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4 churches in Greensburg diocese hold last Masses before merger

| Monday, June 24, 2013, 12:01 p.m.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Organist Cindy Bernot gets a hug from Harry Sumner, who serves as eucharistic minister, after Mass at Holy Rosary Catholic Church on Sunday, June 23, 2013, in Republic.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Altar server Ashley Marva, 9, waits for the start of Mass as Father Peter Peretti talks to parishoners at St. Thomas on Sunday, June 23, 2013, in New Salem.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Lifelong parishoners Edward Kopec, left, and Stanley Smith take a seat together near the door before Mass at St. Thomas on Sunday, June 23, 2013, in New Salem.

Since she was 5 years old, Diane “Penny” Durinzi, 61, of Republic has worshipped at Holy Rosary Parish.

“It means everything to me,” she said. “I was married here.”

On Tuesday, the church she cherishes will close permanently.

Holy Rosary Parish in Republic held its final Sunday Mass this weekend, as it will close its doors this week, along with Madonna of Czestochowa Parish, Cardale; Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Leckrone; and St. Procopius Parish, New Salem, as part of a six-parish merger by the Diocese of Greensburg.

“We all wonder what's going to happen to this building,” Durinzi said. “We've lost everything in this town: a grocery store, a bank, two drugstores. This church and the post office are all we have left.”

St. Thomas Parish in Footedale and All Saints Parish in Masontown will serve as the worship sites for the merger's newly formed St. Francis of Assisi Parish.

Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt announced the consolidation in May, enumerating declining population and funds, and a shortage of priests as the issues behind it.

According to data on the diocese website, the parishes on average had five first Holy Communions, two confirmations, six baptisms, three weddings and 17 funerals in 2012. The numbers reflect the area's aging population of the parishes: Holy Rosary had six baptisms but 22 funerals.

The Rev. William C. McGuirk, who has been at Holy Rosary Parish for nearly three years, thanked his church members for their support and cooperation on Sunday. He has been appointed pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Youngwood.

Ron Carlotti, 70, of Grand Rapids, Mich., drove to Republic to say goodbye to the church.

“We're sad,” he said. “My wife and I were married here 44 years ago.”

According to Richard Brosky Jr., 29, of Republic, the church means the world to its members.

“It's the heart and soul of the community,” he said.

At St. Thomas Parish in Footedale, the Rev. Peter Peretti celebrated his final Mass as pastor of the church after six years of service. He has been assigned to St. Mary Nativity Church in Uniontown.

“We look to Jesus in these changing times,” he said. “What unites us is our faith.”

Dolores Franczyk, 69, of McClellandtown has attended St. Thomas Parish for 49 years and feels sorry for the closing churches, calling the changes “heartbreaking.”

“These older people got baptized and married at these churches,” she said. “Now they don't have their church.”

Madonna of Czestochowa Parish held its final Mass on Sunday evening, with a vigil afterward.

The newly formed St. Francis of Assisi Parish will host a Mass of welcome and remembrance at 6 p.m. July 13 at the Footedale church. The new pastor of St. Francis of Assisi, the Rev. William B. Berkey, will be installed by Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt.

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or nchynoweth@tribweb.com.

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