The History of Holy Sepulcher Parish
On Christmas Day 1944, the Most Reverend Hugh C. Boyle, Bishop of Pittsburgh, gave his permission for the first Mass to be celebrated in the rural community of Glade Mills, Pennsylvania. Fr. Daniel A. Lawless, Mission Confraternity Director, celebrated the Mass for approximately 60 persons in the backroom of the Roadside Inn. This was the vacant building of the Old Route 8 Superette. Fr. Joseph Raynak was placed in charge of the Mission. Masses were then celebrated every Sunday at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. A weekly catechism class was also started at the same time. This was the first step toward establishing a Mission for the Catholic population in rural southeastern Butler County.
Land was purchased in May 1945, and the Mission received the name “Church of the Holy Sepulcher.” In December 1945, construction soon began on the church building. The concrete block basement building was faced with sandstone quarried in Renfrew, Pennsylvania. Folding chairs were used for pews. A small kitchen was located on the left rear side of the church upon entering. Fr. Joseph Raynak served the new Mission until Fr. Francis King was installed as the first Pastor on June 16, 1955. Additional property was purchased and the annex building was renovated and established as the first rectory. Fr. King died on May 6, 1956.
Fr. Vincent Brennan, past editor of the Pittsburgh Catholic, served as Pastor from 1956 until his death in 1959. It was during this time that plans for the school were formulated. It was under the next Pastor, Fr. Berkmyre (1959-1967), that the parish experienced its greatest building cycle. Ground was broken on April 12, 1959, and construction on the first part of the school began immediately. The Solemn Blessing and Dedication of the school took place on May 7, 1960, with the Most Reverend John Wright, Bishop of Pittsburgh, as celebrant. It was also in this same year that a new parish rectory was built and the annex building became a convent for the Bernadine Sisters of St. Francis who taught in the school.
In August of 1961, construction began on the second part of the school building, adding four additional classrooms, an office, a library and a health room. By 1964, all eight grades of the school were occupied. As the number of religious sisters grew, an old farm house across from the current church was purchased and made the new convent center. The sisters remained with the school until 1989. The convent center then became the home to the Life Teen Program, the Religious Education Office, the Kindergarten and the Knights of Columbus. Fr. Francis Tassey replaced Fr. Berkmyre in 1967 and remained Pastor of Holy Sepulcher until 1978. Under his direction, the church was remodeled and the formation of the Parish Council took place. Fr. James Dixon served our parish as Pastor from 1978 until 1982, making sure that the liturgical changes of Vatican II were in place as he finished the remodeling of the church and the installation of a new organ.
Fr. John Maloney served the parish from 1982 until 2004. It was during his time as Pastor that improvements were made to the rectory, the Parish Debt was paid off and the celebration of our 35th anniversary took place in 1990. It was under Fr. Maloney’s guidance that plans were made and funds were raised to attend to the physical needs of our ever-growing parish. Fr. Maloney started the process to realize the plans for a new church building that were started in 1958. Throughout his time at Holy Sepulcher, Fr. Maloney was able to secure liturgical items from the now-closed St. Michael Parish on Pittsburgh’s South Side that would later be used in the interior of the new church. We have Fr. Maloney to thank for the crucifix, stained glass windows, statues, marble pieces and tabernacle that grace our beautiful church.
Fr. Daniel Mauer was assigned as Administrator in February 2004 and served in this capacity until being installed as Pastor in 2006. During Fr. Dan’s tenure, the parish broke ground for the new church building. He, along with numerous parishioners, helped to oversee every aspect of the construction of our new spiritual home. The first Mass and dedication of the new church was held on July 21, 2005, the Most Reverend Donald Wuerl, Bishop of Pittsburgh, was the Principal Celebrant. Fr. Dan remained at Holy Sepulcher until 2008. Shortly after his departure, Fr. Albert Semler was appointed Pastor. During his tenure, Fr. Semler was instrumental in the rapid growth and emphasis on parish togetherness and unity. He retired in 2012.
Fr. John Gizler was appointed Pastor in January 2011, after having served in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Under his expert guidance, Fr. John has led a reorganization and refocus of the parish community and a revitalization of our school. He has worked alongside Sr. Anna Marie Gaglia, CSJ, our school Principal, to promote the wonderful learning environment at Holy Sepulcher Catholic School. They have made advancements in marketing the school, fundraising and improving curriculum. Fr. John’s emphasis on fiscal responsibility and community organization has led the parish to a renewed sense of unity. His leadership has helped the parish to be better equipped to address our expanding responsibilities. Fr. John has established a much-needed Wedding Coordinator Ministry, as well as the formation of the new Parish Pastoral Council.