Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh

George Schmotzer (left) with his student, Jose.


Jose is a devout, hard-working man, sending every available dollar from his landscaping job to support his wife and three children in Mexico. He has found a faithful friend in George Schmotzer.

Schmotzer volunteers as a tutor at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish in Meadow Lands, Washington County, helping Jose learn English. As a documented worker in the U.S., Jose will rejoin his family later this year and plans to return in 2018 for more seasonal work.

“Jose is quiet, but he gets emotional when we’re done with class,” Schmotzer said. “His eyes brighten and he’s very thankful for what he’s learned.”

Sacrificial gifts from donors to Our Campaign for The Church Alive! will allow others to benefit from a grant expanding Hispanic and Latino ministry efforts in the diocese. The strategic assistance will help the Church not only survive but to grow stronger, according to the volunteer Church Alive! campaign board.

As the new coordinator of Hispanic ministry, Jorge Vela will help promote evangelization to the faithful who primarily speak Spanish, provide program support and coordinate social service outreach in Washington and Butler.

“The Hispanic-Latino population is growing in the Pittsburgh region,” Vela said. “I want to invite the entire community to participate in the life of the Church, fall in love with Christ and be formed in our Catholic identity.” He plans to establish a Latino Advisory Committee and build bridges between the Latino and American culture.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 35,730 Latinos in southwestern Pennsylvania as of 2015, with 22,537 living in Allegheny County. The largest population is concentrated in Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood, where a Spanish language Mass is held Sunday afternoons at St. Catherine of Siena Parish. Masses are also celebrated in Spanish at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, St. Regis in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, St. Paul in Butler, and Our Lady of Joy in Plum.

Nearly seven out of 10 Hispanics in the United States are Catholic, according to statistics cited by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Hispanics accounted for 56 percent of the U.S. population growth from 2000-12.

Vela, a native of Mexico, came to Pittsburgh from Milwaukee, where he was in charge of Hispanic ministry in a city parish, worked to integrate the Hispanic and Anglo communities, and served in administrative roles in the archdiocese. He’s also worked in Italy, Brazil and Mexico and is fluent in Spanish and English, and proficient in Portuguese and Italian.

Father Carmen D’Amico, pastor of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Parish, encourages parishioners to put out the welcome mat for their Hispanic and Latino neighbors.

“This is their parish. We’re here for them,” Father D’Amico said. “Religious education is also provided in Spanish, and some of our Hispanic youth just went on a parish mission trip to Kentucky.”

Dominick De Filippis, a retired college professor who taught languages and linguistics for 45 years, launched the parish’s English as a Second Language program in April. Three months later, he has 26 volunteer tutors.

“Along with listening, speaking, reading and writing English, we teach language structure, culture and critical thinking skills,” De Filippis said. “It’s a win-win for both students and tutors. Latinos improve their English and develop relationships, and our tutors find the experience rewarding.”

“I enjoy people and want to help them,” Schmotzer said. “I feel I’m doing what God wants me to do.”

Christine Patsch, St. Cecilia Parish - Photo by Jim Judkis


When Christine Patsch took over leadership of her parish’s faith formation program years ago, she never expected to pursue higher education in the field. Tuition was too costly.

But next May she will earn a degree in religious studies, benefiting the children of St. Cecilia Parish in Rochester.

Thanks to sacrificial gifts from donors to Our Campaign for The Church Alive!, many other lay leaders will be able to receive similar assistance in the future.

The campaign’s volunteer board of directors has allocated $4 million to a new and expanded Fathers Farina Church Alive! Fund. An initial grant will help not only catechetical administrators, but also youth ministers, college campus ministers, Catholic school principals, religion teachers and parish catechists.

“Without support from the Fathers Farina Fund, I would not be pursuing my degree,” Patsch said. “Expanding the fund can only benefit the diocese and strengthen education.”

Founded by Father Edward Farina as a memorial to his four older brothers who preceded him in the priesthood, the Fathers Farina Fund helped dozens of parish catechetical administrators pursue their studies. More than 80 leaders currently direct about 4,500 volunteer catechists across the diocese.

“One of the most frequent concerns raised by pastors, parishioners and parents is the faith formation of our children and youth,” said Judene Indovina, diocese director of family ministry and faith formation. “Through this grant, effective forms and methods of catechesis will expand and our leaders will be further empowered with the knowledge, skills and credentials needed to create transformative programming.”

The first grant will support 40 masters-level scholarships, one course per student per semester, in theology, religious education or related fields. It also will help fund practical, ministry-specific training, including family models of catechesis, as well as purchasing books, manuals and DVDs. The balance will pay for other forms of professional development and help provide training for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program.

Sharon Smoller, coordinator of religious education at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood, received a degree in religious studies five years ago.

“Professional development is important,” Smoller said. “We need to have constant training and renew ourselves to keep growing in the faith.

“I would never have been able to accomplish what I did without the Fathers Farina Fund,” she added.

Father Joseph Mele, episcopal vicar of the diocese secretariat for leadership development and evangelization, knew the Farinas. Father Edward Farina baptized him, and Father Will Farina was his pastor when he was growing up at Madonna del Castello Parish in Swissvale.

“All five brothers strongly supported parish religious education, knowing that many young families would not be able to send their children to Catholic schools,” Father Mele said. “They were visionaries, and I am delighted that their spirit remains in this fund.”

With fewer Catholic elementary schools and increasing numbers of young adults leaving the faith, the need is greater than ever for effective religious education, youth ministry and campus ministry. The Church Alive! campaign is helping to meet that need.

“Sometimes a gift is given and the recipient is unknown, a sign of true and selfless giving,” Patsch said. “To all donors, please know the depth of my gratitude as a beneficiary of the Fathers Farina Fund.”



Engaging younger generations of Catholics in new ways is vital to the Church. Doing so requires communicating more effectively through modern methods, especially the use of social media.

A communications grant made possible by sacrificial gifts through Our Campaign for The Church Alive! will help the diocese connect with younger adults as well as the elderly and shut-ins, according to Father Nicholas Vaskov, executive director for communications.

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Parishioners of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish have even more reason to express gratitude this Thanksgiving weekend as they welcome the physical transformation of their church.

Sacrificial gifts committed in the pilot phase of Our Campaign for The Church Alive! allowed the Pleasant Hills parish to fully renovate the interior of the church building, which was built in 1952.

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St. Joseph High School Students work on experiments in the Robotics Lab at St. Joseph High School, Natrona Heights.


Working on the cutting edge of new technology in the oil and natural gas industry, Madalyn Bergard thanks her Catholic high school for sparking her interest in science.

“From my time in the robotics lab, I knew I wanted to do something hands on,” Bergard said.

Bergard used college credits earned at St. Joseph High School in Natrona Heights and graduated in three years from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Today she’s an environmental health and safety manager, traveling to well sites around the country.

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Auxiliary Bishop William Winter and Father Philip Przybyla review architectural plans for the renovation and expansion of St. John Vianney Manor. Photo Credit : Bob Dewitt


The retired priests of the diocese have taken care of God’s people for decades. Now the faithful are giving back to them through a much-needed expansion of St. John Vianney Manor retirement home.

Sacrificial gifts to Our Campaign for The Church Alive! are helping to support the first major renovation of the facility since it was built on the campus of St. Paul Seminary in Crafton in 1961 and later became a home for retired priests.

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With more people responding to images on a screen rather than words on paper, the Diocese of Pittsburgh is finding new ways of taking the gospel to the Millennial generation while staying connected to older audiences.

A grant made possible by sacrificial gifts through Our Campaign for The Church Alive! will provide mobile video production equipment, a new editing suite, and remote-control HD video cameras to televise Masses from St. Paul Cathedral.

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Families from Greene County parishes traveled to PNC Park on July 20 to take part in Faith Night activities. (credit: Greene County parishes)


Since the early days following the American Revolution, Catholics in Greene County have sought to know and serve Jesus. Today they are working together again to strengthen their faith with support from their sisters and brothers across the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Sacrificial gifts to Our Campaign for The Church Alive! are funding a new grant for five parishes to reach out to youth and seniors in what is historically one of the poorest counties in Pennsylvania.

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