After receiving an ominous but vague threat, Our Lady of Grace Parish in Scott Township, Allegheny County, decided to cancel a parish festival that had been due to start today.

The decision to call off the festival, which would have run through Saturday, was prompted by a handwritten letter that stated, in part, “Cancel August 14-17 Festival Security Problem is Huge.” The letter was sent to an office in the Diocese of Pittsburgh Pastoral Center in late July. It has not yet been determined who sent the letter.

Only one parish, Our Lady of Grace, had been due to hold a festival on the dates specified in the letter.

A statement released by the diocese Tuesday stated that although there was no direct threat to the festival, “the letter raised grave concern due to the appalling chain of mass violence our nation has experienced.” The diocese contacted the Rev. David Bonnar, Our Lady of Grace’s priest-administrator, and he decided to cancel the festival after consulting with the committee organizing it.

The cancellation of Our Lady of Grace’s festival follows mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, at the beginning of the month that left more than 30 people dead and more than 50 injured. It also comes a little less than 10 months after a gunman killed 11 congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

“The diocese supports the decision not to risk becoming another name in that tragic litany,” the statement said. “But we mourn the loss of carefree community that should be the hallmark of these joyous events.”

Consideration had been given to going ahead with the festival and beefing up security, according to Ellen Mady, a spokeswoman for the diocese, but it was determined that the festival should be called off “out of an abundance of caution.” Mady also said there haven’t been discussions as yet about rescheduling it.

Our Lady of Grace is located off Bower Hill Road. Revenue from the festival would have been benefited the parish and its school. Both stand to lose about $50,000 as a result of the festival’s cancellation, Mady said.

Staff Writer

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. He serves as editorial page editor, and has covered the arts and entertainment and worked as a municipal beat reporter.

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