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Connellsville's Catholic Churches will share universal (and ethnic) traditions

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 6:48 p.m.

Congregation members of Connellsville's three Roman Catholic churches will open their doors on Saturday afternoon to visitors of all denominations.

The church tours — part of It's a Connellsville Christmas — will be held from noon to 3 p.m. at Immaculate Conception Church; noon to 1 p.m. at St. Rita's; and 1 to 2 p.m. at St. John the Evangelist.

Several parishioners will greet guests at IC Church, which is located atop East Crawford Avenue above downtown. The tour will emphasize the church's stained glass windows, according parish member Steve Conko Jr. “Our windows are very special,” he said. “Each one tells a story that references the Bible.”

Conko will also highlight IC's pipe organ, which is one of the largest in Western Pennsylvania. “We're hoping to have an organist to play hymns,” he added.

Jim Haggerty will discuss IC Church's history, complete with vintage photos and church artifacts.

Christmas hymns as well as tours will be featured on Saturday at St. Rita's. Organist Chris Mickey will showcase the church's pipe organ — including all of its bells and whistles. “St. Rita's organ is capable of many special sounds, including brass, flute and chimes,” said Mickey, who will provide details about the vintage organ's history.

Longtime St. Rita's Christian Mother Society and choir member Rita Pratt will discuss the church's Italian heritage — including its construction, a history of which she is extremely proud. “The men and women of St. Rita's helped in the building's actual construction,” she said, adding that other structures, such as St. Rita's grotto adjacent to the church, will also be discussed. “It was built from stones from the Youghiogheny River (which runs through Connellsville).” St. Rita's is located on Second Street, West Side.

St. John the Evangelist, at the corner of West Crawford Avenue and Route 119, West Side, will likewise have parishioners on hand on Saturday to discuss the church's Slovak heritage, its pipe organ, stained glass windows — and the many renovations that, like at IC and St. Rita, have taken place during the past century, upon which all three parishes have thrived.

Laura Szepesi is a freelance writer.

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