St. Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Kittanning, located along the Allegheny River, is a Catholic Community of believers representing many ethnic backgrounds and family traditions united to serve and support each other in our Christian journey.
Through participation of all age groups in the liturgy and sacraments, we look to deepen and continue to grow in our Catholic faith. By the sharing of our talents, we hope to manifest Christ’s presence in our community.
Our Parish History
The history of St. Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish traces its origins to over 250 years ago when French expeditions during the 18th century traveled the Allegheny River visiting the Native American village of Kittanning.
From 1847-48, a steel rolling mill was built in Kittanning, and the completion of the Allegheny Valley Railroad connected Kittanning with Pittsburgh. Population growth of the Kittanning area paralleled the industrial growth, and by 1851 there were 21 Catholic families in Kittanning.
In 1853, during the era of industrial growth, our first permanent church building was built on the same plot of land as our current church building that was dedicated in 1964.
In 1906, the former St. Mary Parochial School was established for the Catholic community of Kittanning. Sisters of St. Joseph from Baden, PA served as educators at St. Mary School.
In 1951, the Catholic parish of St. Mary became part of the newly created Diocese of Greensburg. The first pastor for the parish, as part of the new diocese, was the late Father Francis X. Foley. He launched a building program that resulted in a new convent in 1953, a new rectory in 1955 and a new school in 1960.
Father Foley began plans for a new church structure in 1961 and demolition of the original St. Mary church began July 2, 1962. Father Foley died October 3 of the same year. The church building was then completed under the guidance of the late Msgr. Charles B. Guth with the assistance of Francis ‘Smiley’ Benson.
The cornerstone for the new church was set August 18, 1963.
The first Mass was celebrated in the new church building Palm Sunday, March 22, 1964.
On August 16, 1964, the late Bishop William G. Connare, bishop of Greensburg, blessed and dedicated St. Mary Church to divine worship as “St. Mary, Queen of the Americas Church.”
Father Foley had chosen this title because of the similarity of the Marian apparition to native Aztec, Juan Diego in 1531, and the fact that Kittanning is built on a Native American Settlement.
The church was consecrated October 11, 1970, by Bishop Connare. Consecration of a church means that it can never be used as anything but a place of worship. It was the third church in the diocese to be consecrated, the first two being the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, Greensburg, and St. Vincent Basilica, Latrobe.
With the building of the new church, the parish was rededicated not only as St. Mary, but also under the title and patronage of one of her apparitions, Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1970 when Bishop Connare was preparing to consecrate the church, he wrote a letter in which he said,
“As you and your people well know, your church is dedicated to our Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. No designation of any church is more American. The discovery of the continent by Columbus was still vivid and fresh when she chose to visit this continent in the hallowed spot of Guadalupe. We are grateful to you and your people for providing the diocese with this memorial to this blessed experience, which brought our Blessed Mother to us so long ago.”
With a strong history of sacrifice and perseverance to build and preserve the church community spiritually, educationally and financially, in 1981 the parish began serious planning to enhance the parish community socially with a new parish hall.
After approval from Bishop Connare, a building committee started a fundraising campaign in November 1983. Groundbreaking for the hall took place in September 1984. By the end of the summer of 1985, St. Mary Parish hall was completed. The multi-purpose facility continues to be an important gathering place for the parish as well as local community.
The 1996-97 school year was the last year that St. Mary School operated. The Sisters of St. Joseph from Baden sustained and taught at the school until its closing. In August 1997, Ford City Catholic school became a regional Catholic school. This new pre-kindergarten through sixth grade regional school was named The Divine Redeemer Catholic School. Today, the school continues to provide excellent faith based Catholic education, not only to St. Mary parish families, but also to Catholics from the surrounding areas.
On October 30, 2007, because of diocesan-wide restructuring of parishes, St. Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish was partnered with St. Mary, Mother of God Parish, Yatesboro. Partner parishes are two parishes that share one pastor. Each parish maintains its canonical identity while at the same time, collaborates with each other.
Today, over 170 years later, our parish continues to worship on this same plot of land. Throughout our parish’s history, priests, religious sisters, and countless number of laity have worked together to establish what we enjoy today – a vibrant and faithful Catholic community under the patronage of St. Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe.