Wednesday, June 18, 2014

3 Great Parishes in Pittsburgh, PA

I'll soon be leaving my home and native land, the great city of Pittsburgh, PA (The Most Rev. David Zubik, Bishop). There are a lot of great things about growing up in Western PA (the Pirates, the food, the beautiful parks), but one that might be occasionally overlooked is the multitude of Catholic parishes. I currently live within a 10 minute drive of at least 6 parishes. Yes, we are dealing with the heartbreak of closing some of these venerable old parishes and consolidating others, but we still have a very dense patchwork of parishes. I could write a list a mile long of great parishes I know, but I'll keep this short and sweet. The next time you are in the 'burgh make sure to check out one of these churches!

1. St. Alphonsus, Wexford

St Alphonsus Pittsburgh
A great parish nestled in the Wexford area in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, St. Alphonsus has been my parish since my conversion to Catholicism back in 2011. It is one of the oldest parishes in Pittsburgh dating back to the 1830s! My mother's family has called St. Al's home for over sixty years, with my grandmother putting 10 kids (or as she likes to say "5 boys...pause for effect... and 5 girls") through the parish school. The church underwent an odd expansion in the late Sixties (not exactly the golden age of Catholic church architecture) which resulted in the church almost being two churches facing each other with a shared altar separating them. The odd interior shape was primarily determined by the geography of the land it sits on. This parish has been a great home for my family. We've made many great friends, have been served by outstanding priests, and have grown closer to the Lord by celebrating the Sacraments here. My two sons were brought into the Church here, I was confirmed here, my wife entered full communion with the Church here, my parents were married here. Let's just say St. Al's has a lot of history for both Pittsburgh and my family. Its a great place and I'm happy to have had the opportunity of teaching CCD there this last year. If you live in the area, the  Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program for kindergarteners can't be missed. In fact, the whole CCD program is highly recommended. If you live in the North Hills, make sure you check out the VBS here next week. My eldest was looking forward to attending (and my wife assisting) but our impending move got in the way.

2. St. Teresa of Avila, Perrysville

St Teresa of Avila Pittsburgh 
If St. Alphonsus was the parish home of my mother's family, St. Teresa of Avila in Perrysville was the stomping grounds of the Barontini family. It was here that my grandparents wed, here that my father attended school and made his Sacraments, and here that I was baptized (actually all of those things happened in the old parish church building). This actually is my geographic parish and the place where I usually confess. I can't speak a whole lot to the community over there, but the priests are great, the parish festival is always a must see in the summer, and I've had some really great prayer opportunities there, including a Taize prayer experience that was very contemplative. The outside of the new church (built in the Eighties) isn't exactly my personal taste, but it does have a nice resemblance to a ship plowing through the waters, reminding the faithful that the Catholic Church (and the Catholic Church alone) is the Ark of God surrounded by the flood waters of a sinful world.

3. Holy Wisdom Latin Mass Community, St. Boniface Church

Latin Mass Pittsburgh

After completing a four week Latin Mass challenge issued by Dr. Taylor Marshall, I fell in love with the vetus ordo, the extraordinary form, the "Traditional Latin Mass", right here in St. Boniface Church on the Northside of Pittsburgh. The Mass is stunningly beautiful. The music is angelic. The altar boys are crack. The preaching is solid and strong and frequently challenging (as is my youngest when we attend here). And I get the added benefit of having a communion rail when I receive Our Lord in the Eucharist kneeling and on the tongue (which I do everywhere, its just a lot easier with the rail). What else can I say? If you like the "Latin Mass" then this is the place for you in Pittsburgh. If you haven't been to a "Latin Mass" and are in Pittsburgh make sure to check it out. The first time you'll probably be shell shocked, it takes a few weeks to get used to, but once you do, your appreciation for the Mass (including the Ordinary Form) is heightened. I recommend going at least 6 straight weeks to really give it a fair chance. It is more like a fine glass of Chianti than a can of Coke, it takes some getting used to, but when you acquire the taste you'll find increasingly deep levels to appreciate here.

I could go on about other great parishes I've had the opportunity to frequent here in Pittsburgh, Sts. John and Paul (with its beautiful new church), St. Alexis (with convenient week day confession), our magnificent Cathedral, and many others. We Pittsburghers are truly blessed to have a wonderful diocese (with a great bishop!) to call home. As my family relocates we are leaving more than bit of ourselves behind in these wonderful churches. Thankfully, we can console ourselves with the realization that when we are at Mass in our new hometown, we'll be entering into the same eternal Sanctuary, worshipping the same All Holy God, with the same High Priest. Indeed, "Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf." (1 Cor 10:17).

The Diocese of Pittsburgh as a whole and these parishes in particular have been a great source of faith for my family. For that, I am eternally grateful.

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