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Pittsburgh diocese campaign big success

| Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, 12:16 a.m.

Catholic parishes in six southwestern Pennsylvania counties that participated in the Diocese of Pittsburgh's Our Campaign for the Church Alive! initiative more than doubled the ambitious fiscal goals set for them.

But three of eight parishes in the Mid-Mon Valley failed to generate pledges sufficient to reach their goals.

The diocese reported Sunday that 130,000 Catholics in 200 parishes have pledged more than $230 million, to be contributed over five years. The goal was $125 million. The goals set by the diocese were based on 175 percent of the three-year average of offertory collections, said Bob De Witt, a spokesman for the diocese campaign office.

A breakdown of Valley parishes follows:

• Ave Maria, Bentleyville – $410,000 target; $838,695 pledged; 205 percent of target.

• Mary, Mother of the Church, Charleroi – $425,000 target; $505,345 pledged; 119 percent of target.

• Our Lady of the Valley, Donora – $290,000 target; $397,710 pledged; 137 percent of target.

• St. Damien of Molokai, Monongahela – $465,000 target; $560,490 pledged; 121 percent of target.

• St. Francis of Assisi, Finleyville – $455,000 target; $404,410 pledged; 89 percent of target.

• St. Joseph, Roscoe – $115,000 target; $47,400 pledged; 41 percent of target.

• St. Michael, Elizabeth – $775,000 target; $1,047,312 pledged; 135 percent of target.

• Saint Thomas Aquinas, California – $195,000 target; $118,723 pledged; 61 percent of target.

Bishop David A. Zubik announced the campaign on Dec. 16, 2012.

Each parish will retain 40 percent of the money collected up to the targeted goals. After the goal is met, 60 percent of the additional money raised will stay in the parish.

For example, De Witt said Our Lady of the Valley used retained money to repave its upper church parking lot. Mary, Mother of the Church used retained money to demolish the former pastoral center to create parking space for its parish festival.

However, parishes such as Ave Maria, which took on a larger “combined campaign,” will receive a greater return on its pledges. As a result, Ave Maria will retain 100 percent of the money collected beyond its $410,000 target. As a result, $592,695 of the money collected will remain in the parish.

The campaign supports 17 priorities across the diocese, including evangelization, need-based tuition grants for children in Catholic elementary and secondary schools, religious education, seminarian formation, support for retired and senior priests, Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center and missionary work.

None of the money is marked for regular operating expenses of parishes or the diocese.

Some of the most fruitful campaigns occurred in parishes in Valley communities that have seen their churches closed through consolidation.

Saint Damien of Molokai was the latest and most controversial of those mergers. It was formed with the merger of Transfiguration and St. Anthony churches, the latter of which was closed following Mass April 26.

About 35 parishioners staged a sit-in inside the church after the last Mass, and 60 parishioners gathered for a candlelight vigil the previous evening outside St. Anthony Church – praying and vowing their fight would continue against the closure of their parish.

The Society for the Preservation of St. Anthony's Church applied to the Vatican in July for reconsideration of the Diocese of Pittsburgh decision to close the church on Park Avenue. The appeal was denied. An appeal of that Vatican decision is being considered.

In August 2011, the diocese – citing dwindling attendance at the church – announced it would merge St. Anthony and Transfiguration.

At that time the closure of St. Anthony was announced in March, diocese spokesman the Rev. Ron Lengwin said finances played a part, but was not the only factor in the decision.

“Really, the success of The Church Alive! campaign proves the point the people of St. Anthony have been making all along. There is no shortage of financial support in the Monongahela area, and St. Damien's can support two church buildings,” said Laura Magone, a member of the Society for the Preservation of St. Anthony's.

Parishes in Donora and Charleroi previously underwent consolidation.

In 1992, then-Bishop Donald W. Wuerl decreed the merger of four parishes in Donora, creating Our Lady of the Valley. At that time, two worship sites were retained – St. Philip Neri and St. Dominic. The St. Dominic site was closed in 2011.

Mary, Mother of the Church was formed through the merger of St. Jerome, SS. Cyril & Methodius and Mother of Sorrows in Nov. 1, 1992.

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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