In 1871 a mission church, under the auspices of St. Mary Catholic Church in New Castle, was established about a mile north of Koppel in the extreme northern reaches of Beaver County, Pennsylvania. The new church was built near the village of Clinton, an area that later became known as Hoytdale in 1892. It was likely erected on land donated by family members related to Lewis S. Hoyt (1840-1912), who had come from New Jersey in 1865 and made a fortune in various business ventures.
A small church building, which later known as St. Teresa Catholic Church, was dedicated on October 15, 1871. The new church was named in honor of a Spanish nun named Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), a religious leader who was prominent during a period of Catholic resurgence known as the Counter Reformation. A cemetery was also started on the church grounds. A pastor from St. Mary came once a month to provide local services.
A few years later, in about 1877, the mission was realigned to be affiliated with St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Darlington. The church was destroyed by a fire in early 1894. The New Castle News of Monday, February 26, 1894, reported, “St. Theresa’s Catholic church at Hoytdale was entirely destroyed by a fire Saturday. The fire broke out while services were in progress at the church, but no effective means for fighting the flames being at hand, the congregation was compelled to witness it burn. The church was an old structure, but was in a good state of preservation.” The church was soon rebuilt in a finer fashion.
Many folks from Koppel to distant Wampum would walk the “Koppel Branch” railroad tracks of the Pennsylvania & Lake Erie Railroad (P&LE) to attend mass at this church. In 1902 the St. Monica’s Parish was founded in Wampum (and a new church was dedicated in July 1905) and that lowered the attendance at St. Teresa Church. The church at Hoytdale was soon realigned once again to become a mission of St. Monica’s.
The Reverend Patrick A. Dooley, who took over as pastor at the newly established St. Monica Catholic Church in the summer of 1902, began holding services at Hoytdale. Dooley, suffering from a serious kidney ailment, passed away at the age of thirty-nine in May 1912. He was succeeded by the Reverend Thomas J. Walsh for the next few years. The Reverend Francis A. Maloney took over as pastor in October 1915 and guided the congregation for the next twenty-seven years. These pastors usually held Sunday services at both St. Monica’s and St. Teresa’s.
Another disastrous fire in late 1944 completely destroyed St. Teresa’s and all of the vital cemetery records. The Catholic Church authorities in Pittsburgh decided to abandon the remote site and ordered that a new church be re-established at Koppel, where most of the loyal parishioners now resided. A large office building on Arthur Street (& Sixth Avenue) in Koppel was soon acquired and a new St. Teresa Church opened in 1945. The building had previously served as the offices for the Koppel Industrial and Equipment Company (and originally for the Arthur Koppel Car Company), which shut down its local operations in 1937. The old cemetery in Hoytdale was soon abandoned as only a few burials took place over the next few years.
The Reverend Maloney departed in 1942 and was succeeded by a host of assistant and senior pastors to include James Harvey, Edmund F. Rowan, Frederick A. Atkinson, Frances Lezniak, Norbert J. Schramm, and Richard V. Paluse. In June 1951 the Reverend Edmund J. Sheedy arrived and took over as pastor of St. Monica’s and also of St. Teresa’s in Koppel. Sheedy worked hard to open the new St. Monica and St. Teresa (parochial) School in Koppel in the fall of 1952.
St. Teresa’s in Koppel was granted status as an independent parish/church in May 1962 and was provided with its own fulltime pastor. The first pastor was the Reverend John D. Fording, who came from an assignment in Aspinwall. It was sometime after St. Teresa’s became independent in 1962 that the parochial school was closed down.
The Reverend Fording departed in 1969 and was replaced by Reverend Cornelius H. Becker. The Reverend Nicholas R. Biondi, a native of New Castle who had attended St. Vitus Parochial School as a child, took over as pastor in 1974. He faithfully guided the congregation until he retired in June 1986 and was subsequently named pastor emeritus of St. Teresa’s. At that time the Reverend Joseph R. Lemp, a native of Pittsburgh who was ordained in 1956, assumed the post as pastor.
In the summer of 1992 it was announced that the churches in the Ellwood City area were to be reorganized. St. Joseph’s in Ellport would be closed on August 28, 1992, while St. Agatha’s and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ellwood City would receive new pastors. St. Teresa’s and St. Monica’s would be officially merged on August 30, 1992, to become the new Queen of Heaven Parish. Both of the churches, under the care of the Reverend Lemp, remained open as “worship sites.”
On the afternoon of Saturday, August 21, 2005, the roof of St. Monica’s was severely damaged by a powerful storm that swept through the Wampum area. The building was closed while repairs were made to the roof. The 150 members of the congregation began attending services in Koppel. Worse yet, the Reverend Lemp, at the age of seventy-five, suffered a stroke about a month later and was hospitalized in Beaver. He suffered another stroke in the hospital and passed away on Friday, September 30, 2005.
The parishioners were devastated by the news. A funeral mass was held at St. Teresa Church on the morning of Tuesday, October 4, 2005, and presided over by the Reverends Paul Bradley and William Winter. Among the esteemed attendees was the Most Reverend Adam J. Maida, a longtime friend who was serving as the Archbishop of Detroit. Lemp was interred in St. Agatha Cemetery that same afternoon.
St. Monica’s remained closed as church officials wrestled with the future of the small parish. In February 2006 the Reverend Joseph P. Pudichery, a native of India, was appointed to take over as pastor of Queen of Heaven Parish. Later that year, after studying the situation, he recommended to the diocese that the church in Wampum be permanently closed. It took some time but St. Monica Church was officially closed at the end of September 2008 – 105 years after it was established as an independent church. Reverend Pudichery, or “Father Joe,” continued to provide services at Koppel until moving on to a new assignment in 2009.
A fire on the afternoon of Friday, April 1, 2011, caused approximately $770,000 in damage to the Queen of Heaven Church in Koppel. The damage was primarily confined to the offices and Sunday school classes, although the church sanctuary did suffer minor damage from smoke and water. It was estimated it would take about a month to make the necessary repairs to resume services in the sanctuary. Daily masses continued on Monday, April 4, 2011, and were held in the nearby rectory. The services were presided over by the Reverend Raymond Boccardi – a retired pastor living in rectory. The larger weekend masses were held in the social hall of the Koppel Volunteer Fire Department for the time being, with the Parochial Vicar Lou Pascazi and Reverend Mark Thomas of Holy Redeemer helping out.
Repairs were stalled as the future of the small church came under the scrutiny of officials in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. On Saturday, October 1, 2011, the Most Reverend David A. Zubik, the Bishop of Pittsburgh, traveled to Koppel and visited with the displaced parishioners who officially numbered over 550. A month later, in early November 2011, the diocese announced, as part of a consolidation effort, that the Queen of Heaven Church in Koppel would be permanently closed after services on Sunday, November 26, and merged into the Holy Redeemer Parish in Ellwood City.
Zubik explained his reasons for the closure in a letter that ended with, “This is an exciting opportunity to unite as members of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, present and alive in the Koppel, Wampum, and Ellwood City region. It is my hope that the priests, members of the parish pastoral and finance councils, and parishioners will work together to reach out to every Catholic and every person in the region with a witness of what it means to love and to serve Jesus Christ and one another. May God bless you as you live out that baptismal call. Grateful for our belief that “Nothing is Impossible with God,” I am… Your brother in Christ, David A. Zubik.”
In early December 2011 the parishioners started generally attending mass at the Holy Redeemer Church in Ellwood City. After 140 years of active service, the church formerly known as St. Teresa’s, was officially closed for good.
In this photo you can see where a new entrance (for the church) has been carved into the old office building. You can see the different colored brick around the entrance. The far entrance, partially visible on right, was for the school. (2007)
Three school photos from the mid-1950’s at St. Teresa’s Catholic School. From left its my mom MaryAnn DeMarc in 1st grade, her sister Carol Jean DeMarc in the 3rd grade, and their cousin Ronnie Teck in the 6th grade. Full Size
My mom’s 1st grade report card from the 1954-55 school year at “St. Teresa and Monica School.” (1955)
Another of my mom’s report cards from the 1957-58 school year. Notice the card is marked as ‘St. Monica and St. Teresa School.’ (1958)
Similar to pic #9 above, but this is the official group photo. First Holy Communion photo from May 1956. That’s my mom again – with the socks!
The Catholic school children are shepherded into position for the results captured in pics #9 and #13.
I believe I see my cousin Ronnie Teck in the middle of this and the next photo. (May 1955)
Donna Mineo is front and center in this photo. (May 1955)
A photo of St. Teresa’s school kids taken on the first day of school in September 1956. Full Size
(Aug 2012) Full Size