Mount Saint Peter Roman Catholic Church

Rt. Rev. Msgr. Nicola Fusco

(Taken from the October, 1996 issue of "The Barque of Peter, ")

November 3, 1996, marks the 25th anniversary of Rt. Rev. Msgr. Nicola Fuscoīs death. After 48 years of being with his parish, at age 84, he met an unexpected death in an automobile accident four miles west of New Alexandria, PA. Since November 2 was All Souls Day and his anniversary date follows this church holiday, it is a good time to remember Msgr. Fusco along with other deceased in our family parish.
All Souls Day is when we consider what St. John Chrysostom said as quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Let us help and commemorate them. If Jobīs sons were purified by their fatherīs sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them."
It is also timely that we are embarking upon a period of building restoration. Msgr. Fusco is most responsible for the construction of our parish plant. We look back briefly upon his life on Earth and the legacy he left for the people he loved.
Msgr. Fusco was born on July 12, 1887, in Formicola, Italy - a town between Rome and Naples. He was ordained a priest on July 2, 1912, and was assigned to various parish positions in western Pennsylvania. He was appointed pastor of St. Peter Parish on September 7, 1923. This was a period of good times in New Kensington, yet a time of turmoil.
There were about 10,000 Italians in the boroughs of New Kensington, Parnassus and Arnold when Fr. Fusco arrived. Of the 10,000 Italians in the district, records show that only about 100 attended Mass on Sundays and a mere 13 families contributed to the support of the little frame church at Ridge Avenue and Constitution Boulevard.
Msgr. Fuscoīs 48 years in New Kensington were marked by a multitude of achievements. Under his leadership, the debt on the little frame church was paid off by 1925; catechetical classes were formed at various locations in the valley; a mission church was established in Braeburn; and a new church, rectory, convent and school were constructed.
Msgr. Fusco was a writer and editor. He authored many books. His first book, "Vairazioni," was published in 1917. He then became editor in 1922 of "La Trinacria," a Catholic weekly. He published a second book, "Formicola," and was appointed coeditor in 1924 of "II Crociatio," a Catholic weekly in New York.
In 1944 Msgr. Fusco published another book, "Mount St. Peter of New Kensington," "La Storia de Cristo" in 1946, "Testimonianze Francescane" in 1947, and "John is His Name," a survey of all popes by that name, in 1954.
One of his most memorable achievements was the building of the present Mt. St. Peter Church on a high knoll at Freeport Road and Seventh Street. Many skeptics watched as this energetic priest, operating on a shoestring budget, led the congregation in the building of a magnificent church from material salvaged from the 65-room Mellon mansion in Pittsburgh.
The new Mt. St. Peter Church was dedicated July 4, 1944, and thousands traveled from many states to view the architectural wonder painstakingly pieced together from truckloads of Michigan red sandstone, 30 tons of steel beams, 65 oak doors, slabs of precious, elaborately carved marble, pieces of delicate alabaster, marble pillars and gold lamps.
Msgr. Fusco headed the construction of a church with some of the costliest materials imaginable while his parish was very short of funds.
In 1959 Fr. Fusco was appointed a Domestic Prelate by Pope John with the title "Monsignor." He journeyed to Rome many times to help plan and take an active part in the Second Vatican Council which began in the fall of 1962.
Msgr. Fusco had a reputation for keeping "in tune with the times" despite his age. Small children idolized him for he was never stingy with a loving pat, kind word or friendly hug and teenagers respected him.
He retired June 27, 1969, as he approached his 57th year in the priesthood. At that time he became pastor emeritus of Mt. St. Peter Church.
Msgr. Fusco will always be remembered as the physical and spiritual architect of Mt. St. Peter parish. Not only did he serve his congregation, he served God and all mankind very well.