History of St. Brendan's
Brendan the Navigator was a fabled Irish saint credited with extensive travel and the establishment of monasteries and churches throughout Ireland and Scotland. His travels in the mid-sixth century likely took him to Iceland and Greenland, and some even credit him with discovering America centuries before other explorers.
Brendan’s strong desire to reach out to new worlds prompted the name of the mission church that was to be planted in Franklin Park. Bishop Alden Hathaway formally approved this outgrowth of Christ Episcopal Church, in Pittsburgh’s suburban North Hills, in January 1987, with the Rev. Dr. Patricia Carnahan as our leader.
From small beginnings and borrowed worship space, the congregation grew to 120 members within three years and was able to build its own space. Groundbreaking was held in May 1991, and on Palm Sunday in 1992, the bishop joined the congregation to dedicate and consecrate the new building.
After the mission church was established and thriving, Rev. Carnahan retired and St. Brendan’s began its search for a new rector in 1997. The Rev. Catherine A. (Cat) Munz was called in January 1998. The late 1990s and the years following were a growth period for St. Brendan’s. Under Rev. Munz’s leadership, new traditions were established, including women’s retreats and the use of various supplemental worship services. Members watched as their children graduated from the nursery to Sunday school to the Journey to Adulthood program and began their service as acolytes and choir members. Youth education programs thrived and St. Brendan’s teens made pilgrimages to destinations including California, Boston, New York City, South Dakota and Italy.
Growing membership challenged the space erected for St. Brendan’s, and plans were adopted for a major expansion to include a chapel, new and larger sanctuary, kitchen and expanded space for youth. A groundbreaking was held on Sept. 5, 2001. With workers deep in the “hole” that would become the foundation of the new sanctuary, news broke of terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. A special evening prayer service was held the following night, as members of St. Brendan’s became more cognizant of the need for their church and the importance of its work.
Within a year, the expanded St. Brendan’s was consecrated. While construction took place, however, the parish began feeling the impact of division within the Episcopal Church. Although the Pittsburgh diocese was split and various parishes left the national church, St. Brendan’s remained a steadfast member of ECUSA. Life as a parish continued and, in February 2003, members gathered to sing outside the home of a member on her 100th birthday. Four months later, the congregation celebrated the 10th anniversary of Rev. Munz’s ordination.
In 2008, she accepted a new call. By the end of the year, the Rev. Dr. William Pugliese joined St. Brendan’s as interim rector. Bill’s friendly guidance and solid leadership kept us on track, maintaining new families and maintaining our focus on our mission. He saw us through our 25th Anniversary, through the new Bishop Transition and eventual call for a new Permanent Rector. Fr. Bill celebrated his last service on September 29, 2013, and our last rector Fr. Daniel Scott Russell (Fr. Scott) joined us on November 3, 2013. Fr. Scott remained with us until March of 2016 when he accepted a calling to Rutgers University. Currently St. Brendan's is under the wonderful direction of Fr. Regis J. Smolko, as Priest-in-Charge.
As St. Brendan’s changes and grows, it is worth considering its namesake. Various accounts call Brendan the Navigator, the Wanderer, and the Voyager. He’s also been called Brendan the Bold, reflecting his will and determination to spread the Word in the early days of Christianity in Ireland. St. Brendan’s community embraces these traits. The parish celebrates the feast day of its patron saint on May 16 and anticipates the journey ahead.
Learn more about St. Brendan's Episcopal Church in this three-part history written for our twenty-fifth anniversary (part 1, part 2, part 3) and in this blog post written for our thirtieth anniversary.