Something Old, New, Borrowed and Blue
STORIES BY JERRY ZUFELT
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” dates to the late 1800s and stands for, respectively: continuity; optimism for the future; borrowed happiness; and purity, love and fidelity.
While the phrase is associated with the bride on her wedding day, it also pertains to some of the magnificent churches in the Diocese of Greensburg. While the diocese was established less than seven decades ago, it has many old, magnificent churches, some dating back nearly 200 years.
All churches, no matter the architectural style or size of the structure, are magnificent because they are where the faithful gather to worship and share the Eucharist that is consecrated at the altar. Here are four that are “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
PHOTOS JORDAN WHITEKO
THE HISTORIC CHURCH OF ST. PETER, BROWNSVILLE
The first church in the diocese — also the first church west of the Allegheny Mountains — was built in Sugar Creek, Armstrong County, and is memorialized by the replica log church there. But, the oldest church in continual use in the diocese is the Historic Church of St. Peter, which stands high above the Monongahela River in Brownsville.
Built in 1845 after two previous church buildings burned, one of its many unique features is a large stained glass window that commemorates the first Mass celebrated in the area. That Mass was celebrated in July 1754 by the chaplain for the French and their Indian allies who were marching from Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh) to fight George Washington’s forces at Fort Necessity.
When construction of the church began, it was thought that Brownsville might be the seat of a Catholic diocese in Western Pennsylvania, so there are features unique to a cathedral, such as the location of the pulpit and a crypt for a bishop’s burial. But, by the time the church was completed, Pittsburgh had been established as see of the new diocese. That new diocese included the four counties that would become the Diocese of Greensburg more than a century later. St. Peter Church would be added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
As with any structure that is nearly 175 years old (that anniversary will be marked next year), St. Peter Church requires special care. One of the annual projects is the removal of the efflorescence, a white powdery substance that accumulates on the interior of the sandstone and is caused by heat and moisture. Maintaining a tradition that began in the 1930s when the men of the parish removed the plaster from the sandstone walls, parishioners clean the efflorescence.
“It is just part of the work that is required to maintain this beautiful edifice, this great church,” said Father Timothy J. Kruthaupt, pastor. “We do what we can as staff and parishioners to ensure that it is maintained, that it is beautiful and is a welcoming home.”
HOLY FAMILY CHURCH, LATROBE
Sometimes something old becomes something new. Holy Family Church in Latrobe was dedicated in 1907 as the third church building for the parish. It underwent much-needed refurbishing and restoration and was rededicated and consecrated by Bishop Edward C. Malesic June 25, 2017. The traditional English Gothic design includes a high altar for celebration of the Mass in Latin.
The church is now enhanced with a brighter look, featuring paintings of several contemporary saints, including St. Teresa of Kolkata, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Venerable Michael McGivney, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. John Paul II, and two saints with Pennsylvania connections, St. Katherine Drexel and St. John Neumann.
The nearly $2.5 million project included plaster restoration, roof repairs, a new heating system, new LED lighting, decorative painting, cleaning and restoration of the marble floor, cleaning and repointing of the stained glass windows, and installation of new Stations of the Cross, which were repurposed from the former All Saints Church, Arnold.
One of the most visually striking features is the old altar front, which depicts the Last Supper. The front was removed from the church during the 1967 post-Vatican II renovations. The large, white marble piece had been stored safely in a parishioner’s barn for 50 years and was returned to the parish to be part of the new design of the church, according to Father Daniel C. Mahoney, pastor (above).
They “were led by the Holy Spirit to know a day would come when it would be brought back anew,” he said. “The church is very beautiful and lends itself well to worship.”
MOUNT ST. PETER CHURCH, NEW KENSINGTON
Mount St. Peter Church was built with stones and other items that were obtained, at no cost to the parish, from the old Mellon Mansion at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Beechwood Boulevard in Pittsburgh.
The pieces of the mansion were transported to the church site in New Kensington over several months in 1940 and 1941, as the agreement was the parish could have the materials at no cost, but was responsible for transporting them to the church site.
“The men of the parish went to Pittsburgh and brought it back stone by stone, piece of marble by piece of marble, and iron by iron,” said Msgr. Michael J. Begolly, pastor.
The parishioners, with guidance from an architect, reassembled the pieces into the striking church that stands above Freeport Road. Construction began in 1941, and the new church was dedicated on June 4, 1944.
Parishioner Gloria Schohn said the baldachino over the altar is a true focal point of the church. The large marble columns supporting it had been in the main hallway of the Mellon Mansion, she said. The Communion rail had been around the terrace, and the railing in front of the choir loft had been around the mansion’s pool.
Not everything in the church was “borrowed” from the Mellon Mansion, Schohn explained.
The shell lamps that illuminate the Stations of the Cross came from a chapel at Allegheny General Hospital.
“We’re extremely proud of our church,” she said.
ST. MARY, OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE CHURCH, KITTANNING
Blue is the color most often associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it is a dominant color in the striking 22-foot-high mural of the parish patroness in St. Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Kittanning.
The mural consists of more than 100,000 pieces of Venetian Smalti tile. It was made in Italy and delivered to the parish in 362 pieces and “put together like a jigsaw puzzle,” according to Patty Swartzlander, a parishioner who serves as a docent to explain the mural and other aspects of the parish’s history.
The mural depicts the story of the appearances of Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego, an Aztec in Mexico, and his efforts to convince the local bishop of Mary’s desire to have a church built on the site.
Father Francis X. Foley, the first pastor of the parish after it became part of the Diocese of Greensburg in 1951, began plans for a new church that he wanted to be dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Queen of the Americas, in part because Kittanning was the site of an early Native American settlement.
Like St. Peter Church in Brownsville, the Kittanning church includes the depiction of a Mass celebrated in the area in 1749 in one of its chapel windows.