Our Lady Help of Christians was established in 1898 as an Italian parish. The origin of the parish can be traced to the rise of immigrants from Italy in the late nineteenth century. In 1895 the Italian Franciscan Fathers were invited to come to Pittsburgh. They took charge of the Italian parish in the Hill District, St. Peter. In 1894, the Italian residents of the East Liberty area petitioned the bishop for permission to form their own parish. This petition was denied. To meet the needs of the East Liberty Italians, the pastor of St. Peter began visiting the area to celebrate Mass. The first Mass for Italians celebrated in East Liberty took place in February of 1895 in the school hall of Ss. Peter and Paul parish. From that point, a Mass was celebrated almost monthly for the Italians.
In 1896, the pastor of St. Peter again petitioned the bishop for permission to establish a parish for the Italians in East Liberty. This time permission was granted. The first organizational meeting of the parish was held on April 12, 1896. Fund raising for a church began in 1896. Work on the church began in 1897. The cornerstone was laid on September 17, 1897, and the completed church was dedicated on April 17, 1898. Even after the church was built, improvements continued to be made to the building. In 1904, frescoes were painted on the walls and ceiling of the church. Unfortunately, the next year an electrical fire destroyed the church.
While reconstruction of the church took place, Mass was moved to the school. By December of 1905, the basement of the new church was completed and beginning on December 17, Mass moved to the basement. The superstructure of the church was completed earlier the next year and the building was dedicated on April 17, 1906. Over the years the church was renovated and redecorated. Renovations took place in the late 1940's, the late 1950's, the 1970's, and the 1980's.
By this time the population of the city had dropped to the point that it could no longer support the number of independent parishes in existence. In 1992, Our Lady Help of Christians merged with five other parishes to form the new St. Charles Lwanga parish. As part of the merger, Our Lady Help of Christians Church closed and was later sold.
St. Nicholas, the first Croatian ethnic parish in the United States, was founded in 1894. This parish was the result of Croatian immigration to the North Side to work in local industry in the late nineteenth century. In 1894, the local community wrote to Croatia to ask that a priest be sent to Pittsburgh. In August of 1894, the first Mass of the parish was held in the basement chapel of St. Paul Cathedral. By the fall, a building was purchased on East Ohio Street and converted to a church. The new church was dedicated on January 27, 1895.
As immigration continued to increase, the church soon became inadequate to meet the needs of the congregation. In 1899 the congregation was split as to whether to build the new church in Millvale or to remain on the North Side. When the decision was made to remain on the North Side, the faction that favored moving to Millvale did so and founded St. Nicholas parish, Millvale.
On September 16, 1900, the cornerstone for the new church was laid and on September 8, 1901, the church was dedicated. In 1920, the church faced a threat from urban renewal. The city decided to widen East Ohio Street, on which the church was located. Building owners along the road were given the option to either relocate or to move their building. Most people decided to sell and to let their buildings be torn down. The parish, however, decided to move the church. In April of 1921, the church was lifted on jacks and moved twenty feet back from the existing road. The move was completed in the fall of 1921.
Although the church has been renovated several times over the years, it still continues to serve the community. However, it is no longer an independent parish. With the loss of industry and related population late in the century, the diocese embarked in a program of reorganization and revitalization. In 1994 St. Nicholas, North Side was merged with St. Nicholas, Millvale to form a new parish, also called St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas church remained open as a worship site for the new parish.
St. Nicholas was established as a Croatian parish in 1900. The origin of the parish can be traced to the influx of Croatian immigrants to the area to work in local industries in the late nineteenth century. In 1894, the first Croatian parish in the diocese, St. Nicholas in what was then the City of Allegheny, now Pittsburgh's North Side, was founded. By the end of the century the congregation had outgrown its church. The question as to where to build the new church led to a split in the congregation. The pastor and the members who lived in Etna and Millvale wanted to build the new church in Millvale. The remainder of the congregation wanted to build the church in the North Side. Unable to find a consensus, the congregation split. The pastor and part of the congregation purchased land in Millvale to build a church. The rest of the congregation made arrangements to get a new pastor and purchased land in the North Side.
The first Mass in Millvale was celebrated on January 4, 1900, in a former carriage house on the property purchased for the church. This building was used for Mass until a church could be built. Work on the church progressed rapidly. Ground was broken on May 22, 1900. The cornerstone was laid on July 22, 1900, and the completed church was dedicated on November 25, 1900.
Disaster struck the church on March 26, 1921, when it was burned down in a fire. The pastor moved Mass to the parish hall while the church was being rebuilt. The original architect of the church was hired to draw up plans for the church and work soon began. The rebuilt church was dedicated on May 30, 1922.
In 1937, the pastor of the church decided to renovate the interior of the church. He hired Maximilain Vanka to paint a series of murals in the church reflecting the Croatian immigrant experience. The initial murals were dedicated in June of 1937. The artist added additional murals in 1941. These murals reflected the painter's pacifist beliefs, in response to the world war then underway. These murals make the church unique in the diocese.
As the rise of population at the end of the nineteenth century led to the creation of the parish, the loss of population at the end of the twentieth century led to its suppression. In 1994 the two Croatian parishes named after St. Nicholas were again reunited. The new parish also retains the name of St. Nicholas. The Millvale church remains open and continues to serve the new parish.
Nativity parish was organized in 1916 to meet the needs of the growing Catholic community of the North Side. The new congregation purchased the former Mt. Zion Lutheran Church on January 13, 1916. After making the necessary repairs and renovations, the church was dedicated on May 7, 1916.
As the congregation grew, the church soon proved inadequate. On June 10, 1925, ground was broken for a new combined church and school building. The cornerstone was laid on September 27, 1925 and the building was dedicated on April 18, 1926. The first two floors were dedicated for the school and the top floor held the church. The old church was retained and used as an activities hall. This building was torn down in the 1950's to make room for a new school and activities building.
As the growth of population in the North Side at the beginning of the century led to the creation of the parish, the loss of population at the end of the century led to its suppression. In 1993, Nativity was merged with Annunciation parish to form the new Incarnation of the Lord parish. Nativity Church remains open and serves the new parish.
Mother of Sorrows, an Italian ethnic parish, was founded in 1906. This parish was an outgrowth of the influx of Italians to the McKees Rocks area. At first, the local Italians held their services in the basement of St. Mary Help of Christians Church. The cornerstone for a church for the parish was laid on November 11, 1906. This church served the community until March 8, 1928 when it was destroyed in a fire. Until a new church could be built, services were held in local schools. The cornerstone for the new church was laid on September 15, 1929 and the church was dedicated on October 26, 1930.
On April 20, 1965, ground was broken for a new church, CCD center and convent and the cornerstone was laid on May 22, 1966. The new church was dedicated on May 21, 1967. As the century progressed, population loss in the McKees Rocks area made it untenable for the parish to remain independent. In 1993, the McKees Rocks parishes were merged and the new St. John of God parish was created. Mother of Sorrows church was maintained as a worship site for the new parish.
Most Blessed Sacrament was established on December 8, 1944. The origin of the parish can actually be traced back to the 1920's. The rise of industry in the area led to housing developments in Natrona Heights. The Catholics who moved there had to walk downhill to St. Joseph in Natrona to attend Mass. On April 14, 1927, the pastor purchased land on the Heights for a chapel for the Catholics living there. A chapel seating 250 people was built and dedicated on November 13, 1927, and named St. Joseph Chapel.
During World War II, the population of Natrona Heights boomed. By 1944 the attendance at the chapel grew to the point that an independent parish was practical. On December 8, 1944, the new parish was created, but not named until January 8, 1945, when the chapel was dedicated as Most Blessed Sacrament. The continued growth of the parish led to an enlargement of the church in 1947. The larger church was blessed on December 8, 1947.
Even with the expansion, the church soon proved to be inadequate. In 1953, work began on a combined church and school building. The cornerstone of the building was blessed on July 19, 1953, and the completed building was dedicated on May 31, 1954. The original church was torn down in September of 1954. The combined school and church building was later enlarged in 1958.
As the rise of industry in the first half of the twentieth century led to the creation of the parish, the loss of industry in the last half of the century led to its suppression. In 1992 Most Blessed Sacrament merged with Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish to form the new Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament parish. Most Blessed Sacrament Church remains open and serves the new parish.
St. Michael was founded as a German ethnic parish in 1848. The first church was a frame structure. The cornerstone for this church was laid on July 16, 1848 and the church was dedicated on November 24, 1848. Within seven years, this church was deemed inadequate to meet the needs of a growing congregation and in August 1855 the cornerstone for a new church was laid. This church was dedicated on September 29, 1861 and served St. Michael parish for over a century. Renovations and improvements were made to the church in 1886, 1898, 1923 and 1948.
St. Michael is noted for two annual events. In 1849 a cholera epidemic struck the city. After 75 parishioners died of the disease, the congregation of St. Michael made a solemn vow to St. Roch that if they were spared further deaths, they would set aside a holy day within eight days of the Feast of the Assumption. The parish had no further deaths and when another epidemic struck the city in 1854, no parishioners died. Since then the parish has observed Cholera Day every year.
In 1910, a Passion Play, Veronica's Veil, was written in Pittsburgh. The St. Michael's Players, a parish drama society, first performed the play in 1913. Starting in 1919, this performance became an annual event in the parish, attended not only by parishioners but also by people from around the city and from out of town.
Due to population loss in the city, St. Michael was merged with the other South Side parishes in 1992 to form Prince of Peace parish. St. Michael church was closed as part of this merger and the building was sold.
St. Michael was founded as a Slovak parish in 1897. The origin of the parish can be traced back to the arrival of Slovak immigrants to work in the local mills beginning in 1880. As the Slovak population increased, they began to make plans for their own parish. In February of 1896, they purchased land in Homestead for a church and in the same year built a wooden church. Initially, the new church was visited by the pastor of St. Michael Church, Braddock. In April of 1897, the Holy Ghost Fathers of Duquesne University took responsibility for the church. However, the congregation wanted a priest who spoke their language. As there was no priest in the Pittsburgh Diocese who spoke Slovak available, a parish committee was formed to find one. They found a Slovak seminarian in St. Paul, Minnesota. He came to Pittsburgh and was ordained on September 26, 1897, and assigned as pastor to St. Michael.
As time went on, the congregation continued to grow, and the parish began making plans for building a new larger church. In 1902 and 1903, land was purchased in Munhall. On May 12, 1907, plans for a new church to be built on the Munhall property was announced. This caused a split in the congregation, as the members who lived in Homestead did not want the church to be moved in Munhall. In July of 1908, the pastor left for a visit to Europe and on August 12 an English speaking priest was temporarily assigned to the parish. This caused additional dissention, to the point that the bishop temporarily closed the parish. The parish remained closed until another Slovak speaking pastor became available for the parish on December 20, 1908. Shortly afterwards, the dissenting faction of the parish decided to split off and form their own independent congregation. This congregation eventually became St. Anne parish.
In 1909, the Homestead land was sold and the church was dismantled and reassembled in Munhall. This church served the congregation until 1925 when it was torn down to make room for a new church. The completed church was dedicated on December 11, 1927. The church was renovated in 1949 with the sanctuary being enlarged and new altars installed. The next year, new stained glass windows were added. In 1953 the church baptistry was renovated. In 1966, the statue of St. Joseph was placed on the church tower.
Beginning as early as 1967 the congregation began to noticeably drop. By the end of the century, the population of Munhall had dropped to the point that the area could no longer support the number of independent parishes then in existence. In 1992, St. Michael was merged with five other parishes to form the new St. Maximilian Kolbe parish. St. Michael Church remained open along with three other church buidlings and continued to serve the new parish.
However, it soon became obvious to the parish that the congregation could not financially support four church buildings. The parish conducted a three year study beginning in June of 2006 to determine how many church buildings they could support. The parish concluded that they could only support one church building and that the other three should be closed. St. Michael Church was one of the building scheduled for closing. The final Mass in St. Michael Church was celebrated on October 25, 2009 and the church was officially closed on November 1, 2009.