Bishop Announces Reopening of St. Mary of Czestochowa Parish
By the Catholic Accent Staff
NEW KENSINGTON – Aug. 26, 2022 – More than two years after a devastating EF-1 tornado caused massive damage to St. Mary of Czestochowa Church, Bishop Larry J. Kulick has announced that parishioners will be able to return to the church building for worship Nov. 27, 2022. Bishop Kulick will celebrate the reopening with Mass at 1 p.m.
“We have consulted with engineers who report that the building is safe for occupancy while work on the outside of the church continues,” Bishop Kulick said.
Bishop Kulick made the announcement of the reopening at an open house at the parish Aug. 26, the Feast Day of St. Mary of Czestochowa.
“The Mass will be held on Thanksgiving weekend, and we have so much to be thankful for,” Bishop Kulick added.
On April 8, 2020, a tornado with winds of up to 100 miles an hour tore off a section of the roof of the church and its steeple, and heavily damaged its two bell towers. Heavy rains and high winds stalled over the area for several days, caused extensive damage inside the church. The damage totaled $2.7 million.
“I could not believe the enormity of the damage,” Bishop Kulick said, remembering when he arrived at the church in the morning. “We were in the middle of Holy Week and even though worship was suspended in the Diocese because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, my heart went out to the parishioners for this loss and to those who spanned the generations of those who received their sacraments there. It was devastating.
“I am very happy that the faithful in the parish will be able to gather for worship and to restore their customs and traditions within the New Kensington faith community.”
After the tornado, the Diocese took immediate steps to have a temporary roof installed to prevent further damage. Within weeks, the Diocese secured restoration bids within the scope of the project established by the insurance carrier. Volpatt Construction of Pittsburgh was the qualified bidder for the project and secured subcontracting bids for architectural and engineering work.
Work began in December 2021. Scaffolding was erected to bring workers closer to the ceiling to repair the heavily damaged plaster, perform carpentry repairs and paint. Light fixtures were removed and returned to their original luster.
The church is known for its hand-painted murals on the ceiling, which sustained water damage. In February of this year, international artist and East Vandergrift native Jeph Gurecka restored the murals, incorporating the original artist’s brush stroke and colors. Gurecka also restored the mural of the Lamb of God above the sanctuary.
Scaffolding was removed from the church, and carpeting and other final interior restoration work was completed a few weeks ago. The last phase of the restoration project is the roof repair; the Diocese will announce a start date shortly.
After making the announcement, Bishop Kulick invited parishioners to see the restoration work and announced that he will return to the parish to celebrate a Mass of Rededication and Blessing once all of the restoration work is completed.