PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Some parishes are very familiar to most Catholics: St. Paul Cathedral, Sacred Heart and St. Mary on the Mount. But a new recommendation to the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh could change these names and much more in the future.
The On Mission Commission, a group of priests and lay leaders, has recommended the 188 parishes in our area be reduced to 48, which means mergers, and even name changes.
Bishop David Zubik understands mergers can be difficult.
“The reason we’re doing this is not to cause pain, not to cause anger, but I’m concerned that we need to do a better job to help people see the focus of faith,” Zubik said.
The Bishop believes merging parishes will help better serve parishioners.
“I think that part of what we’re trying to do here is pull together resources, so that when all is said and done, when new parishes are formed, we’re going to have all of those outreaches in place,” he said. “We’re going to be able to reach out to all people.”
In April of next year, the Bishop will decide on the recommended mergers. The mergers can be spread out over two, three or five years. Next, new priest assignments will be announced, followed by new Mass schedules. The final step in the process allows the new parishes to decide their name and location.
Like any change, this one has sparked mixed reactions.
Bill Cauley, of Allison Park, doesn’t think change is easy.
“I think it’s going to be a hard thing to do,” he said. “A lot of people are going to be very upset about it, but it’s a sign of the times, I guess.”
Barb Edwards, of the North Side, believes the mergers can help local Catholic schools survive, saying, “I think it’s a great idea.”
The Bishop acknowledges finances are a factor in the mergers. A shortage of priests is also a consideration, although the local diocese has seen some growth there. What he wants parishioners to keep in mind, though, is that the church is a building. not the foundation of faith.
“What becomes important about the building is that this is the place where we encounter Jesus, but it’s not the only place we encounter him in that particular building,” he said.