To succeed Father Frawley, Bishop Leonard in October 1977, appointed Father Hugh Michael Kernan, who had been named for Bishop Hugh Boyle and for Father Michael Boyle, Father Kernan’s pastor. Though born seventeen years later –in 1928 – than Father Janok, Father Kernan has the same birthday – February 11. After attending St. Scholastica School in Aspinwall and North Catholic High School, he enrolled in Duquesne University. He registered first in the Duquesne School of Business Administration, but later changed to study philosophy and then attended St. Vincent’s Seminary. He was ordained on May 28, 1954, by Bishop Dearden.
For his first assignment, Father Kernan was sent to St. Coleman’s Church in Turtle Creek, and he served there until 1960. He then served at St. James’s Church in West End until 1965 and St. Maurice’s from 1965 to 1968. He served as pastor of a new parish formed from the Union of Sacred Heart Parish and St. Peter’s Parish in Tarentum
Father Kernan also served as a dean for three years, and for five years as a judge on the Tribunal. He has also been deanery director of the Holy Name Society, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Youth Ministry and Scouting. As a dean, he was consulter to the Bishop. Under Father Kernan’s leadership, St. Valentine’s has continued to advance in ministry to its members and witness to the community. St. Valentine’s School is not as large today as at times in the past, but still enrolls some 400 students in its kindergarten and eight grades. After a period of decline, it has now stabilized, and the parish and its families reaffirm their commitment to maintaining a program of Catholic education.
The Sisters of St. Francis continue to teach in the school, though over the past decade or so it has been necessary to supplement their staff with lay teachers. Today, about half the staff are Sisters and about half are lay teachers.
Sister Penny Nikolich became Director of Religious Education in 1980, and directs an extensive program to serve all members of the parish. St. Valentine’s Parish includes a large and diverse group of organizations that serve the spiritual, cultural and social needs of its members and other community residents.
“The Vine in the Branches Prayer Group” has been in existence at St. Valentine’s Church for several years. Members gather at the church on Wednesday evenings for prayer under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Occasionally, there are also celebrations of the Eucharist and guest speakers. Another activity of St. Valentine’s Church is the parish branch of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a charitable organization founded in France in 1883. This group meets at the church on Tuesday evenings, and arranges to distribute funds received through the church “poor boxes.” A folk group, the New Light Singers, leads the congregation in singing at the 6:30 p.m. Sunday Mass. This group, which includes members from ninth grade through college level, also sings at weddings and other social events.
Family Rights is a group of concerned families seeking to strengthen the family through such programs as the Family Night Movement. It is also concerned about the influence of schools, media and other social forces on Christian family ideals.
The Altar Society seeks to provide spiritual benefits for its members and raise funds for altar linens, vestments and other furnishings needed in celebrations of the sacraments. It has no meetings and no officers. A Mass for members is said the First Friday of each month, and both living and deceased persons may be enrolled. Individual enrollment is one dollar annually, and family enrollment is four dollars.
An effort to meet social and recreational as well as spiritual needs is made by several parish groups. The Women’s Club (Confraternity of Christian Mothers) meets on the third Thursday evening of each month for Mass, a business meeting and a program. The Men’s Club meets on the last Sunday evening of each month, except the summer months, and sponsors a January fish fry, a summer picnic and golf and bowling leagues. The Senior Citizens group, open to anyone over 55 years of age, meets on the first Thursday afternoon of each month, and also holds a number of special programs. The Youth Fellowship, open to high schoolers, meets in the school gym on the first and third Sunday evenings of each month for religious, social and cultural fellowship.
The Athletic Association sponsors such activities as the Little League Baseball program, grade school basketball teams, a high school boys’ basketball team and girls’ cheerleading. St. Valentine’s Church also offers an active scouting program.
An important service to the church throughout its 50-year history has been provided by the ushers. In the early years they included Alex Stemnock, Mickie Carroll, William Renton, Harry Kelly, Ed Krasinski, Bill Alcorn, Bill Fidel, Ed Fidel, John Morovich, Ed Morovich, Martin Geary, Ed Plocki and Dr. Joseph Dugan. And through the years many other faithful ushers have made their important contribution to the worship of St. Valentine’s Church. They not only assist with seating worshippers but also take up the collection and help direct people going forward to receive Communion.
Still another important group of faithful workers are those who assist with the parish Bingo that is held every Tuesday evening.
Since 1977, Father Kernan has had as an associate, Father John H. Mulhern, a native of Philadelphia who was a member of the Christian Brothers from 1931 to 1976. He was principal of Central Catholic High School from 1956 to 1961 and an archivist in Rome from 1967 to 1976. After his ordination in May 1977, he was assigned to St. Valentine’s Church.
In 1980, Father Steven M. Palsa joined Father Kernan and Father Mulhern as an associate. A native of Pittsburgh, Father Palsa attended grade school in St. Michael’s Parish, Munhall; the Bishop’s Latin School, St. Paul Seminary, Duquesne University (where he majored in classical languages), and Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where he received a Master of Arts in theology. He spent a deacon year in California, Pennsylvania, serving at St. Thomas Aquinas Church and at the State College. After ordination on September 29, 1979, he served briefly at the Sacred Heart/St. Peter Church in Tarentum where Father Kernan had been pastor.
Deacons who have served at St. Valentine’s include Father Steven C. Teklinski (1978-79) and Father Michael Suslowicz (1979-80). St. Valentine’s Parish today is no longer in a period of rapid numerical growth. But as its first half century has been a period of laying solid foundations and building a beautiful and functional physical plant, so the coming half century presents challenges that will doubtless require equal dedication –the challenges of deepening the spiritual lives of parishioners and strengthening the ministry of the parish to the world.
In Bishop Wright’s message to the church after dedication of the new building, he wrote: “With the completion of the church, the parish now has a worthy center in which to grow in knowledge and love of the provident God Who has inspired them to build for the honor of His name and Saint Valentine, as well as the service of souls.”