A continuing tradition in Pittsburgh

January 06, 2015
Source: District of the USA

The first Mass offered by the SSPX at St. James Church in Pittsburgh occurred at Midnight for the Feast of the Holy Nativity, continuing a parish tradition of "first Masses" offered on this holy night.

The recently-acquired St. James Church in Pittsburgh has had a number of "first Masses" celebrated as the Christmas Midnight Mass in its history, and the SSPX is proud to have continued this tradition!

Watch the entire Midnight Mass (via YouTube) at St. James Church:

A legacy of tradition at St. James Church

With the number of Catholics in Pittsburgh's West End rapidly growing, a new congregation was organized to begin a parish and build a church. It was 1853 and these Catholics, later termed “old” immigrants, consisted mostly of the Irish (different to the massive wave of Catholics that arrived some two generations later from eastern and southern Europe and, in contrast, called “new” immigrants.) They found a site and quickly began building a church under the patronage of St. James. Although the church was not complete, they were ambitious enough to have Mass in it for Christmas, 1853.

The parish continued to grow to such an extent that a new and much larger church was built only one generation later and completed in 1874. The growth of the parish continued with both an elementary and high school. Even with other parishes forming in the area, the growth of the parish was of such an extent that baptisms were numbered in the thousands and vocations were numbered in the dozens. In 1927, God decided to allow a severe cross on the parish. An explosion in the area caused a massive amount of damage to the church and the school. The parishioners were undaunted. They began rebuilding both and were again able to have the first Mass in the church again on Christmas, 1928.

Somehow, this growth mysteriously slowed in the 1960s and was then followed by decline. Although there was population loss in the area, the decline was extensively greater and to such an extent that that parish closed in 2004. However, a group of growing Catholics were looking for a church and found the church exactly one decade later, almost wholly intact. The purchase date was on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 2014. Work began at a rapid pace, with the church being repainted, an altar purchased and built, old flooring being ripped out and new flooring being laid. Although everything was done professionally, scores of parishioners helped both the time and budget by donating labor on more menial affairs. There was such a drive among them to have Mass in the church, that this was accomplished a mere four months after purchase. Following the tradition of the St. James parish, the first Mass was held in the incomplete church at midnight on Christmas, 2014.

This candlelit Midnight Mass, mysteriously austere in many ways, underlies the mission of the Society of St. Pius X, which is simply to continue where the Catholic Church has left off in many areas and to minister to local Catholics in need of the sacraments. Many visitors to the large church on Main St. in the West End saw a traditional Mass for the first time, no less a candlelit midnight Mass and were visibly moved. The mission of the SSPX has been fruitful precisely because it is doing everything that the Catholic Church has always done to be fruitful. Just like the former St. James parish, the Pittsburgh parish has shared in this marked growth as it has expanded approximately 50% just in recent years. With a young and vibrant parish that has not even moved into the new church yet, growth is expected to be significant in the coming years.

The parish hopes to permanently move into the church within the next few months before Easter. Once this happens, the mission of the SSPX will be realized in Pittsburgh but it will never be complete as long as there are sheep to be brought into the fold. As with any project, nothing is ever guaranteed. Please support this important apostolate with your prayers that it may be a success. Financial contributions are also generously accepted but prayer is essential as our Lord reminds us, “without prayer, you can do nothing.”

Report courtesy of Jared Mansfield
Videos and image courtesy of Joseph Gazarik