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Pittsburgh diocese merging 4 suburban parishes

| Monday, June 10, 2013, 11:03 a.m.

Citing declining membership, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh will merge four parishes in northwest Beaver County and form a new one on July 15.

In a letter read at Masses during the weekend, Bishop David A. Zubik announced that Christ the Divine Teacher in Chippewa, Divine Mercy and St. Philomena in Beaver Falls, and St. Rose of Lima in Darlington will become St. Monica Parish. It will assume operations of Divine Mercy Academy in Beaver Falls, a pre-K-8 school that opened in 1889.

“The merger of your four parishes and the creation of the new parish of St. Monica has been a long and prayerful undertaking,” wrote Zubik, who was raised in nearby Ambridge.

The Rev. Samuel J. Esposito, an episcopal vicar covering Beaver County, attributed the decision to the decline in the number of Catholics in the diocese, from nearly 1 million people in 1990 to 550,000 today.

Esposito said each of the four parishes has fewer than 2,000 parishioners. He expects St. Monica will have 6,000.

“These places have 100 funerals a year, so you figure in 10 years, that's 1,000 people,” he said.

The Rev. Kim J. Schreck, pastor of Christ the Divine Teacher and St. Rose of Lima, will become the first pastor of St. Monica. Schreck could not be reached for comment.

Three church buildings — St. Rose of Lima, Christ the Divine Teacher and St. Philomena — will serve as places of worship for the new parish. Divine Mercy's building, which is nearly 150 years old, was condemned because of ceiling damage.

“The new parish would have to demolish it,” Esposito said. “The value is not worth what it would cost to sell it.”

The Rev. John F. Naugle, parochial vicar at St. Louise de Marillac Parish in Upper St. Clair, will become parochial vicar of St. Monica. The Rev. James B. Farnan, pastor of St. Philomena and Divine Mercy, will become pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Bethel Park.

Farnan said he doesn't expect the merger to be controversial because the parishioners themselves suggested it six years ago.

“It just kept moving in that direction,” he said.

Bill Zlatos is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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