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 Church of the Good Shepherd, Kent

On Oct. 16, 1989, the merger of three parishes: Holy Cross, Iselin; St. Gertrude, McIntyre; and St. Gertrude's mission, St. Anthony, Aultman, went into effect. From these three parishes in Indiana County, a new parish was formed: Church of the Good Shepherd in Kent.

This 26-year-old parish's roots live in its three mother churches.

In the early 1900s, the town of Iselin, Indiana County, was built by the Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal & Iron Co. The town was named after Adrian Iselin, the New York Banker who backed the mine. Its current fire hall was once a company store, the old cemetery with missing stones was once company land.

In 1904, a woman named Mrs. White wrote to the Bishop and asked that a priest be sent. The priest was to care for about 105 Catholics. Her request was granted. This community was to serve as a Mission of an Indiana parish, where Father McNelis was the pastor. When he came to town, he said Sunday Mass in the home of Pat Carroll.

`1.jpgOn March 24, 1905, the president of the Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal & Iron Co., Lucius W. Robinson, wrote a letter to Father McNelis and said that the Company would like to cooperate with the people of the town to build a church.

This new church was completed in September 1908, and Father Francis Wieczorek became the first pastor. He lived in a house on Barber Street because an official rectory had not been purchased or constructed. The first designated rectory was built in 1912, and Father Anthony Baron was the first pastor to live there.

Both the rectory and the church eventually burned in separate fires, two years apart. Fortunately for the parish, the church record books were not destroyed in either fire.

On Aug. 6, 1918, permission was granted to build a new church and rectory at the cost of $13,000.

On March 8. 1947, St. Gertrude, McIntyre, became a full parish and adopted St. Anthony as its mission. Both were missions of Holy Cross. After they parted ways, it became harder for the people of Holy Cross to pay their church mortgage to the R&P Company. Out of goodwill, the Company terminated the $4,500 mortgage.

In 1977, the church was overdue for renovations. The sanctuary was renovated completely. The interior of the church was painted, the sanctuary carpeted, and new kneelers were installed. The revamping was completed in 1978. The following year the confessionals were renovated.

On Aug. 28, 1983, the parish celebrated its 75th anniversary. Bishop William G. Connare was the main celebrant at the Mass. A social hour was held in the church hall following the Mass. 

In the early 1990s, the decision was made to close the three churches and form new parish. This came partially from the fact that none of them were handicapped accessible.

DOC010.jpgIn 1990, building plans for the new parish were announced. A fund called "Bringing His Flock Together" was created to raise money to build the parish. The building site was blessed on June 19, 1991, and work began immediately following the blessing.

Masses continued at the Iselin and McIntyre sites for about two years while the new Church of the Good Shepherd was under construction.

The church construction totaled more than $2.2 million, far beyond the budget projection. Because of these numbers, the church rectory and social hall almost did not get built. A group of parishioners stepped up and built the rectory and parish hall on their own.

On Holy Days, Msgr. Matusak celebrated Mass for the men during their work hours, and a group of women from the church volunteered to prepare daily meals. Since the church kitchen wasn't ready for use, the women cooked the dishes in their homes and carted them to the construction site.

Constructing the bell tower also proved to be too costly, so the group of volunteer men built that as well. Once completed, the tower held bells from all three former churches.

The church was dedicated on April 26, 1992, by Bishop Anthony G. Bosco. A dinner-dance at the Rustic Lodge in Indiana followed.

The new church complex, located on a hill, boasted a statue of the Church's patron, The Good Shepherd, which watches over the site from a pedestal in the center of the piazza. Natural springs and water runoff from the church's roof filled a pond meant to represent baptism.

The church vestibule also featured a well of flowing water. The baptistery allowed for full immersion of infants and partial immersion of adults. The brass features in the new church were made from refurbished materials of the three churches. Stained glass windows from the old churches were placed in various locations in the new building, and wood salvaged from old pews was also incorporated into the church interior. One of the new sets of windows in the church depicted the three previous churches and other familiar landmarks, such as the Homer City power plant and the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus.

In 1996, shrines built from materials from St. Gertrude, Holy Cross, and St. Anthony Parishes were dedicated at the new church site. One of the shrines was a statue of Mary and a Grotto. These shrines were erected by the volunteer parish construction team.

DOC003.jpgIn 2002, the volunteer building committee of Church of the Good Shepherd undertook another project: rebuilding a monument from the old Holy Cross Parish, which closed in 1989.

The monument was dedicated to a former miner, Eulocio Rubbo, who was killed in a rock fall accident at the R&P Company mine in June 1914. Rubbo had been 18 years old at the time of the accident and had been married only six weeks prior to the disaster; four hundred people attended his funeral.

The memorial, which had once featured large pillars and posts, an angel's face, a small photo of Rubbo, and a carved rope, had disintegrated beyond repair; much of the stucco had broken off, the nameplate had worn away and the angel's face had cracked. The site had to be razed because the pieces crumbled whenever they were handled.

A new memorial was constructed on the same site. A long bench was laid along the front. Flowers were planted and some old mining tools were added to remember Rubbo's livelihood and fate. The work took four months.

On Oct. 1, 2006, a Mass of Thanksgiving and a mortgage burning ceremony were held at the church, signifying that the parish was finally out of the debt created from building the new parish.

In January 2014, an interesting turn of events took place. Father Charles Esposito, pastor, resigned from his position. Father Thomas Federline, pastor of St. Bernard Parish, was named the interim administrator. He was later replaced by Father William Lechnar.

Also in 2014, the parish celebrated its 25th anniversary. Mass was held on Oct. 19, followed by a reception at the church and a formal dinner-dance at the Rustic Lodge in Indiana. Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt presided over the Mass. Other anniversary activities included public tours of the church, and the unsealing of a time capsule, which was refilled with new items and re-buried.

As of 2014, the Church of the Good Shepherd was the spiritual home of 359 households, about 747 people.