When a participant in an adult volleyball league turned in her key to the St. Anne Catholic School gymnasium at the end of the most recent season, she included something extra.
“She wrote me a card saying, ‘We’re so sad this is our last season in our gym,’” said Harmony Stewart, the school’s principal. She called the volleyball player and asked, “‘According to whom?’”
The answer was she had received an email containing what turned out to be erroneous information, which Stewart promptly corrected.
“They were so excited to learn that they’re still going to be able to use our gym,” she said.
As St. Anne Church in Castle Shannon prepares for its July 1 merger with St. Winifred in Mt. Lebanon to form St. Paul of the Cross Parish, some people remain under the misconception that as a result, the school will be closing.
“We want to clear that up and say that St. Anne School, for the foreseeable future, is going to remain where it is on Willow Avenue, and it’s going to remain open,” the Rev. Michael Caridi said.
He is pastor at St. Anne and will serve in the same role for St. Paul of the Cross, an entity that has the two churches retaining their own identities as parish campuses.
“This merger will be of interest to all the parishes in the South Hills, because they’re all going to be doing this in the next year or two years, or maybe up to three years,” Caridi said.
In May, Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh confirmed the first five mergers to result from the diocese’s ongoing “On Mission for The Church Alive!” initiative, including the formation of St. Paul of the Cross and St. Teresa of Kolkata parishes, the latter bringing together churches in Beechview and Brookline.
Last fall, parishioners of St. Anne and St. Winifred formed a steering committee to formulate a long-term plan.
“We’re beginning to study what buildings we need, what buildings we don’t need, what could be sold or razed in the future,” Caridi said. “And one of the elements of that discussion is potentially down the road, at least a couple of years from now, moving the site of St. Anne School. But that is not now.”
He also worked with the school’s principal at the time to develop a five-year plan, which has reached fruition.
“That plan involved renovating the entire building, and we’ve pretty much completed every main area,” Stewart said. “All the classrooms are renovated. We’ve done a lot of improvements to our gym and cafeteria. We have a brand new science lab. So we’ve invested in the school for the longevity, for it to be there for our families.”
The former St. Winifred School now is in use as Mt. Lebanon Montessori School, which has a contract to remain in operation at the site for two more academic years, according to Caridi.
Combining the two churches to form St. Paul of the Cross will give the new parish a congregation of more than 8,000.
“So we’ll become a large parish, and we’ll have more resources at our disposal to support more programs,” Caridi said. “There will be financial savings on personnel that we will be able to invest in our programs and our ministries.”