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.
“It’s gorgeous,” said Rose Frisch, a parishioner of 47 years.
“I’m impressed,” her husband Jack Frisch added.
The sanctuary was reconfigured, the front entrance vestibule and choir loft expanded, handicap accessible ramps built, and energy efficient heating, air conditioning and lighting was installed. The ceiling beams were revamped, pews reconditioned and placed on a porcelain tile floor, Stations of the Cross were restored, rooms of reconciliation renovated, and the entire interior was repainted.
“The church was really showing its age,” said Father Dale DeNinno, pastor of St. Elizabeth. “The boiler was more than 30 years old. We needed to bring greater light into the building and make it fully handicap accessible.”
One of the key changes involved moving the Blessed Sacrament to the middle of the sanctuary. The original tabernacle and altar were found in storage and refurbished. A new, center wall was built behind the tabernacle and a ramp installed.
The small vestibule at the main church entrance was enlarged by removing three rows of pews and moving the back interior wall into the nave of the church. It created space for a restroom, bride’s room, and the statue of St. Elizabeth, which had been perched high above the sanctuary.
Above the expanded vestibule there’s now plenty of room for the 28-member choir and a baby grand piano that was donated.
“The choir loft used to be very narrow front to back. Now it’s twice as large,” said Christopher McCloskey, director of music. “Also, the acoustics of the church are much better. Putting in the tile floor and enclosing some of the brick walls helps to reflect the sound.”
Maggie and John Schmotzer, two of the leaders of St. Elizabeth’s combined campaign for parish and diocesan needs, are gratified by the many donors who sacrificed.
“It’s like your own home. You have to keep it up or it will deteriorate around you,” Maggie Schmotzer said. “This needed to be done.”
“The church was ready for a renovation,” John Schmotzer agreed.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish began in 1923 as St. David, a mission church. The population quickly outgrew the size of the building, and Father Henry Immekus petitioned Bishop Hugh Boyle for permission to build on land that bordered Route 51. A joint church and school was constructed in 1942, and later the current church, a convent, rectory, high school and bell tower. Today, there are more than 7,500 parishioners.
Father Roy Conley, longtime pastor of St. Elizabeth, was invited by Father DeNinno to concelebrate the first Mass in the renovated church on November 13.
“It was wonderful to hear Father Conley’s voice again in the church,” said Maureen Crossen, a member of the pastoral council who also served on the campaign team. “The renovation is exciting and amazing, beyond words and imagination.”
The church will be formally rededicated by Bishop David Zubik on March 25, 2017 as part of the 75th diamond jubilee anniversary of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish.