STEPHEN P. WALSH

STEPHEN P. WALSH
1865-1950
Pastor of St James Parish
January 23, 1919 to November 18, 1950.

Stephen was born in Lucinda, Clarion County on July 14, 1865 and baptized at St Patrick’s Church, Brady’s Bend. He studied for the priesthood at Mt. St Mary College and Seminary in Emmitsburg. Maryland and was ordained there in 1892. He had a strong loyalty to his Alma Mater and his days at that school were often the topic of his conversation. Before arriving at St James as Pastor in January, 1919, Msgr Walsh serve as pastor of St Agatha, Bridgeville, chaplain at Mt Mercy Academy, Now Carlow College, and was Chancelor and Vicar General of the diocese. He was made a Domestic Prelate (Monsignor) in 1915.

Msgr. Walsh was well known for his involvement in civic and community affairs and his presence was easily recognized as he often walked the streets of Wilkinsburg in greatcoat and bowler hat during his 31 years as St. James’ pastor. He is credited as being a major force in getting Wilkinsburg to become a ‘dry’ community, where alcoholic beverages cannot be bought or sold. He served on the board of many community institutions and societies.

It is generally felt that nothing to his memory will ever surpass in dignity and testimony the church erected during his pastorate. Under his imaginative leadership, the new structure was begun in February 1928 and was dedicated and first used on August 10, 1931. Built in the Gothic style of the 11th and 12th centuries of self-cleaning Indiana limestone, its outstanding features include the Italian mosaic altar picture set in a massive, hand-carved oak frame; the carved oak wood of the sanctuary; the chestnut ‘inverted ship’ ceiling 80 feet above the nave floor; the stained glass panels from Wright Goodhue Company of Boston which line the nave, transepts and sanctuary.

Another unique feature is the carillon of 20 bells. When the bells were blessed, the Pittsburgh Press reported that “Wilkinsburg has the largest carillon found in any Catholic Church in the United States, and there are few churches of any other denomination which have a better set.” The big bell weighs 4,495 pounds. The little one is but 440 pounds. The tones of these bells peal out now as they did then, for Angelus prayer at noon and 6 PM, and for the celebration of weddings and funerals at St. James.

It was in the late 1940’s that Msgr. Walsh had the area under the main church converted to the Chapel. Traditions says that the wall mosaics were painted by a returning World War II veteran named Smith whom Msgr. Walsh engaged to copy them from postcards from the Holy Land. Most of the statues and appointments came from the earlier church building.

Msgr. Walsh died at St. James on November 18, 1950 at the age of 85. He is buried in the priest’s plot at Calvary Cemetery.

When I came to you, brothers and sister, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on the very power of God.  I Corinthians Chapter 2, v 1-5