Crafton’s St. Philip church marks 180 years
St. Philip Roman Catholic Parish in Crafton has witnessed many changes in the last 180 years.
Founded on July 25, 1839, the original church measured 40 feet by 25 feet. It eventually grew to 122 parishes and missions established within its original territorial boundaries as one of six parishes in Western Pennsylvania after the Diocese of Pittsburgh was founded in 1843. The earliest grave marker in its cemetery is in remembrance of Mary Bush Murphy, who died May 17, 1841.
Under Fr. William Kelty, who served as its second pastor for more than 50 years starting in 1898, a new Gothic-style church building — the current church — was built and dedicated in 1906. St. Philip Elementary School opened in 1915.
On Aug. 1, 2016, the St. Philip community merged with the communities of the former parishes of Guardian Angels in the West End, Holy Innocents in Sheraden and Ascension in Ingram. The four parishes were part of the pilot mergers of the current “On Mission for The Church Alive!” initiative that is taking place in all six counties of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The name “St. Philip” was kept due to its long history in the area. The larger parish, both in membership and geographical areas, is now served by two worship sites – St. Philip at 50 W. Crafton Ave., Crafton, and the Ascension worship center at 114 Berry St., Ingram. Registered members come from Crafton, Crafton Heights, Westwood, Windgap, Ingram, Sheridan, Elliott, West End, Thornburg and Rosslyn Farms.
“No parish merger is easy,” said Fr. John Gizler III, pastor. “It is a very daunting task. Our merger was successful and brought together four parishes in only 2-and-a-half years. We serve as a model to the other parish groupings in the six-county area which are currently going through this process to become one. What seems very challenging at first quickly becomes a wonderful experience if one is open to the possibilities that arise when collaborating with one another.”
The merger has created more vibrant ministries and worship, including one of the largest chapters of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in the diocese, helping to serve the poor and needy in the local area. Ministries have expanded, such as the Lenten fish fry, Calendar Party, Purse Bingo, Fun in the Sun Day, and the parish picnic. Successful parish missions have been held and the annual Lenten and Advent speaker series continue with great attendance.
A new parish website is being designed. An adult Encounter Christ program for adults will start this fall, as well as the Edge program for middle school students.
The school serving students in preschool through eighth grade opened last month for its 104th year under the leadership of Dr. Brian Dougherty, principal since August 2018.
Considered administrator of the merged parish of St. Philip since 2016, Gizler will be formally installed as pastor at the 4 p.m. mass on Nov. 2 with Bishop David Zubik as celebrant.
For more information, visit www.saintphilipchurch.org or call 412-922-6300. Details on the school may be found at www.spangelway.org.