To appreciate the history of our parish 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 here in Perrysville. Seven years later the seven miles between here and Allegheny were planked. ( like a boardwalk to keep horses out of the deep mud)
Catholics living here had to travel for Mass to St. Peter’s Church in Allegheny (which we call the North Side) or to St. Alphonsus in Wexford. By 1864 Bishop Domenec decided to purchase two lots on Perry highway (cost $400) to build a church for Perrysville. The cornerstone was laid July 4, 1866 under the patronage of St. Joseph and the new parish was named St. Teresa of Avila. (The bishop picked the name, not the pastor).
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 could be made into a school. Bishop Canevin was consulted and he granted permission for a Diocesan school to be opened if 60 students were registered. However, only 27 pupils signed up. So, Mother Theresa, who was the Prioress at that time, said they would open a private school and the Bishop gave permission. In October, 1906 the remodeled rectory opened as St. Teresa School, with one classroom and 32 students. Sr. Genevieve Johnson was the first teacher. By the end of May, there were 55 students. Soon a second classroom was opened. Tuition was 50 cents per month per child. This was the only income the nuns had but the student’s families were farmers and they often sent in produce and meat from the farm. By the early 20’s these two classrooms were bursting at the seams with 120 children. Fr. Schoppol had become pastor in 1918 and he had seen the need for a new school. He didn’t believe in debt so he started a building fund and by 1923 work was able to begin on a new yellow brick bldg. on Perry Hwy. This 2nd school had four classrooms (Sr. Bertilla taught the first four grades and Sr. Loretta taught the four upper grades.) and modern conveniences like steam heat, flush toilets, drinking fountains and a stage in the basement auditorium. This area was used in the early 50’s for fundraising nationality dinners and indoor spring fests.
In the 1920’s steady growth fostered thoughts of a new church, but these plans were put on hold due to the Great Depression. By the mid-30’s under the leadership of Fr. Schoppol, 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. In May, 1946 a parishioner who had a favorable answer to a novena donated a large statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which was blessed and placed in front of the church along the highway. (When the church was sold, this statue was moved to the hillside across from the school entrance). A new convent for the Benedictine nuns was completed and dedicated Nov 14,1954, next to the new school.
By the mid-50’s the North Hills area was booming. The parish had 800 families and it was decided to build a 3rd school. (Our current bldg) However, when it was first built(Nov. 53) it consisted of only 10 rooms on one floor. Within 2 years it was obvious that an addition was needed and in 1955 new classrooms were added, together with a cafeteria and kitchen and gym. As student numbers increased, both the old yellow brick school and the new school and eventually even space under church #2 were used for classrooms. When the baby boom ended and classes reverted to a smaller size, the old school was sold and eventually demolished. In 1997 extensive remodeling of the school included kitchen renovations, enlarging and moving the library and computer lab, creation of an art room and a language room.
The Diocese created two new parishes, St. Sebastian in 1952 and St. Alexis in 1961 but St. Teresa still had crowded Masses. Msgr. Henninger asked for permission to use the gym for one year and the bishop agreed. Over a decade later, 3 masses were still being said each week in the gym.
The parish celebrated its 100 year anniversary in 1967 with an outdoor Mass held in the new school parking lot. Msgr. Henninger presided. In retrospect this 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 created another parish, St. John Neumann in 1979 which was assigned 450 families from St. Teresa (1500 people) but Mass attendance dropped by only 400 a week. This prompted an effort, begun by Fr. Ted 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. Parking went from 50 spots at the Perry Hwy. location to 500 currently available. The project cost $2.9 million. Church #2 was eventually sold and is now known as The Great Hall, used for wedding receptions etc.
In December, 1998, Fr. Ted celebrated his 40th anniversary of ordination. The sculpture, the “indwelling spirit”, installed near the main entrance, was dedicated and blessed by his brother Cardinal Adam Maida to commemorate the occasion. In May, 2001 Fr. Ted announced that he was resigning as pastor. He was reassigned as a senior associate vicar at Holy Child Parish in Bridgeville, which is near his mother’s residence. He is remembered for his deep spirituality and his knowledge of the writings of our patroness, St. Teresa of Avila.
On July 7, 2001, Bishop Donaldl Wuerl installed Fr. Jim Ruggiero as the new pastor of St. Teresa Parish. He came to us with a long background in administration and he immediately tackled the parish’s cash flow problems. After three years he had the parish back on track financially and suggested to the bishop that because of his health problems and the extra work load created when the number of parochial vicars dropped from three to two, that a younger man was need for the job. The bishop selected Fr. Bob Vular, who had been one of our parochial vicars for three years and who was familiar with the parish to succeed him. Fr. Bob was installed as pastor on June 12, 2005.