South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

It's possible to change St. John Vianney's future


As a third generation active member of St. George Parish and the succeeding St. John Vianney, I would share some thoughts about the April 28, 2015 South Pittsburgh Reporter article “St. John Vianney Church faces an uncertain future.”

Almost all of the debt that has been accumulated by the parish over the decades can be attributed to subsidizing the now closed parish schools. The debt should be considered an investment in the Catholic education for a generation of students. A closed parish will not be able to pay interest on the debt.

In October, an architectural firm estimated it would cost $550,000 for all of the exterior repairs to the church to finally stop water from seeping in. With some improved planning, proper prioritizing and value engineering, the issues that have been allowing water to leak into the church for more than a decade could be addressed over a period of time and the church could be placed on a path to restoration.

In recent years, there were significant resources available that were not directed to stopping the water from leaking into the church.

In 2006, the parishioners provided a subsidy of $330,000 to the school.

In 2007, the parish capital campaign and sale of St. Joseph Church resulted in $614,184 to make improvements to the parish.

In 2014, the Church Alive campaign collected in $440,167 in pledges by the parishioners with 40-60 percent of that total committed back to the parish for improvements.

Now the water still leaks into the church and some plaster is damaged.

The income provided by the declining number of active parishioners at St. John Vianney is adequate when compared with the average of the Catholic churches that surround the Hilltop. With increased outreach and positive engagement with inactive parishioners and others in the communities, participation can be improved.

Recently, as Pope Frances emphasizes the need to address economic disparities and the need to reach out to under served people, we also see Bishop Zubik initiate the “On Mission for The Church Alive!” program to “reach out to more generously to those in need.”

Unfortunately, it appears that those messages do not yet apply to the remaining parishioners whose families have built, supported and served the Catholic Church on the Hilltop for more than a century and also to the people of the Hilltop that are showing growing success in their efforts to revitalize their communities.

According to the Diocese spokesman, “there’s no chance to succeed.”

While the Diocese seems to focus their attention and resources into thriving areas such as Cranberry and Washington, it declares parishes in places like the Hilltop communities have “no chance to succeed.”

Currently, we see many non-denominational and community churches attracting significant congregations and succeeding in the Hilltop and in surrounding communities throughout Pittsburgh.

It would be tragic to see the Catholic Church abandon the Hilltop just as others are making significant investments in the future of these communities.

It’s different this time.

If the church leadership can follow the message of Pope Francis, with an open mind and some creative ideas, our parish can have a “chance to succeed.”

With inspired leadership and the availability of technology and social media, there are vast new avenues for the Catholic Church to reach out and get its message to the community. Extra emphasis on the younger population, they could provide increased attendance and needed support.

For generations, many of our families with limited means have entrusted generous donations and service to our Catholic Church and we expected that those resources would have been managed well.

It seems that things didn’t turn out so well.

I would like to hope that the Diocese will step up and provide a partnership and commitment to our parish so that we can plan the restoration of our church, increase attendance and have the “chance to succeed.”

Bob Kress



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