Saint Kilian Parish History

Our Origins (1917 - 1999)

From its inception in 1917, Saint Kilian Parish found its inspiration in the previous centuries of Catholic life and tradition. While rooted in that heritage, this parish has always sought to meet the contemporary needs of its members.

In 1917, at the request of the Catholic people in the Mars area, a mission church was established. The first Mass was celebrated by Fr. Timothy O'Shea on March 18, 1917, in Robertson's Hall. Fifty-two adults and thirty-three children attended. The area was first served by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine under the direction of Fr. Dan Lawless, assisted by Fr. Victor Majka and Fr. Edward Heinrich.

In the spring of 1920, the congregation purchased an abandoned Free Methodist Church.  The building was renovated and repaired and was dedicated on December 5, 1920. This same building was remodeled, repaired many times, enlarged and served as St. Kilian Church until 2008.

On July 4, 1934, fire struck the church.  Quick work by the local fire department saved the building, although heavily damaged. Masses were held at Mars High School during church repairs. The Mars church hall was started by Father Seibel and completed in 1949 under Father Schaughnessy. The Mars rectory was built during Fr. Hannon's years at St. Kilian. Following Vatican Council II, many physical changes within the church became apparent, yet some memories were preserved in unique and meaningful ways. The CCD program was established with an enrollment of 31 children.

From 1953 to 1973, the number of parishioners grew from 478 to 1,450 (more than 300%). The largest growth was experienced between 1983 to 2003 when the number of members grew to 7,016 (425%). The same growth was reflected in the children attending CCD, growing 1,000% from 81 to 900 children from 1953 to present. As the parish grew, many options were considered. In 1962, Saint Kilian’s pastor, Father Charles Schafer, petitioned the Diocese for permission to build a new parish center (including a new church) on thirty-three acres some outside of the Borough of Mars. That initiative was not received favorably by Diocesan officials at that time but it demonstrated the continuing desire of this parish to consider the needs of the parish and what could be done to meet them. Today, we find ourselves part of that tradition.

Saint Kilian - Second Century Campaign (2000 - 2013)
In June, 2001, the boundaries of Saint Kilian Parish in Mars, PA, and Saint Ferdinand Parish in Cranberry, PA, were realigned. The result of this was a significant change and dramatic growth for Saint Kilian Parish. On July 2, 2001, Bishop Wuerl appointed Father Charles Bober as Pastor of Saint Kilian with the specific responsibility of preparing the people for this change and initiating the Second Century Campaign to raise funds for a much needed building project. As the original church could no longer accommodate parishioners

During the planning sessions for the new building project, it became evident that the influx of parishioners created a need for additional meeting space and CCD classrooms. With one-third of the parishioners being 17 years old and younger, the idea of also using the new space for a Catholic grade school was introduced. A survey to assess interest in a school was completed in the Fall of 2002, resulting in an overwhelming positive response.  The plans for the new school were initiated and construction began on the Franklin Road/Route 228 site in April, 2007. In September, 2008, Saint Kilian Parish School became the first, brand new Catholic grade school built in the Diocese of Pittsburgh in almost 40 years.

  • Saint Kilian Parish is the 2nd largest (by a slim margin) parish in the Diocese of Pittsburgh with 11,200 parishioners.
  • Saint Kilian Parish School is the largest Catholic Primary School and the 2nd largest Catholic school (2nd to Central Catholic High School) in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Our parish school is the 3rd largest private school, regardless of affiliation, in the Greater Pittsburgh Area.
  • 1/3 of Saint Kilian Parishioners are under the age of 17 - representing the future of our parish and the need for our church.

Saint Kilian - To Build a Church, a Church Alive! Campaign (2014 - present)

In the summer of 2014, Saint Kilian Parish took part in the overall Diocese of Pittsburgh A Church Alive! campaign with our own To Build a Church, A Church Alive! campaign. This bold campaign sought to do three things:

  1. Pay off our existing Parish Center construction debt of $10.38M
  2. Fulfill our assigned Diocesan A Church Alive! goal of $2.1M
  3. Raise a final $11M in cash and pledges in order to obtain permission to begin construction on our new church

Through the outpouring of generosity of parishioners, community members, friends, anonymous donors, and the pure grace of God, our existing debt of $10.38M was paid; our Diocesan A Church Alive! goal of $2.1M was fulfilled; and $8.1M was pledged to the required $11M for our new church - leaving only $2.9M to raise.

We have received virtually all the municipal approvals we needed (PA and Cranberry Township). Our plans have been thoroughly reviewed and approved by the Diocesan Building Commission, Diocesan Finance Council and the Diocesan Board of Consultors. Our plans and background information are now in the hands of the Vatican, whose approval is required when a Diocese seeks to approve spending of over seven million dollars. Pending that approval (which we are told takes about five weeks) we will be able to begin actual tasks to start the project. Before that we hope to do some very preliminary work removing the top soil from the area where we will build the new church.

This is where we are.  Where we are going is just as exciting!
We hope to begin the project this summer.  It is expected that once we begin the actual construction will take 16-18 months.  In that time, we will have to prepare for the dedication and the other events that surround it. How incredible it is to think that Saint Kilian Parish will celebrate our centennial year in 2017 in our new home! Today, we have embarked on this final appeal, asking for your help to raise the additional $2.9M.

Please be a part of this incredible opportunity, every gift matters! Click here to find out how you can help build a church. | 724.625.1665 | TO BUILD A CHURCH HOME | SAINT KILIAN PARISH