St. Michael Church

St. Michael Church

St. Michael Church is a former Roman Catholic church in Munhall, Pennsylvania. It was founded as a Slovak parish in 1897 and served 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, 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, property was purchased in neighbouring Munhall. 1 Plans for the new location 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. The uproar caused the parish to split, and a new congregation was formed, eventually becoming the St. Anne parish.

St. Michael’s church in Homestead was dismantled in 1909 and reassembled in Munhall, which served the congregation until 1925. 1 It was razed for a far more massive all-brick structure that was dedicated on December 11, 1927. Renovations in 1949 included the enlargement of the sanctuary and the installation of new altars. 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 the bid was rejected as the group was not Catholic. The Society, founded in 1970 by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, was declared non-Catholic after Pope John Paul II excommunicated Lefebvre 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 premises for commercial and residential uses. 3 4 Some residents initially rebuffed his efforts at the renovations, 4 although the proposals were ultimately accepted instead of the church being abandoned.


Gallery






Sources

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  1. “Saint Michael, Munhall.” Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. Article.
  2. Pitz, Marylynne. “Diocese Offers Former Church, 6 Schools, 2 Social Halls, Rectory, Convent for Sale.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5 May 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. Article.
  3. Cloonan, Patrick and Stacy Lee. “Group plans rosary march to support Munhall church purchase.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. Article.
  4. Karan, Tim. “Munhall residents resist rezoning for new shop.” Tribune-Review 14 Nov. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. Article.

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15 Comments

  1. Good day,
    I am from Slovakia, Michalovce where I live and work.
    During the recent cleaning of our old family house in SLOVAKIA, I found a marriage letter to my great- grandfather, who was married to a church in Pittsburg. I’d like to find out where it was. It was 1900.

    1. Hello Marek, What was your great Grandfather’s name, & who did he marry. I just saw your note, I will try to find out information for you. I had family in Michaelovce as well, but later on that. Anything you can share, can you scan your information for me. I will gladly do your research. St Michael Archangel was orig in Homestead, then Munhall. 9th Avenue but members split off t St. Anne, also very Slovak. Happy to help. Also your family names. My e mail is below. Has anyone contacted you before this. I see the date, 2019. I grew up not far from that church, belonged there most of my life. My family names, Kuzma, Gress, Kosko, & Koczka. Looking forward to your reply. Dobre Notze!. I am doing family history in Ancestry, Mom spoke of Michaelovce often, & Benkovce.
      Blessings, Stephanie Kosko Paul

    1. St Peter & Paul, was closed, as well as St Margaret, on 10th Ave, and of Course St Mary Magdalene, 10th Ave. Now there is a Music Corp. in the basement of St. Michael Archangel Church, 9th Ave & Library, & the Parish House is apartments, & possibly Walter is working on the convent to establish apartments. There is an excellent caterer, “Old School Italian Sandwich Shop”, located in the lower part of the old school, accessible by Boone Alley, that has some of the most Fabulous Food. Only catering now, Check it out!!! Number to be added later. `Orig # disconnected. Now parish is called St Thomas The Apostle. I would like to know where the orig. St Michael was built, since Munhall as a borough did not exist till 1901. It was all Homestead, & Mifflin Township, I presume. Does anyone have an address for the original Wooden Church St Michael 1896??? St John The Baptist, orig. 10th Avenue, & Dickson Street built 1911, closed when the parish moved to West Homestead in the early 1992?

  2. Sad! Churches are built for worship…. shame to those bishops who are closing and sell churches. Its an other thing disestablish a parish and other to close and deconsecrate a church. Shame on them.

  3. I grew up in Munhall and attended St. Michael’s church and grade school. We attended daily Mass and Saturday night rosary. My parents faithfully filled their weekly envelopes with contributions and added their hard earned dollars to the second collection basket. After my father died and Mom subsisted on a paltry Social security check,
    she continued to donate to the church because she was told that if she stopped donating, she would not be given a burial Mass. Never once did any priest or member of the clergy visit or help her in her waning years. Please don’t romanticize this parish or Fr. Altany who was a mean spirited self centered drunk, hosting drinking parties during Corpus Christi.

    1. I agree with you, Cynthia, my parents scrimped & supported the church with a family of 8, while our Dad was often on strike, but the donation was absolutely given, no option. We miss not the pastor, but the family’s who were ‘family’ when we all grew up & attended school & St. Michaels. My younger siblings went to St Mike’s school on 10th Ave, & I was told by a priest, that school should never have been built, it was a time of dwindling family numbers, But Msgr. Altany wanted to be remembered by his work, Building a School, with our parents hard earned dollars. I realize these things happen, but we take them with a grain of salt. We know who we are, & what our upbringing has been, These churches were built “By Our parents Parents, for our Children’s Children”. BUT, not so now. My heart aches, but we go on!!! ‘Don’t look behind, you are not going that direction’. I love Ancestry, but we live in the moment!

  4. I would love to know who purchased the marble altar from st Michaels in munhall pa as I would love to see it in place at another church in all its glory the church is sadly missed by all who worshiped there. Please post that information as many would travel to see it at a beautiful setting. Agnes hovanec povazan

    1. Hello Agnes, Stephanie here. Ray Kosko’s sister. Have you been in the area to see what has been going on? I am through Munhall at least once a week. see my other post, of the renovation of the rectory. I viewed the apartments, they are super. We hope the convent will be next. The restaurant under the school had amazing food, ate there many times. Now they just cater. Gina her Grandmom Rose Marie & her brother ran it. Gina married, has a baby, so they now only cater. I can’t say often enough how great they & the food was. God Bless the Walter Viola family.

  5. From what I have seen and understand a new owner was found and bought the church for 65,000.00. Renovations have started and a new advertisement business is working in the cleared up and renovated lower sections of the building. The new business started early in August of 2016.

  6. St. Michael’s Church was a spiritual force across many generations of Slovak Catholic families in the Tri Borough area.
    It makes me very sad to see this once beautiful church in its current state. Msgr. Altany,God Rest His Soul, would be so sad to see this.

  7. Moved from Pittsburgh but returned due to family in the area. Many wedding, funerals, and baptisms right at the apparent height of its decline in the early 90’s. Know a few years ago the statues etc were removed, are the pictures of the inside as of now.

    Just a few weeks ago was back visiting and drove by and saw what looked to be roofing repairs being done.

  8. I’d like to offer a clarification regarding the Society of St Pius X. The canonical status of their priests is “irregular,” meaning they currently have no formal recognition as a religious community of priests. They are without doubt considered Catholic priests, as evidenced by the grant of “faculties” by Pope Francis to their priests to hear confessions. Faculties grant the permission any priest needs to hear confessions of Catholics. There has been no prohibition of Catholics to attend the Society chapels and receive sacraments there. The reasoning of the vicar general of the Pittsburgh diocese to say that the Society priests are not Catholic is unfounded.

  9. This is so sad..I grew up in the area…my grandparents attended this church as parishioners….I have so many memories of this church when it was a beautiful church…statues everywhere, you learned your faith through it…
    It’s a shame it had to close..

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