Over the past 100 years, Mass has been celebrated at St. Titus thousands and thousands of times. And it all started back on Christmas Day in 1910.

According to historical records, that’s the date of the very first Mass at the new parish in Aliquippa that was to be called St. Titus. Mass that day was celebrated in a vacant storeroom at the Woodlawn Trust building which was located at 340 Franklin Avenue. That building, which still stands, is near the current Aliquippa police department. At the time, St. Titus was considered a mission parish of St. Joseph catholic church in West Aliquippa. St. Joseph was founded in 1894. The need for another catholic church in Aliquippa was due to the steel industry boom in western Pennsylvania. In 1906, J&L began construction of its plant in Aliquippa. The priest who celebrated St. Titus’ first Mass on Christmas Day of 1910 was Father Michael McGarey, the pastor at St. Joseph. A few months later, St. Titus celebrated Mass at the DeCastrique Nickelodeon, a movie theater which was located at 754 Sheffield Avenue. That nickelodeon was located just a few blocks away our current church, very close to the high rise apartments that used to be called the Eleanor RooseveIt highrise.

The parish was officially created by Bishop Regis Canevin on February 6, 1911. When St. Titus moved into the nickelodeon, it was renamed Bonneville Hall. The first Mass there was celebrated on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1911. In Oct. of 1914, St. Titus got its first resident pastor. He was Father J.E. Rockliffe. It was Rockliffe who arranged for the purchase of the current St. Titus properties on Franklin Avenue, Sheffield Avenue and Sycamore streets. However, in 1917, Father Rockliffe left St. Titus. As a British subject, he was recalled for duty as the chaplain of the British Navy. His successor was Father John J. Greanery, who came to St. Titus in October of 1917. According to records, construction of a new church began it 1919. That church was supposed to be a “temporary” church that would be part of a new grade school. The church was dedicated on Oct. 20, 1920. The parish school was completed in 1924. But that “temporary” church was used for 36 years. Mass at the current St. Titus church building was celebrated for the first time on Nov. 27, 1956 when Father Edward Zauner was pastor.

Interior of Old St. Titus Church

First Communion from Bonnecamp Hill, 1918

First Communion from St. Titus, 1925

Interior of St. Titus Church today

During Monsignor Zauner’s 38-year tenure here at St. Titus, our parish experienced tremendous growth. At one time, St. Titus was the largest parish in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Among Monsignor Zauner’s many projects were adding a third floor to the parish school in 1951, the building of a new rectory in 1954 and the construction of a new church that was dedicated on Nov. 17, 1956. At some point during his first 24 years as pastor at St. Titus, Father Edward Zauner dreamed of the day his congregation would have a new church that would serve its growing congregation.

That dream was realized on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 17, 1956. That’s when our current church was dedicated in an impressive ceremony witnessed by close to 2,000 persons who crammed their way into the beautiful new building that cost $650,000.

To put that $650,000 figure in perspective, if the current St. Titus church was built today, it would cost roughly $5.3 million. Designed by Aliquippa architect Joseph Bontempo, the new church featured contemporary designs with a seating capacity of 956 in the main nave and 100 more in the choir loft. Among other features at the new church were altars made of imported Italian marble, a massive bell tower and a brilliant set of stained glass windows. In fact, a newspaper report noted that the front facade of the church was highlighted by one of the largest stained glass windows in the entire United States at the time. No one knows for sure exactly when Father Zauner, the St. Titus pastor until his death in 1970, first decided to build a new church. But ground was broken for the new building on. Nov. 28, 1954.

The cornerstone of the new church was celebrated during a ceremony on Aug. 7, 1955. Then at an 11 a.m. Mass on Nov. 17, 1956, the church was dedicated. Over 70 priests attended the ceremony. Eight priests concelebrated Mass, including Bishop John Dearden of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. No less than 18 altar boys also participated. The men’s and boys choir sang the melodic Latin “Regina Pacis” Mass (Queen of Peace). While an estimated 2,000 persons attended the dedication, a few hundred more were unable to gain admission into the new church because it was already filled to capacity.