Diocese of Greensburg offers Sunday night option for worshippers

| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 9:43 p.m.

If busy schedules, Steelers tickets or work get in the way of Sunday morning Mass, a new evening offering from the Diocese of Greensburg might help.

A 6 p.m. Sunday Mass at St. Barbara Catholic Church in Harrison City has been designated a regional Mass, designated for all Catholic parishioners in the Murrysville, Penn Township and North Huntington areas. Thirteen local priests will take turns celebrating the Mass, sharing the burden of the extra service, said Jerry Zufelt, spokesman for the diocese.

Gone are the days of early-morning worship followed up by a Sunday-afternoon dinner, Zufelt said. These days, a family is lucky if its members aren't running around all day Sunday.

“The reality is, family schedules can get very hectic,” he said. “The days where every family stays home together after going to Mass Sunday morning are gone. You'd have to go back to the '50s, that's the last time that was the norm. Now, we're mobile as a society.”

The Mass is designated for the entirety of the diocese's District 3, which includes Delmont, Export, Jeannette, Irwin, Manor, Murrysville, North Huntington, Penn Township, Trafford, Yukon and West Newton.

St. Barbara has the highest membership in the diocese; Mother of Sorrows in Murrysville has the second highest. The district also includes Immaculate Conception in Irwin, which is the fourth-largest parish, and St. Agnes in North Huntington, which is the fifth-largest parish.

While the norm in some Christian denominations, Sunday-evening Masses aren't common in Catholic churches. Traditionally, parishes offer a Saturday-evening Mass and at least one Sunday-morning service. In the four counties — Armstrong, Fayette, Indiana and Westmoreland — the Diocese of Greensburg serves, only a handful offer Mass on Sundays evenings. St. Barbara has offered its Sunday-evening Mass since 2008, when the diocese redid its Mass schedule. It regularly attracted more than 400 parishioners, Zufelt said.

That number likely will spike as word about the regional Mass spreads, said the Rev. Willie Lechnar, pastor at Mother of Sorrows Church in Murrysville and director of planning for the diocese.

“This is the most populous area of the diocese, so it should boost attendance,” Lechnar said. “Now, with 13 priests sharing in that coverage, that's an opportunity for people to say, ‘Maybe I'll sleep in and go tonight.'”

Lechnar said the rotation also helps priests. As the number of men of the cloth dwindles, priests are often stretched thinner. For instance, Lechnar celebrated four funeral Masses during the past week, in addition to Ash Wednesday and other Lenten Masses.

“We are declining in the number of priests, and for a priest to have a funeral, a wedding, a Saturday-evening Mass plus the Sunday Masses, it gets to be a lot,” Lechnar said. “You can have a chance to re-energize your batteries on a Sunday night. Priests have family lives, too.”

The extra worship opportunity gives Catholics the opportunity to connect with others in their faith who don't belong to their parish, Lechnar said. While having a parish identity is important, sometimes attending a Mass in their home church isn't possible.

For instance, someone who works in health care or in hospitality might work exclusively weekends, Lechnar said, and can't make their home parish Mass. The same is true for those who travel on the weekends for leisure, work or youth sports.

“It gives them an opportunity to be connected to their parish but still fulfill their Sunday obligation of attending Mass,” Lechnar said. “It makes it easier but also connects them to their region.”

The rotation of priests also helps take some burden off of the Very Rev. Kenneth Zaccagnini, pastor at St. Barbara, Zufelt said. The diocese won't schedule a Mass for convenience only — for parishioners or priests — but the changes will offer accessibility for all affected.

“It's the reality of modern schedules,” Zufelt said. “We don't want to do a Mass for convenience only, but it's the reality we live in.”

For those who choose to attend St. Barbara's regional Mass, their weekly contribution envelope will be returned to their home parish, Zufelt said. However, any unlabeled cash donations will be given to St. Barbara.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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