Scott's St. Ignatius is for sale again

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For the second time in a little more than two years, it appears that St. Ignatius de Loyola Church at the top of Finley Avenue in Scott is for sale.

In late February, the Rev. David Poecking, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, told his 4,100 parishioners in a letter that he had asked Bishop David Zubik to permanently close the St. Ignatius worship site by relegating it to non-religious use.

The parish has adequate space in its renovated St. Luke Church on Third Avenue in Carnegie to accommodate Masses, he wrote.

"St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish already decided that it did not need, and does not have the resources to maintain a church building that is not being used," Father Poecking wrote. He also asked his parishioners to pray about the decision, as well as answer a series of six questions about changing the church building's status to non-religious.

Recently, he posted 143 anonymous parishioners' answers on the church's website. Many supported his position with comments such as, "It's time to cut our losses;" "Keeping St. Ignatius Church for any time would be costly," and "I think selling St. Ignatius makes sense financially, With a number of older parishioners passing, the next generation retiring, that leaves the middle group 21 to 30 years old to carry the ball. With children and inflation, it would be hard for them."

There were dissenting views: "You should keep St. Ignatius as a backup church for when Carnegie gets flooded again" and "Keep this church. It is in better condition than the building in Carnegie. I think it was a mistake putting that money down there. This church is only 60 years old, not 125 years.

St. Ignatius, built with wood by Polish immigrants in the early 1900s, was rebuilt with buff-colored stone after a 1952 fire.

Others had new ideas for the church's reuse such as "I suggest the diocese look at it another way. It would be wonderful to have a living space for the elderly."

Also proposed were a home for disadvantaged youth and a senior center. Some parishioners pointed out that their most sacred memories are connected to St. Ignatius, which Father Poecking said he understands.

"Please strongly consider the option to remove St. Ignatius' multiple stained glass windows and repurpose them at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton," wrote one parishioner.

One comment referred to the failed proposal for Our Lady of Victory Maronite Catholic Church on Lindsay Road in Scott to purchase St. Ignatius several years ago.

"If demolition becomes the last option, then why not just give it to the Maronites? No, I'm not kidding and I have not grown senile. It just seems to me like it's the right thing to do. It would be so satisfying to do this out of charity without the almighty dollar being the primary motivation. ... Isn't it what Francis and God would want us to do?"

The Rev. Rodolph Wakim, Our Lady of Victory's pastor, said he was not aware of the latest developments because he has been out of the country. He said, "It would be an ideal scenario to sell [our current place] and buy St. Ignatius."

However, he believes many in his parish, some of whom live in Brookline, want to stay put for now.

"Everything's still possible," he added. "God works in mysterious ways."

St. Ignatius, St. Luke, St. Joseph, Immaculate Conception and Holy Souls churches, as well as St. Vincent dePaul in Collier, were consolidated in a 1992 merger. St. Joseph was razed and Immaculate Conception and St. Vincent dePaul were sold.

After a Sept. 17, 2004, flood damaged Holy Souls and St. Luke, the only remaining worship site was St. Ignatius.

St. Luke's was renovated and dedicated Nov. 20, 2011, as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. Masses at St. Ignatius stopped Nov. 26, 2011, and plans to sell the closed church were announced. Besides the church itself, the St. Ignatius site also consists of a rectory and a school.


Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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