Around the turn of the 20th century, when Catholics in the community of Marguerite wanted to attend Mass, they would have to travel to St. Vincent Parish, Latrobe, or to St. Cecilia Church, Whitney, which was a mission church of St. Vincent. As the number of Catholics increased in the Marguerite community, mainly because of the demand for coal, the people wanted to have a priest of their own to attend to the spiritual needs of their community.
A delegation from Marguerite petitioned the Right Reverend Archabbot Leander Schnerr of St. Vincent Archabbey and he consented. Father Alcuin Maucher, pastor of St. Vincent, then made an application to Bishop Richard Phelan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for permission to offer the sacrifice of the Mass at Marguerite.
Century of Faith: Church image on the cover of the 2001 anniversary booklet.The bishop granted the delegation’s request. “In compliance with your request of the 8th inst., the Rt. Rev. Bishop grants permission to say Mass, at least a couple times a month, in a private house at Klondike, until you can build a chapel and a school,” wrote Father William Kittell, Chancellor, in a letter dated October 25, 1900.
From that point forward, a priest came from St. Vincent on Sundays and holy days to celebrate Mass.
The mine officials offered the company store for the purpose of celebrating Mass, and a congregation gradually formed. A short time later the late Benedictine Father Wenceslaus Sholar, pastor of St. Cecilia Church received assistance from the monastery in order that he might be able to give more of his time to the people of Marguerite.
In early 1901, the Continental Coke Company granted property to St. Vincent for the purpose of constructing a church and later a school. The men of Marguerite asked the community for donations to build the church, which would seat approximately 350 people, and took the first census of Catholics in the area.
An architect was hired to draw up the plans and Mr. Christ Hornick and Sons from Johnstown was hired to construct the church. Many of the men of the church contributed labor, and farmers hauled the materials from Latrobe to Marguerite.
By fall 1901, the basement was finished and the cornerstone was laid. It was blessed by the late Benedictine Father Louis Hass of St. Vincent, also a prominent professor. Father Wenceslaus suggested the church be named St. Benedict because the Benedictine fathers would serve the church, and all consented.
A few months later the Coke Company transferred the land to the church, and granted an acre of land adjacent to the property to the school board of Unity Township for school purposes. This plot was later bought from the board in 1907 for the Catholic school.
This progress encouraged the people of Marguerite to continue their good work, and during the next year the church itself was built.
Archabbot Leander Schnerr dedicated the church September 14, 1908, complete with a large number of priests in attendance; the choir of clerics; and the presence of the late Father Adalbert Kasinzy, former pastor of St. Michael’s Slovak Church, Braddock, who preached in the Slovak and Magyar languages.
However, the inside of the church was far from complete. There were no pews and the people had to kneel on the floor. St. Vincent aided the people St. Benedict in many ways, and perhaps one of most prominent was the donation of the altar, carved by the late Brother Cosmas Wolf for the Benedictine Jubilee in 1880.
St. Benedict then became an official mission church of St. Vincent Parish, and from that point forward services were held regularly.
The late Benedictine Father Fridolin Hornick was greatly interested in education and succeeded in acquiring the school property from the school board and changed it into a Catholic School. The school opened in 1906 and had an enrollment of 107 students by 1907.
The late Benedictine Father Basil Balko later took steps to advance education in the area and started a new school building in 1923 as enrollment had reached 205 students. Before the school building was completed Father Balko was transferred to St. Ambrose Parish, Avonmore, and the late Benedictine Father Maurice Macey completed its construction in 1924.
Through the years, which included the Great Depression and the decline and death of the mining industry, the community maintained its strength and faithfulness.
The community saw the presence of many active societies and organizations through the years, and in the 1990s, began to grow, expanding to more than 200 families.
The Golden Years: Church in 1951 Many improvements were made to the church and rectory: The entrance was made accessible to people with special needs, the interior was fully renovated, a narthex was built, a three-tier baptismal font was added, a meeting area was added to the rectory and the parish grounds landscaped.
The community rallied to support the improvements with contributions of money and labor. St. Benedict Church also used the “Honoring Our Past … Shaping Our Future” capital campaign to help pay for past and present improvements by raising more than 120 percent of its $75,000 campaign goal.
The late Bishop Anthony G. Bosco celebrated a special Mass and blessing of the narthex and baptismal font November 7, 1999. Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki and Father Stephen R. Honegosky, administrator, participated in the blessing service.
On March 10, 2001, the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Greensburg, St. Benedict Church was officially established as a parish in the Diocese of Greensburg by Bishop Bosco ending its 99-plus year status as a mission to St. Vincent Basilica Parish. Benedictine Father Honeygosky (1996-2001) also officially became the first pastor.
Benedictine Father John F. Murtha, a native son of Marguerite, arrived as pastor in August 2001, and the parish marked 100 years of faith with a centennial anniversary celebration October 28 that same year.
People came to Marguerite at a time when coal was king and mine workers were needed. There have been great changes in the local economy and in the world since St. Benedict Parish was founded.
The parish was partnered with St. Bruno Parish in South Greensburg October 30, 2008, and later partnered with Our Lady of Grace Parish in Greensburg, June 25, 2013.
At present, St. Benedict has nearly 350 families.
The European languages of the founders of the parish are no longer spoken, but many of the ethnic traditions still remain.
Father Wenceslaus Sholar, O.S.B. 1900-1904
Father Boniface Wirtner, O.S.B. 1904-1905
Father Fridolin Hornick, O.S.B. 1905-1913
Father Peter Zupan, O.S.B. 1913-1916
Father Adrian Krakowski, O.S.B. 1916-1917
Father Basil Balko, O.S.B. 1917-1924
Father Maurus Macey, O.S.B. 1924-1948
Father Jordan Burick, O.S.B. 1948-1956
Father Valerian Mahala, O.S.B. 1956-1957
Father Eugene Neubert, O.S.B. 1957-1963
Father Cyril Vlossak, O.S.B. 1963-1965
Father Emmeran Rettger, O.S.B. 1965-1966
Father Valentine Koehler, O.S.B. 1966-1967
Father Giles Nealon, O.S.B. 1967-1968
Father Columban Bomkap, O.S.B. 1968-1980
Father Jordan Burick, O.S.B. 1980-1981
Father Gabriel Briestensky, O.S.B. 1981-1986
Father Damian Warnock, O.S.B. 1986-1987
Father Joachim Fatora, O.S.B. 1987-1995
Father Noel Rothrauff, O.S.B. 1995-1996
Rev. Stephen R. Honeygosky, O.S.B. 1996-2001
Father John Fr. Murtha, O.S.B. 2001-2004
Rev. Nathan J. Munsch, O.S.B. 2004-2008
Father Martin R. Bartel, O.S.B. 2008-2013
Daniel L. Blout: 2013 –
Rev. Alan Polczynski
Rev. Frank Gan
Rev. Eric Dinga
Rev. Ryan Ravis