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  Theology of our Church Building


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 purposes.

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.