In the late 1950s, as the population near St. Bernard Church in Mt. Lebanon and St. Anne Church in Castle Shannon swelled, then-Bishop John Wright felt the Roman Catholic Diocese could start another parish in the area.
The new parish -- to be built on land the diocese bought on Sleepy Hollow Road in Mt. Lebanon -- would serve the communities of Mt. Lebanon, Castle Shannon and Baldwin Township.
At 7 p.m. Dec. 8, the 1,200-family St. Winifred Parish community will conclude its yearlong 50th anniversary celebration with a special Mass during which parishioners will receive a medal of St. Winifred.
Dec. 8 is also the Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Afterward, a new painting of St. Winifred by artist and parishioner Joan Brown of Mt. Lebanon will be led in procession to O'Shea Chapel -- named for the parish's third pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah O'Shea -- where a reception will be held.
The parish was established Dec. 8, 1960.
Anniversary fundraising activities staged throughout the past year include the cookbook compilation of parishioners' favorite recipes and the creation of wooden depictions of the parish.
The $10 cost of each helped defray the cost of anniversary events, like the June 27, 2010, celebratory anniversary Mass officiated by Bishop David Zubik, followed by dinner at the LeMont Restaurant.
An image of St. Winifred with the church's steeple in the background was also etched on the church's exterior.
The activities were planned by a committee formed two years ago to celebrate the theme of "visions of the past are the realities of today," the Rev. Kevin Dominik said.
The pastor also said the parish is the only St. Winifred in the United States named for the seventh-century Welsh nun whose throat was cut for defending her religion, according to church history. The site where the slashing is said to have occurred is a pilgrimage site in Wales.
The church was dedicated in 1963 after all the buildings were completed.
The Sisters of Mercy lived in the convent and taught in the school, which eventually housed kindergarten through grade eight. Due to rising costs, the school closed in 1992. Without students, the convent closed.
Mt. Lebanon Montessori, which occupied space in the school building, took the structure over in 1992. It has since expanded to offer programs for toddlers through sixth grade.
The second floor of the former convent, now called the O'Shea Center, is an Early Learning Center that supplements Montessori. The building's first floor is a year-round food pantry, while the third floor houses a youth ministry.
Father Dominik said a parish strength is its three-generational families.
Maryellen Gannon, whose late parents, Jim and Kathleen Hayden, were founding members, attended Mass and received the sacraments at St. Winifred, as do her three children.
The Mt. Lebanon woman is a member of the parish's finance and liturgical life councils and teaches religious education to youngsters.
"It's very welcoming and family oriented. It's like home," she said.
Margaret Smykla: freelance writer; firstname.lastname@example.org .