South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Al Lowe
Contributing Writer 

St. John Vianney sells St. Canice, Hilltop Catholic buildings


The Lion of Juda congregation recently bought the St. Canice Church, rectory and parking lot on Orchard Place in Knoxville.


St. John Vianney parish will save money in insurance, taxes and maintenance due to the recent sale of the St. Canice buildings and the Hilltop Catholic High School, the buildings have all been vacant for many years.

The money received by the Catholic Diocese from the sales will go towards reducing the parish debt, said Father Thomas Wilson, the St. John Vianney pastor.

The Lion of Juda congregation bought the St. Canice Church, rectory and parking lot. The rectory has 30 rooms and once was used by three or four priests and then by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

"One priest can't use 30 rooms," Father Wilson said.

In 2005 the Diocese closed St. Henry, St. Joseph, St. Canice and St. George, which all had been regularly holding services. The bishop rededicated St. John Vianney as the parish church for the area.

"We had to get rid of the buildings. We had no further use for them," Father Wilson said.

Hilltop Catholic, a three-story building, has been closed for 22 years and now has been purchased by the Knoxville Baptist Church.

St. John Vianney parishioners were informed of both sales by notices inserted in the church bulletins given out at a recent Sunday Mass. They were told St. John Vianney no longer has any responsibility for those buildings.

When asked how much the church received for the sales the pastor referred the matter to parish business manager Chuck Mazur, who is was unavailable and could not be reached.

The Knoxville Baptist Church focuses its efforts on trying to help people and to provide them with household items, like coffee makers, drapes and toasters, assistant pastor Jerry Kadales said. Members feel this is the church's responsibility during these troubled economic times.

A message on the church's web site explains:

"Our mission is simple and plain – To work with what we have and not impose any burden on our members. Also to help those in need with what we have, in our neighborhoods, or wherever the Lord places us.

"We are currently under reconstruction and reorganization and possible relocation…Many organizations and families are finding it difficult to make ends meet. We are not the exception to that rule and our current goal is trying to save our church. We would appreciate a donation of any amount, if possible…Thank you."

Joseph Mrzlack has been the pastor for 12 years and Mr. Kazales has been assistant pastor for seven years.

Members plan to upgrade and refurbish the building and volunteers include an electrician and plumber. They want to start a used furniture business there and may move their church to the Hilltop Church location.

"We will know more as the year progresses," Mr. Kazales said.

Worship services for Knoxville Baptist are currently scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sundays at 411 Orchard Place.

"Everybody in our church is so excited about our plans" for St. Canice, Joel E. Garcia, pastor of Lion of Juda, a Christian church, said. With the help of God, they want to work with the community in developing spiritual enrichment, community nights, games, airings of movies and cookouts. They also intend to add improvements to their new buildings. He does not know yet when the church would move to the new site.

He said he has added church members "by taking to the streets to talk to people. If you are willing to listen, we are willing to talk."

Mr. Garcia was born in Mexico and came to this country in 1995. He lived in California before moving to Pittsburgh, which he considers "beautiful and really the most livable city." The national headquarters for Lion of Juda is San Diego, Calif.

He and his wife and three children plan to live in the former St. Canice rectory.

Services for Lion of Juda are currently scheduled for 1 p.m. Sundays at 132 Jucunda Street.

Services for St. John Vianney are scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturdays; 9 a.m. and noon Sundays; and, daily at 8:30 a.m.

Hilltop Catholic's three story building was also recenlty purchased by the Knoxville Baptist Church.


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