Like “little flowers of Jesus,” Italian immigrants to Fayette County diligently weathered many storms, keeping their eyes upward to strongly root St. Therese Parish in Uniontown.
The Italians, attracted to the coalfields of Fayette County, first gathered to worship and share their ethnic heritage as parishioners of Church of the Holy Cross.
The original church, located on Morgantown Hill in Uniontown, existed until 1916 when it was discontinued.
For 11 years, the Italian community struggled without a church of its own, praying for a new place of worship in the midst of anti-Catholic propaganda.
In early 1927, Father Henry DeVivo, the pastor of St. Rita Church in Connellsville, headed up a committee which took its plea for a Uniontown parish to Bishop Hugh C. Boyle of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The committee, which included Father DeVivo, Cav. Gennaro Barbaresi and Vincenzino D’Auria, received promises of favorable consideration from the bishop.
On March 20, 1927, Bishop Boyle’s approval was made known with the appointment of Father Luigi Tabbia as the congregation’s first religious leader.
The new pastor was to head a church under the patronage of St. Therese de Lisieux (St. Therese of the Little Flower of Jesus), a name which he selected.
The first Masses were held at the site of the former St. Mary School on North Mount Vernon Avenue in Uniontown.
About a year later, Father Tabbia met with parishioners at a town meeting in city hall. It was that April 1928 meeting which inspired the church committee to purchase land and a house on Mill Street.
During the Great Depression, the parish paid $9,000 toward its $14,000 purchase price.
The house was moved from the lot’s center to its side to be used as a parish house, and the corner of the lot was cleared for church construction.
The sudden illness of Father Tabbia brought the construction project to a halt.
The bishop sent Father Joseph Keener to assist the sick pastor. A month later, Father Thomas J. Quigley came to Uniontown as a replacement for Father Keener, who was transferred.
Despite his illness, Father Tabbia continued to direct fundraising activities, headed up by Father Quigley, for construction of a new church.
The parishioners received the sad news in 1933 that Father Tabbia, whose health had worsened, had been granted a leave of absence. He left Uniontown for a final trip to his homeland of Italy.
With their first spiritual leader gone, the parishioners looked for guidance to Father Quigley, who was named acting pastor. During his two years as head of the local church the mortgage was reduced to $4,000.
In 1935, Father Tabbia resigned his pastorate, and on February 7, Father Charles J. Ceradini, who had been ordained six years earlier, was appointed as his successor.
During Father Ceradini’s first year in Uniontown, the mortgage was paid in full, and the bishop granted permission to erect a new church at the Mill Street site.
On April 25, 1937, Father Ceradini and Frank Maddas, a parish benefactor, broke ground for the new church. With the foundation readied, the cornerstone was laid July 25, 1937.
The occastion was marked with a Mass Officiated by the Archabbot Alfred Koch of Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe. He delivered his homily in Italian, and urged completion of the construction.
Father Nicola Fusco, pastor of mount St. eter Church, New Kensington; Count Bombassie Frascai, the Italian consul of Pittsburgh; Dr. Nino Calabro, his assistant; mr. Maddas; nearly 30 oriests from throughout the diocese; and numerous city, county and state officials attemded the ceremonies.
Under the supervision of Joseph Altomonte, Charles Camarata and William Special, with help from parishioners, the church building was completed.
On Christmas night, 1937, the new church, designed by architect Enos Cook, was opened for worship. The structure was formally dedicated July 4, 1938.
The church committee at the time included Anthony Georgiana, Charles Camarata, Joseph Altomonte, Albert Bononi, William Special, Dr. Cataldo Corrado, Michael Pierno, Nicholas Dell ‘Erba, Vincenzino D’Auria and Michael Blanch.
Following dedication services, parishioners gathered at the White Swan Hotel for a banquet.
In 1940, Father Ettore Moscoloni, who continued the tradition of the founding pastor was named as successor to Father Ceradino. Father Moscoloni’s death December 24, 1951, was tragic news for the parish family.
St. Therese Parish continued without a pastor until April 1952 when Bishop Hugh L. Lamb, the first bishop of the Diocese of Greensburg, appointed Father Nicholas J. Thomas as pastor.
Under his leadership, the growing parish constructed a new rectory in 1962 and broke ground, January 2, 1966, for a new church on Mill Street.
The fan-shaped structure, constructed of beige bricks and gray stone with a white stone face; it was constructed at a cost of $400,000. Uniontown Construction Company served as general contractor and congregation member/architect Thad M. Pyzdrowski designed the church.
The church was dedicated April 30, 1967, with Bishop William G. Connare officiating. In 1970 Father Francis D. Piruli was appointed pastor, and in 1971 Father Thomas returned as pastor of St. Therese.
In 1972 under Father Thomas’ leadership a new parish center was built. In 1983, the parish center was named in his honor. In 1986 Father Thomas retired under doctor’s orders for health reasons. He was named pastor emeritus of St. Therese Parish.
In that same year, Father John A. Regoli (now Msgr. John A. Regoli) was appointed pastor of St. Therese. He guided St. Therese through change and growth from 1986 to 1998.
In January of 1998, Bishop Anthony G. Bosco appointed Father Kenneth G. Zaccagnini as pastor of St. Therese Parish. Under his care the parish continued to grow and blossom.
On October 31, 2008, Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt assigned Msgr. Michael W. Matusak, V.F., as the tenth pastor of our parish and dean of deanery five in the diocese. His desire is to see our parish continue to grow in holiness, unity and grace. The parish shows itself as a welcoming and warm place for God’s people to gather as the church.
On July 1st, 2015 we began a new journey together as Msgr. Michael W. Matusak continued as Pastor of our parish with the assistance of Fr. James B. Morley, Parochial Vicar and Fr. James W. Clark, Parish Priest. With three joyous priests here to administer the sacraments and needs of our parish we strive to bring Christ’s love to our Church as we grow in faith and fellowship every day.