The history of Holy Trinity Parish parallels the residential and industrial development of the
Ligonier valley. The first houses were built in the southern part of the valley, near Fort Ligonier in 1727 and the settlement was incorporated as the town of Ligonier in 1834. Three years later, German Benedictines built their first U.S. monastery in nearby Latrobe (now Saint Vincent Archabbey and College) in order to engage in missionary work.
Once a month, Benedictine priests traveled on horseback from Saint Vincent Abbey in Latrobe to Ligonier to say Mass and minister to Catholic families in their homes. By 1854, the Catholic population had sufficiently increased that visiting Benedictine priest, Odilio Vandergreen, recommended that a church be built.
Benjamin A. Kibel donated land on West Church Street and, along with his brother, George, and business partner, Francis Kost, the men oversaw construction. Parishioners made the bricks by hand from clay dug from the foundation for the building, a simple structure with a seating capacity of 100. Since the valley and Saint Vincent Abbey were part of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Bishop Michael O’Connor came from Pittsburgh to dedicate the new church Nov. 25, 1855.
From 1855 to 1902, Benedictine priests traveled to Ligonier once a month. Benedictine Father Andrew Hintenach, appointed in 1869, was the first of several Benedictines to serve as pastor of Holy Trinity Parish. Benedictine Father Felix Fellner, who served from 1902-21, celebrated the 50th Golden Jubilee of Holy Trinity Parish in 1905.
He was instrumental in the expansion of the West Church Street building, which was rededicated in 1909 after renovations were complete. Father Felix requested and obtained permission from Pittsburgh bishop Regis Canevin to celebrate Mass in an old schoolhouse in Wilpen. The first Mass was offered Dec. 25, 1908. The Benedictines traveled from Latrobe to serve Catholic families at the parish and its mission in Wilpen until 1967.
The first resident pastor, Father Cyril Vlossack served the Ligonier and Wilpen communities from 1934-50. The most significant addition to the Church Street facility was the establishment of the first parish school in 1942. The school opened a year later with 16 pupils enrolled. The Sisters of Mercy, who resided at St. Xavier Academy, Latrobe, staffed the school. To house the teaching sisters, Holy Trinity Parish renovated and opened a frame building adjoining the church as a convent in 1957.
By the 1950s, the West Church Street facilities, both church and school, were overcrowded and inadequate. At first, to address the overflow, Masses were also held in the movie theater, the Armory, and the church in the wilderness, a non-denominational worship space built by the Mellon family. A new site for the church and school was needed. The goal was to renovate the existing building temporarily until a new church could be built closer to Main Street.
Father Leander Pail, pastor, identified a possible site on West Main and West Vincent streets. The property included the vacant Ligonier Valley Railroad Roundhouse and Repair Shop. The purchase of the property was completed March 21, 1956 by Father Alfred Grotzinger, pastor. The goal was to renovate the existing building temporarily until a new church could be built closer to Main Street.
The first Mass in the new church was celebrated Pentecost Sunday, May 25, 1958. Bishop Hugh L. Lamb, first bishop of the Diocese of Greensburg, dedicated the building Sept. 21, 1958. In 1961, construction began for a new rectory adjacent to the church. A year later, a new convent was built and opened for the Sisters of Mercy in residence. The convent housed the sisters for more than 20 years, and in the late 1980s it was turned into a parish center.
Bishop William G. Connare then appointed Father Francis J.Tambellini (who later became a monsignor and served as chancellor of the diocese) to succeed Father Grotzinger. In 1978, the empty buildings on West Church Street, the first site of Holy Trinity, were demolished. The realty was later sold with the proceeds applied to the reduction of parish debt. For the 125th anniversary of the parish, the 1958 Holy Trinity Church underwent a beautification project. Bishop Connare officiated at the 125th anniversary Mass with Msgr. Tambellini assisting.
Father James F. Petrovsky was assigned to the parish after Msgr. Tambellini’s death in 1990. He served the community for six years and his successor was former Father Joseph P. Maddalena in July 1997.
Throughout the 1990’s, Holy Trinity Parish was beset with numerous repair and building renovation needs. These problems were discussed at a parish assembly, and in summer 1997 an ad hoc worship space committee was formed to study liturgical design, identify potential improvement, and visit newly built or renovated churches in the diocese and surrounding areas. Their final report was sent to the parish pastoral council. At the same time, the school administration and finance council urged consideration of other building needs, including the parish center.
The pastoral council formed a steering committee that included representatives from all councils, school and parish organizations and ministries. The work of this steering committee laid the groundwork for what was to follow. The diocesan renovation and construction policy dictated the next step, the formation of a parish building committee which would ultimately interview and select an architectural firm and obtain liturgical consultants with expertise in design and construction.
A capital campaign was initiated in 2002. Parishioners were asked for whatever monetary, service and prayer contributions they were able to make. Some donors came forward with major gifts, and foundations underwrote certain aspects of the project. Ground was broken in 2004 with a target completion date of Spring 2005.
The current Holy Trinity Church was dedicated by Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt May 8, 2005 with nearly 700 people in attendance. The bishop has applauded the parish community who were able to build a $3.2 million church and support a school without incurring any debt.
Msgr. William G. Charnoki arrived as pastor August 23, 2005, and served the parish community until his retirement. Father John M. Foriska, a native of Fairchance, and former pastor/administrator of the partner parishes of Sacred Heart and Ascension in Jeannette, then succeeded Msgr. Charnoki June 25, 2013.
Fr. John retired on February 1, 2019. He became a “Senior Priest Active,” however, and served at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral until July 14, 2022; he is now assisting at St. John the Evangelist Church and Holy Family Church, both in Latrobe.
Fr. Anthony Carbone assumed the pastorate of Holy Trinity on February 1, 2019.