In his first week as an administrator, Reverend John Skirtich played the numbers game and his timing couldn’t have been better. He hit the jackpot in his attempts to celebrate Sunday mass at his new parish grouping which includes four churches in Bethel Park, South Park and Whitehall.
“If you know all the back roads and are lucky with the lights, you can get to Valentine’s Day and the Nativity in eight minutes and St. Germaine in four minutes,” said Skirtich, based at Saint-Gabriel des Douloureux. Church of the Virgin in Whitehall.
“It doesn’t matter where you live. Where you serve is, ”he said during his homily at the October 21 Mass at the Nativity.
Its mission matches that of the readings of Mark 10:45 about the Son of man not coming to be served but rather to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. Skirtich, too, is there to serve.
“My first priority is to love and serve people. Be there for them and get to know them, ”he said in an interview.
The changes fall under the diocese’s initiative “On Mission for the Living Church”, which is designed to promote healthy growth and shift the focus from nurturing to ministry and mission. The reallocations announced in April are due to the decrease in the number of priests and active Catholics and are part of the movement to regroup 188 parishes into 57 groups. The diocese had 260 active priests in 2010, a number that has dropped to 178 now, said diocese spokesman Bob DeWitt.
The process varied from smooth to chaotic, depending on the grouping.
For the parishioners of Saint-Bernard in Mont-Liban and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce of the canton of Scott, the decision to regroup came late in the game. Originally, Saint-Bernard was to be grouped together with Saint-Winifred, also in Mount Lebanon, and Saint-Anne at Shannon Castle.
“It became apparent that for some reason this was not going to be a good fit,” said Reverend David Bonnar, the pastor of St. Bernard. “And so we were taken to the churches in the town of Brookline and Beechview, and that possibility aroused great excitement. But then that also changed.
The eventual call was to pair Saint-Bernard and Notre-Dame de Grâce as Dormont-Mt. Lebanon-Scott Group.
“It’s really exciting because we have two parishes with rich histories, with strong schools, and between us is a whole series of health facilities,” Bonnar said. “There is a wonderful opportunity for shared ministry. “
Sharon Loughran Brown at Our Lady of Grace and Anthony Merante are co-directors of what will ultimately be one school.
“These are two great schools with a great history of academic excellence, now able to look to the future, on how we can maintain a quality Catholic education in this area for years to come,” said Brown. “Catholic schools are a wonderful gem in the history of the church, but they are also a great drain on the resources of a parish.”
Together, the annual cost of running the two schools is almost $ 1 million.
“This is why the school question is our first priority. We have to have a school very soon, ”Bonnar said. “I have long been a product of Catholic education and believe wholeheartedly in Catholic education. At the same time, however, I know there must be more to a ward than just the school.
The Reverend Robert Grecco, who now oversees a group of churches near Green Tree and Carnegie – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Margaret of Scotland and Ss. Simon and Jude – said it was “quite a work in progress. “. Although he has only been in this position since October 21, he said the staff are very supportive and welcoming. Parishioners are understandably concerned about the changes to their preferred times of Mass, but they have all been cordial.
“They all realize that we are all in the same boat,” said Grecco.
Grecco said he hopes to meet with lay leaders of pastoral councils to get a feel for their concerns in the coming weeks. He hopes that the three churches will be connected as time goes on.
“We have had parishioners from one church who have come to another,” he said, which tells him that they are taking this process seriously and are starting to feel comfortable praying in one. new church.
The Reverend Robert Miller, who served at St. Benedict the Abbot in Peters Township for seven years, is now the administrator of St. Francis of Assisi in Finleyville and St. Isaac Jogues in Jefferson Hills. He noticed an increase in mass attendance last weekend due to the shortened weekend schedule.
“I thought we had a good first weekend actually. Masses were full, ”he said of worship services in the three churches which went from nine to seven.“ We didn’t know how the parishioners would react, but they responded by going to the other masses, so they were more crowded than before.
He felt a “little sadness” at the changes, but also more engagement with songs and scripture reading.
“It’s not just about the fit, but the drive and the life,” he said. “Take the resources we have and use them in the best possible way. “
One way was to comb through scripture study during Lent, when the reunions were announced. They were hoping for a dozen people in the first class, but instead attracted 50.
“It kept growing,” he said. “There was real excitement there. “
Parishioners are now exploring other churches and are happy with what they see, Miller said. They expected to unite the three churches in one administrative parish, but he was adamant that Saint Benedict would not swallow the other two churches.
“They’re discovering new things,” Miller said. “There is really a lot of life and a lot of things we can do to improve people’s faith. And that’s what it is.
During this time, Skirtich has tried to bring together his four churches which have different personalities, mass habits and staffs.
“It was hectic,” he said. “They all have questions and I can’t answer a lot of them. My main concern is that the volume is going to be so large that it can be difficult to meet all the needs.
“Everyone wants all of their questions answered today and we just don’t know all the answers,” he added.
This is why he finds comfort in the gospel where the apostles quarreled over who was greater and how the Lord spoke to them and to the leaders.
“There is so much about discipleship that involves suffering and sacrifice,” he said. “But when we love and serve, we receive so much fulfillment. When we sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others, we simultaneously find fulfillment.