St. John Vianney parishioners notified of condition of parish, possible closure
St. John Vianney Parish’s days could be numbered at the Catholic parish for many of the Hilltop neighborhoods.
Bishop David Zubik outlined the current status of the parish in a letter to parishioners dated July 16, 2015, and the outlook wasn’t promising.
“All your hard work and dedication, however, have not been able to overcome some significant obstacles at St. John Vianney Parish: declining Mass attendance, buildings in need of major repairs and major debt,” Bishop Zubik wrote.
The Bishop noted last fall the pastoral and finance councils told parish administrator Father Thomas Wilson given the challenges that the parish had become unsustainable. The facts were reviewed by the diocesan offices which concurred with the findings.
Some of the key facts outlined in the letter included:
The parish is more than $3 million in debt and the parish buildings are in need of more than $1.2 in repairs;
Mass attendance in the last 10 years has dropped 54 percent, from 850 in 2005 to 392 in 2014 representing a sharp decline of the 1,356 members who live within the parish boundaries. The lower participation rate makes it difficult for parishioners to engage in envangelization and social outreach to the people in the neighborhood.
“Because of these painful realities, I have received a proposal to close Saint John Vianney Parish, including the church building, and to divide the territory among three neighboring parishes: Saint Mary of the Mount, Mount Washington; Saint Basil, Carrick; and Prince of Peace, South Side,” Bishop Zubik wrote. It is my hope and prayer that, if this comes to pass, you will work with others in your new parishes to continue Catholic outreach, including the food bank, in the hilltop neighborhoods.
The chief financial officer of the diocese has been asked to work on a plan to address the outstanding debt so it will not burden the proposed receiving parishes.
Parishioners were asked attend a parish assembly and return a consultation form before last Sunday to provide input before a final decision to close is made.
Saint John Vianney Parish was formed in early 1994 as the merger of four Hilltop parishes: St. George in Allentown, St. Joseph in Mount Oliver City, St. Canice in Knoxville and St. Henry in Arlington. Initially, according to the Saint John Vianney website, the four worship sites remained open keeping their original names.
As the Catholic population declined, along with the general population of the Hilltop, the worsening parish financial position necessitated the closing of three of the churches, St. Joseph, St. Canice and St. Henry, and the renaming of St. George as Saint John Vianney. Artifacts from the other churches were brought and incorporated into the newly renamed church.