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Lower Burrell church expansion plans combine physical, spiritual needs

Chuck Biedka
| Saturday, June 19, 2010

More than 50 years after it opened as a multipurpose gym, St. Margaret Mary Roman Catholic Church is making plans to expand.

The idea is to better position the active parish for the long term to serve the community, said Msgr. James T. Gaston, church pastor.

He said parish leaders learned it would cost about $2 million simply to repair the electrical and other systems at the church along Leechburg Road.

At the same time, the Greensburg Diocese was seriously looking for ways to deal with a shortage of priests.

Leaders found the envisioned $4.4 million expansion could address both needs, and the church will be easier for people to enter or leave.

Increasing the seating from 400 to more than 700 will take care of electrical and other physical improvements. Added seats will allow the parish to reduce the number of Masses celebrated each week.

The parish's first Mass was celebrated on Sept. 6, 1953, and the church had about 250 families. Four years later, about 600 families were attending services there.

Now, half-a-century later, the parish serves about 1,850 households with at least 4,500 members, said Gaston, who has been at the parish 12 years.

Expansion plans haven't been finalized, and the artist renderings are preliminary, Gaston said.

The parish will ask the city's zoning board on Monday to approve a variance for the project.

Gaston said parish members are reaching out to help neighbors and others.

The church offers a food pantry, Meals On Wheels, an ecumenical ministry, nursing and health ministry. It has supported the Tri-City Life Center and a mission in Haiti.

Gaston said the parish is "leaven for the community."

Additional Information:

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To learn more about the planned expansion of St. Margaret Mary Roman Catholic Church, go online .

For news about the parish's financial needs, view a PDF .

Additional Information:

Well on the way

According to the church's Web page, about $3.3 million of the expansion money has been promised or donated. That includes about $2.2 million pledged and $450,000 from bequests and parish reserves. About $1.1 million remains to meet the goal.

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