St. Michael Church, located in Munhall, Pennsylvania, was founded as a Slovak parish in 1897,1 serving the Slovakian community who tendered to Homestead Works of the Carnegie Steel Company.


History

In February 1896, a growing Slovakian population acquired land for a church in Homestead and constructed a wooden building.1 It was initially visited by the pastor of St. Michael Church in nearby Braddock before being taken over by the Holy Ghost Fathers of Duquesne University in April 1897. The congregation, however, desired a priest who spoke Slovak and a parish committee was formed to locate such an individual. A seminarian in St. Paul, Minnesota was brought to Homestead and ordained on September 26, 1897, and assigned as pastor to St. Michael.

The congregation continued to grow and plans were made for a larger church. In 1902 and 1903, land was purchased in neighboring Munhall.1 Plans for a new church structure was announced on May 12, 1907. The proclamation caused a split in the congregation, some of whom voiced opposition of the church’s move to another city.

In July 1908, the pastor left for a visit to Europe.1 His temporary replacement, an English speaking priest, was brought in on August 12, which caused further dissent. A bishop was brought in to close the church until a Slovak-speaking pastor was made available — which did not occur until December 20, 1908. The uproar caused the parish to split and a new congregation was formed, eventually becoming St. Anne parish.

Relocation

In 1909, St. Michael’s church in Homestead was dismantled and reassembled in Munhall, which served the congregation until 1925.1 It was razed for a new brick structure that was dedicated on December 11, 1927. Renovations in 1949 included the enlargement of the sanctuary and the installation of new altars.1 New stained glass windows were placed in 1950 and the baptistry was renovated in 1953. The statue of St. Joseph was added to the church tower in 1966.


Closure

As early as 1967, the congregation began to contract, partially as a result of the downsizing of the Homestead Works that began to bleed Munhall of its residents. The mill eventually closed in 1986 during a prolonged slump in the steel industry. By the 1990’s, Munhall could not support its numerous churches and the decision was made to merge St. Michael with five other parishes to form St. Maximilian Kolbe parish in 1992.1

St. Michael Church continued to operate, along with three other church buildings, but mounting expenses and a dwindling congregation forced the parish to close three buildings. The final mass at St. Michael Church was held on October 25, 2009 and it was officially closed on November 1.1

Renovation

Our Lady of Fatima parish in Carnegie, part of the Society of St. Pius X, made attempts to purchase the church building.3 The Rev. Arnaud Rostand, the U.S. society superior, met with the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh in mid-2011 regarding the possible purchase, but he bid was rejected as the group was not Catholic. The Society, founded in 1970 by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefevbre, was declared non-Catholic after Pope John Paul II excommunicated Lefevbre for consecrating four bishops in 1988.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh offered the building for sale for $250,000 in 2012.2

The rectory, convent and Parochial School were sold to developer Walter Viola who proposed rehabilitating the buildings for commercial and residential uses.3 4 Some residents initially rebuffed his efforts at the renovations,4 although the proposals were ultimately accepted in lieu of the church being abandoned.

Sources