A Brief History
Mother of Sorrows Church
The first permanent settlement of Catholics west of the Allegheny Mountains dates back to 1787 in Unity Township. 148 years later, in 1935, a small number of Catholics in Murrysville were able to gather and establish a regular place of worship.
One of the foundations of Catholicism in Murrysville was Sister Mary Siena Ganoe, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, who responded to a request of the Thomas Smith family for the Sisters to come and teach religion to children. At that time, Sister was stationed at Holy Rosary Convent in Homewood. She brought lay volunteer helpers each week to teach children in private homes.
She saw the need also for a priest to offer Mass, so she called a friend, Father George Hurley, and asked him to come and offer Mass for this new “mission.” Father Hurley was a member of the Missionary Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in Pittsburgh. He was assigned by the Confraternity to care for the needs of the people in this mission area. At that time Murrysville was a small rural community of 205 families, 30 of whom were Catholic, numbering 810 people.
People from the area joined in the search to find an appropriate place to celebrate Mass. A hall over Tarr’s store (across from what is now Ferri’s Market) was rented for $5 a month. Father Hurley celebrated the first Mass on March 31, 1935. It was his hope that, if they ever built a Church in Murrysville, they would name it Saint Catherine of Siena (in honor of Sister Siena). However, Father Paul Nee asked the Bishop to name the parish “Mother of Sorrows” because his mother had great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under this title.
People would arrive with their own chairs in hand as they walked up the stairs to the hall above Tarr’s store. Each week the men of the parish went to the Zorn/Limbacher Funeral Home in Braddock to borrow chairs. There was a growing desire among the people to have their own church. They searched for suitable property to purchase. An anonymous donor from Pittsburgh promised a gift of $1,000 toward a church. Mr. Osterman, a resident of the Meadowbrook section, donated land near Mill Creek. This first church building is now owned by the Knights of Columbus.
Ground was broken for the church in April 1931. Men of the parish joined by generous men of the surrounding community dug the foundation using 3 teams of horses and handscoops and built the first Mother of Sorrows Church. Clifford Cline and Mike Sotak brought their tractors to help in this community project of building a new place to worship.
The new Church was dedicated on October 29, 1939. Monsignor Daniel Lawless, director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and Pastor of St. Mary of Mercy Church, Pittsburgh, represented Bishop Hugh C. Boyle of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and was the Celebrant of the Dedication Mass. The total offertory collection that day of Dedication was $7,000 and the infant parish was debt free. On September 21, 1944, this mission church became an official parish in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Early Pastors were Fr. Paul Nee (1935), Fr. Charles Thomas (1941), and Father Gerald Schroth (1944). Father Schroth resided at St. Anselm Church in Swissvale until the first rectory was built in 1947. Subsequent Pastors were: Fr. Regis M. Hickey (1956), Fr. Raymond McClean (1963), Fr. Joseph DeAndrea ((1970), Fr. David Fisher (1971), Monsignor John Conway (1983).During this period Murrysville was developing as a suburban residential community and there was a growing desire for a parish grade school. During the pastorate of Father Regis Hickey the parish acquired suitable property to build the school. The Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill accepted the invitation to come and staff the new Mother of Sorrows School, which opened in September 1962 with the first three grades.
The Sisters of Charity came with a missionary lifestyle. They lived in temporary quarters in the new school building until a home was found to serve as a convent. The Sisters of Charity became a vital part of the parish. They brought the vision of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to our school and our parish.
Bishop William G. Connare of the Diocese of Greensburg dedicated the second Mother of Sorrows Church/School building on May 11, 1963. An additional grade was added each year until the eighth grade. Monsignor David Fisher was Pastor when the site of the parish rectory was moved to the property on William Penn Highway. The temporary church was located on the first floor of the school building and continued for nearly 20 years.
Parish growth continued to place pressure on this “temporary” arrangement. In 1979 a Building Fund Drive was begun to build a new church. The cost for the church/rectory complex was slightly over $2 million. The Dedication Day Collection of this second church was not sufficient to make the parish debt-free as had been the case with the first Church in 1939. Bishop Connare dedicated the church on March 21, 1982, 47 years after the first Sunday Mass in Murrysville. The mortgage was paid off in 1993.
Due to continuing growth, in 2002 an $11.25 million expansion and renovation of the church and school was put into place, with groundbreaking on May 7, 2002. During the interim, Sunday Mass was celebrated in the school gymnasium. Bishop Brandt celebrated a Redediation Liturgy in the newly remodeled church on June 27, 2004.
Pastors of Mother of Sorrows from this time were Fr. Daniel C. Mahoney (1992), Fr. John Moineau (2000), Msgr. Richard Curci (2005), Fr. Thaddeus Kaczmarek (2008), Fr. Willie Lechnar (2012), Msgr. James Gaston (2014), Msgr. Michael Begolly (2021).
A Census update was completed in 2018. As of June 2021, Mother of Sorrows numbers 5,682 members (2,159 households). The parish continues to welcome and register several new families each month. Current demographics show that approximately 2/3 of the members are under 60 years of age.