Catholic churches in Washington, Peters Township, Burgettstown and other Washington County communities will be in new, consolidated parishes starting July 1 under a reorganization plan announced Wednesday afternoon by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The mergers are part of an ongoing effort announced in 2018 to reduce the number of parishes within the diocese from 188 to 57. The diocese is making these moves in the face of dwindling attendance, strained finances and a shortage of clergy. Several buildings that had served congregations for decades have been closed across the Pittsburgh region, including some in Washington County.
In Washington, the parishes of Immaculate Conception and St. Hilary will be brought together in a single parish called St. James.
Tracy Sushel, communications coordinator for Immaculate Conception, said she and other staff at the church were aware the merger was going to happen July 1, but did not know what name would be given to the parish. She said St. James was “the overwhelming choice” of parishioners, since it was the name of the first Catholic parish established in the western part of Washington County in the 1820s.
Three churches will be in the new parish – Immaculate Conception, St. Hilary and Sacred Heart in Claysville.
Nothing will change at the churches regarding operations or staffing, Sushel said, adding, “We’ll just be under the patronage of St. James, and we’re excited.”
Also in Washington County, the parish of St. Oscar Romero, named after the Central American prelate who was assassinated in 1980, will bring together the parishes of Holy Rosary in Muse, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Meadow Lands, and St. Patrick in Canonsburg.
“We’ve been preparing for this for over a year, and working with the other churches to combine our staff and integrate our social services and ministry,” said the Rev. Carmen D’Amico, parish administrator.
He said the parish’s name was chosen by Bishop David Zubik, after parishioners submitted more than 30 suggestions, which were narrowed to five by the pastoral council and submitted to the bishop.
The parish of St. Isidore the Farmer will be created out of the parishes of St. Alphonsus in McDonald, St. Ann in Bulger, St. Michael in Avella and Our Lady of Lourdes in Burgettstown. The parish will also include the Allegheny County parishes of St. Patrick in North Fayette Township and St. Columbkille in Imperial.
The parish of St. John XXIII, named for Pope John XXIII, who died in 1963, will bring together the parishes of St. Benedict the Abbot in Peters Township, St. Francis of Assisi in Finleyville and St. Isaac Jogues in the Allegheny County community of Jefferson Hills.
In the South Hills, the parish of St. Michael the Archangel will merge the parishes of St. Bernard in Mt. Lebanon and Our Lady of Grace in Scott Township.
The diocese also announced Wednesday that four regional vicariates will be reorganized into two vicariates and divided between north and south. The Rev. Joseph E. Sioli will be the regional vicar for the 27 parishes in the southern portion of the diocese, and the vicariate office will be at St. Germaine Church in Bethel Park.
In a letter to parishioners, Bishop Zubik said the mergers would lead to “more effective ministry by addressing financial needs, sharing resources and allowing your clergy to focus on the spiritual work for which they were ordained.”
He also said, “This has not been a simple task.”
Staff writer Karen Mansfield contributed to this story.