South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Former parishioners work to save St. George Church building


Last updated 5/8/2018 at 9:57pm

Ryan Loew/PublicSource

A person walks down Allen Street past the closed St. John Vianney Church in Allentown. The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh announced in January 2016 that the parish would be dissolved due to dwindling attendance and $3 million of debt.

A bricklayer by trade, Neal Mehrenberg laments the dissolution of the Allentown church building that served as his family's spiritual home for four generations.

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has diverted parishioners from the double-spired German Romanesque structure with stained-glass rose windows and plans to close it for good. The building's fate is uncertain.

"They don't build places like that anymore," said Mehrenberg, 40. "Nothing resembles an old church. You don't get that back. Once it's gone, it's gone."

St. George Church, completed in 1912 to serve an ethnic German congregation, was the center of his grandparents' and parents' community, hosting several crowded Masses each week. But by the time Mehrenberg married at the Climax Street church in 2010 and then had his son baptized, the diocese had closed three other parishes and folded them into his, renaming the parish St. John Vianney. Those parishes' churches, schools and other buildings were sold off or torn down.

In January 2016, the diocese announced that St. John Vianney parish would be dissolved due to dwindling attendance and $3 million of debt. Parishioners were scattered to three other Hilltop parishes. Bishop David Zubik also decreed that the St. John Vianney church building be relegated from "sacred" to "profane" use. Under canon law, the windows and sacred objects should be removed when a structure is designated for "profane" use. The edifice can be repurposed or torn down.

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