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Good news! Another Church Reopened!

posted Jul 6, 2019, 8:37 AM by Barbra Kress   [ updated Jul 6, 2019, 4:16 PM ]

Good news from Fall River, MA

The St. Anne's Preservation Society has reached an agreement with the Diocese of Fall River and reopened St. Anne's Church Shrine on July 4.

Below is a transcript of The Herald News article. It indicates that some 80 churches in the United States and Canada and are run by groups and societies that oversee their continued survival as Catholic sacred spaces.

This agreement is similar to what parishioners and SGCPS have been trying to work out for the past three years with the Diocese of Pittsburgh for the former St. George Church (St. John Vianney). Unfortunately, our offers have been rejected and we are forced to use the lengthly Vatican appeal process to prevent the proposed demolition or cannibalization of our beautiful, historic church.

As we continue to pray for a positive decision from the Vatican, we can hope that the Spirit will inspire the clerics in Pittsburgh to reconsider their contentious position and embrace this obvious solution. 

By Deborah Allard, Herald News Staff Reporter, July 2, 2019 
FALL RIVER — The faithful will see their old familiar saints again.
St. Anne’s Church Shrine, the beloved and historic landmark that closed in November last year, will re-open Thursday, July 4, at 10 a.m.
The re-opening is the culmination of work by St. Anne’s Preservation Society, headed by city parishioner Richard Affonso.
“I’m ecstatic,” Affonso said.
Affonso and the group have worked with the Fall River Diocese for the past several months to come up with a plan to reopen the shrine and, eventually, the upper church.
St. Anne’s Preservation Society will lease the St. Anne’s Church building and parish office for $1 a year from the Fall River Diocese to open the shrine as a sacred space.
The group has signed a 10-year lease agreement, which may be extended, according to the diocese.
“The bishop has been very kind,” Affonso said.
The re-opening of the shrine coincides with the anniversary of the dedication of the upper church in 1906. Some 2,000 spectators and parishioners attended the event. The lower shrine, its walls ringed with saints, is said to be a place of faith healings and miracles. It opened on Christmas Day in 1895.
Starting Thursday, the shrine will be open Monday to Friday, with hours to be set by the society.
Visitors will be able to purchase candles and pray as they have in the past.
“I am so very pleased that we have been able to work out this agreement between the Diocese of Fall River and the St. Anne’s Preservation Society,” Bishop Edgar da Cunha said in a press release. “I was impressed with the leadership of the Preservation Society from my first meeting with them several months ago.”
Da Cunha said the group’s proposal for taking on the responsibility of St. Anne’s Shrine and its needed repair was “detailed, well thought-out and based on a genuine dedication to their faith.
“I am hopeful that St. Anne’s Shrine will once again serve as a prayerful respite for persons, offering them solace and drawing them closer to God,” da Cunha said. “I offer my prayers to the St. Anne’s Preservation Society for all of their efforts ahead.”
The church ceased to be a diocesan parish when it closed Nov. 25, 2018, due to needed repairs, a shrinking congregation and a declining number of priests in the diocese.
The society will oversee and maintain the site as a shrine.
While weekly Masses will no longer be held, the group plans to organize Mass at certain times of the year.
The first Mass will be held Friday, July 26, the Feast of Saint Anne in the church’s calendar.
Other Masses, including one July 4, starting 2020, will celebrate the dedication of the church. A minimum of two Masses will be celebrated at St. Anne’s each year, according to the agreement.
The society will also schedule recitations of the rosary, bible studies and other special programs.
In the coming years, the society plans to raise funds to repair the upper church that closed in 2015 and eventually open it to the public.
A total renovation of the church including the upper church, shrine and exterior was estimated last year at some $13.5 million.
The society was assisted in saving the church by Attorney Brody Hale, who worked pro bono to lay the groundwork for appeals and negotiations. He has helped at least 13 churches in similar circumstances stay open throughout the country.
Hale said a parish church is a piece of territory or an administration. He said the church building can survive as a sacred space, even when its parish is eliminated.
Some 80 churches in the United States and Canada exist as sacred spaces and are run by groups and societies that oversee their continued survival.
“First and foremost, I want to thank Bishop da Cunha for his support of our mission and for his belief in our ability to get it done,” Affonso said.
Affonso also thanked others in the diocese for their assistance, as well as Hale, and members of the society’s board of directors.
“We have a great team working together on this,” Affonso said.

1894 St. Canice Church cornerstone destroyed

posted Jun 6, 2019, 7:28 AM by Barbra Kress   [ updated Jun 6, 2019, 7:28 AM ]

To our St. George Family:

We recently discovered that the 125 year old cornerstone from St. Canice Church was severely mutilated in April by workers under the direction of the Diocese. The cornerstone had been relocated to the grounds of St. George Church (St. John Vianney) in 2007.

We are shocked and appalled by this barbaric act and we have asked the Diocese for permission to remove the cornerstone to a safe place and have it restored by a stone mason for respectful display.

Our hearts are broken over this tragic situation and we will do everything that we can to make this right.

Please reach out to any friends that you know in the St. Canice Family who would share our concern.

They can contact us at or call 412-502-5062.

St. George Church Preservation Society

The Spaghetti Dinner II lists of winners, volunteers & generous supporters

posted Jun 2, 2019, 2:04 PM by Barbra Kress   [ updated Jun 2, 2019, 4:15 PM ]


The St. George Committee would like to thank everyone who attended the St. George Spaghetti Dinner II.
Congratulations to the prize winners!!

50/50 WINNER

Mario Schiarelli


Amy Averbeck

Marion Berasi

Santo Berasi

Gerri Felice

Maxine Germeyer

Mary Gorski

Carol Knoerl

Ken Pintwala

Ken Pintwala

Bob Schneider

Lynn Suhayda

Pat Toney

Edie Twigger

Jesse Wallace

Amber Wittman


Lee Averbeck

Helen Baney

Tom Beatty

Gigi Beatty

Nancy Dunn

Matthew Hoffman

Marge Lubawy

Marsha Maietta

Judie Massung

Gail Pawloski

Nancy Pfeifer

Judy Pittek

Lorraine Prokopec

George Rudolph

Jim Shaginaw

Cathy Shaginaw

Anne Toland

Tony Tommarello

Pat Toney

Janet Weiland

Gail Wittman

Our successful St. George Spaghetti Dinner II

posted Jun 2, 2019, 1:41 PM by Barbra Kress   [ updated Jun 2, 2019, 3:33 PM ]

The St. George Family & Friends gathered at St. Pius X Auditorium in Carrick for Spaghetti Dinner II. The crowd was excited and appreciative for this opportunity to gather and reminisce and there were many compliments for the fun event and good food.

In addition to the Door Prizes, Chinese Auction and Raffle, there was a slide show of St. George photos, a display of the St. George WWII memorial and the St. George trophies. Guests also gathered around the replica St. George Statue for photos.

Also, the St. George Store had items for sale including mugs and the 1960s sketch by artist Calvin Lynch.

Our special guest was, Fr. Donald Breier as we celebrated his 50 years since ordination.  Fr. Breier came to St. George Church as his first parish in 1969 as an assistant and in residence until 1983.

Thank You

The volunteers at the St. George Church Preservation Society would like to thank everyone for coming to this special event and for your generosity, encouragement and support.
All proceeds will benefit the ongoing effort to 'Reopen & Restore' the former St. George Church.

To see the list of supporters and volunteers from the event, please click here.

If you know of any friends and family who would like to be notified of future events, they can contact us at or call 412-502-5062.

A special Thank You goes out to Germaine Watkins for the great photos.

Visit Germaine Watkins Photography at:

Click here to see photos of Spaghetti Dinner II on our Facebook Page.

SGCPS Spring 2019 Fundraiser!!

posted Mar 19, 2019, 6:52 AM by Barbra Kress   [ updated May 20, 2019, 6:48 AM ]

St. George Spaghetti Dinner II

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Please join us for our spring fundraising event on

Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 4:00 pm

at St. Pius X Auditorium in Carrick

St. Pius X Byzantine Catholic Church

2336 Brownsville Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15210

The event includes Dinner, Dessert, Door prizes & Raffles.
We're featuring Alla Famiglia Sauce
(click here to visit the Alla Famiglia Restaurant site)

Seating is limited, reservations end on May 1

A Miracle in Ft. Wayne Gives SGCPS Continued Hope!

posted Feb 10, 2019, 7:36 PM by Barbra Kress   [ updated Feb 10, 2019, 7:37 PM ]

A Miracle in Ft. Wayne

Another Catholic church has been saved from demolition by a nonprofit similar to the St. George Church Preservation Society (SGCPS).

We've recently discovered that the diocese in Ft. Wayne, IN has reached an agreement to transfer ownership of St. Andrew Catholic Church to JAGH Preservation, a nonprofit, who will restore the church for Catholic worship.

This positive news adds to our list of Catholic churches that are being cared for by nonprofits. Other recent agreements include St. Rose of Lima in the Diocese of Joliet, IL and St. Victor in Colorado Springs, CO.

We have contacted the Diocese of Pittsburgh to share this good news in the hope that we can encourage a similar agreement regarding St. George Church and SGCPS. Such an agreement would conclude our appeal at the Vatican and lead to a positive outcome for St. George Church and the surrounding communities.

To read the News-Sentinal article, scroll down or click here to be taken to the News-Sentinal website.

H&R Block Nonprofit Referral Program

We are enrolled in the H&R Block Nonprofit Referral Program again for 2019. When you use H&R Block to file your taxes*, $20.00 is donated to St. George Church Preservation Society. Just mention St. George to your H&R Block preparer. Our client ID is 40010001096108. Thank You!

(*First time users of H&R Block)

The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, IN January 21, 2019

KEVIN LEININGER: St. Andrew’s Catholic Church needed a miracle to survive — and appears to have been blessed with one

The St. Andrew Catholic Church building on New Haven Avenue, built in 1911, will apparently escape the wrecking ball

The Lord, it seems, really does work in mysterious ways. And as a result, an historic Fort Wayne church can look forward to being restored instead of razed.

Back in October I wrote about the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend’s plan to tear down the 108-year-old St. Andrew’s Catholic Church at 2610 New Haven Ave., which since closing due to declining membership in 2003 had become home to about 10 Franciscan brothers and a group of cloistered Poor Sisters of Saint Claire. But the Franciscans are gone now, and with repairs to the church estimated at $2.1 million, the diocese decided to do the sensible thing despite Bishop Kevin Rhoades’ stated regret over the loss of a structure that had been so important to so many people for so long.

That emotional bond became clear when my column generated a flurry of concern, outrage and hope that at least portions of the building could be saved. At least 50 emails, letters and calls were directed at Vicar General Mark Gurtner, and one of them offered what could be called little short of a miracle.

JAGH Preservation of Hilliard, Ohio, formed about three years ago to acquire and restore historically significant buildings, especially those that are endangered. After visiting Fort Wayne, founder Bryan Hamilton signed an agreement with the diocese under which ownership of the church and adjacent rectory will be transferred to JAGH — which will in turn renovate the buildings for continued use by the sisters. The diocese will pay no rent, Gurtner said.

“There are obvious repairs needed to the exterior of the church building,” said Hamilton, who became interested in preservation through his work as a contractor. “Other factors to be considered are the current heating and cooling and electrical systems. The goal is to not only preserve the building but to restore it to historical accuracy to the best of our ability. Reaction to your article regarding the demolition showed a desire by some to preserve the building as a Roman Catholic oratory.”

As an oratory, St. Andrew’s will be designated by the church as a place for prayer and celebration of mass by the sisters and for other related occasions. But restoration of its historical accuracy may take some work and imagination. The original carved reredos were removed years ago, for example, and Gurtner said a replacement could be sought by scouring for remnants of old churches not as fortunate as St. Andrew’s. The memorandum with JAGH would limit the buildings’ use to Catholic events, Gurtner said, and would give the diocese the first right of refusal should JAGH ever want to relinquish control.

“The first step is to just make the buildings safe, then we can talk about more,” Gurtner said.

My first reaction to this fortuitous manna from heaven may also be yours: It all sounds too good to be true. But JAGH is an incorporated not-for-profit organization, and Hamilton said the group “has a standard mode of operation for each project that includes procuring funds for the work and sustainability of the project. Both private funds and donations likely will come into play. The goal is always to preserve the building for it use it was intended for . . . and to rescue and preserve art in all its forms to promulgate a love and understanding for the history art most often captures. JAGH was founded for situations just like this.”

So, yes, it appears JAGH’s work at St. Andrew’s will be accompanied by a certain amount of fundraising. And what’s wrong with that? The reaction to my original column revealed significant interest in preserving the church but at that time there was no mechanism for doing so. Thanks to JAGH, those concerns can now be converted into action (for more information on JAGH or how to contribute, go to

No matter what happens, there’s no risk to the diocese. “We were going to tear it down anyway,” Gurtner said.

But this story deserves a happy ending. Too many of Fort Wayne’s historic structures have passed into oblivion, and too many others — including such irreplaceable gems as the Embassy Theatre — have come perilously close. Instead, as the coming Easter season turns Christians’ thoughts to resurrection, St. Andrew’s imminent doom could likewise give way to rebirth sometime this spring.

Looking forward to 2019, let's take a moment to reflect:

posted Jan 23, 2019, 6:19 AM by Barbra Kress   [ updated Jan 23, 2019, 6:19 AM ]


In 2015, we learned of the possibility that we could do something to stop the demolition of St. George Church (St. John Vianney). We knew that if we didn't try, we would never forgive ourselves when there was a hole in the ground where our church once stood.


  • Our appeal process suspended the Diocesan plans.

  • St. George Church is not a hole in the ground! The church is still standing despite a Diocesan proposal in 2015 to demolish it.

  • The church has not been cannibalized for salvage value, the sacred items were not removed and the artwork is still there. The stained-glass windows and the church have been secured.

  • We have installed a camera security system to monitor the area.

  • A parishioner has filed an application to the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission to have the church designated as historic.


  • The St. George Church Preservation Society (SGCPS) was organized by parishioners in 2015 and established as a PA nonprofit designated as IRS 501(c)(3).

  • We've established a contact list that has increased to over 1300 people including parishioners, former parishioners, alumni, neighbors, the Allentown community, organizations, businesses, foundations and preservationists.

  • We've been able to connect with the St. George Family throughout the region and around the nation to stay in touch and keep everyone updated on our progress.

  • We've organized events for the St. George Family & supporters to gather together.

  • Through the generosity of our many dedicated donors, we've established an endowment to start the care and restoration of the church once an agreement is in place.

  • Because we are a volunteer organization, the proceeds from our many fund-raising events and the St. George Store are adequate to fund our operational expenses such as postage, printing, legal fees, insurance, bookkeeping system and the security camera system.


We have provided a proposal to the Diocese where SGCPS will own the church and operate it as a Catholic sacred edifice (chapel) at no cost to the Diocese or Parish. We will pay for the costs of operation, maintenance, repairs and restoration of the church. This plan is copied from recent proposals that were approved in the Diocese of Colorado Springs, CO, the Diocese of Joliet, IL and Ft. Wayne IN.


Through the generosity and support of the St. George Family & Supporters, we presently have adequate funds to pay for the utilities, insurance and some repairs for a significant amount of time.

Once there is an agreement in place, we will be able to reach out to the foundation community, corporate contacts, the preservation community and the German ethnic community for significant support. In addition, we can redeem our previous pledge commitments and also reach out to our nationwide contacts for routine continuing donations to support our mission.


Unlike the Diocese, SGCPS is a small nonprofit that has minimal overhead costs and can make very efficient use of donations and volunteer services. We will be able to competitively shop our insurance and utility costs while implementing basic energy conservation efforts.

Our previous estimates for the restoration work by respected contractors and consultants came in at about $600,000. By including our pledge commitments, we are now able to provide for about a fourth of that cost.

In regard to past inaccurate reports about debt: The church has no debt. The church is a Catholic sacred edifice and does not have debt. Although the former St. John Vianney Parish had debt when it existed, that debt was forgiven by the Diocese after the parish was extinguished.

OUR OUTCOME: (At no cost to the Diocese)

  • Provide a Catholic place for worship in Allentown for the local faithful who are unable to travel to another church where the lost faithful will be able to return to church.

  • Repair, restore and care for this beloved historic landmark and light it up to provide the halo effect of a beacon to define the skyline of Allentown.

  • Provide community gathering spaces for fellowship and events.

  • Renovate a space for the Food Bank to return to the church and serve the community.

  • Establish a safe and secure place to archive parishioner and community memorabilia.


While waiting for our case to work through the Vatican court system, we've requested meetings with the Diocese to try to work out an agreement regarding our latest ownership proposal. There has been no response to those requests.


We have learned through our faith to respect and preserve traditions, readings, symbols, ceremonies and holy places. It follows that we should also honor the legacy of those who came before us:

We honor the founders of St. George Parish who provided the resources and oversaw the acclaimed design and construction of St. George Church. It was built with the finest materials available because their intent was to provide a perpetual place of worship that will last indefinitely.

We honor their descendants who, for decades, faithfully provided for the maintenance and improvements to St. George Church to ensure that it will always be there for us to worship.

We honor our family, friends and neighbors who continued to support our church with their generosity, service and resolve to provide a Catholic presence in the community.

Those who came before us never could have imagined that the church their great efforts produced and cared for would ever be discarded.

If you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it's as if they never existed.”

Frank Stokes, “The Monuments Men”


  • Please pray for us and ask God to continue to provide us with the strength, wisdom and courage to succeed as we challenge the power, wealth and control of clericalism.

  • Please continue to send your kind words of encouragement and support. It means a lot to us and gives us strength.

  • Please join with the hundreds of parishioners, alumni, organizations, businesses and others who have supported and encouraged our efforts each year since we started this journey.

  • You can become a member of the St. George Church Preservation Society and we will keep you informed of our progress and provide our member benefits.

Thank You,

The volunteers at SGCPS

Visit our online store to get your membership today! Click here.

SGCPS 2018-The Year in Review

posted Jan 5, 2019, 6:49 AM by Barbra Kress   [ updated Jan 5, 2019, 6:50 AM ]


Once again in 2018, hundreds of individuals, organizations and businesses have supported our efforts. (To view the list, click here


The sales of our 2018 St. George Calendars, sketches, aprons and other items continued in the St. George Store.


For the second time, the St. George statue from the side of Schramm Hall was rescued from a dumpster. It was secured and placed in storage.


We completed the transfer of our financial records to QuickBooks and are set up to begin pledge solicitations when needed.


We sent a formal ownership proposal to the Diocese. SGCPS would own, operate, maintain, repair and restore St. George church at no cost to the Diocese. This was very similar to a proposal that the Diocese of Joliet, IL prepared for use in a similar situation. We haven't received a response.


On May 19, a sellout crowd filled the St. Pius X Auditorium in Carrick for the St. George Spaghetti Dinner as the St. George Family and supporters gathered for a fun filled evening of dining and dancing.


We received notification from the Vatican that our second appeal was not approved. After consultation with our canon lawyers, we found several errors in that decision and we decided to advance the appeal to the Apostolic Signitura (Supreme Court) at the Vatican.


We retained the services of an advocate (canon lawyer) in Rome who is authorized to serve before the Apostolic Signatura.


Appeal documents were prepared and sent to the Vatican.

The St. George Church Preservation Society adopted statutes to constitute the organization as an association of the Christian faithful. (such associations can be designated to own a Catholic church)


The 1071 Names from the St. George WWII memorial, including the 35 who lost their lives, were listed on our web site in time for Veteran's Day.


On November 3, we returned to the St. Pius X Auditorium in Carrick for the St. George Fall Fest. The St. George Family and supporters gathered for a fun filled evening of dining and dancing with music & singing by the VOICES.


We started our second St. George Calendar sale and prepared to celebrate Christmas. For 2019 we launched our membership drive to provide an opportunity expand the St. George Family to include everyone who supports our mission while enjoying our member benefits.

During 2018, SGCPS continued to network with these organizations to support our mission:

  • Allentown CDC
  • Allentown Senior Citizens' Center
  • Brashear Association
  • German American Chamber of Commerce
  • Hilltop Alliance
  • Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation
  • Preservation Pittsburgh
  • Young Preservationists Association
  • Teutonia Mannerchor
  • Sen. John Heinz History Center

In 2019, efforts will continue to reach an agreement with the Diocese to reopen and restore the Church and end the appeal process. With the help of the St. George Family and supporters, we are ready to provide for the care and restoration of the Church at no cost to the Diocese. There are over 60 Catholic churches in other dioceses that are being cared for by similar organizations.


In the meantime, while we wait for a decision on our appeal, we'll continue to keep our 1300 contacts updated and we'll bolster the resources of the St. George Church Preservation Society. Events and fund-raisers will be planned to keep the St. George Family together and support our mission.


Happy New Year!

To our St. George Family:

St. George & St. John Vianney Parishioners,

Alumni, Neighbors, Friends & Supporters

Happy New Year! SGCPS Memberships are now available!

posted Jan 5, 2019, 6:43 AM by Barbra Kress   [ updated Jan 5, 2019, 6:43 AM ]

St. George Preservation Society
are available now!!

Become a member of the St. George Church Preservation Society to support our mission and also enjoy the benefits of our annual membership.

Join in January as a charter member of the St. George Church Preservation Society (SGCPS) for a donation of $15.00.


Member Benefits:

  1. Heinz History Center admission - Since SGCPS is affiliated with the Sen. John Heinz History Center, our members have free admission to the History Center, Western PA Sports Museum, Fort Pitt Museum and the Meadowcroft Historic Village for up to four persons per visit. For details, click here.

  2. Free shipping for items in the on-line St. George Store.

  3. A $5.00 discount on admission to St. George events in 2019.

  4. Regular news updates to keep you informed and connected to the St. George Family.

  5. We'll mail your Welcome Package that includes your membership card and keepsake items of St. George Church.

To sign up online, visit the St. George Store by clicking here.

For more details or to apply by mail, please contact us:


PO Box 4228
Pittsburgh, PA 15203

To Our St. George Family-

Merry Christmas!

posted Jan 5, 2019, 6:41 AM by Barbra Kress   [ updated Jan 5, 2019, 6:42 AM ]

To our St. George Family and Supporters:


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