Our Lady of Grace Parish cancels festival after receiving ‘disturbing’ letter
Our Lady of Grace Parish has canceled its annual festival planned for this week after officials said they received a “disturbing” letter in the mail.
The festival and annual fundraiser for the Scott church was scheduled to begin Wednesday and run through Saturday.
An office in the Diocese of Pittsburgh Pastoral Center received a handwritten letter in late July that said, “Cancel August 14-17 Festival Security Problem is Huge.”
Although the letter didn’t specify a direct threat on a specific parish, church officials said the letter raised “grave concern” in light of the recently mass shootings across the country.
Our Lady of Grace Parish was the only church in the diocese planning a festival for this week.
The Rev. David Bonnar, priest-administrator of Our Lady of Grace, immediately notified the police after the diocese told him about the letter. The sender has not been identified.
Bonnar said canceling the festival was the hardest decision he’s ever had to make, but it was the right one.
“What we’re all dealing with right now is just overwhelming sadness and grief,” he said.
The festival has always had security provided by local police and constables, but Bonnar said because it’s held in an open area both indoors and outdoors there’s no way to know where everyone is coming in.
“There’s no barricades,” he said. “There’s no way to funnel people in through one entrance.”
He said he has no idea what the person who wrote the letter may have been referencing or indicating and he simply didn’t want to put people in harm’s way.
“It was so vague,” Bonnar said of the letter.
Bonnar couldn’t immediately provide how much money the festival typically raises for the church and said they just focused on the safety of the vendors, the volunteers and the people who would have been attending the festival.
“Safety has always been our number one priority,” he said.
Bonnar said the church would revisit other ways to raise money in the coming days and said he believes “God always provides.”
“Our Lady of Grace will be stronger and better and more united as a result of this,” he said.
The diocese said in a press release it supports the parish’s decision to cancel the festival, adding “we mourn the loss of carefree community that should be the hallmark of these joyous events.”
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Emily at 724-226-4680, [email protected] or via Twitter .