Parish Builds New Church

Parish Builds New Church

Bishop John J. Wright, who succeeded Bishop Dearden in 1959 and served until Pope Paul VI made him a Curia official in 1969, appointed Father William F. Frawley as pastor of St. Valentine’s Church, effective May 31, 1961.

Born August 27, 1911, on the Northside of Pittsburgh, Father Frawley attended St. Francis Xavier Grade School and then Duquesne Prep School and University. After studies at St. Vincent’s Seminary in Latrobe, he was ordained on June 13, 1937, by Bishop Boyle. For his first assignment, Father Frawley served six years at Holy Family Parish in Latrobe. After a three-year ministry as a chaplain for the U. S. Marine Corps, he served at Epiphany Church in downtown Pittsburgh and then at Immaculate Conception Church in Bloomfield. After that, he served as acting pastor at St. Anthony Church in Bessemer for nine years, and for the four years immediately preceding his appointment to St. Valentine’s he was assigned to St. Hugh’s Church in Carmichaels.

At St. Valentine’s, Father Frawley found two pressing needs – a convent for the Sisters, who were still commuting from their motherhouse in Whitehall, and a larger church. A portable altar was set up in the basement of the school, and Sunday Masses were held simultaneously in the church and school. Later when the church was torn down and the new church was under construction, all Masses and Devotions were held in the school basement. Adjoining properties were bought to provide space for the new buildings. The convent was begun first, with groundbreaking on December 8, 1964, and dedication on September 25, 1965. Clarence Lutch & Son served as general contractor for the convent, which included space to accommodate 17 Sisters, plus quarters for guests, music and recreation rooms and a chapel.

But even before the convent was completed, ground was broken for the new church – on July 25, 1965. Stanley S. Pyzdrowski, who with his father Andrew had built the school and the previous church, served as architect, and the contractor was Jendoco Construction, Inc. Part of the previous church was preserved as an Administration Building, and its cornerstone, dated 1942, has been preserved. A set of 1942 coins found in it were placed in the cornerstone of the new building. Among the challenges faced – and successfully met – by the architect was designing suitable facilities for a church whose patterns of worship were in a state of transition. Pope John XXIII had inaugurated the Second Vatican Council in 1962, and the last of its four annual sessions was held in the fall of 1965. Among the actions of the Council Fathers was calling for extensive revision in the liturgy. This meant not only such changes as translating the Mass from Latin into the language of the people, but also structural alterations such as situating the altar so that the celebrating priest would face the congregation. Mr. Pyzdrowski designed a church that would accommodate both the changes already introduced at the time and others that would be coming later.

On November 10, 1966, Monsignor Oliver D. Keefer, pastor of Resurrection Church in Brookline and Dean of the District, came to St. Valentine’s for the blessing of the cornerstone and of three large bells, cast in Belgium, which were then placed in an 85-foot tower at the front of the church. The new building made extensive use of symbolism. Sand cuts in the eight front doors presented worshipers entering the church with symbols of the Beatitudes. Symbols of Pentecost were in the clerestory window at the front of the church. And eight stained-glass windows on either side of the nave followed a symbolic theme of Christ giving himself for the whole of humanity. To symbolize the importance of baptism as the way of entrance into the church, the new Church of St. Valentine had a baptistery, designed in contemporary style, set just inside the front doors.

Contained within the altar stones were relics of St. Victor I, St. Felicitas, an Unknown Martyr together with St. Maria Goretti, and St. Pius X. Though the church was built large enough to accommodate 1000 worshipers, plus another 200 in the balcony, it was designed in a modified fan shape so that no one would have to sit more than 75 feet from the altar. Under the church was placed a cafeteria and an all-purpose room seating 700 for dinners or 1000 for other events. A tunnel connected it with the school basement so the students could have easy access.

The first Mass in the new church was the midnight Christmas Eve service in 1966 – offered for the special intention of Phillip Didion and his four children and their families. Dedication of the new church was held on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1967, and Bishop Wright came for this event. After completion of the church, the school basement was remodeled, and then a parish house was built. Mr. Pyzdrowski continued his services as architect for these projects.

Through all these activities, Father Frawley and the parish had the services of several assistant priests. Those who served during this pastorate included Father Roy H. Conley (1961-65), Father William C. McDonough (1965), Father Thomas J. Hanlon (1965), Father Martin M. Sypien (1966-67), Father Edward J. Bush (1967), Father John R. Haney (1967-73), Father Donald J. Stoney (1972-77), Father George C. Newmeyer (1973-75) and Father John Gudewicz (1975-79). While the parish was progressing in its building program, it was also moving forward in other areas. The first CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) Board was established in 1966 to deal with such problems as lack of sufficient teachers, need for visual aids and other materials and poor communications. Father Sypien served as the first spiritual moderator, and the first officers included Bob Malloy, president; Mike Kuhla, vice president; Tom Malloy, treasurer; and Jane Virbal, secretary. Other board members were Bob and Barbara Allen, Virginia Geary, Pete Kelly, Rose Mary Apel, Joe Kupfner and Mary Friedrich.

At that time, 450 students were registered in the CCD classes for grade school and 140 in the high school program. In subsequent years, the program expanded. Chuck Pfeifer succeeded Bob Malloy as president, and later spiritual moderators were Fathers Haney, Newmeyer and Gudewicz.

The first open house for the church was held on April 28, 1968. Other activities of these years included retreats, Block Home Masses, and Folk Masses. In 1971-72, St. Valentine’s Church hosted the Diocesan Adult Education Center, which offered eight courses to people of this and neighboring parishes. The courses given by Father Eugene Bonacci, C.P., of St. Paul’s Monastery began at this time.

A “Program for Parents of Children Under Five” was given four times, and a pre-baptism class was offered for expectant parents. Another new program was begun for parents of children who would be receiving First Communion or Confirmation. The first Coordinator of Religious Education, Sister Theresa Codispoti, was employed in 1973. One year later, she was succeeded by Sister Marian Mills, who served until 1980. Under these leaders, the program expanded rapidly, and Newman House was opened to provide quarters for it – an office for the staff, a library, a meeting place for committees and other facilities. Lay volunteers were named as principals for various grades. The parish school and CCD programs were integrated. Adult education became Adult Enrichment and this program was enlarged.

When participation of the entire congregation in the liturgy was emphasized following Vatican II, one temporary side effect was a decline in the emphasis given to the choir. Father Frawley then engaged John Holden to serve as director, and the choir was reorganized to include both men and women. A charter was drawn up for the St. Valentine’s Mixed Choir on April 18, 1967. In 1975, a group of some 15 women formed a smaller choir to sing for funerals.

Provisions were made in the new church for the installation of a pipe organ. However, there were not enough funds available at the time, so Mrs. Emily Stanwyck donated a two-manual Baldwin electronic organ. The church is currently planning to secure a 17-rank Moller pipe organ. In June 1970, after 25 years of faithful service as church organist and school music teacher, Mrs. Didion retired. In a reversal of history, she was succeeded by her predecessor –now Marie Schoepflin Schaad. Bob Rossi became choir director in September 1974.

One consequence of the Vatican II emphasis on the role of the laity was a provision for parish councils to advise and assist the clergy on various aspects of parish life. St. Valentine’s was among the parishes establishing a council, and it continues to function, with Henry Capozzi as the current president. It works through five commissions dealing with temporalities, communications, education, worship and apostolate. Another form of lay service that has been introduced is the use of lectors – parishioners who read Scripture lessons during the liturgy. Other lay members serve as song leaders. Boys in grades 6 through 12 are eligible to serve as Mass servers, also known as altar boys.

The first special ministers of the Eucharist were Joseph Mullen and Albert Garfold who were granted permission to distribute Holy Communion by Apostolic Indult August 23, 1970. The special ministers of the Eucharist now number about fifty. At Mass they distribute the Body of Christ or the Precious Blood so as to make the Holy Eucharist more readily available for the people during the liturgical celebration. Father Frawley retired in September 1977 and became chaplain of the James P. Wall Home. At the time he left, the debt on the new church and other construction was almost paid, and the mortgage was burned on November 30, 1977.

During Father Frawley’s sixteen years here at the parish (1961-77), he accomplished the building of a new convent, rectory and air-conditioned church and was the moving force in raising funds to pay off all debts. The mortgage was burned just a month after he left.