Catholic diocese closes four churches

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has decided to shut down four churches in the St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Southeastern Washington County.

St. Joseph in Roscoe, St. Michael the Archangel in East Bethlehem Township, St. Thomas Aquinas in California and Saints Mary & Ann in Marianna will close March 4. The two churches left in the parish are Ave Maria in Bentleyville and Saint Agnes in Centerville.

Stated in a press release published by the Pittsburgh diocese, the four churches were shut down due to St. Katharine Drexel Parish not having the financial resources to keep the churches open anymore.

The Rev. Nicholas S. Vaskov, executive director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, said the churches were closed with good intentions.

“[Father Edward Yuhas], the pastor of that parish, started a process of forming a committee that would look at what are the challenges, the situation there, and the needs; what would best serve the Catholic presence in that area,” Vaskov said. “So, that committee looked at what was all available and made a recommendation as to what would be best for the parish.”

The Rev. Yuhas was unable to comment on the committee.

Another aspect the committee looked at was how to best use the income of the four churches.

“We could either use the resources they have for ministry or could use it to maintain buildings,” Vaskov said, “and the decision was to be able to put the resources they have towards ministry.”

Vaskov said the closures were mainly a result of low attendance at those locations. The low numbers, Voskov said, is just an example of the widespread problem of declining attendance across the U.S. The closure of the four churches is the parish’s way of adapting to this problem, he said.

“You see less and less people coming to mass or coming to their churches,” Vaskov said. “So, [what] we are looking for was to be proactive in planning for the future.”  

To Vaskov’s knowledge, the fate of the church buildings has not been decided.

According to the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s press release, the Rev. Yuhas presented the petition to close the churches Nov. 30, 2018, to the Most Rev. David Zubik, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. The diocesan Presbyteral Council and Vicars General reviewed the petition Jan. 14, and voted unanimously for the petition.