Saint Norbert Church
William J. Imblum, Peter Theobald, Harry Newmeyer, Rev. John J. Mader, Pastor, Joseph A. Koffler, Henry J. Glaneman, and August Ransil
On December 2, 1914, permission was granted by the Most Reverend Regis Canevin to establish a parish in Fairhaven.
Father Charles Hipp, pastor of St. Anne’s Church was appointed temporary pastor with Father Jacob Hungerman as assistant.
The first Mass in the new parish was said on the feast of the Circumcision, January 1, 1915, in the home of Harry Newmeyer located at the foot of Hillview Street, then known as School Hill (now known as Hillview Tavern). Holy Mass continued to be said there for a little over one year. The parish then comprised 150 families. Father John Mader, then assistant at St. Martin Church, West End, Pittsburgh, was appointed first resident pastor in March 1916. The patronal name chosen for the new parish was Saint Norbert.
During April 1916, the congregation bought the Horning farm (present property), on which was located a barn and frame house. The house was to serve as a parish house; the barn was conditioned to serve as a church, known as “The Cathedral.” Holy Mass was said there from June 6, 1916 until December 25, 1917.
During this period of time, the school was built, and the first floor of the school became the church. After the death of Father Mader on January 7, 1931, Father Leo Sehringer, then pastor of St. Barnabas Church, Rankin, PA was assigned to take over as Pastor July, 1931. With zeal, courage and ability, Father Sehringer completed the parish house, making substantial and needed additions. Father Sehringer’s ambition was to build a new church. The depression years, however, made the realization of his fond hopes impossible. Following a period of ill health, Father Sehringer died on April 26, 1946.
Father Leo Donnermeyer was appointed pastor during the latter part of June 1946. The present church was finally completed while Father Donnermeyer was pastor in June 1958. (pictures 1, 2, 3, 4)
Father James Kelly was appointed pastor in June, 1970 by Bishop Vincent Leonard. During his years as pastor, the parish and school continued to grow and enjoy many spiritual and social events. Unfortunately, during this same period of time the cost of maintaining the parish and school rose considerably and many people moved outside of the city limits.
Father Mauro Cautela was appointed pastor in 1989. Father was noted for his vibrant personality. During his time as pastor, the enrollment faced a severe decline and because of financial conditions, the school had to close.
In 1992, the Diocese of Pittsburgh began a process of parish reorganization. Bishop Donald Wuerl assigned Father Michael MacVeigh as pastor to Saint Norbert Parish. Father was noted for his ministry to the sick and elderly.
Upon Father MacVeigh's retirement in June of 2005, Bishop Donald Wuerl appointed Father Mark Eckman, pastor of St. Sylvester Church, as pastor of St. Norbert Parish.
In July of 2009, Bishop Zubik named Father Mark Thomas as Administrator of Saint Norbert Parish.
St. Norbert was born in the area of Cleves around the year 1080. A canon of the church of Zanten, he was converted from a worldly life and, embracing the religious state, was ordained to the priesthood in 1115.
Undertaking the apostolic life, he accepted the duty of preaching, particularly throughout France and Germany. Gathering together some companions, he laid the foundations of the Premonstratensian Order, for which he also founded monasteries.
Elected Archbishop of Madgeburg in 1126, he reformed the Christian life and spread the faith to nearby pagan nations. St. Norbert died June 6, 1134 at Magdeburg, Germany.
Overbrook's St. Norbert's celebrates its centennial
October 9, 2014 12:00 AM
By Margaret Smykla
St. Norbert School was situated above St. Norbert Church when Doris Seibel Cuddy was a student there.
The 87-year-old recalls that students in classrooms on the school’s first floor had to keep their feet up on a bar under their desks during funerals in the church below so the wooden floors would not squeak.
In the same era, annual fundraising ox roasts were held at the church, for which coal was raffled for use in parishioners’ coal furnaces.
Fellowship was also stoked through local church performances by the Kitchen Symfunny, composed of St. Norbert Ladies Guild members who sang while creating music with spoons, pots, pans and washboards.
At 2 p.m. Oct. 26, the parish will celebrate those memories and more on its 100th anniversary with a Mass at the church, 2413 St. Norbert St., Overbrook. It will be followed by a dinner at Salvatore's Restaurant, 5001 Curry Road, Baldwin Borough.
Keepsake gold filigree ornaments, packaged in boxes containing the parish history, may be purchased at the dinner and afterward at the church.
The parish is named for Norbert Gennep, who was born in Xanten, Germany, in 1080, and became an archbishop and the founder of the Canon Regular of Premontre, known as the Premonstratensians, or Norbertines.
On Dec. 2, 1914, permission was granted by Bishop Regis Canevin to establish a parish in Fairhaven, now the Overbrook section of the city. A month later, the first Mass was held in a home on Hillview Street, which was later turned into Hillview Tavern.
Rita Theobald Spratt, 98, of Overbrook — who still volunteers to clean the church — recalled that the first church, built around 1917, was a barn on a farm that was purchased by the congregation.
During this period, ground was broken for a school, with the first floor serving as the church. It was constructed with stones donated by William Englert from his stone quarry.
The school, staffed by the Sisters of Divine Providence, opened in 1925 with 247 pupils in eight grades.
Helene Gallagher Scheider, 77, recalled crossing Routes 51 and 88 in the 1940s to take homemade pies and cookies to priests.
“[The parish] is in my heart. I can’t imagine it not being here,” the Overbrook woman said.
The current St. Norbert Church was dedicated on March 22, 1958. The school closed in the early 1990s.
Today, there are 550 families, 1,185 parishioners. The original school structure was demolished and the property sold to the Norbert Personal Care Home, which houses 120 residents.
The parish owns part of the school building, which it leases to the Council of 3 Rivers American Indian Center for programs like Head Start.
But the bazaars, bingos, ox roasts, Kitchen Symfunny, and other activities that once made St. Norbert a bustling community center are gone.
In May, the parish welcomed the Rev. Stephen Kresak as pastor and the Rev. Michael Roche as parochial vicar. The pair perform the same roles at the Carrick parishes of St. Basil and St. Wendelin and at St. Albert the Great parish in Baldwin Borough.
The churches' 16 Saturday/Sunday weekly Masses were whittled down to 6, including one at St. Norbert on Sundays.
Arthur B. Palmer, 81, of Overbrook said the Mass unites him with people he feels a connection with as lifelong parishioners.
We wave, but do not necessarily know each other’s names, he said.
Dolores Malingowski of Overbrook attributes much of the parish’s longevity to its volunteers, who continue to clean and decorating the church, plant outdoors and run fish fries and bake sales.
“They are in their 80s and 90s now, and still volunteering,’’ she noted. “It is because of them that the church is clean and up-to-date,” the Overbrook woman said.
Tickets, $35, for the Oct. 26 buffet may be purchased after any Mass or by contacting the church rectory at 412-881-1316. The event is open to the public.
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.