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In 2013, the beautiful, domed St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church in the Troy Hills section of northern Pittsburgh was destroyed. However, it is a curious case because of how hard the city, government, Croatian and historical preservation societies, and parishioners wanted to keep it, especially because there were offers to purchase it.

What happened?

[Linked Image]

Quote
One of the gawkers was Ray Peitrone, 56, another former parishioner who lives in Troy Hill above the church.

A longtime advocate for preservation, he took issue with the argument from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and St. Nicholas Parish in Millvale that the building had to be demolished because it was unsafe or in danger of collapse.

“Why‘d they have traffic coming by here all these years if the church is ready to fall down?” Peitrone asked.

Established as a parish for Croatian Catholic immigrants in 1900, the parish was merged with St. Nicholas in Millvale in 1994, closed in 2004, and survived an ongoing PennDOT project to widen Route 28 that was eventually routed around the church.

Over the parish‘s objections, the city designated the building a historic structure in 2001, but the parish convinced a judge this summer that keeping the building was an economic hardship.

The Northside Leadership Conference and the Preserve Croatian Heritage Foundation had proposed turning the building into a museum for the history of Pittsburgh‘s immigrant communities, but they could not agree with the parish and diocese over conditions of the sale.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority offered to buy the church and turn it over to the Northside Leadership Conference but was unable to reach an agreement, URA Chairman Yarone Zober said.

For former parishioners such as Peitrone and Petrick, fighting their former parish for the fate of their former church has left their faith shaken.

“I don‘t want anything to do with the Catholic Church any more, not after this,” Peitrone said.

http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/2013/01/gaping-hole-signals-former-st-nicholas.html

St. Nicholas Parish Millvale and St. Nicholas Parish North Side merged in 1995.

Quote
[Linked Image]

The structure was added to the List of City of Pittsburgh historic designations on July 13, 2001.[1] The congregation protested the designation saying it would limit later uses and alterations to the building. Following a structural inspection 2004, it was determined that the Troy Hill building was unfit to use. The pastoral council met and voted to recommend closure, with the member from North Side refusing to vote. An attempt in November 2004 to unite the two St. Nicholas Congregations failed due to the aforementioned acrimony leaving the Troy Hill sanctuary vacant and it former members defecting to other parishes.

Several potential buyers proposed offers to the Diocese of Pittsburgh however, none was able to agree on terms with the diocese. ...the diocese sought to demolish the property. The city's Historic Review Commission denied the diocese's request citing an offer to convert the sanctuary to a museum.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation cited the site as one of ten historic sites lost in 2013.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Former_Saint_Nicholas_Croatian_Catholic_Church_%28Pittsburgh%29


I understand that it was an economic hardship for the diocese and for the combined Troy Hill/Millvale parish, which had a second building in Millvale, to keep and maintain the building.

However, there were groups that were willing to pay the combined parish money for the building to preserve it. Why wouldn't the combined parish take money to allow the building to remain while also giving up responsibility for it? I understand that the combined parish doesn't want to keep paying for the building, and that the money offered might not be a high amount, or one that would even cover the expenses of maintaining it for a few more decades. But the combined parish would not have to pay for the building anymore if they gave it to the preservation groups, and on top of that, they would get paid as well. What would be the downside?

The only thing I can think of, which was not mentioned anywhere in the articles, is that the new, combined parish and the diocese might have gotten a better offer from a company that wanted the property for the land and not for the building. It could be a development corporation that did offer the diocese a high amount of money for the land without the building, and the diocese and combined parish chose that option over a less financially profitable one from the preservation societies.

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I have been to this church (if it is the one I am thinking of). It had strange murals depicting Satan as a top-hatted capitalist, and the soldiers crucifying Christ as Austrian soldiers. It was no Hagia Sophia, but interesting. (And I would not recommend this ideological style for emulation, but some of the sentiment does appeal to me.)

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Mark R.,

There were two Croatian Catholic churches in North Pittsburgh, both called St. Nicholas. One of them was in Millvale, which is probably the one you visited. I have been to it too, and think it looks neat. The other was in Troy Hills and had the domes in the picture.

The two parishes combined in 1995, and they decided to get rid of the one in the picture in Troy Hills. People from the Troy Hills parish wanted to sell their church and there were preservation societies who made offers to buy it. But the diocese and the "combined" parish turned them down.

What do you think about this story?

Last edited by rakovsky; 09/21/14 05:39 PM.
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Yes, Millvale! But I think I have seen the exterior of this church in this story more frequently because of the roads I took.
What I think is, well, there is nothing to be done about it, if the diocese owns the parish and there are not enough faithful to support it. I personally think the parishes should own their churches and not the diocese...then unfortunately the results would be the same. As it is commuters are being deprived of a sight that looks more interesting than anything else around it or anything that replaces it. A museum? God forbid. We are not Soviets. People who leave the Church because of this kind of episode really need to stop and think what is most essential...I have a relative who left over a much smaller and humbler temple than this. "One greater than Solomon is here" as our Lord said in the Temple.
Again, parish ownership, making the people more responsible and small is beautiful...we have to look ahead. The Catholic Church is being crushed by the weight of its heavy institutionalism.

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Originally Posted by Mark R
What I think is, well, there is nothing to be done about it, if the diocese owns the parish and there are not enough faithful to support it.
Originally Posted by Mark R
A museum? God forbid. We are not Soviets.
Mark,

If a beautiful building is saved from demolition by making it into a museum, what's wrong with that? The Soviets turned a lot of churches into warehouses and storage buildings simply because it was too expensive to demolish them all--that's hardly the case here.

Originally Posted by Mark R
As it is, commuters are being deprived of a sight that looks more interesting than anything else around it or anything that replaces it.
Exactly. As a museum, it would still serve to remind people of their Christian heritage.

The problem, as I see it, is what our brother Rakovsky said:
Originally Posted by rakovsky
... there were groups that were willing to pay the combined parish money for the building to preserve it. Why wouldn't the combined parish take money to allow the building to remain while also giving up responsibility for it? ... What would be the downside?

The only thing I can think of, which was not mentioned anywhere in the articles, is that the new, combined parish and the diocese might have gotten a better offer from a company that wanted the property for the land and not for the building.

Or, simply have been advised that the current commercial value of the property was more than the preservaton groups were offering.

While it is also possible that they simply reacted as you did ("A museum? God forbid. We are not Soviets"), it is also imprtant to note that many people will *perceive* this as having been all about the money. My belief is that the obligation of the Church not to cause scandal is a very grave one, and should always be considered before money.

Originally Posted by Mark R
People who leave the Church because of this kind of episode really need to stop and think what is most essential...
(I really think it's not our place to criticize our brother whose faith is weak--it's easy for us to think of our faith merely as "common sense," and forget that it's a gift from God.)


Peace,
Deacon Richard

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I agree with you here:
Originally Posted by Mark R
Yes, Millvale! But I think I have seen the exterior of this church in this story more frequently because of the roads I took.
What I think is, well, there is nothing to be done about it, if the diocese owns the parish and there are not enough faithful to support it. I personally think the parishes should own their churches and not the diocese...then unfortunately the results would be the same. As it is commuters are being deprived of a sight that looks more interesting than anything else around it or anything that replaces it.

You wrote:
Quote
A museum? God forbid. We are not Soviets.
The famous St Sophia Cathedral in Kiev is a museum that is occasionally used for services. A huge Byzantine Catholic church in Homestead near Pittsburgh is also a museum for the Rusyn society.

Having a church as a museum is fine canonically, because the church can retain its liturgical functions. Many churches actually function as a kind of museum: There is a service in the morning and afterwards they stay open so that people can come in and admire the icons. If it is a museum, then people would not be stopped from praying. A working arrangement can be made where the front of the church is kept.

Is tearing down a church a better option than having it as a museum with occasional services, after which it might even be reopened as a full church later?

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Oh, if it could be a museum and still be used for services, by all means let it stay, but by now the demolition is a fait accompli.

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There is something very sad to see a once beautiful church, meant for the worship and glory of God, reduced to rubble.
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Originally Posted by rakovsky
In 2013, the beautiful, domed St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church in the Troy Hills section of northern Pittsburgh was destroyed. However, it is a curious case because of how hard the city, government, Croatian and historical preservation societies, and parishioners wanted to keep it, especially because there were offers to purchase it.

What happened?

[Linked Image]

Quote
One of the gawkers was Ray Peitrone, 56, another former parishioner who lives in Troy Hill above the church.

A longtime advocate for preservation, he took issue with the argument from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and St. Nicholas Parish in Millvale that the building had to be demolished because it was unsafe or in danger of collapse.

“Why‘d they have traffic coming by here all these years if the church is ready to fall down?” Peitrone asked.

Established as a parish for Croatian Catholic immigrants in 1900, the parish was merged with St. Nicholas in Millvale in 1994, closed in 2004, and survived an ongoing PennDOT project to widen Route 28 that was eventually routed around the church.

Over the parish‘s objections, the city designated the building a historic structure in 2001, but the parish convinced a judge this summer that keeping the building was an economic hardship.

The Northside Leadership Conference and the Preserve Croatian Heritage Foundation had proposed turning the building into a museum for the history of Pittsburgh‘s immigrant communities, but they could not agree with the parish and diocese over conditions of the sale.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority offered to buy the church and turn it over to the Northside Leadership Conference but was unable to reach an agreement, URA Chairman Yarone Zober said.

For former parishioners such as Peitrone and Petrick, fighting their former parish for the fate of their former church has left their faith shaken.

“I don‘t want anything to do with the Catholic Church any more, not after this,” Peitrone said.

http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/2013/01/gaping-hole-signals-former-st-nicholas.html

St. Nicholas Parish Millvale and St. Nicholas Parish North Side merged in 1995.

Quote
[Linked Image]

The structure was added to the List of City of Pittsburgh historic designations on July 13, 2001.[1] The congregation protested the designation saying it would limit later uses and alterations to the building. Following a structural inspection 2004, it was determined that the Troy Hill building was unfit to use. The pastoral council met and voted to recommend closure, with the member from North Side refusing to vote. An attempt in November 2004 to unite the two St. Nicholas Congregations failed due to the aforementioned acrimony leaving the Troy Hill sanctuary vacant and it former members defecting to other parishes.

Several potential buyers proposed offers to the Diocese of Pittsburgh however, none was able to agree on terms with the diocese. ...the diocese sought to demolish the property. The city's Historic Review Commission denied the diocese's request citing an offer to convert the sanctuary to a museum.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation cited the site as one of ten historic sites lost in 2013.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Former_Saint_Nicholas_Croatian_Catholic_Church_%28Pittsburgh%29


I understand that it was an economic hardship for the diocese and for the combined Troy Hill/Millvale parish, which had a second building in Millvale, to keep and maintain the building.

However, there were groups that were willing to pay the combined parish money for the building to preserve it. Why wouldn't the combined parish take money to allow the building to remain while also giving up responsibility for it? I understand that the combined parish doesn't want to keep paying for the building, and that the money offered might not be a high amount, or one that would even cover the expenses of maintaining it for a few more decades. But the combined parish would not have to pay for the building anymore if they gave it to the preservation groups, and on top of that, they would get paid as well. What would be the downside?

The only thing I can think of, which was not mentioned anywhere in the articles, is that the new, combined parish and the diocese might have gotten a better offer from a company that wanted the property for the land and not for the building. It could be a development corporation that did offer the diocese a high amount of money for the land without the building, and the diocese and combined parish chose that option over a less financially profitable one from the preservation societies.


By the mere obstinate people who refused a price for this church, we see its sad destruction when there were ample opportunities to save it... When I first saw the headline here, I though it was yet another church being burned by the hands of a criminal arsonist as our here where I live was. . . What a sad day this is. . .

Our church is being rebuilt in a 'modern' structure which has kept some of the original stones of our old church taken from the rubble after the fire... - it took five years of fighting to have it rebuilt... the site came close to being sold to become a shopping centre and medical clinic but the people here wanted nothing of that and raised their voice to rebuild the church. I am glad they did! The main structure is complete, the roof is done, the outside is almost finished, part of the landscaping integrates a major portion of the front facade of our old church where people will walk through it to reach the doors of the new church building. The large statue of St Paul was saved and a monument to Christ will be returned to the site. I only wish we could celebrate Christmas in it this year but I do not think it will be ready. . .

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Always wondered why there is no such thing as Serbian Greek Catholics nor Croatian Orthodox?

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Actually, I came across some Serbian Greek-Catholics last year in our parish as I taught their daughter religion in Saturday school. We took the occasion to learn all about the "Krsna Slava" and the Serbian traditions surrounding that.

And I also met a Croatian Orthodox priest some years back when the Antiochian Orthodox Church had their Toronto conference . . .

But they are few and far between . . .

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Just thinking of the history in former Yugoslavia when there were forced or intimidated "conversions" where Orthodox Serbs became Croatian Catholics and also the other way around. Seemed like the national identities influenced what church they belonged to. It looks like under the present situation there is no such thing as a Serbian Greek Catholic Church in Serbia itself.

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Orthodox Serbs tell of forced conversions to Catholicism under the fascist regime in WWII. I have no knowledge if that happened.
Some of the Greek Catholic Rusins in Croatia have Croatised Serbs among them. Their national identities developed depending on which half of the Roman Empire they inhabited, which determined their religious affiliations. However in primary sources, such as Roman histories, like Constantine Porphyrogenitos, they are basically the same people, bearing different names from whomever their erstwhile overlords were.

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Originally Posted by bergschlawiner
Just thinking of the history in former Yugoslavia when there were forced or intimidated "conversions" where Orthodox Serbs became Croatian Catholics and also the other way around. Seemed like the national identities influenced what church they belonged to. It looks like under the present situation there is no such thing as a Serbian Greek Catholic Church in Serbia itself.
There is a Greek Catholic Exarchate in Serbia although the majority of the laity are Rusyn.


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Serbian Greek Catholics do indeed exist, mostly in Vojvodina and are mainly Rusyn families from the old Hungarian Kingdom of Austria-Hungary. Croatia was about 11 to 18% or so Orthodox prior to the Yugoslavian Wars of the 1990s and the very large displacement, and probably much higher before World War II and the Ustache. Since Serbs, Croats and Bosnisks are ethnographically the same people, religion determines ethnic identification.
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