Immaculate Heart of Mary Church

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

A Roman Catholic Parish of the Diocese of Pittsburgh

Parish History


     The first Polish settlers came to Polish Hill in 1885 from all areas of Poland. Families settled close together in order to preserve their language, customs and namely, their faith.


     In 1895, the number of people living on Polish Hill swelled and walking to the Strip District became more difficult and dangerous. That year, members of St. Francis Xavier Society asked permission from Bishop Phelan to erect a church and school for the over 400 children in the neighborhood.  Fr. Anthony Jaworski,C.S.Sp., pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka was the initiator of this. Rev. Fr. Zygmunt Rydlewski,C.S.Sp., associate pastor, was given the task of putting this parish together. The parishioners decided to name the parish after St. Francis Xavier, but a parish in the Woods Run section was being erected in his honor, so the parishioners unanimously chose Immaculate Heart of Mary. All the families on the hill donated monies toward this project.


     In October 1896, the chapel, convent and school were dedicated at the Paulowna Street site. In 1897, the number of families was 493 with 405 children in school.


     In 1901, the rectory was built on Brereton Avenue. The cornerstone of the church was blessed on July 31, 1904. The church was modeled after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.


     In 1922, the 25th anniversary was celebrated and improvements were made. In 1947, Father Joseph Sonnefeld, C.S.Sp., oversaw the 50th anniversary of a church with a vibrant parish life and a thriving school.


     In 1970, the church was designated a historic landmark. Fr. John Jendzura, C.S.Sp., directed renovations including adding a poratable altar to conform to the new norms of liturgy, replacing the organ, adding lecterns and plating the locket on the Immaculate Heart of Mary Statue with gold. The locket contains a list of the original founders of the parish. In 1972, the 75th anniversary was celebrated. At that time there were 2885 parishioners and 219 children in the school.


     The church is one of the first churches in the United States to hold the Divine Mercy Novena.


     The Holy Ghost Fathers left our parish in 1992. Since then we have been assigned pastors by the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Rev. Henry Szarnicki, S.T.L., served at our parish along with his brother, Rev. Zygmunt Szarnicki. When Fr. Henry fell ill, Rev. Joseph Sweirczynski was appointed pastor in 1995.


     Our church recently hosted the Polish American Priests Association for their convention Mass. Over 70 Polish American Clergy members attended along with Bishop David Zubik, Cardinal Maida(retired of Detriot) and Cardinal Dziwsz of Krakow. Cardinal Dziwisz presented us with a first class relic of Blessed John Paul II consisting of a piece of his blood stained cassock. We are truly privileged to have this relic.

    On the feast of Divine Mercy 2014 we celebrated the Canonization of St. John Paul II. During this Mass the relic was permanently enshrined in the church.


     We hold dear our old customs and celebrates new ones. Services are solemn and meaningful occasions.


We remember our past and are excited about our future for generations to come!

Remembering Father Joe

Rev. Joseph E. Swierczynski, a native of Sharpsburg, PA, attended St. John Cantius grade school and North Catholic High School.  He then attended St. Meinard College Seminary in Southern Indiana and St. Vincent College Seminary in Latrobe.  He received a BA in Philosophy and a M.Div. in Theology at St. Vincent.

His assignments include Parochial Vicar at St. Stephen in Hazelwood, St. Alphonsus in Springdale and St. Adalbert in South Side.  Father Joe was also pastor at St. Josaphat in the South Side from 1975 until 1992 when the parishes on the South Side were merged.


Father Joe completed further studies at Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana and served at Holy Sepulcher, Glade Mills and St. Thomas More, Bethel Park. 


Finally, Fr. Joe was assigned the pastorate at Immaculate Heart of Mary where his passion was to lead the flock to a greater love for God and His Mother, especially through liturgical customs and ethnic traditions. Going "all out" especially during great feasts was his way of making us aware of the beauty of our heritage and showing our great love for God. 

In May 2014, Father Joe celebrated his 50th Jubilee of his Ordination to the Priesthood during a Mass here at Immaculate Heart. 


 For twenty one years, Father's dreams and ambitions of being pastor of a church named for Mary and combined with Polish customs and heritage became a reality.

We here at Immaculate Heart keep Father Joe in our hearts as we continue to praise and worship our Lord.







Fr. Joseph E. Swierczynski