Bishop Zubik discusses pandemic’s impact on Pittsburgh Diocese

Bishop David Zubik praises priests and lay leaders in Pittsburgh parishes for providing creative ways for people to connect with the church during the pandemic.”I think everybody’s working really hard to keep people safe while at the same time, most important of all, responding to people’s spiritual needs,” Zubik said in an interview with Pittsburgh’s Action News 4.”Everyone is handling it their own way. One of the things that I’ve continued to say is we can’t have a cookie-cutter approach to how we respond,” Zubik said.He says some parishes have chosen to resume masses without reopening church buildings.”One particular place that’s been very creative is Holy Spirit Parish in New Castle. They’re able to use the parking lot of a closed Sears department store and they’ve been getting large numbers of people who come in their cars,” Zubik said.We asked about the financial impact of the pandemic on the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Zubik said.”We actually anticipated we might have more than a 50% drop in collections. And, as a matter of fact, over the course of the last several months, we’ve been very surprised to see that it’s been 20%, which is a lot better than we anticipate,” Zubik said.The Diocese of Pittsburgh and many of its parishes and schools landed millions of dollars from the federal Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. They alone got $2.5 million and it says that within the Pittsburgh Diocese, 124 related entities landed $13 million to $14 million in PPP low-interest forgivable loans.”What Congress basically did was to recognize that religious organizations are employers,” Zubik said, “so, given the service that the employees in the church have an effect on society as a whole, that turned out to be a particular blessing.”He noted the PPP funds eased the extent of recent Diocese employee job cuts, which included 11 full-time and two part-time employees.”We actually were looking at eliminating 38 positions. so because of the PPP funding, actually that was able to be cut by two thirds,” Zubik said.As part of its recently announced reorganization, the Diocese is moving its offices in Downtown Pittsburgh to St. Paul Seminary. That downtown property’s value could help with the church’s future operating costs.”We will be putting the property up for sale and we’ll see what interest comes from it,” Zubik said. “We’ve pursued that lightly over the course of the last five years but I think now it will be a more serious effort to take a look at that property. It’s a valuable piece of property right in Downtown and so we’re hoping we’ll have a number of buyers who will have some interest in the property.”Zubik said proceeds from any sale of the downtown property would be used toward normal Diocese operations.As for the impact of the pandemic on the spiritual lives of Pittsburgh Catholics, “My hope is that it’s helping to deepen people’s faith,” Zubik said. “Being quarantined at home, maybe developing relationships with family members that we took for granted before — I like to see that as expanding to our church family,” Zubik said.

Bishop David Zubik praises priests and lay leaders in Pittsburgh parishes for providing creative ways for people to connect with the church during the pandemic.

“I think everybody’s working really hard to keep people safe while at the same time, most important of all, responding to people’s spiritual needs,” Zubik said in an interview with Pittsburgh’s Action News 4.

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“Everyone is handling it their own way. One of the things that I’ve continued to say is we can’t have a cookie-cutter approach to how we respond,” Zubik said.

He says some parishes have chosen to resume masses without reopening church buildings.

“One particular place that’s been very creative is Holy Spirit Parish in New Castle. They’re able to use the parking lot of a closed Sears department store and they’ve been getting large numbers of people who come in their cars,” Zubik said.

We asked about the financial impact of the pandemic on the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Zubik said.

“We actually anticipated we might have more than a 50% drop in collections. And, as a matter of fact, over the course of the last several months, we’ve been very surprised to see that it’s been 20%, which is a lot better than we anticipate,” Zubik said.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh and many of its parishes and schools landed millions of dollars from the federal Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. They alone got $2.5 million and it says that within the Pittsburgh Diocese, 124 related entities landed $13 million to $14 million in PPP low-interest forgivable loans.

“What Congress basically did was to recognize that religious organizations are employers,” Zubik said, “so, given the service that the employees in the church have an effect on society as a whole, that turned out to be a particular blessing.”

He noted the PPP funds eased the extent of recent Diocese employee job cuts, which included 11 full-time and two part-time employees.

“We actually were looking at eliminating 38 positions. so because of the PPP funding, actually that was able to be cut by two thirds,” Zubik said.

As part of its recently announced reorganization, the Diocese is moving its offices in Downtown Pittsburgh to St. Paul Seminary. That downtown property’s value could help with the church’s future operating costs.

“We will be putting the property up for sale and we’ll see what interest comes from it,” Zubik said. “We’ve pursued that lightly over the course of the last five years but I think now it will be a more serious effort to take a look at that property. It’s a valuable piece of property right in Downtown and so we’re hoping we’ll have a number of buyers who will have some interest in the property.”

Zubik said proceeds from any sale of the downtown property would be used toward normal Diocese operations.

As for the impact of the pandemic on the spiritual lives of Pittsburgh Catholics, “My hope is that it’s helping to deepen people’s faith,” Zubik said. “Being quarantined at home, maybe developing relationships with family members that we took for granted before — I like to see that as expanding to our church family,” Zubik said.