WARREN W. METZLER

WARREN W. METZLER
1937 – 2016
Pastor of St. James Parish
December 1, 1981 – January 1, 2016

Warren William Metzler was born to Paul William Metzler and Ellen Marie Zentner on July 20, 1937 in Braddock Hospital, Braddock, Pennsylvania. At the time, his parents lived on Monongahela Avenue in Swissvale and Warren was baptized at St Anselm Church. They moved to Rebecca Street in North Braddock while he was still very young. In 1942, they moved to Arkansas Avenue in Whitaker, near Kennywood Park, to a home built in 1912 by Ellen’s father, Peter Zentner. They lived there for the next forty years.
There were four children in the Metzler family: Patricia (later Schmidt), three years older than Warren, Joanne (later, Docherty) three years younger, and Paul Joseph, seven years younger and born just three days before Warren’s birthday.

THE EARLY YEARS
Warren attended public grade school in Whitaker. According to his own account, he decided in third grade that we wanted to be a priest. He reached this decision after viewing a vocation film of Girard Seminary in Girard, Ohio during his Sunday school class at St Rita’s church shown by a visiting Divine Word missionary.
During 7th and 8th grade, Warren attended a vocation club every Saturday at St Paul Monastery in South Side Pittsburgh. He took two streetcars and a bus to get there and never missed a Saturday. The vocation club consisted of over 200 young boys from all over the Pittsburgh area. The director of the vocation group was Father Julian, a Passionist priest. The club dissolved when Father Julian enlisted as a military chaplain at the beginning of the Korean War in 1950. Until the club disbanded, Warren had been on his way to becoming a Passionist priest himself.
At the end of 8th grade at the urging of his parish priest, Father Thomas Harnyak, Warren went on a week-long vocation retreat sponsored by the Pittsburgh diocese at St Fidelis Seminary in Herman, Pa., near Butler. He decided that he wanted to go to high school seminary there, but it was not to be. Bishop Deardon and his staff assigned Warren instead to attend St Thomas High School in Braddock, Pa, just across the river from his home. Warren has said that in retrospect he was very grateful for that coed high school experience and felt it was a major factor in his continuing his priestly aspirations.
In 1955, Warren attended St Gregory Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio for three years, completing his first college years and Minor Seminary. In 1958, he was sent to St Vincent Seminary where he completed his six years of Major Seminary. Warren was ordained on May 9, 1964 in St Paul Cathedral in Oakland, Pittsburgh by Bishop John Wright. He celebrated his first Mass at his home parish of St Rita in Whitaker on the following day.

MOST BLESSED SACRAMENT, NATRONA HEIGHTS
By the end of May, Father Metzler arrived at his first priestly assignment at Most Blessed Sacrament parish in Natrona Heights, PA, where he spent seven years as assistant pastor.
During his time there, Father taught CCD and was deanery director of the diocesan CCD programs. In all, Father Metzler taught teacher-training programs in the Pittsburgh diocese for over 18 years. He was chaplain at Allegheny Valley Hospital and was active in the parish and the diocese with the national Christian Family Movement (CFM). Over the years he went on to become national Chaplain of CFM for two separate terms and often attended regional, national and even international conventions and gatherings. CFM became a major part of his ministry. It was from CFM, he said, that he learned collaborative ministry, shared decision-making and the true vision of Church as a pilgrim people, working together to achieve the work of the Kingdom.

Father Metzler also became active in local civil rights and peace activities. He, was a co-founder of the Allegheny Valley Association of Racial Equality (AVARE), a member of the Alle-Kiski branch of the NAACP, the Allegheny Valley Peace Movement and numerous ecumenical activities of the community. He was volunteer director of the Allegheny Valley Community Ministry Center, the social service outreach arm of the Allegheny Valley Council of Churches.

In 1968, he and a neighboring Methodist minister, Rev. E. Phillip Wilson, began activities questioning the state highway department’s acquisition of homes for the building of the proposed Allegheny Valley Expressway. In 1971, they succeeded in having the highway moved a mile and a quarter into the countryside, thus saving over 200 homes of elderly, low income, and black families in the Tarentum and Creighton areas.
Father Metzler was often accused of ‘laying in front of bulldozers’ during those days, but he always said he never had to carry out the threat. He often stated that threatened activity is always more powerful than actual actions, because, once you carry out a threat, people have to respond and so they become defensive and much more antagonistic.
It was in 1968 that Father began wearing his well-known ‘Peace Medal’. He continues to wear that medal. He said it became ”a symbol to hang on to when feeling anxious or uncertain, a reminder that Peace and the Kingdom will ultimately be brought only by Jesus, and that no one can stop them from coming”.
That year he and seven other Pittsburgh area priests began seven years of tax refusal; refusing to pay 25% of their federal income tax in protest of the Vietnam War. Despite all this activity, Warren was always proud of the fact that in 1970 he was awarded the Man of the Year Award by the Harrison Township American Legion post for outstanding community service.

ST. SUSANNA, PENN HILLS
In May 1971, Warren was transferred to St Susanna Parish in Penn Hills. It was a large suburban parish with a very active CCD program. Penn Hills was beginning to develop some racial problems. By September Father, was very much involved in issues involving discrimination in the local high school. He was also instrumental in forming the Penn Hills chapter of the NAACP.
In 1972 Father was elected as a delegate to the Democratic National presidential Convention in Miami, Fl., committed to Senator George McGovern, an avowed peace candidate. During these years Father continued his active role in the Christian Family Movement, the Association of Pittsburgh Priests (APP), and the peace movement. He took up playing the acoustic guitar and began writing songs, especially folk tunes, about peace and justice issues.
In 1974, along with his life-long friends Joe & Madalyn Heinle with their eleven children, they bought 13 acres of land containing only a picnic shelter, a tool shed and an outhouse in Armstrong County, near Rural Valley, PA. ‘The Grove’, as it came to be called, became a life-long retreat where, in 1985, they built a small cottage and continued to develop the property as a wildlife sanctuary.

ST. EDWARD, BLAWNOX
In November, 1976, Father was transferred to St. Edward Parish in Blawnox, PA. St. Edwards was a smaller parish in a small town surrounded by affluent suburbs and attended by an elderly pastor, Father Edward Laffey and an 86 year old housekeeper. Parish life was quiet, but Father made CFM thrive there also. During this time, he served as chairman of the Association of Pittsburgh Priests, and continued to attend national and international CFM conventions.

ST JAMES WILKINSBURG
Father Metzler arrived at St James on December 1, 1981, succeeding Father Robert Murphy. Father Murphy was an idol of his in ministry since hearing of his caring ministry in Natrona which served as first years of priesthood for them both. Both spent their early years growing up in Braddock, attended the same schools and also shared ministry in the same deanery when Father Metzler was in Penn Hills and Father Murphy was in Wilkinsburg. Coincidentally, in Braddock, Father Murphy lived on Franklin St and Father Metzler, on Rebecca. One block over – just as St James church and school occupy Franklin and Rebecca streets in Wilkinsburg!
St James was a large but fading intercity parish on the edge of the city of Pittsburgh. It was characterized by financial and school enrollment problems. His first years there were dominated by overwhelming financial obligations including the school, replacement of the enormous and deteriorating church roof, and stabilization of the parish in the face of a declining number of parishioner families.
He was able to implement his ideas of collaborative ministry, initiating weekly staff meetings, integrating parish council into the process of parish decision-making; ultimately joining the staff and council into one collaborative body. In his twenty two years here, he has slowly but deliberately moved the parish, which was already very much involved in community needs and issues, toward awareness of and involvement in larger social issues such as world hunger, war and peace. The parish Peace & Justice Committee has become an integral partner in sensitizing parish members to the larger and crucial issues of the day.

With Joyce Rothermel, director of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank as a member of the parish, and of the Peace and Justice committee, the parish has begun the process of forming a genuine bond with the Food Bank’s work and goals.
One of the newest projects has been participation, through Father Metzler’s interest and Tim Goodall’s work, in the formation and operation of a Pittsburgh-wide group called Conscience. This group is dedicated to raising the awareness of the legitimate process whereby young people, considering conscientious objection as a response to war and military service, may gain the help they need to have their firm convictions recognized and accepted.

The latest parish direction, inspired through the parish’s involvement in the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN), is to address the community’s large number of abandoned and unsecured houses. Through a county grant of $160,000, the parish is now a part of a program to seek out and improve the housing situation of our community under the slogan, “Together We Build His House”.
Father Metzler, approaching 40 years as a priest and 22 years as pastor of St. James parish, as well as the 135th anniversary of the founding of the parish and the75th anniversary of the building of the present church building, has said that he looks back with gratitude on his life, the years of family closeness and those of priestly ministry.

He thanks God for the chance to serve in the time buoyed up and heartened by the Second Vatican Council, breathing, as it did, new life into the church and society. Father Metzler looks forward to the Pax Christi, the time when the Peace of Christ will enlighten and revitalize a struggling and troubled world, and where men and women together will serve and minister the message of Christ everywhere.