Private school seeks to lease former St. Ignatius parish site

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The sound of children's voices may soon be heard again at St. Ignatius de Loyola Church, the Catholic worship site on two acres atop Finley Avenue in Scott's Glendale neighborhood.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, which owns the building as well as its accompanying rectory and elementary school, has petitioned Bishop David Zubik for permission to lease the property to Abundant Life International Academy to operate a private Christian school for grades K-12.

The school is located temporarily in Upper St. Clair.

The school, part of a worldwide organization called Lifeline International that has a learning site in Cambodia with more than 600 students, will offer an exchange program, said headmaster Gary Gideon.

Susan Beninate, an officer for Lifeline International, said the St. Ignatius campus would allow the school to expand.

"That we can use the church as a church and the rectory as a residence for our international students is just a bonus for us," she said.

If Lifeline International's lease is approved, it will add another chapter to the St. Ignatius story, which began with its 1902 construction by Polish immigrants.

At one time, St. Ignatius counted more than 400 families as parishioners.

After the church was destroyed in a 1952 fire, a new church was constructed with the buff-colored Tennessee crab orchard stone that is seen today. In 1992, St. Ignatius and five other former parishes were merged to form the consolidated St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

For a while in recent years, it seemed as though the Our Lady of Victory Church in Scott might become the new owner of St. Ignatius, but it now appears that the church will be staying in its facility on Lindsay Road, where it has been since 1997.

"Obviously, this is a change of plan," said the Rev. David Poecking, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton pastor. He said he hopes to present Lifeline International's petition to Bishop Zubik early next month.

The petition, which will require approval from the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese's officers and boards, calls for a three-year lease with a $2,750 monthly rental and an option to buy the entire campus for $750,000.

Because the St. Ignatius site was used as collateral on the mortgage for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton's new church that opened in November 2011, money obtained from its sale would go to reduce the parish's debt.


Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer:


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