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Catholic diocese to close Bridgeville school, 3 former churches

| Sunday, June 8, 2014, 1:51 p.m.

Holy Child School in Bridgeville and three former church buildings in Carnegie and Swissvale will be closed, the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese announced on Sunday.

The school, which had 82 pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade this year, will close on Friday. The former St. Ignatius church in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Carnegie and the former Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Barnabas churches of Word of God Parish in Swissvale will permanently close on June 30. None of the three has been used for worship since 2011.

Enrollment at Holy Child was projected at 53 for the 2014-15 school year. In 1997-98, enrollment was 205, the diocese said.

Parish and school officials asked the diocese to close the school, according to a statement from the diocese.

“We knew the enrollment was dropping, but they didn't let on to us how bad things had gotten until two or three weeks ago,” said Kelly Lesko, parent of a rising second-grader and an incoming pre-schooler at Holy Child who now will have to go elsewhere. She said the Parent-Teacher Guild at the school had made plans to raise funds and increase enrollment themselves with booths at community events, fliers and pleas to local businesses, but they never got to put any of the plans into motion before the decision to close the school.

“They're going to lose the parish, too, because I'm not setting foot in there again,” Lesko said.

The school's tuition of $4,100 per child was $700 more than the diocesan average, the statement said, and maintaining staffing levels would have required an increase to at least $5,765.

The diocesan school office will help pupils transfer to neighboring Catholic schools and will help teachers and school administrators search for new positions.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish was formed in 1992 from a merger of four parishes and a mission. St. Ignatius remained a worship site, even after a September 2004 flood devastated Carnegie and inundated the other two churches that had been in use. The parish eventually decided to renovate and expand the former St. Luke church, which was renamed St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

The Rev. David Poecking, pastor at St. Elizabeth Anne Seton, said the former St. Ignatius building was in good physical shape but is in a corner of Scott Township that made it harder for people to get to as the parish got larger and more widespread.

“It was built to be a neighborhood church and served that purpose admirably,” Poecking said. “But we found ourselves needing something more accessible.”

Word of God Parish formed in 1994 through a merger of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Rankin and St. Barnabas and St. Anselm parishes in Swissvale, using all three buildings. Since 2011, it has used only the St. Anselm church building.

Parish officials determined that they could not afford to repair the two closed buildings and that only one church building was needed. After the permanent closure of Visitation and St. Barnabas, the remaining church will be formally renamed Word of God, the diocese said.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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