St. Catherine of Sweden Roman Catholic Church can trace its beginnings to
Catechism classes held in various locations in the Wildwood area under the
supervision of the Missionary Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.
The earliest records of this religious instruction dates back to 1934.
At that time, St. Ursula
Church in Allison Park was the closest parish for Catholics living in Hampton
and Richland Townships. Most families would have to walk four to seven
miles to the church, since few people had cars and the Butler Shortline
trolley service had been discontinued.
Catholics in the area began
a movement to develop a parish. In 1943, Bishop Hugh C. Boyle of the
Pittsburgh Diocese granted permission for a group to organize the people
with the intent to erect a church in the future. Rev. Victor J. Majka,
a missionary priest, was delegated to organize the district. The survey
of the district showed 147 people who would be part of the new parish.
In the fall of 1943, the fledgling
parish found a home in a 39-by-26 foot room in an old Hampton school building
on West Hardies Road. The space was crowded and had second-hand furnishings,
but the mission celebrated a joyous first Mass there on December 12, 1943.
That same day, the parishioners
started a campaign to raise money for a church building. Soon afterward,
a nearby two-acre plot of land was found that was suitable for the church's
On September 28, 1947, the
parishioners laid the cornerstone for the new building. The church
was placed under the patronage of St. Catherine of Sweden to honor the name
of Catherine Lawrence, mother of David L. Lawrence, mayor of Pittsburgh
and eventually governor of Pennsylvania.
The 400-seat church was dedicated
and its ground blessed on September 2, 1948. Portions of the church
remained incomplete however, and St. Catherine's still had to use some second-hand
items from its mission days.
By 1953, St. Catherine's received
its first resident pastor, Rev. Francis A. Stifter. Under his leadership,
the parish launched another capital campaign. Those funds helped complete
the church interior and build the rectory, convent, parking lot and school.
The school was dedicated in 1960. By the end of that year, the
parish had grown to 640 families.
Through the 1960s and 1970s,
the parish continued to grow. More changes took place, such as the
transformation of the Latin Mass to English.
Despite its growth, St. Catherine's had to close its
school in 1972 as a result of declining enrollment, financial problems
and a shortage of nuns.
In 1974, the church interior
was renovated to comply with new liturgical directions.
In the early 1990s, the Pittsburgh
diocese surveyed its districts and found that the population growth in the
northern suburbs, including Hampton and Richland Townships, warranted the
addition of new parishes. In 1992, St. Richard's parish was formed
for Catholics in Richland Township.
In September 1998, St. Catherine's
parishioners commemorated the 50th Anniversary of their church building
with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Donald Wuerl of the Pittsburgh Diocese.
To keep up with the times and rapid population
growth in the area, St. Catherine's constructed a new church that was dedicated
on October 2, 2004. By the time of the dedication, the parish had
grown to include approximately 1,700 families.
In June of 2006, St. Catherine's congregation
began a fund-raising campaign to complete the church project with the addition
of a new Pastoral Center.