Our Lady of Perpetual Help was established in 1929 as a Polish parish. Before the parish was founded, local Catholics attended St. Ladislaus in Natrona. To get to St. Ladislaus, the people of Natrona Heights had to cross railroad tracks that lacked crossings or safety signals. In 1918, the Catholics of Natrona Heights, concerned for the safety of the children who had to cross those tracks to attend St. Ladislaus School, began raising funds for a school and attached chapel. Eventually, they realized that if they were to have a chapel, they would also need a resident pastor. They petitioned the bishop for a priest and one was assigned to the new parish on February 1, 1929.
The first Mass was celebrated on February 11, 1929, in a private home. In May of 1929, the parish built a hall in 16 days to be used for fund raising events. However, the pastor decided to convert the building to a church. The church was dedicated on May 30, 1929.
On February 20, 1945, fire struck the church. The fire completely gutted the interior but left the walls intact. While repairs were made to the church, Mass was celebrated in the basement of a local public school. After five months, the church reopened.
The fire led to a decision by the parish to build a new, fire resistant church. Ground was broken for the new church on April 6, 1952. The cornerstone was laid on July 6, 1952, and the completed building was dedicated on August 30, 1953. The church continues to serve the community today, but the parish does not. Due to population losses in the area in the late twentieth century, Our Lady of Perpetual Help merged with Most Blessed Sacrament parish to form the new Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament parish. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church remains open and serves the new parish.
Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament was founded on January 18, 1910, when the bishop instructed Father August Black to establish a new parish. His first effort involved renting a storeroom to use to celebrate Mass and preparing the room for services. The first Mass of the new parish was celebrated on July 17, 1910. The parish immediately began fund raising for a church. Work on the church began late in 1913 or early in 1914. Progress was rapid and on March 1, 1914, the cornerstone was laid. The completed church was dedicated on June 1, 1914.
In 1925, the parish built a school which operated until 1937, when it closed. At the end of World War II, the parish experienced a significant spurt of growth. The school was reopened in 1951. The church was soon overcrowded. Also at this time, the church began showing its age. Faced with the need for extensive repairs to a church that was too small, the parish decided to build a new church. Since the school was also facing crowding problems, the decision was made to build an addition to the school that would include a church on the lower level and classrooms on the upper level. The new addition was dedicated on October 25, 1959. The old church was torn down in 1961.
The fortunes of the parish soon turned, however. Beginning in the 1960's, the congregation began to rapidly drop as people moved from the city to the suburbs. In the 1980's, the congregation dropped to the point that the parish did not need as large a church as they had. During the decade, the church was partitioned and part of the space was used to create a social hall.
By the 1990's, the congregation had dropped to the point that it was no longer feasible to maintain the parish as an independent entity. In 1992, Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament merged with five other parishes to form the new St. Charles Lwanga parish. At first, Our Lady of Most Blessed Sacrament Church remained open and served the new parish. In 1996, the parish decided that the cost of keeping the church open exceeded the benefits. On February 18, 1996, the parish celebrated the closing liturgy of the church. Soon afterwards the building was sold.
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.