Nearly a century after their parish was founded, the St. Kilian family finally has arrived home.
Bishop David Zubik blessed their new church in a Solemn Dedication Mass on Sept. 25.
“What we celebrate is not simply a building, but what it means to be Church,” Bishop Zubik said in his homily. “Our next challenge is to let the world know who Jesus is, and how necessary it is to put out the welcome mat.”
Parishioners and visitors filled the 1,150-seat church, which was completed ahead of schedule. Since late 2008, Masses have been held at Mars Area High School, the St. Kilian school gymnasium and the auditorium at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School.
The church was built through sacrificial gifts in a parish fundraising drive, part of Our Campaign for The Church Alive! The effort also helped to reduce debt from construction of the parish center and school.
“This new church represents the Body of Christ,” said Father Charles Bober, pastor of St. Kilian. “It has many parts of steel, stone and glass. We have many members with different gifts, but we are one body.”
“Today is a perfect example of the Church Alive in the diocese,” said Marie Milie Jones, parishioner and one of the volunteer leaders of Our Campaign for The Church Alive! “Everyone filing into our beautiful new church, with Bishop Zubik presiding alongside Father Bober, is the embodiment of a vibrant parish. I feel so blessed to be a St. Kilian member.”
The church reflects both history and functionality. The stained glass windows are from five churches that served immigrants in the steel mills and coal mines in the Pittsburgh and Scranton dioceses. Bells in the tower come from the former St. Matthew Church on the South Side and a foundry in Baltimore.
The lower level of the church features a fellowship hall with seating for up to 350, a kitchen, meeting rooms, office space, and a bridal suite. Anita Marchi of Cranberry is excited about her wedding in the new church scheduled for next June.
“This place is amazing,” Marchi said. “It means a lot to me to be married here.”
The new church, a maintenance building and renovations to the rectory are part of an expansion that came after St. Kilian’s parish boundaries were redrawn in 2001 in response to the population boom in northern Allegheny and southern Butler counties.
In 2008, St. Kilian parish school became the first new Catholic grade school built in the diocese in nearly 40 years. Enrollment tops 600 students.
Though one of the largest parishes in the diocese, this is St. Kilian’s first new church.
The parish began as a mission with 85 members who attended their first Mass in a meeting hall on March 18, 1917. Three years later, St. Kilian Parish purchased a former Free Methodist Church in Mars. The building was enlarged, rebuilt after a fire in 1934 and renovated many times.
St. Kilian grew from fewer than 500 parishioners in 1953 to 1,450 in 1973. Three decades later there were over 7,000 members, with more than 11,000 today.
“We have been wandering for a while,” Father Bober said. “This is truly home.”