To appreciate the history of our parish and school we must start with a look at Perrysville in the 18th century. History tells us that in 1783 a man by the name of Casper Reel came to Allegheny County. He took land in Ross Township in 1794 and built a cabin for his family. By 1815 other families had settled in Perrysville, of note were the Hilands and the Goods. It was a one-day journey from the city of Allegheny to Perrysville, so it was a logical place to build an inn. Homes sprang up around it and by 1842 the first post office north of the Allegheny was established in Perrysville. At the time, Catholics living in Perrysville had to travel for Mass to St. Peter’s Church in Allegheny City or to St. Alphonsus in Wexford. By 1864 Bishop Domenec purchased two lots on Perry Highway for $400 to build a church. The cornerstone was laid July 4, 1866 and the new parish was named St. Teresa of Avila.
The first church building was small, seating only 200 people. Next door was built a two room rectory. In 1906, Fr. Yochum was pastor. He heard that the Benedictines were looking for a site for a new Motherhouse and he urged them to buy the property next to the parish, which they did. The house had six rooms and an unfinished attic. Fr. Yochum suggested that the old rectory be made into a school. The remodeled rectory opened as St. Teresa School in October 1906, with one classroom and 32 students. Tuition was 50 cents per month. This was the only income the nuns had but the student’s families were farmers and often sent in produce and meat from the farm. Fr. Schoppol became pastor in 1918 and the school was bursting at the seams with 120 children. A building fund was started and by 1923 work began on a new yellow brick school building on Perry Highway.
This second school had four classrooms and modern conveniences like steam heat, flush toilets, drinking fountains, and a stage in the basement auditorium. In the 1920’s steady growth fostered thoughts of a new church, but these plans were put on hold due to the Great Depression. Under the leadership of Fr. Schoppol, by the 1930’s enough money was raised to begin work on a second church, which cost $50,000. It was built between the first church and the former rectory and could seat 480 people. By the 1950’s the North Hills area was booming and the parish had 800 families. The decision was made to build a third school, which opened in 1953 and is the current building used today. A new convent for the Benedictine nuns was completed and dedicated the following year, next to the new school.
The parish celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 1967 with an outdoor Mass held in the new school parking lot. Msgr. Henninger presided. After serving as pastor It was exactly the mid-term of his 20 year stay with us. He died in 1975. On February 4, 1975 Fr. Ted Maida was appointed as pastor to replace him. The Diocese opened other parishes in the North Hills, but St. Teresa’s still had crowded Masses, even hosting three Masses a week in the school gym. This prompted an effort to build a third church building. Groundbreaking was Oct 9, 1982. Today’s church seats 905, with standing room for 250 and the enclosed chapel holds another 100. The project cost $2.9 million. Church #2 was sold and is now known as The Great Hall, used for wedding receptions and social events.
After serving 26 years, Fr. Ted announced that he was resigning as pastor. Bishop Donald Wuerl installed Fr. Jim Ruggiero as the new pastor of St. Teresa Parish in 2001. He immediately tackled the parish’s cash flow problems and after three years had the parish back on track financially, but due to health concerns felt a younger priest would be more suitable as pastor moving forward.
The bishop selected Fr. Bob Vular, who had been one of the parish’s parochial vicars and who was familiar with the parish, to succeed him. Fr. Bob was installed as pastor on June 12, 2005 and serves as our pastor today.
St. Teresa of Avila School celebrated 111 years in 2017 and regionalized with all of the Catholic Schools throughout the North Hills to create Holy Cross Academy for the 2017-2018 academic year. We are grateful to the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh who staffed our parish school for 111 years from 1906-2017. Our last principal was Sr. Karen Brink, O.S.B.
St. Teresa of Avila parish proudly celebrated our 150th Anniversary in 2017 and we continue in our mission to become the body of Christ on earth. Following the example of our patroness St. Teresa, we strive to be the eyes, hands, and feet of Christ for others, through our call to service. Nourished by the Eucharist, we continually seek to grow and become the true body of Christ in and through each other, today and for years to come!