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Built in three stages, from 1887 to 1889, the current home of the Burning Bush House of Prayer has had a long history of serving as a place of spiritual solace and refuge. Initially part of St. Michael’s Church, a Roman Catholic parish perched on the Southside slopes, the large building was once flanked by both a high school and a gymnasium. In later years, it was also utilized as a convent, a care facility for elderly women, and an orphanage. In 1987, when the resident nuns relocated to Millvale, a group of lay Franciscans used the facility to start the Burning Bush retreat center.

Always involved in ecumenical Christian cooperation, Brother Fred Koerner, a lay Franciscan and Sister Damian, a Roman Catholic nun, admired the spirituality and dedicated ministry of Shepherd’s Heart, Uptown. This mutual respect and shared vision recently led the two to hand on their mission of prayer and service to Shepherd’s Heart, which is eager to embrace this new opportunity.

                                      

"I’ve been coming here for years," said Deacon Jim Chester of Shepherd’s Heart. "It’s always been a place of refuge for me," he continued. "As a Lieutenant on the University of Pittsburgh police force, I would finish my shift and come here to unwind and pray." The vision Chester shares with other Burning Bush staff members and the Rev. Michael Wurschmidt, pastor of Shepherd’s Heart, is to maintain the facility as a place of prayer, serenity and holiness, while serving the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and the greater Christian community of the region.

 

As it is a large structure with currently limited staffing, both Chester and Wurschmidt hope that others in the diocese, and in the larger Christian community, who understand the need for a place like the Burning Bush will be willing to donate some of their time and talent to help it reach its full potential. From helping to maintain the grounds to greeting visitors for an hour or two a week, there are many service opportunities available.