HISTORY OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI PARISH
The present Saint Clare of Assisi Parish was formed in 1994 with the merging of St. Clare, St. Joseph and St. Paulinus Parishes. The contributions of the parishioners forged a rich history for each parish and these parishioners continue to contribute to the history and identity of the new St. Clare of Assisi. A history of the parish must therefore look at the history of the former parishes.
The Parish of St. Clare was formed in the summer of 1895 as a mission of St. Michael Parish in Elizabeth. The T. Campbell Glass Co. offered a group of Catholics the use of a room in their building and the pastor of St. Michael`s agreed to have Mass there twice a month. In 1900 the Saint Clair Steel Co. began construction of a new steel mill. The local Catholic population grew to the point that the mission church required a larger meeting place. In 1901 the church was moved to a room on the second floor of the McBride Building where Mass was said every Sunday.
On January 15, 1903 the mission was established as St. Clare Parish and plans were made to construct a church. Property was purchased on Wilson Avenue and on April 24, 1904, Bishop Canevin dedicated the new church. St. Clare Parish remained a mission of St. Michael`s until the rectory was completed in April 1907. At this time the parish numbered about 100 families.
On Sunday January 6, 1924 the church was completely destroyed by fire. After four hours, all that remained of the church was the chimney and part of the belfry. The parishioners of St. Joseph Parish offered to share their facilities with the people of St. Clare but the church was too small to accommodate the growing parish. Mass was held every Sunday at the Church of the Ascension until a temporary church could be built on the site of the former church. The temporary church was completed in the summer of 1925 and used for many years.
On May 10, 1953, ground was broken for a new church, school and convent complex on Miller Avenue between Wilson and Park Avenues. Bishop Dearden dedicated this complex on August 12, 1954. This is the present school building.
The opening of the St. Clair Steel Co. in 1902 attracted many Slavic immigrants who settled in the area. The immigrants attended Mass at St. Clare Church or traveled to Holy Trinity Slovak Church in Duquesne. They asked Bishop Canevin to assign a priest to the area who understood one of the Slavic languages. He granted their request, and on March 25, 1911 St Joseph Parish was organized. The new parish met at the Greek Catholic Church on Park Avenue until a church could be constructed. On May 2, 1911 ten lots were purchased along Shaw Avenue and they were deeded to the Diocese of Pittsburgh on October 6, 1914. Construction of the church began in the summer of 1915, and the church was dedicated on July 2,1916. At the time of the dedication, there were 60 families in the parish.
The school was started in the basement of the church in 1917. The school was closed in 1923 because of the conditions in the basement. A new school was built and dedicated by Bishop Hugh Boyle on Sunday May 4, 1930. In 1962, a committee was organized for the building of a new church. Ground was broken on September 11, 1966 and Bishop Wright dedicated the church on July 14, 1968.
The first Mass in the Wilson district of Clairton was said in 1920 in the Knights of Malta building by Father Walsh, the assistant at St. Clare Parish. Mass was soon moved to the social room of the Wilson Municipal Building as the number of
people attending increased. Bishop Boyle established the Parish of St. Paulinus on June 22, 1923. The first pastor, Father Lonergan lived at the St. Clare rectory until November, 1924 when a house was obtained to be used as a rectory.
The parish suffered set backs in the next years, loans to build a church were refused by banks and the parish`s vestments were destroyed in a fire at the Municipal Building in April of 1927. On Easter Sunday 1927, over 600 people attended two Masses at the auditorium of the Walnut Avenue School. In November 1935, the parish asked permission to build a church. It was depression times and money was scarce, so the parishioners under the direction of Father Lonergan designed and build the church themselves. The church was dedicated on Labor Day, September 6, 1937, fourteen years after the parish was established. The rectory was completed 5 months later.
In March of 1957, the cornerstone for the school was laid. The convent was completed three years later, in September 1960.
Saint Clare of Assisi
On February 12, 1994, Bishop Donald Wuerl merged the three parishes of Clairton into one, St. Clare of Assisi. This new parish draws on a history of three parishes that have cooperated with each other over the years, having shared clergy and helped each other whenever necessary. The new parish is reaping the rich harvest that was sowed by the parishioners of the former parishes as well as establishing its own history. The above history focused mainly on buildings and construction projects since the history of the Catholic community in Clairton is still being lived. One hundred nine years after the Catholic Church came to Clairton, we are still a pilgrim people who strive to love and serve God and each other.