrated at the Transfiguration site.

But in late 2012, the diocese said Saturday night Masses would be celebrated at the St. Anthony site. The ruling came after a series of meetings between the bishop and members of The Society for the Preservation of St. Anthony's.

Masses are celebrated 4 p.m. Saturdays at the St. Anthony site and 8:30 and 11 a.m. Sundays at the Transfiguration site.

Zubik said after his announcement in 2011 that a two-year study had been undertaken by the combined pastoral and finance committees of the parishes to determine how many church sites are needed.

The committees reviewed three options: operating two worship sites, closing one site or reorganizing and creating one Mon Valley parish. The committee found that all of those options would create more disunity.

After the meeting, Zubik said there was a fourth option, which would be to dissolve the parish.

Asked afterward by The Valley Independent if he might consider a neutral site, Zubik said, “We're going to try to do whatever it takes to keep a parish here. We have to get at the core of what a parish is, then where.”

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

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