Monroeville, Pitcairn parishioners hope to preserve tradition of Italian Mass
The Rev. Joe Luisi of North American Martyrs Parish in Monroeville celebrated what could be his and the Catholic worship center's final Italian Mass.
More than 150 people participated in the event on a rainy day June 13 at St. Michael's Church in Pitcairn, which is part of the parish.
They celebrated Mass in Italian, and the sermon was done in English by the Rev. Brian Noel, the bilingual spiritual director of St. Paul Seminary in Crafton.
A procession took place down Wall Avenue to the Pitcairn Assembly of God and back, followed by a festa, or party.
“It gives people a chance to know someone other than myself,” Luisi said. “The sky cleared as soon as the Mass was over.”
It may be his and the parish's last one because the Rev. Albert Zapf of Our Lady of Joy Parish will be taking over for Luisi, who will become chaplain of UPMC Passavant Hospital in McCandless in October in connection with a larger shift inside the diocese.
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh plans to merge 188 parishes into 57, and about 80 percent of its priests will be assigned to different churches starting that month as part of a six-county diocese reorganization.
North American Martyrs will combine with St. Bartholomew, St. Susanna and St. Gerard Majella in Penn Hills, St. Bernadette in Monroeville and St. Michael in Pitcairn. Its new parish name has not been determined.
None of the churches will close for at least three years. More details about the mergers is available at diopitt.org/onmission .
Luisi hopes Zapf will maintain the tradition.
“He's a fine priest and a very kind, gentle soul,” Luisi said. “We pray for him and his team to make a smooth transition. I'm glad this attracted more people (to the parish). I love my parish, and I hope they pray for me as I will pray for them.”
Parishioner Gini Mignogna, 77, of Pitcairn helped out in the kitchen preparing for the festa.
“It's great. It's so uplifting,” Mignogna said.
The Italian Mass was started by Luisi in 2009. It takes place after a 13-week novena, or worship consisting of special prayers or services.
It grew from a traditional Mass of St. Anthony of Padua started at the parish by the Rev. John Dinello, who served North American Martyrs from 2002-05.
“He's not just a one-thing saint,” Mignogna said. “He's a saint for everything. When people need help, we pray to him. He's a finder of lost things. If you're poor or in need, we pray to him.”
The Rev. Dave Poecking took over the parish in 2005 and added to the tradition until Luisi was named leader in 2009.
People from Wilmerding, McKeesport, White Oak and Crayton among other places would come and participate.
“It's been a great ride with many friendships, and I hope that we've built the kingdom of God together,” Luisi said.
Mignogna had similar concerns about the reorganization, and believes it will be up to the younger parishioners to keep the Italian tradition alive.
“We'll have to wait and see when the new priest comes in,” she said. “I think there's a concern some traditions will be lost when you get into larger groups. A small church like we have, you know everybody, and I think that's going to be lost. It all depends if these younger people are going to push for it.”
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367 or firstname.lastname@example.org.