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Publisher & Managing Editor
Steven M. Osifchin
Joy E. Kovalycsik
On Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Presov His Excellency, Bishop Jan Hirka (1923-2014) died in his 90th year. He was in the 65th year of his priesthood and 25th year as a Bishop. He was born in Abranovce, Slovakia and ordained a priest in 1949. Reverened Hirka was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Archeparchy of Presov when it was revived on April 2, 1969, after years of suppression under communist rule. He was appointed Eparch on December 21, 1989 and ordained as a bishop on February 17, 1990. Bishop Hirka retired on December 11, 2002.
Vechnaya Pamyat - Eternal Memory
text and photos by Jacqueline Ruyak
Reprinted here with Permission of CNEWA
by Jacqueline Ruyak with photographs by Balazs Gardi/VII Network
Reprinted here with Permission of CNEWA
by Michael J.L. La Civita
Reprinted here with Permission of CNEWA
A brief profile of the Hungarian Greek Catholic Church.
text by Dr. Janka György
photographs by Miklós Erdös CNEWA
Reprinted here with Permission of
by Michael J.L. La Civita
Reprinted here with Permission of CNEWA
by Michael J.L. La Civita
Reprinted here with Permission of CNEWA
by the Rev. Nicholas Rachford, J.C.L.
Reprinted here with Permission of CNEWA
Bridgeport, Fairfield County, Connecticut
New Britain, Hartford County, Connecticut
Bridgeport, Fairfield County, Connecticut
Stratford, Fairfield County, Connecticut
Trenton, Mercer County, New Jersey
Mahwah, Bergen County, New Jersey
Passaic, Passaic County, New Jersey
Phillipsburg, Warren County, New Jersey
Alpha, Warren County, New Jersey
Passaic, Passaic County, New Jersey
Passaic, Passaic County, New Jersey
Binghamton, Broome County, New York
Corning, Steuben County, New York
Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Lakewood, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Brecksville, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Parma (Cleveland), Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Barberton, Summit County, Ohio
Lorain, Lorain, Ohio
Lakewood, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
Freeland, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
Homer City, Indiana County, Pennsylvania
Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania
Lopez, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania
Annandale, Fairfax County, Virginia
Weirton, Hancock County, West Virginia
First Metropolitian of the Archepharchy of Pittsburgh
Born: June 11, 1915
Ordained: March 30, 1941
Enthroned First Bishop of Passaic: July 31, 1963
Enthroned First Metropolitian Archbishop of the
Byzantine Archepharchy of Pittsburgh: October 23, 1956
Died: March 7, 1995
Stephen John Kocisko was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 11, 1915. He was the son of John Z. Kocisko and Anna Somos.
His father John Z. Kocisko was born in Minneapolis in 1888. Not long after his birth the family returned to Slovakia. His birth/baptism was entered into the Lutheran church records in the village of Hanusovce nad Topl'ou, Slovakia. It was noted in the entry that he had been born in Minneapolis. He was the son of Anna Zelenak a Greek Catholic of Carpatho-Rusyn decent and John Kocisko a Lutheran of Slovak descent. Both John and Anna were born in the village of Bystre, Slovakia. By 1910 John had returned to America. On February 22, 1911 at the age of 22 he enlisted in the Army at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. He served for three years with the Coast Artillery in California as a mechanic. John was discharged on February, 1914 at Ft. Barry, California.
John married the former Anna Somos on July 11, 1914. They were married in Alden, Pennsylvania by a Greek Catholic priest, the Rev. Anthony Lotowyez. Anna Somos was born in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Andrew Somos a Greek Catholic of Carptho-Rusyn background from the village of Lozin, Slovakia and Anna Rost. John and Anna had nine children from 1915 to 1938. John supported his growing family from approximately 1914 to 1940 as an inspector at a flour mill. As of 1920 they were renting a residence on California Street in North East Minneapolis. The family relocated by 1930 to their own home on 22nd Avenue in Minneapolis.
Stephen grew up in Minneapolis and graduated from De La Salle Catholic High School. He went on to Nazareth Preparatory Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Bishop Basil Takach transferred him to Saint Josaphat’s Seminary in Rome where he undertook courses in philosophical and theological studies. He graduated with a Licentiate (Masters) Degree in Sacred theology. He was ordained to the holy priesthood in Rome by Bishop Alexander Evreinoff on March 30, 1941. He returned to the United States and was assigned churches in Detroit Michigan, Lyndora and Michigan, Pennsylvania. He was named to the Exarchate’s Matrimonial Tribunal and also served as a professor at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh. Due to expansion, Bishop Nicholas Elko petitioned His Holiness, Pope Pius XII for an auxiliary bishop. This request was granted and on October 23, 1956 Father Stephen Kocisko was enthroned as a bishop at the Cathedral of Saint Paul of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Bishop Kocisko began his tenure at Holy Ghost Parish in Pittsburgh. For the next number of years he performed his duties as auxiliary bishop and also was appointed Rector of the Seminary and also as Vicar General.
On July 6, 1963 the Holy See advanced the status of the Greek Catholic Church in America from Exarchate to Eparchy. His Holiness, Pope Paul VI placed the church into two separate jurisdictions. One was the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic and the second which was in Pittsburgh included the rest of the United States. Now, the new Eparchy of Passaic required a Bishop. The Pope approved the installation of Bishop Stephen Kocisko as the first Bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic. On July 6, 1963, Bishop Kocisko was enthroned at the Cathedral of Saint Michael the Archangel in Passaic, New Jersey. Bishop Koscisko had a monumental task to undertake. He had to construct a new Eparchy which included a chancery and outline plans for it’s administration and management. He also was instrumental in beginning the Eparchy newspaper “The Eastern Catholic Life.” In conjunction with all these duties, he also attended the Second Vatican Council in Rome.
On December 22, 1967, Bishop Kocisko was elevated as the replacement of Bishop Elko as head of the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church in America. He was enthroned in Pittsburgh on March 3, 1968 and Father Michael Dudick was enthroned as the new Bishop for the Eparchy of Passaic. On February 23, 1969 Pope Paul II published a decree “Quandoquidem Christus” that elevated the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church in America into a Metropolia. The Eparchy of Pittsburgh was advanced to an Archepharchy and the Eparchy of Passaic became a suffragan to the Metropolia. On February 29, 1969 Pope Paul VI appointed Bishop Stephen Kocisko to the status of Archbishop. Later, on June 11, 1969 Archbishop Stephen Kocisko was enthroned as the first Metropolitan in the history of the Rusyn faithful. The Most Reverend Luigi Raimondi, Apostolic Delegate to the United States presided at the ceremony. Metropolitan Kocisko immediately began work by establishing an Office of Religious Education; a Cantor’s Institute and promoted an Archeprchial Museum to preserve the history and religious holdings of the Archepharchy. He also encouraged many publications, books and pamphlets. The subjects dealt with the Americna church but also with those regarding the history of the Epharchy of Presov, Slovakia and Mukachevo, Ukraine. In 1974 he assisted with the construction of a Byzantine chapel at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., and in 1986, Metropolitan Kocisko along with the Bishops of the Ruthenian Metropolitan Province began the cause for canonizations of three bishops (Bishops Theodore Romzha of Mukachevo, Paul Gojdich of Presov and Basil Hopko of Presov) who had been martyred for the faith in Eastern Europe.
During February of 1990, Metropolitan Kocisko travelled with others of the American Byzantine Catholic hierarchs to the Eparchy of Presov and Mukacevo to support them after so many years of persecution. As was church tradition, Metropolitan Kocisko submitted his resignation to Pope John Paul II on June 11, 1990. He was 75 years old and his health was beginning to fail. At the time of his resignation, Metropolitan Kocisko had served as a priest for fifty years and thirty-five years as a Bishop/Metropolitan. On March 7, 1995, Metropolitan Kocisko died and was interred at Calvary Cemetery of Mount Saint Macrina in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
His Excellency Metropolitan Thomas Dolinay, D.D.
Second Metropolitan Archbishop
of the Archepharchy of Pittsburgh
Born: July 24, 1923
Ordained: May 16, 1948
Installed First Auxiliary Bishop of Passaic: November 23, 1976
Enthroned First Bishop of Van Nuys: March 9, 1982
Enthroned as Metropolitan: May 16, 1991
Died: April 13, 1993
His Excellency Metropolitian Judson Procyk, D.D.
Third Metropolitan Archbishop
of the Archepharchy of Pittsburgh
Born: April 9, 1931
Ordained: May 19, 1957
Elevated to Title of Monsignor/Prelate of Honor: March, 1975
Enthroned as Metropolitan: February 7, 1995
Died: April 24, 2001
Metropolitan Judson Michael Procyk was born April 9, 1931 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Michael Procyk and Mary (Buchko) Procyk. He had two siblings, Ida (1925-2012) and Henry. Michael Porcyk was born and raised in the city of Lubaczuw in the former Galicia region, present day Southern Poland. He was employed as a truck driver for Original Wonder Bakers located in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He raised his family in South Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
Metropolitan Judson’s mother Mary Buchko departed for the U.S. on February 8, 1902 sailing on the SS Neckar sailing from the port of Bremen, Germany. She was traveling with her mother Mary (Possiak) Buchko and younger sister Helen. Their last residence was listed as the village of Zavadka, Slovakia, formerly known as Zavadka, Szepes, Hungary. They arrived at the Port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on March 3, 1902. Their final destination was Stauffer, Pennsylvania to join Mary’s father.
After the completion of his elementary education, Judson attended St. Procopius College in Lisle, Illinois. Later, he pursued further priestly studies at Duquesne University. On May 19, 1957, Judson Procyk was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Nicholas T. Elko. After ordination, Father Judson went on to serve in various churches throughout the Archepharchy of Pittsburgh. He was also named the Assistant Chancellor of the Eparchy and secretary to Bishop Stephen John Kocisko in 1968. Seeing Father Judson’s outstanding intellectual and organizational abilities, he was named Rector of the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Father Judson worked tirelessly to expand various departments and initiated a number of formal procedures for priestly formation in accordance with the Second Vatican Council’s Decree. In acknowledgement of his devotion and hard work, Pope Paul VI bestowed the title of Monsignor upon Father Judson. Later, a further honor was issued that of prelate of honor with the title of Right Reverend Monsignor.
During July, 1973, Monsignor Judson was installed as Rector of St. John’s Cathedral in Munhall Pennsylvania. He would serve here for twenty-two years. Under Monsignor Judson’s tenure, a major restoration project was initiated. A new Cathedral, similar to the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, was solemnly dedicated on June 12, 1994 by Bishop Michael Dudick, Acting Metropolitan and Bishop Bilock, Archeparchial Administrator. On November 14, 1994, Pope John Paul II announced the selection of Monsignor Judson as the third Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Byzantine Catholic Church in America and sixth ordinary of the Pittsburgh Byzantine Archeparchy. Monsignor Procyk was consecrated bishop and installed as Metropolitan Archbishop at St. John’s Cathedral on February 7, 1995. Three Bishops, Michael Dudick of Passaic, Andrew Pataki of Parma and George Kuzma of Van Nuys ordained him. Also, performing the official installation was Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the United States. Twenty-nine Eastern Rite and Latin Rite bishops attended including four bishops from European eparchies.
Metropolitan Judson established new guidelines for the administration of his flock. He also instituted a Cantors’ Institute, a diaconate program and many other significant changes. He also proposed a return to the Eastern Christian spiritual and liturgical practices that had been abbreviated throughout the years. Unfortunately, Metropolitan Judson would not see the full implementation of his plans. He passed away unexpectedly at the age of 71 on April 24, 2001. His Funeral Liturgy was celebrated on April 30, 2001 at St. John’s Cathedral. Two cardinals, four archbishops and 27 bishops along with numerous faithful were in attendance. During the funeral mass homily, Bishop Andrew Pataki, Bishop of Passaic, New Jersey at that time, said “the church is better because he was here.”
His Excellency Metropolitan Basil Schott, O.F.M.
Fourth Metropolitan Archbishop
of the Archepharchy of Pittsburgh
Born: September 21, 1939
Ordained: August 29, 1965
Enthroned as Bishop of Parma: July 11, 1996
Enthroned as Metropolitan: May 3, 2002
Died: June 10, 2010
His Eminence Most Reverend William C. Skurla, D.D.
Fifth Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archepharchy of Pittsburgh
Born: June 1, 1956
Ordained Priest: May 23, 1987
Ordained Bishop and Enthroned Third Bishop of Van Nuys: April 23, 2002
Enthroned as Fourth Bishop of Passaic: January 29, 2008
Enthroned Fifth Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archepharchy of Pittsburgh
: April 18, 2012
Apostolic Exarch Basil Takach (Takacs)
First Bishop of Passaic
Episcopal Ordination: 6/15/1924
Basil Takach was born in a village in Maramoroš County on October 27, 1879. He attended the Uzhorod Seminary as his father and uncle had and was ordained on December 14, 1902. After nine years serving in various parishes, Bishop Julius Firczak appointed Father Takach controller of the Eparchial bank and executive officer of its printing society. After World War I, Father Takach assumed the role of spiritual director of the seminary, professor of religion at the Eparchial teacher's college, member of the matrimonial tribunal and diocesan consultor. During this period, he was selected as the new bishop for the newly established Greek Catholic Exarchate in the United States.
The news of this was very well received by the immigrant Carpatho-Rusin community. Father Takach was ordained as a Bishop in Rome on Pentecost Sunday, June 15, 1924. Later, he sailed on the ocean liner Mauretania for the United States. On August 13, 1924, a large crowd met him at the pier of New York Harbor. After performing a service of thanksgiving at St. Mary's Greek Catholic Church in New York, Bishop Takach set about the task of organizing the new Exarchate. Bishop Takach designated a permanent episcopal seat and residence. The papal bull appointing Father Takach as bishop stated the episcopal seat of the Greek Catholic Exarchate would be New York City. Bishop Takach established temporary residences, first in Trenton, New Jersey, and later in Uniontown, Pennsylvania as this was considered a more suitable location for his episcopal seat. Representatives from St. John the Baptist Greek Catholic Church in Homestead/Munhall, Pennsylvania met with Bishop Takach and presented him with a formal written proposal offering land and assistance if he would establish his residence and episcopal seat at the parish. Bishop Takach accepted the generous offer and designated St. John's as the cathedral of the new Greek Catholic Exarchate. In December 1925, the bishop's residence and chancery were completed. In February 1926, Bishop Takach officially took up residence in Munhall across the street from his new cathedral.
With the creation of the administrative structure for the new Exarchate, Bishop Takach required the clergy to conduct a census of all parishes. The census showed the new Pittsburgh Greek Catholic Exarchate consisted of almost 300,000 faithful organized into 155 parishes and mission churches served by 129 priests. During Bishop Takach’s administration the Holy See issued a decree entitled Cum Data Fuerit. Bishop Takach vehemently opposed the new decree and used all possible means to persuade the Holy See to reverse its decision. When the Holy See rebuffed all appeals, Bishop Takach insisted that the celibacy decree must be obeyed. Bishop Takach worked tirelessly for twenty four years as the first bishop of the Pittsburgh Greek Catholic Exarchate. Bishop Takach died on May 13, 1948 at sixty-nine years of age. A solemn Hierarchical Requiem Liturgy at St. John’s Cathedral was attended by seven bishops, three abbots, one hundred and eighty priests and scores of civil, fraternal, cultural leaders and unknown numbers of the faithful. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery at Mount Saint Macrina, Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
His Grace Michael J. Dudick
Second Bishop of Passaic
Born: February 24, 1914
Ordained: November 14, 1935
Enthroned Bishop of Passaic: October 24, 1968
Died: May 30, 2007
Michael Joseph Dudick was born February 24, 1916 to Rusyn immigrant parents in St. Clair, Pennsylvania. He attended public schools in Pennsylvania and then attended Illinois Benedictine College and St. Procopius Seminary in Lisle, Illinois. He was ordained to the priesthood on November 14, 1945 by Bishop Basil Takach at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in Munhall, Pennsylvania. He served parishes in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Pope Paul VI conferred the rank of Right Reverend Monsignor on October 25, 1963. He was ordained a bishop and enthroned on October 24, 1968 as the second bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic in Saint Michael’s Cathedral, Passaic. Bishop Dudick served as a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and was a member of the Committee for the Revision of Eastern Canon Law. He also served on the Board of Overseers for Harvard University and on the Board of Regents of Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey.
Bishop Dudick retired as bishop of Passaic in 1995. He died at age 91 on May 30, 2007. He is buried in the cemetery of Mount Saint Macrina Monastery in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
His Excellency, Most Reverend Andrew Pataki, J.C.L., D.D
Third Bishop of Passaic
Born: August 30, 1927
Ordained: February 24, 1952
Enthroned Bishop of Passaic: February 8, 1996
Died: December 8, 2011
His Excellency, Most Reverend Andrew Pataki, J.C.L., D.D., Bishop Emeritus of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, passed away on Thursday, December 8, 2011 at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune, NJ from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident.
Bishop Andrew Pataki was born in Palmerton, PA on August 30, 1927 of the late Ignatius and Sophie (Dejak) Pataki. Following his early education in the Palmerton Public Schools, and Central Catholic High School in Allentown, PA, he enrolled in Saint Vincent’s College, Latrobe, PA. In 1944, he began his studies for the priesthood. He graduated from Saint Procopius College-Seminary in Lisle, Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy in 1948. He completed his theological studies at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh, PA. He was ordained to the priesthood in the Byzantine Seminary Chapel by the Bishop Daniel Evancho, Exarch of Pittsburgh, on February 24, 1952.
Among his early assignments as a priest were at Saints Peter and Paul Church, Braddock, PA; Saint Pius X Church, Pittsburgh, PA; Saints Peter and Paul Church in Endicott, NY; and at Saint Nicholas Church in Lorain, OH. During his eight years as pastor there, he constructed a parochial school and convent. He was later appointed Pastor of Saint John Chrysostom Church in Pittsburgh, PA. He was sent to Rome, Italy to pursue graduate studies in Canon Law at the Pontifical Institute for Oriental Studies where he received Bachelor and Licentiate Degrees in Canon Law. After returning home, he was appointed Rector of the Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA, where he taught courses in Pastoral Theology, Canon Law, Byzantine Chant and the Ruthenian Language.
In 1974, Pope Paul VI designated him a Monsignor, with the rank of Prelate of Honor and appointed him a consultor on the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Eastern Code of Canon Law. In 1979, he was appointed the Pastor of Saint Mary’s Church, Weirton, W. VA. His assignments in the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh included: Defender of the Bond on the Matrimonial Tribunal, Director of the Society of the Sacred Heart, Chairman of the Liturgical Commission, Vice Chancellor, Chancellor and Consultor.
On June 14th, 1983, Monsignor Andrew Pataki was named the Auxiliary Bishop to the Bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, Bishop Michael J. Dudick. He was consecrated a Bishop on August 23, 1983 at Saint Peter’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Scranton, PA. The following year, he was appointed the second Bishop of the Eparchy of Parma, OH. During his 11-year tenure there, he established three regional syncellates (Episcopal Vicariates) and appointed a Syncellus (Episcopal Vicar) for each. He also promulgated a standardized form of the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom and of the Presanctified Liturgy. He initiated a five-year process for an Eparchial Assembly, promulgated the statutes proposed by that Assembly, established a Presbyteral Council, a Protopresbyteral Council, a Pastoral Council, a Finance Council and a Cantor’s Institute. He established the Eparchy on a firm financial foundation and by 1991 was thus able to make a substantial gift of $235,952.00 to the newly reestablished Eparchy of Mukachevo in present-day Ukraine.
On November 21, 1995, the Vatican announced that Bishop Andrew Pataki was appointed the Bishop of the Eparchy of Passaic, NJ. Hundreds of well wishers crowded the Cathedral of Saint Michael the Archangel in Passaic, NJ on Thursday afternoon, February 8, 1996 to join in the enthronement Hierarchical Divine Liturgy making Bishop Andrew the third Bishop of Passaic. His Excellency, Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the United States, read the Bulla of Pope John Paul II appointing Bishop Andrew to head the Passaic Eparchy. The Bulla stated: “Since you, venerable brother; endowed as you are with outstanding qualities of mind and heart and very experienced in ecclesiastical matters and those of Canon Law seemed suitable to govern it we release you from the bond of the already-mentioned eparchial see (ie, Parma), and we appoint you Bishop of the Eparchy of Passaic of the Ruthenians with all rights granted and obligations imposed which belong to this office.”
As the Bishop of the Eparchy of Passaic, Bishop Andrew established a new governing structure for the Eparchy by dividing it into six Syncellates and appointing a Syncellus for each. Each Syncellus was given wide canonical powers for granting dispensations and permissions. He promulgated a standardized form of the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, the Presanctified Liturgy and the Sacraments of Initiation. In this last, he restored the ancient practice of giving the Holy Eucharist to everyone, including babies, at the time of Baptism. He reorganized most of the Eparchial Commissions and Programs. He established a Diaconate Formation Program. He reestablished the ancient tradition of the Byzantine Clergy wearing pectoral crosses and conferred a beautiful Greek-styled cross on each priest in September of 2000. He established a separate Marriage Jubilee celebration in each of the six Syncellates.
Bishop Andrew was named by his fellow Bishops of the Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh to be the Episcopal Chair for the Inter-Eparchial Canon Law Commission. This Commission helped to formulate the Particular Law for our Metropolitan Church – the first of its kind among the Eastern Catholic Churches of the world. It became effective on October 1, 1999. Upon the death of Metropolitan Judson Procyk in April of 2001, Bishop Andrew; because he was the senior Bishop according to Episcopal ordination, automatically became the Acting Metropolitan of the Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh sui iuris until a new Metropolitan Archbishop was installed.
At the age of 80, in 2007, his request for retirement was accepted by Pope Benedict XVI.
After retirement, Bishop Andrew remained active in ministry. He served at St. George Byzantine Catholic Church in Linden and was the Administrator of St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church, Perth Amboy, until his death.
Bishop Andrew was preceded in death by his parents, Ignatius and Sophie, also by a brother, Ignatius Pataki, Jr., Sisters Mary Kern, Sophia Iliades, Ann Roberts and Julianna Gamble. He is survived by brothers Deacon Michael Pataki and wife Annetta, Mountaintop, PA; Charles Pataki and wife Betty, Cincinnati, OH; sisters Helen Hahn, Ellicott City, MD; and Peggy Rendesh, Hope Mills, NC and in addition numerous nieces and nephews.
The reception of the Bishop’s body will be Tuesday, December 13, 2011, 5 PM at the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel, 96 First St., Passaic. The bishop will lie in state from 5:30-7 PM with services at 7 PM. Wednesday the Bishop will lie in state at the Cathedral, 10AM-1PM, and 6-7 PM with services at 7 PM. Funeral services will be Thursday December 15, 2011 10 AM with Hierarchical Funeral Divine Liturgy for a Bishop and pouring of oil with Panachida. Interment will be at Calvary Cemetery in Uniontown, PA on Friday at 1 PM. Arrangements under the direction of the Shook Funeral Home, 639 Van Houten Ave., Clifton.
His Eminence Most Reverend William C. Skurla, D.D.
Fourth Bishop of the Eparchy of Passaic
Current Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh
Born: June 1, 1956
Ordained Priest: May 23, 1987
Ordained Bishop and Enthroned Third Bishop of Van Nuys: April 23, 2002
Enthroned as Fourth Bishop of Passaic: January 29, 2008
Enthroned Fifth Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archepharchy of Pittsburgh
: April 18, 2012
Metropolitan Archbishop William Charles Skurla, D.D. was born in Duluth, Minnesota June 1, 1956. He is the son of the late John and Mavis Skurla. He attended Catholic and public elementary schools and graduated in 1974 from Chisholm High School, Chisholm, Minnesota.
Bishop William attended Deerfield Academy Post-Graduate program in Deerfield, Massachusetts 1974-75 and then attended Columbia University in New York City, graduating with a concentration in Philosophy in 1981. Following this, he then studied at Mary Immaculate Seminary in Northampton, Pennsylvania receiving Master of Divinity (1986) and Master of Theology (1987) degrees.
Discerning a call to serve the Lord in a special way, William Skurla entered the Byzantine Franciscan community in Sybertsville, Pennsylvania in 1981 and was solemnly professed in 1985. Bishop Michael Dudick ordained him to the diaconate in 1986 and to the priesthood in 1987 at St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Freeland, Pennsylvania. In 1996, having received and accepted his dispensation from solemn vows as a member of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), he was incardinated into the Eparchy of Van Nuys, where he served as Pastoral Administrator at St. Melany Byzantine Catholic Church in Tucson, Arizona from 1993 until 2002.
Metropolitan Archbishop William was ordained to the Episcopacy and enthroned as the Third Bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Van Nuys (now the Eparchy of Phoenix) on April 23, 2002 in Phoenix, Arizona. In December 2007 he was appointed Fourth Bishop of the Eparchy of Passaic (N.J.) and was enthroned at St. Michael Cathedral in Passaic on Jan. 29, 2008.
The Episcopal chairperson of the Intereparchial Vocations Commission (IEVC) and Intereparchial Youth Commission for the Metropolitan Church, Bishop William was a member of the Committee on the Laity with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). He currently serves as a member of the USCCB Administrative Committee, Priority and Plans Committee, and National Advisory Committee.
Metropolitan Archbishop William was appointed fifth Metropolitan of the Byzantine Catholic Ruthenian Church in America by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on Jan. 19, 2012.
His Grace, Most Reverend Kurt R. Burnette
Fifth Bishop of the Eparchy of Passaic
Born: November 7, 1955
Ordained a Priest: April 26, 1989
Appointed Bishop of Passaic: October 29, 2013
Enthroned as Bishop of Passaic: December 4, 2013
Born at Sculthorpe Royal Air Force Base, Norfolk, England, Bishop Burnette attended various universities and received a doctorate in mathematics and was employed as a professor. Bishop Burnette was ordained to the Holy Priesthood at Saint Mary Cathedral in Sherman Oaks, California on April 26, 1989 by the late Bishop John M. Bilock. He served as pastor in parishes in New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, California and earned a licentiate in canon law at the Pontifical Oriental Institute. Bishop Burnette was appointed rector of Saints Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during October, 2012. On October 29, 2013, The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano announced that Pope Francis appointed Bishop Burnette as the Fifth Bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic.
Ordination and Enthronement of Bishop Kurt Burnette, Fifth Bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic (Available on UTube-Part 1 OFF-SITE)
Ordination and Enthronement of Bishop Kurt Burnette, Fifth Bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic (Available on UTube-Part 1 OFF-SITE)
Emil John Mihalik was the second child of William and Mary (nee Jubic) Mihalik. His father was baptized Basil Mihalik in the Carpatho-Rusyn village of Hrabske Slovakia at St. Dimitri the Martyr Greek Catholic Church. He changed his name to William once in the U.S. Basil was the son of John Mihalik a local farmer from Hrabske and Maria Fignar from the same village. In 1910 at the age of eighteen he immigrated to America settling in Windber, Pennsylvania. He married Pennsylvania born Mary Jubic the daughter of William and Julia (Berdy) Jubic. William and Mary’s first child Anna Mihalik was born July 16, 1917 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Emil was born on February 7, 1920 also in Pittsburgh. As of 1920 William was residing with his family in Pittsburgh and he was employed as a butcher in a local retail shop. By 1930 and to 1940 he was working as a butcher in a meat packing plant. Mary too was employed by 1940 as a clerk in a retail bakery store. Between 1920 and 1930 the family rented their residence on Newton Street in Pittsburgh. They later moved to the Brentwood Borough of Pittsburgh residing on Hilson Avenue by 1940. Mary Mihalik passed away on December 4, 1990 in Parma, Ohio at her son’s residence. William preceded her in death.
Emil received his education in the Pittsburgh public school system and graduated from Brentwood High School. Upon graduation from high school he entered the Catholic Institute in Pittsburgh to prepare for his seminary training. Later, he was accepted at Saint Procopius College and Benedictine Seminary in Lisle, Illinois. He was ordained a priest at Saint Mary’s Greek Catholic Church in Trenton, New Jersey on September 21, 1945 by Bishop Basil Takach.
His first assignment was as assistant pastor at a parish in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. After serving in Hazleton he was transferred to Saints Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic church in Struthers, Ohio as Administrator. During his tenure at Saints Peter and Paul he managed the construction of Byzantine Catholic Central High School in Youngstown. He served as Administrator of Saints Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic Church in Endicott, New York and was pastor of Saint Thomas Byzantine Catholic Church in Rahway, New Jersey from February 1, 1961 to June 12, 1969. In 1968 he was named the Chancellor for the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic.
His Holiness, Pope Paul VI created the Eparchy of Parma Ohio on February 21, 1969. Archbishop Luigi Raimondi the Apostolic Delegate to the United States announced the creation of the new Byzantine Catholic Eparchy. Father Mihalik’s appointment as Bishop was effective on March 12, 1969. The new Eparchy would encompass most of Ohio and 24 other states. Bishop Mihalik was enthroned as Bishop on June 12, 1969. The main celebrant at Bishop Mihalk’s installation was Archbishop Stephen Kocisko. Con-celebrants were Bishop Michael Dudick and Bishop Michael Rusnak. The services were held at the newly constructed Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Parma, Ohio.
Bishop Mihalik started work immediately to construct new churches and provide priests for his Eparchy. During his tenure, approximately 18 new churches were constructed and he ordained twenty-three priests. He also assisted with the establishment of a new order of Sisters, the Byzantine Nuns of St. Clare. On September 6, 1970 during the annual pilgrimage to Our Lady of Perpetual Help at Mount Saint Macrina in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, Archbishop Stephen Kocisko, Bishop Emil Mihalik and Bishop Michael Dudick blessed a new cornerstone for a multi-bed nursing home managed by the Sisters of Saint Basil. During this pilgrimage, over 45,000 people were in attendance.
During May of 1977, Bishop Alden Bell of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento gave over $20,000 which had been a World War II fund for Slovaks to Bishop Mihalik. The Bishop dedicated these funds for the construction of a church in Sacramento, California. The Eparchy of Parma continued to expand rapidly. In 1982, the Vatican re-organized the diocese and incorporated thirteen of the western states of the Eparchy into the newly created Eparchy of Van Nuys, California.
On January 27, 1984 Bishop Emil Mihalik died of lung cancer at Saint Vincent Charity Hospital and Health Center in Cleveland, Ohio. He was 63 years old. Metropolitan Archbishop Stephen Kocisko officiated at the funeral mass at Saint John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral, Parma, Ohio. Numerous clergy and faithful attended the services. Monsignor Andrew Vaida was named diocesan administrator until a new Bishop could be named. Funeral services for a Bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Church were celebrated in the partially renovated Cathedral in Parma, Ohio on March 1, 1984. Bishop Mihalik was interred at Calvary Cemetery of Mount Saint Macrina in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. His final resting place is to the right of Bishop Basil Takach. Bishop Takach ordained Bishop Emil Mihalik to the priesthood in 1945. In recognition of his service, on December 8, 2009 Bishop John Kudrick of the Eparchy of Parma dedicated the new Bishop Emil J. Mihalik Byzantine Catholic Cultural Center and Museum. The Museum is dedicated to the history of the Eparchy of Parma, its churches, parishioners and priests of the Eparchy.
Photo Credit (Rob Tomcanin
text and photos by Jacqueline Ruyak
Reprinted here with Permission of CNEWA
Like many Eastern European towns, Presov, Slovakia, is dominated by its main square lined with trees and bordered with gaily painted 18th-century buildings. With its diverse population of Slovaks, Hungarians, Romani (Gypsies), Ruthenians (Carpatho-Rusyns) and Ukrainians, Presov remains a backwater. But perhaps because it is a university town, the city is surprisingly lively and cheerful with a proud cultural history.
Certainly the Greek Catholics of Presov [the term “Greek Catholic” was coined in the 18th century by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria] have reason for cheer these days. The ordination of the Rev. Jan Hirka as bishop in February 1990 has given them a public ecclesiastical leader for the first time in over 40 years. Like Ukraine’s Greek Catholics, Slovakia’s Greek Catholics were forcibly united with the Orthodox Church two years after the communists’ came to power in 1948. Bishops Paul Gojdic and Basil Hopko were imprisoned as were many priests; others were banished to western Slovakia. Suddenly the Orthodox Church, which in 1950 had only 18 churches in eastern Slovakia, found itself possessing many buildings but few priests; the Orthodox had to train new clergy in special six-week courses. Most Greek Catholics, however, attended Roman Catholic liturgies.
In 1968 Alexander Dubcek, first secretary of the Communist Party, instituted a number of reforms. Parishes were ordered to vote whether to remain Orthodox or become part of the restored Greek Catholic Church. Soon after the Warsaw Pact’s troops ended the Prague Spring in late 1968, many parishes were forced to hold two services to accommodate both Greek Catholics and Orthodox. In October 1992 Bishop Hirka was finally able to move into his official residence, situated on the southern end of Presov’s main square, just down the street from the Greek Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Speaking late last year in a simple but handsome reception room at his official residence, the bishop noted that the former occupants totally wrecked the residence when they had to return it in 1991. “With the help of our laity, it was restored between May and October 1992. The Orthodox Church has been told to return 52 churches to us, but until now we haven’t asked for the rectories, which of course also belonged to us. And our people bore the burden of this restoration.”
During our conversation, Bishop Hirka again and again praised the faith and fortitude of the laity. In a country known for its religious strength, the Greek Catholics of eastern Slovakia are regarded as particularly devout. Throughout its history, the fate of the Greek Catholic Church has been linked to the political fortunes of eastern Slovakia. Some historians claim that eastern Slovakia’s Christians always remained loyal to the pope, says Mikulas Hucko, former secretary to Bishop Hirka. Others believe the Greek Catholic Church dates back to the Act of Union in 1646 in the city of Uzhgorod (now in western Ukraine). Several Ukrainian Catholic eparchies (dioceses) also claim Uzhgorod as the site of their union with the bishop of Rome. Like their Ukrainian counterparts, the Greek Catholics of Slovakia are liturgically and spiritually Orthodox, yet loyal to the pope. Married clergy, celibate monks and bishops, veneration of icons and the use of Church Slavonic in the liturgy illustrate this church’s Orthodox heritage.
After the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, there were about 310,000 Greek Catholics in Czechoslovakia, a multi-ethnic republic made up of Czechs, Bohemians, Moravians and Slovaks. Now, there are about 250,000 Greek Catholics in newly independent Slovakia. There are also several thousand in what is now the Czech Republic; a result of the postwar resettlement of poor eastern Slovaks whose villages had been destroyed in the war. Many were resettled by the communists in the German-speaking border region of Sudetenland, whose German-speaking population was forcibly expelled after the war. Bishop Hirka, a short, cherubic man whose face readily creases into a smile, sees many benefits in the suffering endured by his people under communism:
“God allowed people to be tempted but not abandoned. The laity suffered a lot,but because of them the church is still alive…that’s why it’s in good shape today.
“I worked as an electrician under the communists. During that time and my time in prison, I learned much from ordinary people and that’s why as a bishop I’m now able to give them advice…I appreciate their wisdom.”
He cited an experience while administrator of the eparchy, a post he filled before becoming bishop. Encouraged to cooperate with the Orthodox, he asked the laity what to do. They advised him to accept the clergy as people but not to accept Orthodoxy as his religion. “Inside ordinary people,” said Bishop Hirka, “are faith and wisdom and truth. I tried to make communists see that they were trying to manufacture the truth when in fact the truth is to be found inside ordinary people. It can’t be made.”
In 1990, the Slovak National Parliament enacted a law that all former Greek Catholic churches were to be restored. Often churches had been used by both Greek Catholics and Orthodox; thus restitution was to be negotiated. “Wrangling over issues of church property,” says Mikulas Hucko, “reflects badly on Christianity and has laid the church open to charges in the media of greed. Such things confuse people. Communist policy sowed the seeds of this discord and that diabolical policy is now bearing fruit.”
Restitution continues, with the Orthodox Church now promised compensation for returning churches to the Greek Catholics. However, a few churches have been handed over minus their icons or pews; or, as with the bishop’s residence, damaged or defaced. A cause for cheer is the seminary, which is next door to Bishop Hirka’s residence. After 1968 only one seminary, for both Greek and Roman Catholics, was permitted in Slovakia. Often the number of Greek Catholic seminarians was limited to four per year. Now there is a need for young priests who are able to do pastoral work. Many of the 167 priests currently engaged in pastoral work are elderly; eight are over 80.
There are 105 seminarians enrolled in the Presov seminary and Bishop Hirka anticipates that within three years the number will suffice to meet the demand for priests. In addition, 220 lay people are studying theology at the seminary in order to teach in school. Bishop Hirka listed making pilgrimages among the duties of a priest, which indicates how important such rites are among Greek Catholics. The most popular pilgrimage, held in August near the village of Lutina, attracts some 100,000 faithful a year. Another popular site is the village of Limanova where on 1 August 1989 two girls aged 10 and 12 claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary. She warned them against materialism and consumerism. Since the first apparition the girls, both of whom have passed a battery of psychological tests, continue to have the same vision on the first Sunday of each month. Their case, which is under scrutiny by church officials, has attracted much attention and is said to have brought converts to the church.
Without minimizing the girls’ experience, Mikulas Hucko cautions against relying on visions rather than holy scripture. But he agrees that materialism and an indifference to church matters are some of the biggest tests now facing the church. New Age groups, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other proselytizers are active, filling a need, Hucko fears, not being met by the church. And with Slovakia’s separation from the Czechs have come greater economic and political uncertainty. How newly independent Slovakia will handle its problems is not yet clear.
Bishop Hirka, a self-confessed optimist, said that he is confident the laity will continue to help one another survive; and he hopes they avoid becoming slaves to secularism or materialism. However materialism may be a much more slippery and multiheaded adversary than communism.
by Jacqueline Ruyak with photographs by Balazs Gardi/VII NetworkReprinted here with Permission of CNEWA
Hodász is different,” said Father Tibor Egri, a Greek Catholic priest in this village of some 3,500 people in northeastern Hungary. What makes Hodász exceptional is not its assorted parishes – Greek and Roman Catholic and Evangelical Protestant – or its mixed population of ethnic Hungarians and Roma, commonly called Gypsies. Rather, it is how these distinct groups have forged a cohesive community. “People here get along easily,” Father Egri continued. “Many Hungarians associate the Roma with criminal activities. And the media reinforce the stereotypes and feed the prejudices. “Roma here,” he added, “tend to be more ’Hungarian,’ which makes it easier.” With up to 800,000 Roma now living in the country – between 5 and 10 percent of the overall population – Hungary typifies the Romany experience as a disenfranchised minority and yet offers hope for greater Romany social and political inclusion.
For generations, Hungary’s Roma have endured institutionalized discrimination in education, housing and employment. Societal prejudices run deep as well; hate crimes against Roma remain relatively common. But this central European nation’s Roma enjoy better legal protection and greater representation in government than most Romany populations in other European nations of the former Communist bloc. Roma, who now make up nearly half the village population, have lived in Hodász at least since 1820, when local authorities recorded the first Romany baptism. As in the rest of Europe, Roma now constitute the fastest-growing ethnic group in Hungary; one out of every five or six newborns is Roma. In Hodász, however, all villagers tend to have small families, which usually include no more than two children.
“It’s a kind of acculturation,” said Father Egri, who has served for four years as curate at the Greek Catholic Church of the Ascension, the spiritual center of the village’s estimated 400 Greek Catholic Roma. But Ascension, one of the 145 parishes of the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog, has assumed many of the cultural traditions typically associated with the Roma while maintaining its Greek Catholic ethos. Music and dance play a central role in Romany culture. At Ascension, Romany singers, guitarists and other instrumentalists have replaced traditional Greek Catholic plainchant. “Maybe it’s in our genes,” suggested cantor Sandor Lakatos. “We recognize each other by our way of singing and dancing.”
The Romany Greek Catholic parish also celebrates the liturgies in Lovari – the local Romany dialect. A key part of Romany identity, most Roma in Hodász speak it as a first language. “We speak Romany first of all, so we think in a Romany way even when speaking Hungarian,” said Mr. Lakatos. A vital force in the cultural life of Hodász’s Roma, the Church of the Ascension reaches out to the entire village community through its St. Elijah Shelter and Day Care Center. Run on a shoestring budget, the facility manages to offer a host of essential social services at a time when state-run programs are being cut. More than 50 people – Roma and ethnic Hungarians – live at the shelter, 22 of whom are homeless pensioners and a score of women who, with their children, have sought refuge there from their violent homes. St. Elijah’s also provides daily meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – to an additional 50 villagers or more.
In addition to its crisis-intervention programs, St. Elijah’s staff of 30, most of whom are Romany women, cares for children of working parents and provides job training and employment counseling. Father Gábor Gelsei, pastor of Ascension for the past 14 years, oversaw the development and construction of the shelter and day care facility seven years ago. He financed the center largely through grants from a Dutch foundation. In 2001, Father Gelsei turned over the facility’s day-to-day management to the church cantor and Romany community leader, Sandor Lakatos. Mr. Lakatos has lived in Hodász his entire life. Though he spent 10 years as a construction worker in Budapest, as with many migrant workers from Hungary’s northeast, he returned home most weekends. When, in 1990, Mr. Lakatos resettled in Hodász, he worked for several years as an agricultural day laborer and became active in village politics. A former member of the village council, he now occupies a seat on Hodász’s Romany council.
According to the cantor, he first experienced discrimination while working in Budapest. But he says he has never felt discrimination in Hodász. “I think it’s because we all share the same faith in Jesus Christ. The priests who came to this village were looking for people, regardless of their skin color. When they found them, it was the start of a community. That was a great thing.” While grateful for the encouragement his deeply religious grandparents gave him as a child, the 65-year-old fondly remembers being inspired to serve the church by Father Miklos Soja, a charismatic priest who worked in the village in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Before Father Soja, priests only visited the village’s Roma when called upon for baptisms or weddings. “He was the first to work among the Roma here,” said Mr. Lakatos. “He lived in the non-Roma parish, but he learned Lovari, the Romany dialect spoken here, visited all the houses and became accepted. He deepened people’s faith and instilled a strong sense of morals and ethics. Because of him, even people in their 40’s and 50’s asked to be baptized and brought their children. In a sense, he brought the Roma Christian community here into being.
“When people called him ’father’ in Lovari,” he continued, “they used a very intimate meaning of the word, as if he were an actual father, not a priest.” Father Soja motivated his Romany parishioners to build the first Romany Greek Catholic church, which was replaced 12 years ago by the current structure. “Everyone worked together voluntarily,” recalled Mr. Lakatos. “I think that gave my generation a solid sense of community that young people now just don’t have. We had a church, a place to call home. It was our home, so we worked for it, did things for it. This here is not just a religious center, but also a place where we can learn how to manage daily life, how to use forks and spoons or computers and the Internet. If you are somewhere that is home and you feel that it is yours, you always feel safe.” That said, Hodász’s charismatic Romany cantor is frank, if not bleak, about his village’s future. “For young people, the only chance for a better life is to study, get a profession or trade and move away. For older people, there is no solution. We need capital to start something here.”
Unemployment, a major problem in Hungary, is especially acute in the nation’s underdeveloped northeast. By some estimates, nearly 80 percent of the village’s Roma and up to 25 percent of its ethnic Hungarians are unemployed. There are almost no jobs in the village. Young people often leave town to attend university or to seek better career opportunities. Most never return, except for the occasional family get-together. Whereas most ethnic Hungarian villagers work within commuting distance, Roma generally split their lives between Hodász and the distant capital, Budapest, where they can still find unskilled jobs. Under communism, Roma were assured work, albeit low paying. But since the dismantling of the nation’s state-controlled economy – which followed the collapse of Hungary’s Communist government in 1989 – many of these jobs, and the security they offered, have disappeared.
Hungary’s post-Communist economic woes have taken their toll on family life in Hodász. The villagers also have watched the gap between rich and poor grow ever wider. Yet despite these obstacles, Hodász’s Roma and non-Roma continue to live, work and celebrate together. “Our great feasts and celebrations – when the whole village comes together – are like a time machine,” recalled Mr. Lakatos wistfully. “They seem to take us back 50 or 60 years, when people were happier with less. Class differences seem to disappear and family bonds are again strong.”
In Hodász, all children – Roma and ethnic Hungarians – attend the same elementary school. But in the past decade, schools elsewhere in Hungary have become increasingly segregated. Viewing Romany students as disruptive elements in the classroom, non-Roma parents often transfer their children to school districts with few or no Roma. Parents and teachers frequently complain that Romany children skip school, with their parents’ consent, and subsequently fall behind and slow down the students who regularly attend class. On 1 September 2007, Hungary passed a law requiring schools and classrooms to integrate. It remains to be seen, however, how the new law will translate in practice. “I don’t think you increase interest in education by laws, but by personal example,” said Father Tibor Egri. “It depends on us.” While Hungarian law requires its citizens to attend school until age 16, many Roma drop out before they reach that age. Few of Hungary’s Roma graduate from high school, only 1 percent hold a university degree.
“Graduation rates are low, but increasing,” said Father Gábor Gelsei about Hodász’s Romany children. “If you want to do something, you need an education. Roma are finally beginning to realize that.” In the next two years, Father Gelsei plans to open a kindergarten for Roma at St. Elijah’s. The priest hopes as many as 50 children will enroll in the kindergarten program, which will be staffed in large part by Romany teachers and aides. “If we can instill good study habits young, it may make for an easier transition into the ordinary school system,” the pastor said. “If parents see their children in a good place, where they are being fed and getting an education, maybe they’ll start to ’get it’ and become involved.” Not the only place where Roma and non-Roma enjoy good relations, Hodász offers a glimpse of what successful “Roma Inclusion” might look like. “Hodász is a community. And community is what makes Hodász what it is,” concluded Sandor Lakatos. “It’s a pretty good and fairly cohesive community. Not perfect. It struggles. It fights its daily fight. But the hope is that it gets better day by day.”
The Weeping Icon of Marijapovch (Mariapocs) has been revered by Carpatho-Rusyn and Hungarian Greek Catholics for centuries. The Village of Povch (former Szabolcs County) is located in the northeastern section of Hungary. A Basilian Fathers Monastery constructed a beautiful church here. Stefan (Istvan) Papp, brother of the priest of the Povch town church was commissioned to paint an icon of the Mother of God for the iconostasis. The name of this village is found in early writings of the thirteenth century as the estate of the Bathory family. Later this estate was transferred to the Karolyi family.
Stefan Papp painted the Virgin Mary on wood holding the infant Jesus with a tulip with three petals in his hand. Lorincz Hurta paid for this icon and donated it to the church. The first weeping of the icon occurred in the wooden Greek Catholic Church in Povch on November 14, 1696. During the mass, those who were in the church noticed teardrops running from both eyes of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The same miracle took place each year from December 8 to 19. From the first weeping of the icon, the village of Povch was called Marijapovch (in Hungarian Mariapocs.) Mariapocs is the most famous and most visited place of worship in Hungary. It is the spiritual center of the Greek Catholic faithful. Today, it is estimated that 600,000 to 800,000 pilgrims visit this Shrine each year. News of these events travelled quickly and soon reached the Imperial capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Emperor and Empress of Austria-Hungary requested the Icon be brought to Vienna as both had a special devotion to the Virgin Mary. The icon was carried in procession throughout Vienna. It arrived on July 4, 1679. The Emperor asked the icon be placed in the Stephansdom of Vienna. It is still found to this day on the altar in the southern aisle where it is still venerated. The residents of Pocs were deeply saddened by the loss of their beloved icon. Ference Rakoczi II even addressed a letter to the Emperor asking for its return. Copies were made with one being sent to Mariapocs. After the copy was delivered to the church, Mihaly Papp, the priest of the Greek Catholic church in Pocs, was celebrating mass on August 1, 1717 when the Cantor noticed the icon was weeping. This event was witnessed by hundreds of people. During this time the Bishop of Eger, Gabor Antal Erdody, had the icon officially examined. His investigation concluded the weeping was authentic. Later, the icon again began to weep. During the mass in Mariapocs the third and last weeping began on December 3, 1905. Father Kelemen P. Gavris was leading a pilgrimage at this time. The weeping was examined by both church and secular committees and they also verified weeping indeed was taking place. One of the silk cloths which captured the tears can still be seen under the icon.
At this point hundreds of people were coming from long distances to worship in front of the icon. They came from all parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire such as present day Slovakia, Ukraine, Southern Poland and Czech Republic. However, the church was small and could not accommodate a large congregation. It was decided to build a larger church. The construction was begun by the Superior of the Basilicans, Father Gennadius Gyorgy Bizanczy. It was continued under the tenure of Bishop Mihaly Oslavszky who also began to construct the present monastery building. The actual church of Saint Michael was constructed between 1731 to 1756. Two towers were built with domes, these were completed in 1856. The iconostasis was built during the years 1785 to 1788 and was replaced by a new iconostasis in 1896. The exterior of the church was renovated from 1893 to 1896. Later much needed repairs were made in 1991. Below the church in the crypt a number of Greek Catholic Bishops, priests and those who supported the shrine are interred. A devotional altar was made in the 18th century and an altar to Saint Basil the Great was constructed in the 19th century. During the war years, artistic murals were added by Jozsef Boksay and Ammanuel Potrasovszki. Pope Pius XII awarded the title “basilica minor” to the church of Mariapocs.
The greatest honor bestowed on this historical and beloved Greek Catholic shrine came on August 18, 1991. Pope John II visited Hungary and celebrated a Byzantine Rite mass in front of the holy icon. Thousands of pilgrims attended this historic event. Throughout its history there have been many miracles attributed to this icon. Many people reported healings; others were converted to the faith. One recorded miracle was of a soldier who asked to be baptized immediately after gazing upon the icon. It is interesting to note that not only is this a pilgrimage place for Greek Catholics, numerous Roman Catholics and even those of the Protestant faith make pilgrimages here.
The Hungarian Catholic Episcopacy announced that December 1, 2005 would designate Máriapócs as a National Place of Worship. This announcement was made by Cardinal Peter Erdo and on December 3, 2005, he dedicated Hungarian and the Greek Catholic church to the protection of the weeping Blessed Virgin of Máriapócs.
Prayer to Our Lady of Mariapoch
O most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of mercy, adorned with miracles, whose icon shed tears at the place of your mercy in Mariapoch, we who honor you, humbly beseech your motherly care. Save our country from all its enemies; protect the Church; and join all in one faith that, at last, the words of Christ may be fulfilled: “There shall be one fold and one shepherd.” Do not deny us your intercession; and obtain for us peaceful times, health for our bodies and peace for our souls. Obtain grace for us that our last hour finds us in the Christian faith and in a state of grace so that we be enabled to gain eternal salvation. Amen.
Holy Annunciation Monastery was founded on February 23, 1977. The sisters who began this monastery were Mother Marija of the Holy Spirit (from the Carmel of the Incarnation in Sioux City, Iowa), Sister Marie Helen of the Cross and Sister Ann of the Trinity. In the early years, the Most Reverend Michael J. Dudick, Bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Diocese of Passaic, supported the community. Bishop Dudick was devoted to having a completive order for Byzantine Catholics in America. He worked tirelessly to assist the Monastery. After his retirement, he was the resident chaplain for the sisters. Up to this time, there was no completive order for Byzantine Catholic women in the United States. During the period when the Monastery was founded, Eastern Europe was under the Communist government and the Greek Catholic church was persecuted. The nuns prayed daily for those who were suffering under these conditions. The Carmelite Order takes its name from Mount Carmel, a mountain range which is close to the Mediterranean Sea in Israel. Saint Teresa is the foundress of Teresian Carmel. Due to her influence and work, a new order was formed, the Discalced Carmelites. Saint Teresa selected guidelines for a life of strict poverty, enclosure and a life of constant prayer. The nuns at Holy Annunciation Monastery follow a schedule of six to seven hours a day devoted to prayer and sacred reading. They also perform domestic chores and raise much of their own food on the Monastery grounds.
After the communist system collapsed in the 1990’s, Holy Annunciation Monastery began to receive inquires from Greek (Byzantine) Catholic women in Slovakia and Western Ukraine. A number of women came to the United States to explore a Byzantine Catholic Carmelite vocation. During 1999 the Monastery accepted a number of Sisters of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Rite from Southern India. Important to the life of the sisters was Father Valdimir (Walter) Ciszek, S.J. Father Walter was a Polish-American priest who performed missionary work in the former Soviet Union. He was imprisoned and spent fifteen years at hard labor in various Gulags in Siberia. Thankfully, he was released in 1963 and returned to the United States. In 1934, Father Ciszek travelled to Rome for the study of theology at the Pontifical Russian College (Russicum). In 1937, he was ordained a priest in the Byzantine Rite and took the name “Vladimir.”
Since 1990, Father Ciszek’s life has been investigated by the Vatican for possible beatification or canonization. Currently, the Roman Catholic Church has given him the title of “Servant of God.” Father Ciszek offered guidance and support to Mother Marija during the early years of Holy Annunciation Monastery’s existence. It was also due to Father Ciszek’s recommendation that Bishop Michael Dudick accepted the sisters into the Byzantine Catholic Diocese of Passaic.
In 2002, the Monastery was stable enough to send sisters to open a Monastery (Saint Therese) in Korinyani, Ukraine. As of 2006, there were fifteen sisters in the community. In June, 2012, Sister Mariangela of Jesus Crucified made her holy profession. Later in June, the Monastery observed the jubilee celebration of Sister Andreja Vladia and Sister Bohadan’s twenty-five years of their profession of vows. Holy Annunciation Monastery is self-supporting. The sisters operate a Carmelite Kitchen which sells homemade baked goods, a gift shop and they also sew hand-made church vestments. The sisters also own “Carmelites Mini Corral” where they breed and sell horses. They also have registered Wensleydale sheep that provides fleece for hand spinners. Holy Annunciation Monastery is beautifully graced with a white chapel. The exterior has gold cupolas with three bar crosses. The interior of their chapel has a stunning icon of “Our Lady of the Sign” behind the altar proper. The walls of the altar, all decorated with icons of saints; escalate up to a dome which has an icon of the Holy Trinity. The main dome of the chapel is adorned with the icon of “Christ the Teacher.” All the icons and colors blend magnificently and offer a graceful chapel prayer. The Monastery grounds are meticulously kept and offer solitude. There is an elegant area that has a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary surrounded by various colored flowers. In another place, a shrine with an icon of Our Lady of Vladimir is attached to a tree. Another shrine area has a hand carved wooden cross protected by a gazebo.
The sisters strive as a Byzantine Catholic Contemplative Order to serve with constant prayer. Liturgical Prayer is essential to the Carmelite order. The sisters rise at 3:30 a.m. They follow a set schedule of prayer and then attend mass. Other times during the schedule are devoted to work and recreation. The close of their day ends with the great silence and retiring at 8 p.m. The sisters at Holy Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Carmelite Monastery pray unceasingly and are a great asset to the Byzantine Catholic Church in America.
The Seminary of Blessed Paul Goydich is located at Hlavna 1, Presov. It is the Seminary of the Archepharchy of Presov and the Eparchies of Kosice and Bratislava. The Seminary currently has 80 students and staff. The main building includes the refectory, class rooms and dormitories for seminarians and faculty. An adjacent building is utilized for visitors and has apartments for married clergy faculty. The daily schedule includes celebration of the Daily Office, academic classes, meal preparation and service, personal prayer and spiritual development. Many seminarians plan to serve the Greek Catholic church as married priests.
The Seminary was named after Bishop (now Blessed) Paul P. Gojdich, O.S.B.M who was born into a priestly family on July 17, 1888 in Rus’ki Pakljany, Saros district. He graduated from the gymnasium in Presov and continued his theological studies at the Central Seminary in Budapest. He was ordained a celibate priest on August 27, 1911. In 1948 a vicious attack was begun against the Greek Catholic church by the Communist Government and Bishop Gojdich was adjudged a “traitor and enemy of the people.” On April 28, 1950 the Greek Catholic Church was liquidated on orders from Moscow and Bishop Gojdich was imprisoned. He was later tried for treason and espionage, his sentence was life in prison. Bishop Gojdich endured all these trials with patience, faith and true humility. He was interrogated numerous times and the authorities made all types of promises if he would only “sign” and become Orthodox, they even promised to make him a patriarch. Bishop Gojdich never consented to these false promises.
In prison, the Bishop suddenly became mysteriously ill and was taken to the prison hospital. His condition became critical and his pain increased. His life ended on July 17, 1960 in the prison of Leopoldov, Slovakia. He was only 72 years old.
Bishop Paul Gojdich was beatified by Pope John Paul II on November 4, 2001. The Pope said he wished to honor Bishop Gojdich’s lifelong behavior and mentioned that even during the most dangerous periods of his life; he remained loyal to the principles of the Greek Catholic Church and the Apostolic See in Rome.
Also, many are not aware that The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem in 2007 accorded Bishop Paul Gojdich the title “Righteous among the Nations.” He is credited with saving the lives of the Rabbi of Kosice, Jossi Steiner, Marianne Zack and many others from certain death during the Nazi occupation of Slovakia. After the war, those who were saved by Bishop Gojdich offered to help him immigrate to the west due to the Communist regime’s takeover of Slovakia. Bishop Gojdich refused to abandon those who needed his help and leave his position as Greek Catholic Bishop of Presov. When he was put into prison the Jewish people he saved tried once again to help him and send a letter of support to the President of Czechoslovakia, Antonin Zapotocky on May 15, 1956 but it was ignored.
The Bishop risked his own life to save anyone who asked for his assistance. He never thought of his own safety and helped everyone. When the deportations of Jews took place in Slovakia he was horrified. He wrote a strong letter to each parish in his diocese against this injustice. He reminded people of the basic principle that every human being has equal rights when he faces God.
It is a living testament that the Seminary in Slovakia which now trains future priests to serve the Greek Catholic Church should bear his name today.
Performance at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in Parma, OH
Photo Courtesy of Marti Worth
In 2011, the Seminarian Choir of Blessed Paul Gojdich Seminary from Presov Slovakia performed a magnificent concert entitled “Let the Earth Be Glad: Sacred Hymns of the Carpathian Mountains.” The tour schedule was set for September 24th and ending October 23, 2011. The Choir visited Byzantine Catholic churches in Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. The diverse concert program consisted of traditional hymns and liturgical music of the Carpathian Mountain regions of Eastern Slovakia. Also, at numerous churches, a special performance of a Divine Liturgy with responses sung Church Slavonic was held. A highlight of the tour was a performance at the Divine Liturgy held at the Slovak Heritage Festival in Holmdel, New Jersey where Bishop Peter Rusnak of Bratislava, Slovakia celebrated the Liturgy along with the Most Rev. William Skurla, DD, Bishop of the Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey. The diverse concert program included various Hymns, a few being O Marie, Mati Boza (O Mary, Mother of God), Christijane proslavl’ajme (All the Faithful), Christmas Hymns, Nebo I Zeml’a (Rejoice All Nations), Radost’ sja nam javl’ajet (Joyful Tidings), Lenten Hymns, Preterpivyj (Having Suffered), Pod krest Tvoj stanu (Beneath Your Cross), Easter Hymns, Anhel Vopijase (The Angel Exclaimed), Christos Voskrese (Christ is Risen), Choral Arrangements Svjatyj Boze (Holy God) and Otce Nas (Our Father.) There were many more arrangements which were performed during these concerts. Lastly and unforgettably, the a touching tribute to the United States of America was offered at the end of the concert as the Seminarians sang a beautiful arrangement of “God Bless America.” Also, seminarians brought a relic of Blessed Bishop Paul Goydich with them which was exhibited for the faithful to venerate. Many healings, both spiritual and physical have been ascribed to Bishop Paul’s intercession. The concert tour is also a way for the seminarians to raise funds for the Seminary. The training of future Greek Catholic priests and the maintenance of the buildings is costly; many of the seminarians come from limited financial backgrounds and the faithful in Slovakia live on limited incomes. The overwhelming generosity of the Byzantine Catholic churches they visited in America ensures the seminary can continue its mission of training future Greek Catholic priests to serve the church. Iconostasis of St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in Parma, OH
Photo Courtesy of Marti Worth
Utube Video of One of the Concert
by Michael J.L. La Civita
Reprinted here with Permission of CNEWA
For centuries, Hungary dominated the culture, geography and socioeconomic life of Central Europe. Its defeat in World War I, however, cost the nation three- quarters of its territory, all of its coastline, a third of its population and much of its diverse demography. Today, Hungary is a landlocked and largely homogeneous country — a shadow of its former self.
In Hungary’s rural northeast — near its borders with Slovakia, Ukraine and Romania — one small community of faith offers a glimpse of Hungary’s multiethnic past. Sheltered by the Carpathian Mountains, some 290,000 people — ethnic Hungarians (Magyars), Gypsies (Roma), Romanians, Rusyns and Slovaks — make up the Hungarian Greek Catholic Church, Byzantine in tradition and in full communion with the church of Rome. While each ethnic group maintains its own proud history and traditions, they together have forged a dynamic church authentically Hungarian, Byzantine and Catholic.
Origins. According to early medieval chroniclers, Byzantine missionaries working among the Slavs in the ninth century first encountered nomadic Magyar tribes as they began to settle in the Carpathian Basin. A number of Magyar chiefs, to secure their hold on the land, traveled to the then center of power, Constantinople. There, they established an alliance with the Byzantine emperor and were baptized and received into the Byzantine church.
Sarolt, the daughter of one such clan leader, married the heir of the Árpáds, the chief Magyar family. Their son would later embrace Latin Christianity, take the name Stephen and, after receiving his crown from the pope in the year 1000, forge a united Magyar realm closely allied with the Latin West.
Stephen did not favor the Byzantine church of his mother, but it nevertheless flourished. Several important medieval relics, including the Holy Crown of Hungary, the coronation robe and a renowned reliquary of the true cross, demonstrate the influence of Byzantium. While the crown is largely a Byzantine work, the robe and reliquary are attributed to Magyar artisans living in Hungary’s Byzantine monasteries.
Though the churches of the Byzantine East and the Latin West parted company after the Great Schism in 1054, Hungary’s Byzantine Orthodox Christians, Magyars and Slavs, remained attached to their form of the faith.
The realm’s Orthodox, however, were later decimated by the Mongols, an Asiatic nomadic tribe who invaded Hungary in the middle 13th century and destroyed the kingdom’s towns, villages and monasteries. Historians believe half of Hungary’s people were killed in the onslaught; the Mongols carried off many of the survivors.
Turks and Flux. Eventually, Hungary recovered from the Mongol invasions. Its kings gathered up the survivors, consolidated their power and established a sprawling Central European nation anchored firmly in the traditions of the Latin West.
Even as Hungary expanded, it confronted a new enemy. The Ottomans, a Turkish Muslim tribe originally from Central Asia, conquered Byzantine territory in Asia and Europe as they migrated west. In 1453, they took Constantinople; from there the Ottoman sultans subdued the Balkans with its Albanian, Bulgar, Greek, Jewish and Slavic peoples. As they pushed deeper into Central Europe, they repeatedly clashed with the forces of the Hungarian king.
Orthodox Christian Serbs, fleeing the Turks, found refuge in the Hungarian province of Vajdaság, now the autonomous Serbian province of Vojvodina. In exchange for cultural and religious freedom, the Serbs formed a guard to defend Hungary’s borders. Nevertheless, the Turks advanced deeper into Hungary. Thousands of Serbs fled north of the capital of Buda, establishing Szentendre, a Serbian community that remains rooted in its Slavic heritage and Orthodox faith.
The decline of royal authority, due to the rise of the landed gentry who had embraced the Reformation, crippled Hungary. In 1541, Ottoman forces crushed the Hungarians in battle and captured Buda. In the confusion that followed, Hungary was divided into three parts, Royal Hungary — seized by the Austrian Hapsburgs �� Ottoman Hungary and Transylvania, which became an autonomous principality under the suzerainty of the Ottomans.
The Orthodox faith of Transylvania’s Romanian serfs, who made up the majority of the population, was held in contempt by the Hungarian nobility, most of whom had become Lutherans or Calvinists. Denied financial support and legal personality, the Orthodox Church in Transylvania declined. As the Ottomans retreated from Central Europe, the Catholic Hapsburgs rushed into the vacuum, absorbing Hungarian lands. Tightening their grip, the Hapsburgs introduced the Jesuits in the late 17th century to re-Catholicize the Hungarian realm.
Hungarian Greek Catholics. Following the Ottomans’ loss of Buda and central Hungary in 1686, Greek Catholic Slavs — Rusyns and Slovaks — emerged from the protection of the dense forests of the Carpathians and settled in Hungary’s plains. These Greek Catholics, under the protection of the bishop of Mukacevo, had entered into full communion with the Roman church only a generation earlier.
As with their coreligionists in Transylvania, Hungary’s Orthodox hierarchy (most of whom were Rusyns) had received assurances from the Jesuits that, in exchange for their loyalty to the papacy, the Orthodox would retain their liturgical rites, customs and privileges, including a married clergy and the method of electing bishops. In addition, their clergy would be granted the same civil rights and privileges extended to Roman Catholic clergy — important considerations in the Catholic Hapsburg realm.
Until Pope Clement XIV erected the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukacevo in 1771, these Rusyn Greek Catholic bishops functioned as vicars of the Hungarian Roman Catholic bishops of Eger. And Rusyn Greek Catholic priests, often married, were subordinated to Hungarian Roman Catholic pastors.
The Jesuits reached out to the Hungarian Protestant community as well. In the 18th century, a significant number entered the Catholic Church, choosing not the Roman but the Greek Catholic Church. These new Hungarian Greek Catholics were placed under the pastoral care of the Rusyn Greek Catholic hierarchy, who employed Church Slavonic in the celebration of the sacraments. This prompted many of these former Protestants to lobby for the use of Hungarian in the Divine Liturgy, which was met with resistance among church authorities.
Nevertheless, the first Hungarian translation of the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom was published, privately, in 1795.
The 19th century, particularly after the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, ushered in the Romantic Era. This cultural and intellectual movement sparked a rise of nationalism throughout Asia and Europe, impacting Hungarians, Romanians and Rusyns.
This stirring of ethnic consciousness prompted the publication of language primers, the documentation of ancient folk songs and hymns, the creation of lyric poems and stories and the rise of competing national aspirations. In this era — which also inspired the Hungarian revolt against Hapsburg rule and the subsequent creation of the Duel Monarchy of Austro-Hungary — scholars published Greek Catholic liturgical books in Hungarian. Church authorities did not approve their use.
Perhaps to placate Hungarian nationalists, the Austro-Hungarian emperor founded a Hungarian Greek Catholic vicariate in Hajdúdorog in 1873.
To celebrate the 900th anniversary of St. Stephen’s coronation as king, thousands of Hungarian pilgrims, Greek and Roman Catholic, visited Rome. Greek Catholics petitioned Pope Leo XIII to sanction the liturgical use of Hungarian and to raise the vicariate to an eparchy.
In June 1912, Pope Pius X elevated the vicariate to an eparchy and assigned to it 162 Hungarian-speaking parishes. But, he decided that Greek should be the liturgical language of the church. He instructed the clergy to learn it within three years. World War I intervened, however, and the papal directive was not enforced. After the war’s conclusion and the dismemberment of both the Dual Monarchy and the Hungarian realm, the remaining liturgical books were published in Hungarian and met no opposition.
Today. Originally, the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Hajdúdorog embraced only Hungarian-speaking parishes in eastern Hungary and the capital of Budapest.
In 1924, the Holy See established an exarchate in Miskolc for the Hungarian Rusyn-speaking Greek Catholic parishes that once formed a part of the Eparchy of Presov. (After World War I, Presov had become a part of the newly formed Czechoslovakia.) The distinct Rusyn identity of these parishes, however, faded. They increasingly became integrated into Hungarian culture and replaced Church Slavonic with Hungarian. Interestingly, Presov had been the center of a Hungarian assimilation movement within the Greek Catholic Rusyn community from the 19th century.
Since World War II, the Apostolic Exarchate of Miskolc has been administered by the bishop of Hajdúdorog, whose authority now extends to all Greek Catholics living in Hungary.
Under communism, Hungary’s Greek Catholics were spared the persecutions suffered by Greek Catholics in Romania and Ukraine. Though religious communities were closed, priests and religious dispersed, 134 schools shuttered, catechesis limited and nonliturgical activities monitored, the church survived. In 1950, Bishop Miklós Dudás, O.S.B.M., established a seminary within the walls of his residence in the town of Nyíregyháza. While youth programs and sodalities were prohibited, parish pilgrimages to Máriapócs, a little Greek Catholic village famous for its miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, continued with great enthusiasm.
With the collapse of the Iron Curtain, Hungary’s Greek Catholic Church surged to fill the void left after a half-century of despotic rule in Central and Eastern Europe. Led by Bishop Szilárd Keresztes, the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog collected icons, liturgical books, vestments and other sacramentals, which he immediately offered to the once banned Greek Catholic churches in Romania and Ukraine.
Because of its central location, Bishop Keresztes suggested the eparchial seminary — which is dedicated to St. Athanasius — should play a key role in the revival of Europe’s Greek Catholic churches. In 1990, he opened it to Romanians, Rusyns, Slovaks and Ukrainians interested in the priesthood. To improve the quality of the education offered there, the bishop invited an impressive number of foreign educated professors. As a result, the theological faculty became an affiliate of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome in 1995.
Formation of lay catechists also figured prominently in the life of the church soon after the collapse of communism. In 1992, the bishop signed an agreement with the Teachers Training College in Nyíregyháza and set up a corresponding department at the seminary for the formation of teachers.
The Hungarian Greek Catholic Church shares in the socioeconomic challenges affecting the country. Even as birthrates continue to fall, driving down the number of men and women entering priesthood and religious, the demands placed upon the church grow.
Increasingly, Greek Catholic priests are working to diffuse tensions between Hungary’s growing Roma minority and ethnic Magyars. And the depopulation of Hungary’s eastern rural villages, the traditional center of the Greek Catholic Church, is affecting family and parish life. Yet, Bishop Keresztes, now retired, remains optimistic.
“Young people will be the future church. They are looking for religious life, even if they are doubters or critics and do not accept everything about that life,” he said in these pages in 2007.
“Today,” he said, “we have to accept that the church is criticized, sometimes with reason, but despite this we have to show people the beauty of our Christian values.”
A brief profile of the Hungarian Greek Catholic Church.
text by Dr. Janka György
photographs by Miklós Erdös CNEWA
Reprinted here with Permission of
According to Byzantine chronicles, missionaries met Hungarian tribes in the course of their wanderings throughout Central Europe and, in the middle of the 10th century, baptized a number of Hungarian noblemen in Constantinople.
Hungary’s first king, the fervent Saint Stephen (997-1037) received his crown from Pope Sylvester II. Crowned on Christmas Eve of the year 1000, Stephen eventually founded 10 Latin dioceses; two of them, Esztergom and Kalocsa, developed into metropolitan archdioceses. Although Byzantine eparchies were not established, monasteries following the Byzantine tradition flourished. The 11th-century coronation robe, for example, used for the kings of Hungary and now exhibited in the National Museum in Budapest, is the handiwork of Byzantine nuns living in the Hungarian realm at that time.
Hungary’s Byzantine Christians were almost completely destroyed during the Mongol invasion of 1241 to 1242. Byzantine Christian Vlachs and Ruthenians migrated to the border regions of the country (Subcarpathia, Transylvania and northern Hungary), replacing the native population.
Following the Great Schism of 1054, Hungary’s Byzantine Christians retained full communion with the Church of Constantinople, not with the Church of Rome. Attempts to heal the schism failed until the Council of Brest in 1596 achieved the union of Orthodox churches under the Polish-Lithuanian crown with the Church of Rome. Subsequent local councils succeeded in re-establishing full communion between the Orthodox churches and the Church of Rome in present-day Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine.
Beginning in the late 18th century, Hungarian Greek Catholics began their quest to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in their native tongue – most did not understand the Church Slavonic used by the Greek Catholic Slavs, who also lived in the Hungarian domains of the Austrian Empire.
This quest was finally achieved two centuries later: on 19 November 1965, Bishop Miklós Dudás of Hajdúdorog celebrated the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in Hungarian in Rome during Vatican II. The celebration of this liturgy is considered the ceremonial conclusion of the long struggle for a Hungarian liturgy.
In 1873 the Emperor Francis Joseph I founded a Hungarian Greek Catholic vicariate in Hajdúdorog. This vicariate was elevated to an eparchy with Pope Saint Pius X’s bull, Christifideles Graeci, on 8 June 1912. The Pope assigned 162 parishes into the new eparchy and established Old Greek as the language of the liturgy. He also appointed the Archbishop of Esztergom as the eparchial Metropolitan Archbishop.
István Miklóssy became the first bishop of the new eparchy. Instead of settling in Hajdúdorog, however, he settled in the country town of Debrecen. On 23 February 1913 a mail bomb, sent by anti-Hungarian nationalists, exploded and killed the vicar, the secretary and the eparchy’s lawyer. Bishop Miklóssy was spared and moved to Nyíregyháza, another town in eastern Hungary. Since then this town has been the center of the Eparchy of Hajdúdorog.
After World War I, territories of the Hungarian state, including the Greek Catholic eparchies of Eperjes and Munkács, became a part of Czechoslovakia. Only 21 parishes remained in Hungary. In June 1924, Pope Pius XI founded an exarchate to include these parishes; the Apostolic Exarchate of Miskolc still exists today.
Bishop Miklós Dudás, O.S.B.M., succeeded Bishop Miklóssy in 1939. The 37-year-old Bishop Dudás began to develop the eparchy with great enthusiasm; he founded a People’s College in Hajdúdorog and in 1942 he opened a Greek Catholic Teachers Training Institute. He recruited Basilian religious to teach at the college. He founded a Greek Catholic students’ hostel in Nyíregyháza as well as 30 new parishes.
In 1950 Bishop Dudás established the Greek Catholic Theological Seminary within the walls of his own episcopal palace, thus encouraging the formation of seminarians in the Greek Catholic tradition.
Following World War II, a great number of Greek Catholics moved to the industrial regions of the country, thereby isolating themselves from their villages, families and distinct Greek Catholic traditions. At Bishop Dudás’ request, the Holy See temporarily extended the Bishop’s authority – heretofore confined to eastern Hungary – to all Greek Catholics living in the country. The Bishop’s successful reign ended with his death in 1972.
In 1975 Pope Paul VI appointed Father Imre Timkó as bishop, and selected Father Szilárd Keresztes as his auxiliary.
Bishop Timkó considered the renewal of the eparchy one of his most important tasks. Orientalium Ecclesiarum, decreed by Vatican II, invited the Eastern Catholic churches to return to their Eastern traditions. Accordingly, Bishop Timkó urged the study of Eastern theology, iconography and liturgy. He modernized both the eparchy center and the seminary with aid offered by West European Catholics and Greek Catholics living in the United States and Canada.
In 1980, Pope John Paul II extended the authority of the Bishop of Hajdúdorog to the entire territory of Hungary, with the exception of the exarchate. Bishop Timkó organized a general vicariate in Budapest for Greek Catholics living in the diaspora and appointed Bishop Szilárd Keresztes with its direction. Bishop Imre Timkó died unexpectedly in 1988.
After World War II, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania fell under the power of the Soviet Union. In a few years the Communists established atheist dictatorships in these countries, beginning in Ukraine in 1946. Churches were officially incorporated into the Orthodox Church. In 1948 the Greek Catholic Church was eliminated in Romania. The Greek Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia was also liquidated in 1950, but restored in 1968.
Luckily, the Greek Catholic Church in Hungary survived. More than 250,000 Greek Catholics, however, shared the fate of the nation’s 6.6 million Latin Catholics – terror and threats. In 1948, 3,148 church schools were nationalized in Hungary; among them were 134 Greek Catholic schools.
On Christmas Eve of that year conditions for the churches of Hungary worsened: József Cardinal Mindszenty, Archbishop of Esztergom, was taken from his palace and thrown into prison. The following year, religious life was prohibited in the country; 2,500 monks and 10,000 nuns were forced out of their monasteries and thrown into the streets. The state went a step further and established the State Office for Church Affairs (SOCA) in 1951, with the intention of obtaining total control and supervision of all churches in Hungary – Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox – by limiting religious life, winning over clergymen and laity and eliminating resistance. Youth programs were prohibited and religious activities were confined within church walls. Censorship was also introduced. All major construction work and the filling of higher posts had to be authorized by SOCA.
The year 1989 was a turning point for Hungary. The Communist autocracies in Eastern Europe had collapsed. Without a successor, the State Office for Church Affairs ceased to exist. Again people could freely exercise their faith. The Greek Catholic Church was legalized in Ukraine and in 1990 Pope John Paul II nominated Greek Catholic bishops in Romania.
Following the death of Bishop Timkó in 1988, Pope John Paul II named Bishop Szilárd Keresztes as his successor. Greek Catholic bishops and priests of the neighboring countries were received in Hungary with a fraternal welcome. The Eparchy of Hajdúdorog collected vestments, liturgical books and equipment for Greek Catholics in Subcarpathia and Romania. In 1990, for the first time in the history of the seminary at Nyíregyháza, 10 foreign seminarians enrolled.
The Greek Catholic Church in Hungary continued to flourish. In Hajdúdorog first a Greek Catholic elementary school and then a secondary school were established. The eparchy again published the Greek Catholic Review, which the Communists had suppressed.
A great event for the church in Hungary occurred when Pope John Paul II visited in 1991. The Pontiff celebrated the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in Máriapócs, the historic place of pilgrimage for Hungarian Greek Catholics.
Another important step occurred in 1992, when an agreement was signed with the Teachers Training College in Nyíregyháza; the training of laity as catechists could now begin. A corresponding department in the seminary was also established. The seminary, supported in part by CNEWA, has undergone great development; academic work is directed by teachers who studied abroad, mainly in Rome. Consequently, the theological faculty was qualified as an affiliate of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome in 1995. The seminary library continues to grow each year and the construction of a new building is in the works. Thanks to its central location, Bishop Szilárd Keresztes has expressed a desire to involve the seminary in the spiritual and intellectual revival of the Eastern Catholic churches of central and Eastern Europe.
True to his word, Bishop Keresztes acted as host in 1997 for the first meeting of European Eastern Catholic Bishops. Led by Achille Cardinal Silvestrini, Prefect of the Holy See’s Congregation for the Eastern Churches, 40 Greek Catholic bishops and 66 leading officials from 20 countries participated in the meeting. In 1998, the principals of the Eastern Catholic seminaries in Europe attended a refresher course in Nyíregyháza.
There has been further advancement in the Greek Catholic Church in Hungary. The number of clergymen, for example, has increased in the last 50 years: While in 1945 the number of Greek Catholic priests was as low as 202, it has grown steadily over the years to 233. More than 90 percent of the Greek Catholic clergymen living in Hungary have families, several with four or more children. These clergymen and their wives participate monthly in a recollection program and attend an annual retreat in Máriapócs.
The number of seminarians has also increased. In addition, Hungarian seminarians from neighboring countries opt to study in Nyíregyháza. More than 100 students attend regular and correspondence courses for religious teachers. The number of monks and nuns, however, has decreased since 1950.
The number of parishes in Hungary has increased as well, from 126 in 1945 to 167 today. During the last decade alone, 25 Greek Catholic churches have been erected.
The core of this church’s spiritual life is the Divine Liturgy and its Greek Catholic rites and traditions. Patronal feasts and the spiritual exercises conducted during Lent represent major events in the parishes. Parish-organized pilgrimages, mainly to Máriapócs, on 15 August (the Feast of the Dormition) and on 8 September (the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary), draw tens of thousands of people who pray and sing together in one voice.
On viewing its turbulent history, it is clear that the Hungarian Greek Catholic Church has experienced great development. We trust that God will continue to help us in fostering our liturgy and spirituality, giving witness to the unity of the Catholic Church for future generations.
Dr. Janka György is head of the Department of Church History at the Greek Catholic Theological Institute at Nyíregyháza.
by Michael J.L. La Civita
Reprinted here with Permission of CNEWA
Morning sunshine fills St. Basil the Great Church in Krajné Cierno, Slovakia. (photo: Andrej Ban)
For more than a millennium, Central Europe’s Carpatho-Rusyns have been engulfed in a violent whirl of Magyar, Germanic and Slavic antagonism. Always subjugated, Rusyn peasants toiled the soil, kept the livestock or cut the timber of their Hungarian, Austrian or Polish masters. Such conditions, coupled with centuries of serfdom and forced assimilation, hardly favored the development of a distinct Rusyn identity. Nevertheless, among the Rusyns such an identity did develop, sowed by their distinct Slavic language, nurtured by their Byzantine Christianity — which they received from Sts. Cyril and Methodius in the late ninth century — and reinforced by their full communion, or unia, with the church of Rome.
Today, fewer than 900,000 Rusyn Greek Catholics are scattered throughout Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, North America, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. A unified church, gathering them all under one mantle, does not exist. Rusyn Greek Catholics — also called Ruthenians — make up three distinct churches that, while sharing the same origins, traditions and culture, remain independent of each other.
• In the United States, the Metropolitan Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, with its three dependent eparchies of Parma, Passaic and Phoenix, is a particular or sui iuris church. It includes about 93,000 members.
• The Eparchy of Mukacevo in Subcarpathian Ukraine, which numbers about 375,000 people, is dependent directly on the Holy See.
• The Apostolic Exarchate for Byzantine Catholics in the Czech Republic is also dependent on the Holy See and counts 178,000 members.
Rusyn Greek Catholics also belong to various jurisdictions of the Greek Catholic churches of Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and the former Yugoslavia. Complicating matters further, substantial numbers of Rusyns, all formerly Greek Catholic, have created communities within various Orthodox churches in North America, Poland and the Czech and Slovak republics. However, with the exception of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church — an eparchy formed in Pittsburgh in 1939 under the jurisdiction of the ecumenical patriarchate in Constantinople — their Rusyn identity has largely eroded.
Origins. As the churches of the East and the church of Rome parted company — particularly after the Great Schism in 1054 — Rusyn peasants scattered throughout the Carpathian Mountains of Central Europe remained attached to their Orthodox Byzantine Christian faith.
Though they shared the same customs and rites as their northeastern neighbors (modern Ukrainians), Rusyns adapted these rites, making them their own. Fortified by the monks of St. Nicholas Monastery, an ancient foundation located near Mukacevo (a town in modern Ukraine), Rusyns built their unique wooden churches, wrote their icons and sang their plainchant, or prostopinije, all contributing to the creation of a distinctive Subcarpathian Rusyn Orthodox church.
Though held in contempt by the Hungarian ruling class, Rusyn bishops served as both secular and spiritual shepherds. Bishops came from the local community and were elected by a council of monks from St. Nicholas Monastery.
Cataclysmic events in the 16th and early 17th centuries — the Protestant Reformation, the Ottoman Turkish invasion of Central Europe, the decline of the Hungarian kingdom and the rise of the Austrian Hapsburg dynasty — altered the fortunes of the Rusyns and the confessional dynamics of the region.
In April 1646, in the chapel of the castle in the city of Užhorod, 63 Rusyn Orthodox priests entered into full communion with Rome. Supported by his priests’ profession in Užhorod and fueled by the zeal of the monks of St. Nicholas Monastery, Parfenii Petrovych, Orthodox bishop of Mukacevo, led his entire church into full communion with Rome less than 20 years later.
Until Pope Clement XIV erected the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukacevo in 1771, however, Rusyn Greek Catholic bishops functioned as vicars of the Hungarian Roman Catholic bishops of Eger. And Rusyn priests — most of whom were married — were subordinate to Hungarian Roman Catholic pastors. In 1780, the seat of the Rusyn Greek Catholic bishop, while retaining its ancient name, moved from Mukacevo to nearby Užhorod, where a seminary had been established a few years earlier.
Rusyn awakening. The 19th century, particularly after the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, ushered in an intellectual movement that sparked the rise of national movements throughout Europe, including one among the Rusyns.
Led largely by Rusyn Greek Catholic priests from the eparchies of Mukacevo and Prešov (erected in 1818), this stirring of Rusyn consciousness inspired the publication of the first Rusyn-language primer, the documentation of ancient folk songs and hymns and the creation of lyric poems and stories. Works such as “The Song of the Evil Landlord” and “Life of a Rusyn” give some understanding of the lives of the Rusyns under their Hungarian rulers. With the creation of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy in 1867, a rejuvenated Hungarian government unleashed an aggressive campaign to wipe out a national movement among its Rusyn citizens — ironically, the same sort of movement that had inspired a Hungarian uprising against Austrian Hapsburg rule less than 20 years earlier.
Though most Rusyn Greek Catholic leaders opposed this campaign of assimilation, several bishops (particularly those in Prešov) went along with it, suppressing the use of Rusyn in schools and asserting a Hungarian identity.
Distressed by this assimilation policy, the self-appointed “Godfather of all Slavs,” Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, encouraged Greek Catholic Rusyns to return to Orthodoxy, which he claimed would uphold Rusyn traditions. The move also destabilized the multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire, Russia’s rival.
This “back to the old faith” movement outlived the Dual Monarchy, Hungarian sovereignty of the Rusyn Subcarpathian homeland and the tsar. It reached a climax in the 1920’s, when tens of thousands of Greek Catholic Rusyns — citizens of the newly created Czechoslovakia — embraced Orthodoxy.
Emigration. Beginning in the late 19th century, an estimated 200,000 Rusyns immigrated to the United States, settling in the industrialized areas of Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Lured by employment agents of the mines and mills, they quarried coal and forged steel, enriching their employers and building a nation. And though working conditions were wretched, many Rusyn immigrants believed they lacked nothing except a church in which they could worship God in keeping with the traditions of their ancestors.
Fueled by faith and freed from the oppression choking the old country, Rusyn immigrants banded together. They formed associations and, from the collected dues, donations and interest-free personal loans, they built their churches, modest reminders of home.
The Greek Catholic Union, a fraternal organization founded in 1892 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, provided economic, legal and moral support to many emerging Rusyn Greek Catholic parishes. Contrary to the usual Roman Catholic practice in the United States, however, the Rusyn laity, with the backing of the Greek Catholic Union, not only built but owned their churches. And the priests who celebrated the sacred mysteries, while sent by their bishops, were solicited, retained and supported by the trustees of the parish. Also contrary to usual U.S. Roman Catholic practice, most of these priests were, in keeping with the norms of the Greek Catholic tradition, married.
Crisis and schism. Wounded by cries of “Americanism” and “Modernism” hurled by critics in Europe — and unfamiliar with Greek Catholic traditions — some U.S. Roman Catholic bishops (who had oversight of Greek Catholic parishes) denied married or widowed priests the faculties necessary to carry out their ministries.
Father Alexis Toth (1853-1909), the son of a Greek Catholic priest, a former seminary professor and a widower from the Rusyn Greek Catholic Eparchy of Prešov, sought the jurisdiction of a Russian Orthodox bishop in San Francisco. He did so after Roman Catholic Archbishop John Ireland of St. Paul denied him the faculties to guide a Rusyn Greek Catholic parish in Minneapolis.
In 1891, the parish embraced Orthodoxy, launching a pro-Orthodox movement among American Rusyn Greek Catholics. By the time of Father Toth’s death, more than 25,000 Rusyn Greek Catholics in the United States entered the Russian Orthodox Church. Ironically, their acceptance of Russian Orthodoxy subsequently contributed to the loss of their Rusyn traditions and the acceptance of a more dominant Russian identity.
This movement prompted the U.S. Greek Catholic community (which in addition to Rusyns included Croats, Hungarians, Slovaks and Ukrainians) to petition the Holy See for a Greek Catholic bishop, which, they hoped, would be able to represent their church with equanimity and defend their rights and prerogatives.
Bishop Soter Ortynsky’s arrival in the United States in August 1907 coincided with the publication of “Ea Semper.” This apostolic letter delineated the new bishop’s duties (an auxiliary to Roman Catholic bishops) and modified several Greek Catholic customs and practices, calling for withholding confirmation from infants at baptism (the sacrament was to be conferred on persons of suitable age by bishops, not priests, as in the Roman Catholic tradition) and stipulating that married priests were not to be ordained in the United States or sent from abroad.
Sensing the erosion of their Greek Catholic identity, Rusyn-Americans protested the appointment. Bolstered by their fraternal societies, Rusyn-Americans also identified the bishop as an advocate of the apostolic letter, a friend of the Ukrainian nationalist movement and, therefore, their foe.
Following the bishop’s death in 1916, the Holy See established two separate Greek Catholic administrations (in 1924 these were elevated to apostolic exarchates). One was erected in Philadelphia for Ukrainians and a second in Pittsburgh for Greek Catholic Rusyns, Croatians, Hungarians and Slovaks. By 1929, there were some 150 Rusyn Greek Catholic parishes throughout the United States, embracing almost 300,000 members.
The calm that followed the erection of the exarchates, however, did not last. In 1929, a new decree from the Holy See, “Cum Data Fuerit,” enforced not only clerical celibacy, but called for the legal transfer of all church properties to the respective Greek Catholic bishops. The decree shook the entire Greek Catholic community, regardless of ethnic background.
The desire of Rusyn-Americans to maintain their Eastern Christian faith, or stara vira (old faith), and the privileges and rites associated with it, would eventually split the community. Though the Rusyn Greek Catholic Exarch of Pittsburgh, Bishop Basil Takach, requested that Rome reconsider its stand on the ordination of married clergy in the United States, some 37 Rusyn Greek Catholic parishes rebelled and eventually sought union with the Orthodox ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople. Today, 75 parishes and missions, numbering more than 50,000 people, make up the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church.
New World stability. Despite these bewildering conflicts, the Rusyn Greek Catholic Church in the United States flourished. Perhaps in response to its earlier ethnic trials, its bishops encouraged an “American” character after World War II.
This Americanization of the Rusyn Greek Catholic Church, however, tended toward Latinization. An abbreviated Divine Liturgy was now recited in English; use of the church’s lovely plainchant in Church Slavonic all but disappeared. And in many churches, the iconostasis, or wall of icons separating sanctuary and nave, was reduced, simplified or removed; side altars with Byzantine-style images, resembling the ordering of Roman Catholic sanctuaries, were erected in their place. Nevertheless, participation in church activities was highly enthusiastic and vocations to the priesthood and religious life increased.
In 1963, Pope Paul VI divided the Apostolic Exarchate of Pittsburgh into two eparchial sees. One eparchy was established in Pittsburgh and a second in Passaic, New Jersey. A third was created in 1969 in Parma, Ohio. That same year, Paul VI established the Eparchy of Pittsburgh as a metropolitan see, with Passaic and Parma as suffragan sees. In 1981, Pope John Paul II created a third eparchy in Van Nuys, California, which has since moved to Phoenix.
European revival. After World War I, communities that made up the Rusyn Greek Catholic eparchies of Mukacevo and Prešov were incorporated into the newly created republic of Czechoslovakia. But trouble surfaced in 1939 when Hitler dismembered the republic, absorbed Czech lands and created a fascist Slovak puppet state that ruthlessly suppressed ethnic minorities, including the Rusyn Greek Catholics of Mukacevo and Prešov.
At the conclusion of World War II, the Soviets annexed parts of the Subcarpathian basin — including Mukacevo and neighboring Užhorod — and incorporated these Rusyn areas into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Prešov remained in Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia.
The Soviets ruthlessly persecuted the Rusyn Greek Catholic Church. They shut the doors of the seminary in Užhorod in 1946, murdered Bishop Theodore Romža of Mukacevo a year later and forced Rusyn Greek Catholics into the Orthodox Church in 1949.
The Soviets and their allies squashed any lingering remains of a Rusyn Greek Catholic identity, driving such sentiments underground. The church, nevertheless, survived. The Greek Catholic Eparchy of Prešov in Czechoslovakia was restored after the liberal government reforms of 1968; however, the Rusyn Greek Catholic eparchy assumed a Slovak identity, which it retains to this day.
In Soviet Ukraine, the Eparchy of Mukacevo resurfaced in 1989, but its Rusyn identity was questioned and tried. In 1993, the Holy See reaffirmed the eparchy’s unique relationship to the Holy See, declining to incorporate it into the much larger Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
In 1996, Pope John Paul II erected an exarchate for Greek Catholics in the Czech Republic, officially classifying it as a “Ruthenian” jurisdiction. The exarchate was created, not only to care for the pastoral needs of Greek Catholic Rusyns and Slovaks living in the Czech Republic, but to regularize the orders of married Latin priests ordained secretly during the Communist era.
While a unified church may not yet exist, European and North American Rusyn Greek Catholics work together, assisting one another with financial and personnel support. This support is not limited to Greek Catholics alone. Guided by the ecumenical movement and encouraged by the foundation of nonpartisan societies dedicated to the study of Carpatho-Rusyn genealogy, history, literature and religion, relations among Rusyns of all faiths press forward. On the occasion of the centennial anniversary of the printing of the first official compilation and manual of the prostopinije (late June 2006), the then apostolic administrator of the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukacevo, Bishop Milan Sasik, C.M., invited all eparchies rooted in the church of Mukacevo, Greek Catholic and Orthodox, to a conference in Užhorod.
“Our liturgical plainchant tradition identifies us, unites us and distinguishes us as one church in the Byzantine tradition,” he said. “The testimony of this common usage is an important reason to celebrate together.”
Michael La Civita is CNEWA’s Assistant Secretary for Communications.
by Michael J.L. La Civita
Reprinted here with Permission of CNEWA
Worshippers packed the new Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Pittsburgh for the consecration of the Byzantine Catholic Archbishop of Pittsburgh, the Most Rev. Judson M. Procyk. (photo: Arthur Zielinski, Daily News, McKeesport, Pa.)
On an early spring day in 1646, in the chapel of the Uzhorod castle in present-day Ukraine, 63 Orthodox priests professed fidelity to the See of St. Peter before the Latin bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Eger, Hungary. Known as the Union of Uzhorod, this profession of faith has endured as a defining force of the Ruthenian people and culture.
Today more than 1.3 million Ruthenian (also known as Carpatho-Rusyn) Byzantine Catholics, scattered throughout North America, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and southwest Ukraine, are preparing to celebrate the 350th anniversary of this historic event.
Eastern Europe has had a tumultuous history. Among those most affected by the ever-changing borders have been the Rus: the Eastern Slavs of the Middle Ages. In the modern age, they have been classified Belorussian, Russian, Ruthenian and Ukrainian. Unlike their Eastern Slav kinsmen, the Ruthenians have never governed the upper slopes and valleys of their Carpathian homeland.
From the late 10th century until the dissolution of the multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, the Ruthenians were dominated by the Hungarians. In late 1918, with the creation of the Czecho-slovak Republic, most Ruthenians were incorporated within the autonomous province of Carpatho-Ruthenia. The remainder were absorbed in the Slovak region of Presov. After Nazi Germany dissolved Czecho-slovakia in 1939, the Hungarians reestablished their command of Carpatho-Ruthenia, while the Nazi-controlled Slovak Republic retained Presov. Since the final days of World War II, the Ruthenian homeland has been divided between Ukraine and Slovakia. In short, a 20th-century Ruthenian villager could identify himself as Austrian, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak or Ukrainian without ever leaving his home!
These geopolitical conditions, coupled with almost constant ethnic suppression, were not conducive to nurturing a distinct Ruthenian identity. It was sustained, nevertheless, by Byzantine Christianity, which the Ruthenians accepted from Sts. Cyril and Methodius in the late ninth century. The unique Ruthenian consciousness was bolstered further by the Union of Uzhorod. However, it was in the blue-collar towns of the American Northeast – especially in Pennsylvania and New jersey – that the concept of a unique Ruthenian identity bore fruit.
Towns like Hazleton, Homestead, McKeesport and Wilkes-Barre in Pennsylvania, and Passaic and Jersey City in New Jersey, were the primary destinations of many Ruthenian immigrants. Mostly illiterate and not particularly nationalistic, they were lured by the comparatively large salaries of the mines and factories. As the need for cheap labor increased the number of immigrants multiplied.
Although the desire to return to the old country soon faded, contacts with the homeland did not. And cultural and political events in the old country contributed to the ethnic consciousness developed by the Ruthenian community in the United States.
Like most Eastern European agrarian peoples, the Ruthenians centered their lives on the church. Once in the New World these immigrants continued this pattern, even though they settled in the cities. At first, they worshipped in local Latin Catholic churches. As their numbers increased they petitioned their home eparchies for priests to celebrate the liturgy according to their Byzantine tradition.
The Greek Catholic Union, a fraternal organization founded in 1892 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., provided economic and moral support to the emerging church. Contrary to the usual practice of the Latin church in the U.S., the Ruthenian laity, with the backing of the Greek Catholic Union, built and owned their houses of worship. And the priests who were hired to celebrate the liturgy were, in keeping with the norms of the Byzantine tradition, often married.
Some Latin bishops, unfamiliar with the Byzantine traditions of the Ruthenians, would not allow the married priests to function. This prompted the Byzantine Catholic community to petition the Holy See for a Byzantine hierarch. A bishop, they reasoned, would be able to represent their church with equanimity and defend the rights and prerogatives of the Byzantine Catholic Church, which had been conferred after Uzhorod.
Meanwhile, agents of the Russian Empire, sensing dissension in the Ruthenian-American community and eager to weaken the Hungarian hold, initiated programs to entice the Ruthenians into the Russian Orthodox Church. In Europe Russian agents also led the pro-Orthodox movement, which prospered due to the anti-Byzantine, ethnic assimilation policies of the Hungarian government.
In 1890, in Minneapolis, Minn., the Latin Catholic Archbishop of St. Paul suspended the Rev. Alexis G. Toth (1853-1909), a widower who led a parish of more than 360 people, for his refusal to support a decree limiting the privileges of the Byzantine Catholic Church. A few months later, Father Toth and his entire parish were received into the Russian Orthodox Church. Thus began a large-scale pro-Orthodox movement among Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics. By the time of Father Toth’s death in 1909, more than 20,000 Ruthenians had converted to Russian Orthodoxy. Ironically, acceptance of Russian Orthodoxy also meant Russification and the suppression of a distinct Ruthenian character.
In May 1907, perhaps in response to the pro-Orthodox movement in Europe and the U.S., the Holy See appointed the Basilian Father Soter S. Ortynsky (1866-1916), a Ukrainian, as the Vicar General for the Byzantine Catholic community in the U.S. However, the selection of Father Ortynsky was not greeted with enthusiasm by the Ruthenian-American community.
The lack of support, indeed hostility, demonstrated by some members of the community may be traced to yet another development in European culture and politics: the revival of ethnic nationalism.
Awakened by the success of the Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian nationalist movements in the early 19th century, Europe’s ethnic minorities clamored for similar nationalist rights from the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires. Croats and Slovenes, Czechs and Slovaks. Ukrainians and Poles all hungered for independent nation-states.
The Ukrainian nationalist movement which was centered in the virulently anti-Russian province of Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, did not tolerate the concept of a distinct Ruthenian community. And it did not help that many Ruthenians had adopted a pro-Russian posture to assist in throwing off their Hungarian oppressors.
Bishop Ortynsky, although a gifted preacher, was nevertheless a friend of the Ukrainian nationalist movement fearing the suppression of their national and religious traditions in the New World, the Ruthenians, led by the Greek Catholic Union protested. It is estimated that nearly 100,000 people sought refuge in the Russian Orthodox Church.
Following the Bishop’s death in 1916, the Holy See established two separate Byzantine Catholic administrations. One jurisdiction was established in Philadelphia for those Byzantine Catholics who emigrated from Galicia (Ukrainians). A second was created in Pittsburgh for those Byzantine Catholics from Hungary (Ruthenians).In 1924, the Holy See elevated each administration to the dignity of apostolic exarchate. A priest of the Eparchy of Munkacs in Czechoslovakia, Father Basil Takach, was consecrated in Rome as bishop of the new Ruthenian exarchate. Ironically, this exarchate did not embrace Ruthenians alone. One of the Bishop’s first tasks was to take a census of each parish. Where the majority of parishioners were of Ruthenian, Slovak, Hungarian or Croatian origin, parishes were to be governed by the Ruthenian Catholic Exarchate of Pittsburgh. Those parishes in which the majority were of Ukrainian descent were placed under the mantle of the Ukrainian Catholic Exarchate of Philadelphia.
The apparent calm that settled with the erection of the exarchate did not last. In 1929, the Holy See issued a new decree, Cum Data Fuerit, which considered the administration of the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church. Cum Data Fuerit enforced clerical celibacy and the episcopal ownership of property.
This decree precipitated widespread dismay in the entire Eastern Catholic community. An assembly of priests, led by the Rev. Orestes Chornock (1883-1977), met in Pittsburgh in 1937. In a petition to the ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople, they asked to be received into the Orthodox Church as a distinct eparchy. The ecumenical patriarch granted the request and placed them under the spiritual care of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America. At present, the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Diocese, led by Bishop Nicholas in Johnstown, Pa., numbers more than 110,000 Ruthenian-Americans.
An estimated 250,000 Ruthenian-Americans the descendants of those immigrants who embraced the pro-Russian movement – belong to two additional Orthodox jurisdictions: the Orthodox Church in America and the Russian Orthodox Church in the United States.
Despite these bewildering conflicts, the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church in the U.S. has flourished. Interestingly, and perhaps in response to its ethnic trials, the bishops of this church have emphasized its American and Byzantine Catholic character.
A historian of the Ruthenian community, the Rev. Athanasius B. Pekar, O.S.B.M., notes that 1950 was a turning point for the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church in the U.S. Vocations to the priesthood and religious life, which have been attributed to the efforts of the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Conception and the Basilian and Benedictine sisters, were numerous. A sign of the church’s prosperity and maturity was the opening of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Pittsburgh in 1951.
Throughout the 1950s and 60s, however, the Americanization of the Byzantine Catholic Church frequently suggested latinization. The Divine Liturgy, which had been celebrated in Church Slavonic, was now said in English. And a recited, abbreviated version of the liturgy was also offered. In many churches the iconostasis, or wall of icons separating sanctuary and nave, was removed. Side altars with Byzantine-style images (instead of statues) were erected. Nevertheless, participation in church activities was highly enthusiastic.
In 1963, Pope Paul VI divided the Apostolic Exarchate of Pittsburgh into two eparchial sees. One eparchy was established in Pittsburgh and a second in Passaic. A third eparchy was created in 1969 in Parma, Ohio. And that same year Pope Paul VI established the Eparchy of Pittsburgh as a Metropolitan See, with Passaic and Parma as suffragan sees. In 1981, Pope John Paul II created a third suffragan see, the Eparchy of Van Nuys, Calif. More than 200,000 people now belong to the Byzantine Catholic Church in the U.S.
The bishops of the church, while not returning to the ethnocentric policies of the past, have promoted cultural and spiritual renewal. Standardized texts of the Divine Liturgy have been promulgated. Liturgical services that once fell out of use, including the proper administration of the sacraments of Christian Initiation – baptism, chrismation and Eucharist – have been resurrected. Icons and icon screens have been restored and, in some parishes, entire churches have been transformed into traditional Ruthenian structures.
In a letter to all Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics commemorating the Union of Uzhorod, Pope John Paul II called for the “Ruthenian community to be invigorated by this celebration and to fulfill with new apostolic vigor the mission entrusted to it…by means of prayer [and] example, by the scrupulous fidelity to the traditions of the East, by better knowledge of each other, by working together and by a brotherly attitude toward all persons and things.
“The affirmation of one’s proper identity,” the Pontiff continued, “ought to serve as proof that there are places open in the Universal Church for different traditions.”
Michael La Civita is the Editor of Catholic Near East magazine.
by the Rev. Nicholas Rachford, J.C.L.Reprinted here with Permission of CNEWA
Although the traditional ancestral roots of most Midwestern Byzantine Catholics are Slav, today’s Byzantine Catholics are a part of the complex ethnic fabric that is the American tapestry. In the Midwestern Ruthenian Eparchy of Parma, centered in the city of Parma, Ohio, this diversity breathes new life into an eparchy covering 12 states from the industrial heart of Ohio to the plains of the Dakotas.
Established in 1969, it originally embraced 25 states reaching from Ohio to the West Coast. During the early years, the first bishop, the Most Rev. Emil J. Mihalik, founded parishes in Alaska and Hawaii as well. In 1982 the Holy See established the Eparchy of Van Nuys, California, leaving Parma with its current 12 Midwestern states.
The eparchy’s parishes may seem small to many Roman Catholics – the average parish is just 160 households. The largest parish in the eparchy has 534 households, while the smallest lists only eight! With parishes of these numbers, parishioners experience a real spirit of family – parishes need everyone’s participation and support.
These parish families express this spirit through the many liturgical and social events that are a regular part of parish life in the Byzantine Church. Parish meals, centered around the liturgical calendar, include pre-Lenten meatless meals. St. Thomas Sunday breakfasts on the Sunday after Easter, parish festivals and picnics during the spring and summer months, St. Nicholas dinners and Christmas Eve suppers usually feature traditional ethnic foods, but do not exclude favorite recipes borrowed from other ethnic backgrounds. In addition, wedding anniversaries, baptisms and weddings become total parish events celebrated by all, not just a few.
Food also plays an important liturgical role, especially during the more important feast days. There is the blessed bread distributed during the anointing with oil on greater feasts. Sometimes honey cakes are also included. There is the boiled wheat and honey mold blessed on the first Friday of the Great Fast (Lent). The feast of the Transfiguration features a blessing of fresh fruit while the feast of the Dormition is marked by the blessing of flowers and herbs.
On the eves of the Nativity of the Lord and of the Theophany (January 5) families share special penitential meatless meals with prayers and chanting of the festal verses. And no Byzantine Catholic forgets the traditional Easter bread, Pascha, and Artos, a sweet loaf blessed on Easter and distributed on Thomas Sunday.
The custom that families most consistently carry out is that of bringing baskets of food to be blessed on Easter. Foods included are those given up during the Great Fast. Traditionally they include a Pascha bread, sausage, butter, lamb, horseradish, salt, an egg custard, ham, hard-boiled eggs and elaborately decorated fresh eggs.
All of these bring the liturgical life into the family home.
Because most parishes cannot support a parochial school, (there are only two in the eparchy) religious education classes are a prominent feature of parish life. During these Eastern Christian formation classes students learn the theology, liturgy, chant and customs of the Byzantine Church. This prepares them to live their Christian lives effectively as Byzantine Catholics.
While these are the positive aspects of life in the Eparchy of Parma, there are also challenges. Roman Catholics will find echoes of their own dilemmas – the eparchy faces a clergy shortage. There are only 35 priests to serve the 14,000 faithful in the 40 parishes of the eparchy.
When pastoral needs require it the Congregation for the Eastern Churches may allow a priest of one rite, who has received training in the theology and liturgy of another, to celebrate the liturgy in that rite as well. Thanks to the help of bi-ritual priests of the Latin (Roman) Church three parishes receive the ministry of a regular pastor.
Six other parishes do not have a resident pastor but each parish is served by the pastor of a nearby parish. The eparchy ordained one priest in 1993, but has had three deaths since. A second priest was ordained in March and there is just one seminarian beginning his studies. The shortage of clergy has caused Bishop Pataki to close two parishes. In one case there are Byzantine parishes nearby, but in the other, not one. These people will more than likely attend Latin parishes and may eventually decide to transfer permanently to the Latin Church.
The eparchy’s two Catholic elementary schools provide an excellent education, developing the minds of our future leaders, anchoring them in the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic and religion. But the small size of parishes and a sagging economy resulted in the closing of yet another school last March. Since a Catholic education is important to many parents, Byzantine Catholics often send their children to Latin Catholic schools. It is not surprising that many of these students eventually find their way permanently into Latin Catholic parishes.
Bishop Pataki has taken several measures to address these issues and to promote spiritual renewal in the eparchy. In 1987 he promulgated a standard text to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. In the past some priests, responding to the pastoral needs of the people, omitted parts of the liturgy. The lack of consistency in the way this was done created confusion among laity and clergy alike. A standard liturgical text has brought a welcome harmony to the celebration. The Bishop also directed the Liturgical Commission to make a fresh translation of the lenten liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts and directed that it be celebrated in all parishes at least once a week during the Great Fast. This liturgical service had fallen out of general use and its restoration has been beneficial to the lenten renewal of the Christian faithful.
One of the most significant tasks the Bishop has undertaken is the restoration of the sacraments of Christian initiation for infants. While baptism and chrismation (confirmation) had always been celebrated together, first communion had been delayed until the child reached seven years of age. Responding to the canons of the new Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which directed that the Eucharist be given along with baptism and chrismation, Bishop Pataki had the Liturgical Commission prepare a new translation of the rite of baptism and chrismation. He promulgated this for the eparchy and has directed the restoration of first Eucharist at the time of baptism, regardless of age.
Bishop Pataki also established an eparchial assembly (the same as a diocesan synod in the Latin Church), which resulted in the promulgation of eparchial statutes in September 1993. These statutes seek to make the new canons more effective in the eparchy and improve implementation of the teachings of Vatican II. Through the various structures and programs outlined in the statutes, there has been an increase in lay representation and leadership throughout the eparchy.
Of similar importance is the new eparchial mission statement that lists evangelization as the most important mission of the eparchy. The new Office of Evangelization has prepared materials to assist parish evangelization teams in their tasks. This year there will be an eparchy-wide effort to invite fallen-away Catholics back to their church. The suggested date for this effort is the Sunday after Easter, Thomas Sunday, which is named for the Gospel account of the doubting apostle read that day. This seems an appropriate time to invite back those who have experienced doubts about their faith.
A unique twist to its work of evangelization is the support the Eparchy of Parma provides to the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine. Many of the Greek Catholic priests who arrived on these shores nearly 100 years ago to work with the steady flow of immigrants were from western Ukraine. When the Soviet Union annexed western Ukraine the communists liquidated the Greek Catholic Church and turned over most of its property to the Russian Orthodox Church. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, the Greek Catholic Church has been legalized and a portion of its property has been restored. However the job of restoring ecclesial life is now the responsibility of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic hierarchy.
Bishop Ivan Semedi of Mukacevo has undertaken the task of building a seminary to train the many candidates who are eager to become priests. Unfortunately there is little money available. After construction began in late summer 1992, financial problems caused repeated delays. Construction halted in June 1994. Today the half-completed building sits idly while weeds grow around it. Meanwhile the seminarians live and study in makeshift quarters.
Wishing to return something for what they received years ago, a group of clergy and laity in the eparchy recently formed the Three Holy Hierarchs Association. Named for the original patron saints of the old seminary in Uzhorod, Ukraine, the association plans to raise funds to complete the construction of the new seminary. This will help repay a debt of gratitude for those pioneering priests who brought the Byzantine Catholic faith to the New World.
With the grace of God the whole Catholic Church, Byzantine and Roman, will forge ahead, overcoming obstacles, growing in faith and love so that the kingdom of God may unfold, revealing to all the glorious tradition of the church, East and West.
Bridgeport, Fairfield County, Connecticut
Thousands of immigrants came to the United States during the 19th and the early 20th century. The reasons for immigration were numerous. Many came to find religious freedom, some to secure better economic conditions and others, to leave lands that were plagued by war and strife. Due to the industrial nature of Bridgeport, numerous immigrants chose to settle in this town due to the abundance of work. A group of immigrants gathered to discuss plans for a church so that they could worship their faith. These immigrants had been Greek Catholic but upon their entrance into the United States decided they no longer wished to be affiliated with Rome and passed a resolution to apply to the Orthodox jurisdiction. A group of these individuals met with Father Alexis Toth who was called the "Father of Russian America" (and who later was canonized as St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre in 1994). This was how the formation of Holy Ghost Orthodox Church began.
In 1894 a group of future parishioners met with Bishop Nicholas of San Francisco, Bishop of the North American Archdiocese of the Orthodox Church in America and with Father Alexis Toth to explore the founding of a new church. This group met twice and on September 25, 1894 Bishop Nicholas offered an Archpastoral letter fully accepted these members into Orthodoxy. The original founding date of Holy Ghost was October 20, 1894. Funds were collected and members worked to build the new church. It is to the credit of these immigrant founders that in the span of only six short months, Holy Ghost was completed. The dedication of the new church was held on Palm Sunday, April 26, 1895 with Father Alexis Toth offering the first Divine Liturgy. During the year 1896 Bishop Nicholas asked Mr. Makara to travel to Russia to request funding for this new Orthodox Church. Mr. Makara received an audience with Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and the Emperor was gracious to his request. A donation of six magnificent bells had been cast for the coronation of the Emperor in 1896 and Nicholas II offered these to the new church. Upon entrance to the United States a problem developed which almost stopped Holy Ghost from receiving this gift. The bells were detained by United States customs officials for payment of a large import duty. Many members and those who supported Holy Ghost protested. In light of this, President William McKinley singed a special bill that had been introduced in the 55th session of the United States Congress, which permitted these bells to be brought to Holy Ghost, duty free.
The history of these bells is very interesting. The largest bell offers a raised relief of the former Emperor Nicholas II and his wife, the Empress Alexandra. This bell weighs approximately 4,000 pounds and on the opposite side of the bell are icons of the Savior. Two of the smaller bells contain reliefs of St. Alexandra and St. Nicholas, the patrons of the Emperor and Empress. The bells were cast by the renowned metallurgist, B.M. Orlov of St. Petersburg, Russia. Tonal production was a secret but was produced in part with such metals as copper, brass, silver, bronze and other alloys. Unfortunately, this well guarded secret of Imperial Russia is now lost. The way in which bells were constructed to produce the sterling tones for which bells in Russia are known is now gone. With the breakup and disbanding of various foundries during the revolution this art was lost forever.
The gift of these bells was not only generous but historical as well. Very few churches in America have such a set of bells that were offered by a reigning Russian monarch during this period. Holy Ghost Orthodox Church is the mother church of Orthodoxy in New England and in the Bridgeport areas. Many early immigrants from Orthodox lands such as Romania, Greece, Serbia and Albania attended services until they were financially able to build their own houses of worship. Holy Ghost was truly an all-encompassing Orthodox church due to the many heritages that worshiped there for many years. The church offers an extensive history due to the diligent records kept by Father Nicholas Vasilieff. His records show he traveled throughout Connecticut to perform services and offer the sacraments to those who had no Orthodox church. Connecticut was not his only area of service and his records show he traveled to places as far away as Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island.
Holy Ghost continued during these years to grow and expand at a very fast pace. The influx of new immigrants from Eastern Europe and those who wished to leave the Greek Catholic church and return to the Orthodox Church swelled the membership. The church grew so large that a new church was necessary. On Palm Sunday, April 26, 1937 a larger church was built on its present site. Holy Ghost has been the recipient of many honors during her long history. On June 13, 1981, the church was rededicated with the sealing of the relics of St. Herman of Alaska. These relics were brought by His Grace, Bishop Gregory of Sitka, Alaska that replaced the missing relics of St. Barbara. In 1994 the 100th Anniversary of Holy Ghost Orthodox church was celebrated. Father Alexis Toth who in 1894 assisted the original immigrant members to build this church was warmly remembered for his assistance to Holy Ghost. The highest honor bestowed on Holy Ghost was the fact that the first Divine Liturgy celebrated for this parish was offered by Father Alexis Toth, now known as St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre.
Holy Ghost is not only a church of grace and architectural beauty but the interior decorations are magnificent. The stained glass frescos depict the major feasts of the church and are breathtaking. The Stained Glass Association of America in 1983 conducted a survey of stained glass in America. Two of those assisting the association for this survey were Lydia and Alexander Garasimowicz. This survey added to its data base information on Holy Ghost’s stained-glass windows which are located at the University of Massachusetts and is available to art historians for their research. Other works of art to be seen at Holy Ghost are an icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov (in a kiosk), which was hand painted on Mount Athos, Greece by the monks. Gifts of four icons in 1896 were offered from the Imperial House of Romanoff which depict the Theotokos holding the infant Jesus, Christ the Savior, St. Nicholas, St. Alexandra and Saints Cyril and Methodius. The painting method of the icons is in Italian style as during this period it was popular and these are located on the Iconostasis.
New Britain, Hartford County, Connecticut
Courtesy of Rev. Frank Hanincik, Pastor & Christina Brundage
An Historical Retrospective & Photos
At the end of the Nineteenth century, as the number of immigrants from the Carpatho-Rusyn region of central Europe to New Britain began to increase, efforts were undertaken to establish a Greek Catholic parish in the city. Finally, in 1900 the parish was formally organized through the zealous efforts of the Rev. Eugene Volkay, pastor of St. John the Baptist Greek Catholic Church in the Bridgeport, CT. Father Volkay began regular visits to New Britain to minister to these faithful and to serve regular Liturgies at Sacred Heart Polish (Roman Catholic) parochial school through the courtesy of the Rev. Lucian Bojnowski. As the number of parishioners grew, Father Theodore Stefan was appointed as the first resident pastor in 1901. Through his efforts, a small wood-framed church was built on Beaver Street, at the site of the present church.
After a difficult period of struggle within the parish, Father Volkay returned as pastor when two new Greek Catholic parishes were formed, based along ethnic lines. These were St. Mary Church, now St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Winter Street, and Holy Trinity, now reorganized as Holy Trinity Hungaro-Russian Greek Catholic Church on June 27, 1909. Holy Trinity was struck with a second tragic loss toward the end of 1909 when the church building burned. The parishioners rallied together and built another small wooden church in 1910 on the same site to replace it.
As more Greek Catholic faithful were drawn to New Britain both from Europe and from other Carpatho-Rusyn communities in the United States by the manufacturing jobs available in the area, the parish began to gather sufficient resources to rebuild the church on a larger and grander scale. With the advent of Father Ivan Romza and the collective efforts of the faithful, the present structure of steel and brick was built at the cost of $125,000 in the year 1928. It was designed by the Hartford architect Frederic C. Teich and raised by the Harry J. Battistoni Construction Company of New Britain. The Rambusch Company of New York executed the stained glass and rose windows. The parish at last could worship in a beautiful and permanent church building.
Throughout the difficult years of the Great Depression, the parish struggled to meet its financial obligations. With a sincere faith and love for God and His Church, the founders used every means to keep the parish in tact. Many mortgaged their own homes so that the church would not be lost. Father Ivan was reassigned in 1932 and was followed by Father Michael Krivonyak who diligently administered the parish.
With a scarcity of priests in the Eparchy following the departure of Father Michael in 1939, it became necessary that the pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Bridgeport again serve the needs of Holy Trinity Church. Through the sacrifices of Father Daniel Mackov and through his conscientious efforts, the parish grew spiritually and materially.
In October of 1940, his brother, Father Alexander P. Mackov who served the parish for thirteen years, the longest of any pastor, replaced Father Daniel. Father Alexander was much loved and fervently worked to unite the parish. During his pastorate, the mortgage was liquidated in March of 1946, thanks to generosity and sacrifice of the parishioners. Additional alterations and repairs were also made at this time to the front façade of the church adding to its beauty.
Father Ivan Tylawsky was assigned to Holy Trinity in 1953. He undertook, with much labor and devotion, the redecoration of the church interior during his two-year tenure. The D’Ambrosio Ecclesiastical Art Studio of New York City was contracted to execute this project. A solemn rededication of the church followed.
Father Stephen Luzetsky came to Holy Trinity in December of 1955. He ministered to the growing needs of the parish. He helped to establish parish fraternal organizations and undertook the remodeling of the parish hall and kitchen. He made Holy Trinity better known in the community and did much to acquaint others with the rich liturgical tradition of the parish.
He was followed by Father, now Monsignor Robert Moneta. During Msgr. Moneta’s pastorate, plans were drawn and construction was begun on a new rectory. Monsignor was transferred prior to completion of this project and it became the task of Msgr. John Kallok to finish construction of and to furnish the new rectory. In spite of sickness, Msgr. Kallok reached this goal and new rectory was dedicated in 1963. During this time, the Byzantine Franciscan Friars from New Canaan helped with administration of the parish. In 1969, Father Benjamin Worlinsky was assigned as assistant pastor. Father Eugene Fulton arrived as the parish’s second assistant pastor in 1970. He was made pastor in 1971 upon Msgr. Kallok’s retirement.
During Father Gene’s tenure, the parish began plans for the 75th anniversary of its founding. The church was updated and an iconostasis was installed. Additional updates and repairs were made to the church. Upon Father Gene’s departure in 1977, Father John Cigan was appointed pastor. In 1979, Father Richard Klopf arrived as pastor. He also did much to foster Holy Trinity’s outreach and involvement in the community of New Britain and beyond. His untimely death in 1989 was a loss to the parish. Father Michael Kerestes served from 1989-1992. During this time, the pastor of Holy Trinity Church also began to administer St. Michael the Archangel Church in South Hadley, MA. Father Constantine Brown served for an interim period followed by Father Alan Kapron. Father Alan also did much to spiritually renew the parish. The exterior of the church was re-pointed and sealed during his pastorate and a fully appointed chapel was constructed in the basement of the rectory for weekday Liturgies.
Father Robert Woytek became pastor in August of 1998. Upon his arrival a Centennial Committee was formed to begin plans to celebrate the parish’s 100th anniversary on Pentecost Sunday, 2000. Three specific areas were chosen as special projects as part of the centennial year preparation. The parking lot was resurfaced and sidewalks repaired, the electrical wiring in the sanctuary and nave of the church was replaced and updated, and lastly the interior of the church would be cleaned and repainted. A large range of activities was scheduled as both fundraising and social or religious events. These included brunches and dinners, a concert by the world renowned Yale Russian Chorus, a super tag sale, and the annual Slavic bazaar. The culmination of the year was the centennial weekend celebration on June 10 & 11, 2000. On Saturday, June 10th, the All Souls Liturgy was celebrated in the Church followed by a Panachida at the parish cemetery to remember the founders of parish who sleep there. In the afternoon, Great Vespers for Pentecost were served, followed by a wine and cheese reception in the church hall. Finally, on Sunday, June 11 at 3:00PM, Bishop Andrew and the current and former pastors served the Solemn Divine Liturgy of Pentecost. A dinner reception followed at The Hawthorne Inn in Berlin, CT.
The momentum raised by the preparations for the Centennial has not ended with conclusion of the festivities. The committee has been renamed and has moved on to formulate long-range goals for the parish and for future growth. A gardening group has been formed to maintain and beautify the grounds, thereby enriching the entire Beaver St. neighborhood. Plans are underway to make the church handicap accessible and to make needed repairs and updates to the rectory. Lastly, on June 19, 2000, the newly created Holy Trinity website on the World Wide Web expanded the boundaries of the parish out into cyberspace, making the us known throughout the whole world.
Holy Trinity parish is most grateful to God for all the blessings that He has showered upon us over the past 100 years. With our eyes fixed on God and His plan for us, we move forward with renewed commitment to begin the next 100 years of faith and service to Him and all His people.
Women's Society circa 1910 - Father John Hrabar, pastor
Church committee circa 1920's
1st Communion Class of 1917-Father Michael Bisaha, pastor
Bethlehem carolers in front of church 1929 - Father Ivan Romza, Pastor
Band playing at Hostyna in the churchyard after dedication of the new church 1929
Church choir circa 1934/35 - Father Michael Krivonyak, Pastor; Prof. George Remecki, Cantor
Bridgeport, Fairfield County, Connecticut
Compiled from the 50th Anniversary Booklet
Photos Courtesy of Joy E. Kovalycsik & Steven M. Osifchin
In 1880 the first group of Carpatho-Russian immigrants began to settle in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Many of these immigrants came from the Carpathian territories of Austria-Hungary, Poland and the interior regions of Hungary. Being a people with no established country, these Carpatho-Russians held fast to their language, traditions and religious practices. A group of these Carpatho-Russians came to the east side of the industrial city of Bridgeport to start new lives. These pious and hardworking individuals wished for a church to worship God in their own faith. After much discussion, this small congregation began to hold services in a rented store located at Pembroke and Hallam Streets. The Reverend Eugene Volkay was their first priest but could not remain with them for a long period. The members purchased property on Arctic Street near Hallet Street and 1907 saw the beginning of Saint John’s. The Reverend Orestes P. Chornock was installed as pastor in 1911 and would remain with the members until March of 1947. One problem which did become serious was ecclesiastical affiliation. Loyalties were divided between those who adhered to Rome and were called "Uniates" and by those who recognized the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox church. These were strained times as many members knew their faith was eastern rather than western in ritual, rites, customs and traditions. In the 1920's Bishop Basil Takach arrived in America and visited Bridgeport in 1924. His agenda was to enforce Rome’s will in reference to the celibacy issue within the Greek Catholic Church. His explanation was that married priests were a source of envy to the Latin Rite Roman clergy and therefore, the Greek Catholic church would have to conform. The years that followed were difficult and very trying. In time though, it would become a period of new religious freedom for people who wished to remain in their faith and retain their cherished traditions.
The Bridgeport church stood fast to defend the right of the married clergy among other traditions. St. John’s joined forces with other churches headed by the Russian Greek Catholic Brotherhood. This brotherhood was a fraternal society located in Homestead, Pennsylvania and commonly called the "Sojedinenija." During this turmoil, Rome suspended several priests who were raising their voices in protest of the unjust treatment their faith was receiving. Reverend Fathers Orestes Chornock, Stephen Varzaly, Peter Molchany, Ireney Dolhy and John Soroka were included in this suspension. Various church congresses were held in Pittsburgh during the years 1932 and 1934 to appeal to Rome for justice and reconsideration. Rome refused and on November 23, 1937 a Congress of Churches was held in Pittsburgh. This congress severed all relations with the Roman Catholic Church and nominated Father Orestes Chornock as its bishop-nominee. In Constantinople, Father Chornock was consecrated a bishop on September 18, 1938 and was installed two months later. During this time a group of Uniates and the Roman Catholic church instituted a civil suit to gain control of the church property. A census of members was taken and 99% donated money for the legal defense fund. Finally, due to Rome’s unlimited financial resources and connections, the church property was lost. The loyal members did not give up at first but fought bravely to the end. The case was advanced through every legal avenue which culminated in the Supreme Court of the United States.
The Supreme Court denied the members their property and on October 14, 1944 a new church was brought into existence. Incorporation papers were singed in Bridgeport, Connecticut on December 8, 1941. During this period, services for the members were held in the Armenian Church of the Holy Ascension on Barnum Avenue. In late 1944, members gathered to plan the building of a new church. These individuals were overjoyed that they would again have a house of worship and gave what they had, and more, to accomplish this task. On December 13, 1944 at 11:55 a.m. the ground-breaking ceremony was held. This simple service offered that they had not been trampled down but in reality, had been the victors. These members are to be commended for what they did to build this church. Since the new congregation could not obtain bank loans, the members themselves paid for everything which was a monumental task given the period of time they were living in. It is almost unbelievable that after the first announcement to collect funds and at the conclusion of two weeks the gigantic sum of $200,000 was secured. Final purchases were made which included the land and property located at 348-358 Mill Hill Avenue. The purchase included a home which later would be remodeled to serve as a seminary for the new jurisdiction. The dedication of the new church was held on June 2, 1946. Father Joseph G. Simko of Warren, Ohio was called to be the first pastor of Saint John’s. The first liturgy was served with great happiness on March 29, 1947. The parishioners thought they would finally be left in peace and yet, another civil suit was instituted to try and obtain this new property. This time, those who wished to destroy the new church were entirely defeated. The Superior Court of Connecticut rendered a decision that all properties owned by the new jurisdiction were owned by St. John’s. The decision also rebuked the Catholic bishop from further interference into their personal property affairs.
After many years of upheavals and struggle, the church began to grow and prosper. The loyal parishioners who were devoted to their church erased the $500,000 debt within ten short years. It was at this time that a new project was begun. The interior decorations were to be expanded and renovated as this was deemed necessary. The first artist arrived at St. John’s on January 21, 1956. The work continued and no cost was spared to make this house of worship magnificent. Finally, on Sunday, July 12, 1959, the interior work was fully completed. Along with this project the parishioners also approved having the exterior cleaned and waterproofed to protect the interior. Liturgical observances were not overlooked and a new Plaschenica was purchased along with new carpeting for the entire church. Many renovations, upgrades and expansions were instituted at the church during various points in time to keep the church in good repair. In 1974 the brilliant stained glass windows were completely restored and repaired at a cost of $25,000. Always mindful of who owned and paid for this church a Benevolent Fund was established in November, 1981 to aid parishioners in need and during financial emergencies. During the second renovation held in the 1980's icons were cleaned and repainted, the entire electrical and sound systems were updated and the entire exterior and interior were again cleaned. The total cost for the second renovation was approximately $300,000. The icons found in this church are radiant. Christ With The Children and The Entry Into Jerusalem are works of art. They are simple in design yet, stunning in their makeup. The dome mural of The Creation which shows God creating the Earth is inspiring. The main altar itself is priceless. A magnificent tabernacle rests upon the altar which offers a carving of the Last Supper. The tabernacle is a scaled-down model of an entire church and the attention to detail on this tabernacle is majestic. The exterior of the church is simply gorgeous. The frontal view of the church shows a large main dome graced by a golden three bar cross. Four smaller domes adorn the frontal view and the architecture is fascinating. In the middle of two domes is an indentation with the icon of St. John the Baptist. This church can be seen many blocks away due to its size. The sandstone color of the church exterior is a lovely contrast to the green domes which rest on top of the church. The entrance to the church is located under a main portal. Three sets of massive wooden doors are welcoming. Above each set of doors are icons which should not be overlooked. The corner stone of the church reads: "The Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of Saint John the Baptist" in both English, and Cyrillic. The cornerstone is dated 1945. St. John’s has experienced a magnificent history. The parishioners of this exquisite church have contributed much with their accomplishments and especially during periods of trouble and turmoil. For all those who choose to drive up Mill Hill Avenue, just viewing this church is a credit to these pious and devoted parishioners. Their true sense of self-sacrifice to honor God and their faith is a testament for all to emulate.
St. John's Russian Greek Catholic Cemetery Statuary
St. John's is a beautiful cemetery and contains some excellent examples of early statuary.
Photos Courtesy of Steven Osifchin & Joy E. Kovalycsik
St. John's Russian Greek Catholic Cemetery Chapel
Photos Courtesy of Steven Osifchin & Joy E. Kovalycsik
Stratford, Fairfield County, Connecticut
TCC wishes to extend a special thank you to Father Peter Paproski for offering the history and photos of his parish.
Welcome to Saint John The Baptist Orthodox Church, (The Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of Saint John The Baptist). We are a parish of the Orthodox Christian Faith which was established on the day of Holy Pentecost in the Year 33 AD. Our parish community is a member of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A. whose presiding bishop is His Eminence, Most-Reverend Metropolitan Nicholas. The American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese is an autonomous diocese under the spiritual protection of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople of which His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I is the Primate.
While the founding members of our parish community emigrated from the Carpatho-Rusyn region of present day Slovakia and Western Ukraine, our present ethnic composition is mixed. Although a large percentage of the parish is of Carpatho-Rusyn descent, there are also people of Italian, German, English, Irish, Ukrainian and other ethnic backgrounds. Our parish community has been in existence for over ninety years, having been instrumental in the erection of two beautiful church edifices in the City of Bridgeport, which are still in existence today. Our community has been worshipping in its present location in Stratford for over fifty years.
Our parish community holds firmly to the traditions and beliefs of our Holy Orthodox Christian Faith as passed down to us from our forefathers. We are a small, but growing , active family-oriented parish with a approximately 100 parishioners. Building on the strong foundation of faith instilled in us by our ancestors, we are committed to sharing the Holy Orthodox Christian Faith we love so dearly, with all who seek it. We welcome you to our parish web site and hope you enjoy your on-line visit. We cordially invite you to personally visit our parish when you are in the Stratford, Connecticut area.
Iconostasis During Pascha 1999
In 2004 a second prayer shrine was erected on the church property. Master craftsman Frank Meyernick, fashioned the cross out of cedar wood. On Sunday October 16, following Divine Liturgy, Fr. Peter blessed the cross as the Faithful sang the Troparion to the Cross.
In September 2006 new Church doors were installed. The were donated in memory of the Franco and Witiak Families. Marcel Breton, of Breton Construction, assisted by parishioner and master carpenter, Frank Meyernick installed the new doors. The project was overseen by "Parish Facilities Manager" Tom Decerbo.
Compiled by, Father Ihar Labacevich
TCC wishes to extend a special thank you to Father Ihar Labacevich for offering the history and photos of his parish.
The second half of the 19th – beginning of the 20th centuries were the times when many Slavic people came to America trying to avoid hardships of life in the disintegrating Austro-Hungarian empire. Millions of Czechs, Poles, Ukrainians, Slovaks, Hungarians left their family homes looking for better life. Most of these people were Roman Catholics, small number of them were Protestants. Among them, there was also a group of people who belonged to the Eastern Catholic Church still known in Europe as Greek Catholic and in America as Byzantine Catholic and Ukrainian Catholic Churches. These people came from the Eastern part of the Hapsburg Empire, a small corner of Europe which is divided today between Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland and situated on the both sides of the Carpathian mountains, i.e. from the regions known today as Transcarpathia and Galicia. Their self-identification was different from region to region, they were usually called by regional names, such as Rusyns, Ruthenians, Lemkos, Carpatho-Ukrainians, Rusnaks, etc.
Church was always one of the most important constituting parts of their identity – back home and in America. However, there was no bishop, no church administrator for the Greek-Catholics in North America at that time, no one to help them to organise their religious life. So, people started organising their parishes and building their churches themselves from the early days of immigration to the USA. After their arrival to the USA, they settled down in different parts of the country, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Minnesota. Most of them had little education and virtually no knowledge of English. The only work available in America for them was hard labour in mines, mills and quarries. Most of them found employment in mining and steel industries. In Minnesota some of them became workers of the local flour mills and railways. Despite the poverty immigrants set aside money to build their own churches and schools, they organised lodges for fraternal, social and economic benefits.
The first Ruthenian priest in America was Fr. Ivan (John) Wolansky, native of Galicia. He was sent to the USA as a missionary priest by the Major Archbishop of Lviv Sylvester Sembratovich and arrived to America in 1884 together with his wife. Initially he came to the mining town Shenandoah in Pennsylvania where on the 19th of December 1884 in extremely modest conditions of the private home he offered the first Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy in America. Fr. Wolansky visited Minneapolis several times. As a fruit of his visits the first Greek-Catholic parish in Minneapolis was founded in 1887 and blessed by Fr. Wolansky in 1889. This parish was known as St. Mary’s Greek-Catholic Church in Minneapolis.
The first pastor of that parish was Fr. Alexis Toth, a widower and former professor of the seminary in Pryashiv (Preshov – now a city within contemporary Slovakia borders). The American Latin rite bishops did not know anything about other Catholic churches besides their own of the Latin rite. Their understanding of the universality of the Catholic Church was very often limited to only one Latin tradition. As a result of such an attitude of the Latin hierarchy a rather unpleasant and humiliating to the Eastern Catholics exchange between Fr. Alexis and archbishop of St. Paul John Ireland happened, which led to the decision of 361 member of that parish to join the Russian Orthodox Church in on the March 25, 1891. Their church in Minneapolis became “Greek-Catholic Russian Orthodox Church of the All-holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary” and known today as St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). About 20 thousand Greek-Catholics all over America followed their example and formed seventeen Orthodox parishes, which later became a foundation of the Orthodox Church in America.
However, not all the members of the St. Mary’s Church joined Orthodoxy. During the next decade some new immigrants came from the Carpathians and Galicia, who, together with the rest of the former parishioners of St. Mary’s church who remained faithful to their Eastern Catholic heritage, wanted to organise their own Catholic parish. On March 30, 1902, a meeting was held which was attended by a group of people who founded “The Brotherhood of St. John the Baptist” later evolved into the “St. John’s Greek Catholic Lodge No. 300”. A very significant development in the history of the Eastern Catholic Church in America happened on March 8, 1907, when Fr. Soter Ortynsky OSBM was appointed a bishop for the Ruthenians in America and named a titular bishop of Daulia by Pope Pius X. As the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church Patriarch Lubomyr Husar said in his homily on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the arrival of Bp. Soter to the United States, “His task was two-fold. First, … to establish ecclesiastical structure to organize ecclesiastical life for the immigrants … to help them spiritually. But he also had a different task, to explain to his brother bishops of the Latin Rite, the local bishops here, who were these immigrants who, although they insisted that they were Catholics, had a different tradition, different culture, different liturgical rite, were so different in many ways. So different that it seemed impossible to integrate them into the American life. His task was also to explain who these people were”.
With bishop Soter’s blessing members of the GCU Lodge 300 in Minneapolis purchased five lots of land and a wooden church building, which they moved from a different location. On the Thanksgiving day, November 28, 1907, the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in Minneapolis in the newly opened St. John the Baptist Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church by the first pastor of this parish Fr. J.A. Zaklynsky. The first member of the new parish was baptised and chrismated on November 24 of the same year – Anna Antonyak. At its founding in 1907, the parish consisted of 18 founding families with an average age of under 30 for the heads of the households. By the end of 1908 there were already 93 families in the parish and then gradually rose to 124 in 1923.
Father Zaklynsky was succeeded in the beginning of 1908 by Fr. Volodymyr Stech. In May 1908 His Grace Bishop Soter blessed the church during his visit to Minneapolis. On the June 8, 1908 the Articles of Incorporation were signed by archbishop John Ireland, bishop Soter Ortynsky and Fr. Volodymyr Stech. Thus, St. John the Baptist Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church in Minneapolis became officially established as “associated with” the local Roman Catholic bishop, i.e. as a Roman Catholic parish.
There were internal difficulties within the Ruthenian Greek-Catholic Church in America arising from the differences between Ruthenians from Galicia and Ruthenians from Transcarpatia. The former group, which became later known as Ukrainians, had a different vision of their ethnicity as an independent nation and, therefore, also different goals from the latter, Carpatho-Rusyn group, which was more influenced by Hungarian culture and politics. There were about 20 families with strong Ukrainian identity among the members of St. John’s parish. Even among the clergy - some of the priests were from Galicia, others from Transcarpathia. For instance, among the priests serving at St. John’s between 1907 and 1915, Fr. John Zaklynsky, Fr. Volodymyr Stech were from Galicia, Fr. Oleksa, Fr. A. Vajda and Fr. J. Kovacs – from the Transcarpatian region. Even the fact that these two groups had identical liturgical traditions and were able to communicate without an interpreter did not contribute much to the preservation of unity. Bishop Soter appointed in 1912 a new pastor to St. John’s parish, Fr. Constantine Kuryllo, a married man and native of Galicia. Some people in the parish did not accept this priest only for the reasons of his origins. As a result, the first split occurred in 1912 when St. Constantine’s Greek-Catholic Church was founded in Minneapolis, just a mile away from St. John’s. For the next almost three years, as St. John’s church records show, there was no priest assigned to St. John’s parish. All baptisms, chrismations, marriages and funerals of that period, including that of the late Archbishop Stephen Kocisko, took place at St. Constantine’s parish until Fr. Jason Kovacs, who was a pastor of St. John’s before Fr. Kuryllo’s appointment in 1912, was sent by bishop Soter back to Minneapolis.
On the national scale the same sad split happened when Bishop Soter Ortynsky died in 1916. Bishop Soter being of Ukrainian descent himself, nevertheless wanted all Greek Catholic in USA to be together and to overcome their regional differences. However, after his death, the ecclesiastical authorities in Rome decided to divide Greek Catholics in America and create separate Exarchates for Ukrainians in Philadelphia and for Transcarpathians in Pittsburgh. The administrators-priests headed both Exarchates until Bishop Constantine Bohachevsky was appointed for Ukrainians and Bishop Basil Takach for the Ruthenians from Transcarpathia on the May 8, 1924.
By the 1920s growing St. John’s congregation could not fit anymore in a small wooden church building they initially purchased. The building of the new church begun in 1923 and was completed in 1927. Fr. John Bihary celebrated the first liturgy in the new church in May of 1927. This new church was splendidly decorated, but it’s decoration was that of the Roman tradition rather than Byzantine. Except for the traditional three bar cross there were no other “Eastern” elements in the church interior. It can be partially understood if we look at the dynamic of development of the Ruthenian church in America. By that time immigration from Europe was virtually stopped. In the period between 1907 and 1927 several generations of parishioners already were brought up in America. Those people have never been to Europe, their home was now in Minnesota, not in Carpathians. More and more people of St. John started loosing their Ruthenian identity. By 1940 most of them were already speaing English as their first language. The whole cultural situation in the United States pointed towards “Americanisation”, i.e. a process of total assimilation of the minority cultures. Languages and customs of the first generations of immigrants were replaced by that of mainstream American, which often meant in the situation of the Eastern Catholic churches simply Roman Catholic and English speaking culture. Post-Second World war politics of McCarthyism also contributed to this negative process of assimilation. Byzantine Catholics were afraid of being accused in any pro-Russian and, therefore, pro-communist sentiment. The easiest way to get rid of these accusations was to become “more American” at the expense of their own identity. During the time of Bishop N. Elko, who was an advocate of this “Americanisation”, many traditional Byzantine architectural features, such as iconostasis (icon screens), were omitted or removed from the new or renovated churches, western style pews and other elements were added. As a positive development of that time one can mention the fact that English became an official language of the Ruthenian Church and that the ecclesiastical status of the Exarchate was elevated to that of the Eparchy, i.e. independent self-governing church.
Two other changes in the 1930s and 1940s hit St. John’s parishioners hard: first, the Pittsburgh Exarchate began enforcing the celibacy rule for priests as it was envisaged by the papal decree Cum Data Fuerit (1929). A group of priests of the Ruthenian Exarchate dissatisfied by this document gathered together and elected pastor in Bridgeport, CT, Father Orestes Chornock a Bishop of a new Independent Greek Catholic Church. He was consecrated a bishop by the Patriarch of Constantinople, eventually setting his See in Johnstown, PA. This would, in time, be known as The American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Diocese. Then, in the 1940s, St. John’s was ordered to adopt the "new" Gregorian calendar instead of the traditional Julian (in the 20th Century, it was 13 days behind the Gregorian). In 1941 a small number of families formed St. Nicholas Carpatho-Russian Greek Catholic Church just two blocks away from St. John’s. This church, however, did not exist for a long time and some of its members came back to St. John’s, while others joined St. Mary’s Orthodox Church.
II World war shaped the 1940s of St. John’s. A good number of men in the congregation served in the armed forces and some of them were killed in the war. After the war a lot of the veterans came back to Minneapolis hoping to find jobs, get married and settle down in North East, where their families lived. However, due to the demographic changes in post-war United States, many of them had to move out of the North East Minneapolis. Moreover, many people married spouses who were not Byzantine Catholics. As a result of these and other factors the membership of St. John suffered considerable decline during that period of time.
On the other hand, the1960s was a time when the II Vatican Council opened Catholic Church to the “outside” world and also brought a lot of positive changes to the Eastern Catholicism. Thus, the Eastern Catholic Churches were officially recognised as the Churches of their own right, not as merely subdivisions of the Roman Catholicism. Since its inception in 1924 as the "Apostolic Exarchate of United States of America, Faithful of the Oriental Rite (Ruthenian)", the organizational status of the Church was merely that of a missionary territory with limited self-governing authority, the homeland being Europe—albeit under Communist persecution since 1946. On July 6, 1963 the Vatican upgraded the status of the church from Exarchate to Eparchy, or diocese according the Latin-Rite terminology. A decree by the newly elected Pope Paul VI divided the entire U.S. territory of the Church into two separate ecclesiastical jurisdictions. The first, the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, included the Eastern states and the second jurisdiction, centred in Pittsburgh, included the rest of the nation. Both jurisdictions now held the canonical status of an eparchy or a full diocese. Bishop Elko continued as the American Church's senior hierarch, but one of the former parishioners of the St. John’s parish, Stephen J. Kocisko, was selected as the first bishop for Passaic and was installed on July 6, 1963 and later on, after Archbishop N. Elko’s resignation, he was installed as Archbishop of Pittsburgh on March 3, 1968. In 1969, St. John’s parent eparchy has been switched from Pittsburgh to the newly established Eparchy of Parma, Ohio. The whole Ruthenian church thus became an autonomous Metropolitan church.
Vatican II Council also called Byzantine Catholics to rediscover their roots. On the local level of the St. John’s parish Fr. Basil Shereghy, who became a pastor of St. John’s in 1957, was instrumental in this task. A former professor of the seminary in Uzhorod, he emigrated to America in 1946. He worked as a professor of language and liturgy at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was also the founding associate editor and longtime editor (1970-1986) of the diocesan newspaper Byzantine Catholic World. Author of many books on history and traditions of the Byzantine Catholicism, he greatly contributed to the renewal of St. John’s parish. During his pastorate the beautiful wall and ceiling paintings were done in the church. Revival of the Byzantine traditions is a long and difficult process, which often meets people’s reluctance and lack of appreciation. Being unable to restore the full traditional iconostasis due to the particular circumstances of that period of our history, Fr. Basil introduced side panels with icons, which later, in 1980-90s became parts of our present icon screen, restored by Fr. Bryan Eyman. In 1995 the icon screen was finally completed and a baptismal font was acquired by Fr. Edward Wojciechowski.
During the 1980s St. John’s again suffered a loss of many parishioners, who left the church following a scandal involving the pastor. After the short term of two other priests, Fr. Bryan Eyman became St. John’s pastor in 1988. He initiated various outreach programmes, trying to bring new people to St. John’s church. Despite the strong opposition among the parishioners to his attempts to bring back lost heritage and open the parish to the outside world, Fr. Bryan succeeded in restoring the church interior in a traditional Byzantine way. Once again it became possible for people of St. John’s to worship God according to genuine customs of their ancestors. On the November 1, 1992 a solemn re-dedication of St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church took place. Looking at these events, we may conclude, that although our parish lost some people following Ruglovsky’s incident, our return to the Byzantine tradition helped us to gain new families interested in our heritage.
One of the important roles in the Byzantine liturgy is that of the deacon. Only recently our church started revival of this noble tradition. Thus, Mr. Justin J. O’Connell, a parishioner of St. John’s was ordained to diaconate in June 1995 by then eparch of Parma Bp. A. Pataki. Unfortunately, being ordained already at the age of 78, Deacon Justin is no longer with us.
St. John’s is the only English-speaking Byzantine Catholic church in Minnesota. Currently we have in our parish people coming to our services from places situated as far as South Dakota.
Another aspect of St. John’s life is worth noting – a contribution of St. John’s people to the social and cultural life of North East Minneapolis. Throughout its history the parish hosted annual balls, folk and church choir music concerts. Today many of our parishioners contribute their skills and time to organise our annual Rummage sale and Fall festival. There are potlucks on several Sundays of the year, which give people a possibility to enjoy traditional Slavic and Hungarian cooking.
Today, St. John’s parish, recounting past 100 years of its existence, stands grateful to God for many blessings that we received from Him during all these years. We especially thank God for the possibility to overcome many problems and difficulties encountered by our parish. Our 100 years journey wasn’t easy, but people of St. John’s succeeded in preserving what their ancestors started in 1907. We also ask God to grant the descendants of our parishioners 100 years from now have the same dedication and faithfulness as the founders of our parish had 100 years ago. God grant us another 100 years!
Early Photos of Ladies & Men's Societies of St. John's Byzantine Catholic Church
St. John's Byzantine Catholic Church (Official Site)
Trenton, Mercer County, New Jersey
TCC wishes to extend a special thank you to Father Gregory J. Noga for offering the history and photos of his parish.
Late in 1889, a group of Carpatho-Rusin people attending the German American Roman Catholic Church in Trenton, New Jersey sought to participate in an occasional Liturgy and to receive the Sacraments according to their own Greek Catholic (now Byzantine) Rite. These pioneers came to America from towns, villages and farms in the part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire that is now Slovakia and the Ukraine. They brought with them a tremendous capacity for hard work, a strong desire to contribute to their new nation, and above all, a strong love of God. The Reverend Fathers Alexander Dzubay, Gabriel Vislocky and Eugene Volkay, three priests from the vicinity of Wilkes-Barre and Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, were among the first priests of the Byzantine Rite to celebrate the Liturgy and administer the Sacraments to these people.
The actual founding of the church was made by Father Volkay, then pastor at Hazleton, Pennsylvania, with the aid of seven laymen: John Hatrak, John Breza, John Kusnirik, Andrew Bucko, John Ceperak, Michael Skurla, and Michael Breza. On March 15, 1891, these men assembled in the hall of N. Anchak and on the motion of Father Volkay, wholeheartedly agreed to begin their religious life as an organized group. The feast of the Assumption of the Most Pure Virgin Mary was chosen as the patronal feast of the new church. During a Divine Liturgy celebrated by Father Volkay, all present made an initial donation to the new parish. To further unite the group, a benefit society was organized and entrusted with the task of registering fellow Carpatho-Rusins as members of the church.
At the first meeting of the new parish, trustees and ushers were appointed to aid in church work. Space was rented in a new building on the southeast corner of South Broad and Beatty Streets to use as a chapel. (This building later became a dry goods store.) Blessed by Father Volkay in 1891, the chapel contained a small altar, vestments, chalice and other essentials donated by members of the parish. In order to encourage the faithful to regularly attend Sunday services, even if a priest was not always available, a professional teacher and cantor, John Stavrovsky, was hired. Cantor Stavrovsky offered religious instruction, led the faithful in prayer and song, and did much to ensure the growth of the new parish.
As with any new undertaking, difficulties were encountered and it was a challenge to maintain everyone's commitment to religious observances and spiritual advancement. However, the small religious group persevered with the guidance of the seven loyal and determined organizers. The number of the faithful increased to thirty-two and in a short time, funds were sufficient to send for the Reverend Father John Szabo, who became the first pastor of St. Mary's parish on July 26, 1892. Under Father Szabo's spiritual guidance and leadership, intensive organizational work began.
During the same year, 1892, the construction of a new church was initiated on ground purchased for $1200 on the corner of Grand and Malone Streets. The cornerstone was laid on April 16, 1893 and a brick church with a steeple and bells was erected on a stone foundation. The bells, which cost $500, were blessed on July 30, 1893. Two months later, in September 1893, the church which would accommodate about four hundred people was dedicated with elaborate ceremony by the Most Reverend Michael O'Farrel, D.D. the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton assisted by six clergy of the Byzantine Rite. Prior to these later events, the church was incorporated on July 11, 1893 by Bishop O'Farrel. The first Board of Trustees consisted of five individuals: Bishop O'Farrel; Monsignor James A. McFaul, chancellor; Reverend Father John Szabo, pastor; and laymen, John Hatrak and John Breza. As recorded in the minutes of the first meeting, the first by-laws of St. Mary's Greek Catholic Church were formulated and promulgated in accordance with the laws of the State of New Jersey and in compliance with the regulations of the Catholic Church. Thus, under the guidance of Father Szabo, both the legal and spiritual foundations of the new church were secured.
Prior to his reassignment to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Father Szabo recorded the names of parishioners worthy of mention for their zeal and charitable works. The surnames of those individuals were Borsch, Kicinko, Truhan, Scerba, Varga, Artim, Maczovsky, Stopko, Ivan, Vorobjeff, Gocs, and Kostival. On December 10, 1893, Father Theodore Damjanovich became the new pastor and through his efforts and zeal, continued progress was made. In 1894 land for a cemetery was acquired, a fence installed, and a crucifix purchased for $1,000 was erected. The cemetery and crucifix were blessed in June of 1895.
With the continued generosity of the parishioners: liturgical appointments were purchased for the church; paintings in the church initiated by the artist, George Havelka, were completed by Stephen Hegedus; and at the cost of $1300, an Iconostasis was erected. This Iconostasis, subsequently moved to the church of St. Nicholas in Roebling, New Jersey, was blessed in September 1896 by the Most Reverend James A. McFaul, L.L.D., Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton. Most of the Byzantine clergy of the Eastern United States were in attendance as Bishop McFaul delivered an English sermon and Father Volkay preached the Russian sermon.
With the completion of the church, Father Demjanovich turned his attention to the building of a school. The school building was constructed and gas and water facilities were installed at a cost of over $7,000. Desks were purchased and John Choma, a professional cantor and teacher, was hired to run the school. Father Demjanovich departed for Europe in October, 1897.
In January 1898, Father John Csurgovich succeeded Father Damjanovich. Although his initial appointment was intended to be a temporary one of six months, Father Csurgovich remained as pastor for seven years. He paid the debt on the cemetery and began construction of a rectory at 210 Grand Street in April, 1899. The rectory was completed and blessed six months later on November 30, 1899. Significant during 1899 was the fire that broke out in the church. Flammable items such as carpets, furniture and tapestries were destroyed but the loss did not exceed $300. In September 1899, the school was officially opened with sixty-seven students. During the early years, about forty students attended school daily and a special course was offered on Saturdays for fifteen children from the surrounding farms. The first teacher of English was Miss Schlotter, and John Choma taught the Rusin language and church chant.
In 1900, the school, church and rectory were equipped with steam heating systems at a cost of $500 and the debt for the rectory was fully paid. The following year, the exterior of both the church and rectory were painted. In addition to the names of parishioners mentioned previously, early accounts of the history of the church recognize the contributions of individuals with the following family names: Jareczka, Smoliga, Baran, Sestak, Smajda, Ceremsak, Ciberey, Andrejco, Bacsik, Francovsky,Ondy, Nagy, Zupko, Novikmec, and Bobera.
On October 2, 1902, the Apostolic Visitor, the Right Reverend Andrew Hodobay celebrated the Divine Liturgy and then blessed several donated religious images and vestments. On May 10, 1903, an official visitation was made by the Most Reverend James A. McFaul, D.D., Bishop of Trenton, who presided at the Solemn Liturgy and also delivered the sermon. The celebration was concluded with a dinner at the rectory. In that same month, Michael Nemeth was appointed cantor of the parish and teacher in the school. Mr. Nemeth was known for his remarkable teaching ability and splendid work in the field of liturgical chant. He organized the youth of the parish and shared a practical knowledge of the Rusin language, singing, reading and writing.
In August 1903, electrical facilities were installed in the church, rectory and school. The balance of the $3000 church mortgage was also paid. This was an important occasion because it marked the first day that the parish had no debt on any of its properties.
While Father Csurgovich was a humble and modest man, he was a zealous pastor and keen administrator who left the parish in sound financial condition. His parting with the church in July 1906 was sadly received by the parishioners. He was succeeded by the Reverend Father Anthony Kecskes from the Diocese of Prjashev, who stayed only for a short time and was succeeded by the Reverend Father Basil Volosin who enjoyed a two year tenure as pastor. Father Volosin was succeeded by the Reverend Father Cornelius Laurisin who worked intensely to assure the progress of the parish. Besides ministering to their spiritual needs, Father Laurisin was instrumental in helping parishioners establish their homes in the vicinity of the church. On his advice, the church purchased nearby property and resold parcels of land at reasonable prices to parishioners who then built their homes there. Thus the vicinity of the church became largely a parishioners' community - for four or five blocks from the church, Grand and Adeline Streets were populated by parishioners. By May 1912, when Father Laurisin was recalled to Europe, the membership of the parish had increased so that the original church was no longer able to accommodate the people. In 1912, ground was also purchased for the second cemetery.
Father Laurisin was succeeded by another zealous and industrious priest, the Reverend Father Joseph Kovalchik. His brief stay of three years witnessed great achievement. The membership of the parish during his pastorate was over 700 families. The magnificent church that stands today was built. A masterpiece of architectural design and artistic skill, the granite church was constructed at a cost of $48,000. In 1941 at the time of the fiftieth anniversary of the parish, the value of the church was "estimated to be not less that $150,000."
On January 14, 1914, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Soter Ortinsky, D.D. assumed jurisdiction over Byzantine Catholic Churches in America. By virtue of civil law, he acquired the authority of President of the Board of Trustees and St. Mary's Church automatically fell under his jurisdiction. It was by authorization of this Board of Trustees on November 20, 1914, that the first mortgage in the amount of $40,000 was obtained for the construction of the new church building.
Father Kovalchik was succeeded by the Reverend Father Valentine Balogh who served St. Mary's for only five months. Father Balogh was succeeded by the Reverend Father Eugene Homicsko after whose arrival the new church was dedicated by the Most Reverend Bishop Soter Ortinsky. Father Homicsko had far-reaching plans that required the generous support and cooperation of parishioners. One of his priorities was to build a new school where parish children could be taught in a truly Catholic spirit in accordance with the Byzantine Rite under the guidance of the Sisters of St. Basil the Great. On August 15, 1920, the Board of Trustees adopted a resolution to obtain a loan of $130,000 to construct a school on the site of the first church. This building continues to stand today on the corner of Grand and Malone Streets.
The annual statements of the parish indicate that the total amount spent on the school was $180,000. The bank loan was $135,000 and the balance was borrowed from members of the parish. The school was solemnly dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1922 by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Count Septycki, D.D., who was visiting the United States. In spite of a very promising financial outlook, difficulties arose from the very beginning. To pay the enormous debt, special collections were made and assessments were levied; this led to considerable discord among parishioners. The turmoil was climaxed by the decision to build a new home for the Sisters. This required an additional loan of $30,000.
Father Eugene Homicsko was an industrious pastor who gave his full energy to the tasks he faced. Unfortunately, his health rapidly declined and ultimately forced him to tender his resignation to the Most Reverend Basil Takach, D.D., newly appointed by the Holy See as Bishop for the Carpatho-Rusin Greek Catholics (Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholics) in the United States. Father Homicsko died shortly after his transfer to Beaver Meadows, Pennsylvania and before the completion and dedication of the convent by Bishop Takach who resided in Trenton at the time. Father Homicsko was ultimately succeeded by the Reverend Father Desiderius A. Simcoe, a young, capable and energetic man who arrived in Trenton on September 21, 1928 from a well organized parish in Beaver Meadows, Pennsylvania.
Father Simcoe confronted an enormous task. Morale was low and the financial status and prospects were almost hopeless. Yet he achieved the apparently impossible. Patience, sermons, instructions, frequent contacts with the faithful at all parochial and social activities of the church, reorganization of the Youth Club, and the organization of new societies (Altar Society, Sacred Heart and Sodality) produced fruit. One of his first achievements was the introduction of the envelope system; this increased weekly offerings and helped in registering regular members of the parish. The response was excellent, and the generosity of parishioners restored the church's financial health.
As a result of the dedication and hard work of the Sisters of St. Basil the Great, the school became one of the outstanding elementary schools in Trenton. In 1930, John Mitchell succeeded John Nemes in the role of cantor-and-teacher. Following the difficult years of the 1920's during which church membership declined from 700 families to less than 150 families, the spiritual and social life of the parish regained vitality and many of its former members returned. In 1935, the Girls' (Ladies') Auxiliary was organized as a branch of the St. Mary's Greek Catholic Men's Club and since that time has played a remarkable role in assisting the church in spiritual, social, and fund-raising activities.
With the return of orderliness in the parish, the people responded generously to the needs of the church. During the Great Depression and with a heavy mortgage at 5 ½ and 6 % interest, both the parishioners and the pastor had to make great sacrifices. Father Simcoe somehow managed to keep the church from bankruptcy on many occasions. He ultimately stabilized its financial status by consolidating debts and paying off a major part of the mortgage.
During the late 1930's and early 1940's, many improvements to the church and the parish took place without the need to levy special assessments on parishioners. Paintings in the church were restored. The Iconostasis was artistically rebuilt and reinforced. The Holy Sepulcher was dismantled and rebuilt. A sound system was installed, pews refinished, and lighting improved. An artistic, handmade altar and white birch pews were installed in the Sisters' chapel. A new terrazzo floor was installed in the church, the roof of the school was completely replaced, and a sorely needed rectory was built. During the twenty-eight years of Father Simcoe's pastorate, St. Mary's became one of the largest and most outstanding parishes in the diocese - a tribute to a devoted pastor, and committed and generous parishioners.
The Golden Jubilee of the parish was celebrated on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1941 with a Solemn Divine Liturgy of Thanksgiving offered by the Reverend Stephen Gulovich, D.D., Chancellor and personal representative of the Most Reverend Basil Takach, D.D., Bishop of the Greek Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Eighteen priests participated. A banquet in the school hall followed the ceremonies in church. The school children presented a short program and the school band, under the direction of Mr. Joseph F. Mayer, rendered a few selections. Father Volkay, founder of the church, was present along with lay-organizers Mr. and Mrs. Skurla, Mr. and Mrs. John Breza, Ms. Anna Hatrak. These individuals were dispensed from any obligatory support to the Church for the rest of their lives.
After the death of Father Simcoe on June 12, 1956, the Reverend Father George J. Chegin was appointed pastor by the Most Reverend Nicholas T. Elko, D.D., Apostolic Exarch of Pittsburgh. On July 4, 1956, Father Chegin undertook his new pastoral duties with zeal, fervor and diligence. He increased the number of Liturgies on Sunday and Holy Days to accommodate workers and vacationers and, following the tradition of Father Simcoe, continued the various devotions. On February 11, 1957, Father Chegin was appointed Dean of South Jersey and was formally installed on April 25, 1957.
During the next two years, Father Chegin initiated a "Money Raising Campaign" for the purpose of renovating and redecorating the church. The church was completely renovated, the Iconostasis dismantled, the Icons applied to the walls surrounding the altar, and new appointments purchased at a cost of $150,000. In addition, extensive repairs to the school were made at a cost of $50,000 and the ground at the third cemetery, purchased in 1948, was filled in at a cost of $10,000. These projects were paid in full during Father Chegin's pastorate. A Solemn Rededication of the church took place on October 2, 1960.
On July 31, 1963, the Apostolic Delegate to the United States announced the formation of the new diocese of Passaic and the appointment of its first bishop, the Most Reverend Stephen Kocisko, D.D. former auxiliary to the Most Reverend Nicholas T. Elko, D.D. Bishop Kocisko reappointed Father Chegin as Dean of South Jersey on September 10, 1963. The First Canonical Visitation of St. Mary's by Bishop Kocisko took place on May 22, 1964.
For reasons of health, Father Chegin formally requested that Bishop Kocisko relieve him of his duties. (Father Chegin died on February 14, 1974.) On August 4, 1964, the Right Reverend Msgr. John A. Stim, V.F., former pastor of St. Michael's Cathedral in Passaic, was appointed as the new pastor of St. Mary's and Dean of South Jersey. Many unforeseen difficulties confronted the new pastor. Although the cost of renovating the church and school were paid in full, $100,000 in debt for the mortgage, demand notes, and loans from parishioners still remained. A parish census was conducted. A new roof was installed on the church building at a cost of $15,000 and the ceiling of the sanctuary was repaired. At the cost of an additional $25,000, the school building received a new roof, the school furnace was repaired, and the convent was completely renovated and refurbished. Through the hard work and generosity of the entire parish and the leadership of Msgr. Stim all of this debt was carefully and painfully liquidated. On July 1, 1966, seventy-five years since its inception and sixty-three years since its first resolution of property debt, the parish was again free of any encumbrances.
Parish work was not completed. For the next two decades, Msgr. Stim focused on upgrading and increasing parish facilities, and maintaining its spiritual, educational and social programs. The year 1971 saw the First Canonical Visitation by the Most Reverend Michael J. Dudick, D.D, Bishop of Passaic. In 1972, a large one-story building, a former A&P food store on the corner of Beatty and Adeline Streets, was purchased and transformed into a spacious and attractive Parish Center at the approximate cost of $300,000. The Solemn Dedication of St. Mary's Parish Center by Bishop Michael Dudick, D.D. took place on September 15, 1974. Today, the Parish Center continues as the home of Wednesday and Sunday bingos, church socials, dinners, and special programs. In 1977, the third cemetery was completed and opened. In 1984, three acres of land with three buildings were purchased on Route 130 North in Robbinsville, New Jersey. The largest of the buildings was transformed into a Chapel that could accommodate over one hundred and thirty worshippers during the Divine Liturgies each Sunday and Holyday of Obligation. The ranch type house on the property was used as a site for religious instruction and as a parish center. The cost of the property and chapel construction was $630,000. Msgr. Stim also purchased a private house on the corner of Adeline and Malone Streets. This property, which abuts those of the rectory and school, originally housed the parish Religious Gift Shop and After-Care Center; today it is used for Eastern Catholic Formation classes.
After serving the parish for twenty-three years, Msgr. Stim retired in 1987. His immediate replacement was the Reverend Msgr. Alan Borsuk who served as pastor for eleven months prior to his reassignment to St. John the Baptist Church in Bayonne, New Jersey.
Father Borsuk was succeeded by the Reverend Msgr. Nicholas I. Puhak who came to our parish from St. Mary's Church in Manville, New Jersey in June, 1988. As coincidence would have it, Msgr. Puhak is the grandson of the very first pastor, Father John Szabo and also the nephew of another former pastor, Father George Chegin.
Msgr. Puhak continued the role started by his grandfather nearly one hundred years earlier - that of guiding parishioners to better serve God. Much time was also spent on the enormous repairs required in the church building, including forty new blocks of granite, new steel beams and 500 stainless foot-long pins. The exterior was cleaned, new gutters and flashing installed, and the bell towers painted. The interior benefited from improved lighting, a new confessional, refurbished pews, repair of walls, additional marble wainscoting, and painting. The Parish Center received additional air-conditioning and heating units, an acoustical ceiling, new roofing, exhaust system and stucco work. The school building endured asbestos removal, replastering, plumbing and electrical improvements, installation of new smoke detectors and fire alarm systems, and repainting throughout the building. All of this work, at a cost of $725,000 required tremendous financial commitment and support by members of the parish.
Nearly all of the above improvements were completed before the beginning of celebrations in honor of the parish centennial year. In honor of the Centennial, trips were sponsored to the Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Washington, D.C., to Ellis Island museum where the relatives of many parishioners entered America, and to Las Vegas. On August 13, 14 and 15, 1991 a Tridium was held in honor of the Patroness of the parish. Father Benedict Groeschel, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, offered an inspiring homily during this time and Msgr. Ted Wojciehowski of nearby Holy Cross Church preached at the Divine Liturgy. On September 8, 1991 a Divine Liturgy was offered and a Picnic followed at Liberty Lake in Columbus, New Jersey. On October 5th and 6th of the same year, the school children and the choir gave two performances of Carpatho-Rusin religious and folk songs and dances under the direction of Jerry Jumba, musical director of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Finally, the Centennial celebration concluded with a Divine Liturgy on October 27, 1991 followed by a banquet at the Princeton Marriott Hotel attended by 900 parishioners, guests and friends.
In 1996 the Holy See issued an Instruction directing the Eastern Catholic Churches that had adopted a series of devotions of the Latin Church, such as Stations of the Cross, Novenas, May Crowning and so forth, to discontinue these practices and instead implement devotions more authentic to Eastern Tradition. In 1999, Reverend Edward G. Cimbala, D. Min., a parish vocation, was assigned as pastor. His focus was to prepare the parish for the implementation of the Holy Father's directives. He immediately began a program of instruction to educate the faithful in their authentic Tradition and customs. Father Ed, as he was affectionately known, developed plans to install an Iconostasis to replace the one removed in the late 1950's. Free-standing frames were constructed and four of the original large Icons were removed from the walls and placed inside the frames to form a "type" of Iconostasis in preparation for the "real" one yet to come.
In 2000 the school, which had been in continuous use since its construction in 1921, was closed due to insufficient enrollment and escalating costs. It was truly a sad rupture in an otherwise vibrant parish community. Later that same year, through the guidance of Father Ed, the vacant school building was leased to the City of Trenton for a period of five years.
On July 1, 2002, the Very Reverend Gregory J. Noga assumed the pastorate of Saint Mary's. After a few months Father Noga set about implementing the plans the parish council and finance committee had developed. Soon a ramp was constructed to facilitate entrance to the church and a lavatory was installed in the narthex capable of accommodating physically challenged individuals.
The year 2003 proved to be both challenging and difficult. A parish convocation was conducted to determine what plan of action might realistically be implemented. Should the parish relocate or remain in the city? If remaining in Trenton was the answer, then what repairs and renovations should take place? The parishioners also learned that the Chapel in Robbinsville would close and the property would be sold. Unfortunately, the property was too small for expansion and the parish could not afford to relocate and maintain two locations, nor was it reasonable to maintain two separate facilities when the church in Trenton was sufficiently large.
Also in 2003, a contractor was asked to evaluate the massive bell towers and provide a proposal for repairing the damage. Bishop Andrew Pataki, and Father Noga reviewed both this proposal and the engineering and architectural report prepared by A.J.S.A. architects, specialists in restoration and repair of old buildings, commissioned by Father Greg the previous year. Ultimately, the proposal of Francis Hutta Builders, Inc. was accepted. Thus began the three year project that involved not only the repair of the church's towers, but the replacement of the slate roof, flashing and rain gutters, repainting of the cupolas and gilding of the distinctive triple bar crosses that immediately identify the church's Eastern heritage.
Simultaneously, the firm of Marbleworks, Inc. was contracted to remove the pre-Vatican II Latin style altar, steps and baldachin that was part of the renovation during the 1950's. The uneven floor surrounding the altar was resurfaced and overlaid with perlato marble. In keeping with Eastern tradition, a five feet square Holy Table was installed. The terrazzo floors in the nave and vestibule were refinished and the pews were reset with greater depth between them. The new spacing facilitated ingress and egress thus enabling ease of quad-cane and walker use for the physically challenged. Lastly, a new Iconstasis and Icons were installed. Although these changes were completed by 2006, it was another two years before the church could be painted and the lighting refurbished.
On October 26, 2008 the restored and newly renovated church was solemnly rededicated. The new Iconostasis was blessed and the Holy Table was consecrated by the hand of the Most Reverend William C. Skurla, D.D., Bishop of Passaic. Assisting the bishop at the Altar were: The Very Reverend Michael J. Mondik, Syncellus of New Jersey; the Very Reverend Gregory J. Noga, pastor and Protopresbyter of the Central New Jersey Protopresbyterate; the Reverend Monsignor Nicholas I. Puhak, former pastor; Reverend John J. Zeyack, parish vocation; Reverend Edward G. Cimbala, parish vocation and former pastor; Deacon Thomas L. Vanisko, parish deacon and Deacon Robert Berhens. Following the liturgical program the clergy and parish family enjoyed fellowship at the German American Society banquet facility in Yardville, NJ.
A second church convocation is planned for the early part of 2009. Primary points of focus will be the formulation and articulation of parish goals concerning evangelization and education as well as the financial strategies to achieve them.
Throughout the one hundred and seventeen years since the beginning of this parish, the Byzantine Catholic community of the Trenton area has been blessed by dedicated pastors, loyal and generous parishioners, and leaders of parish organizations who have devoted countless hours to support our parish financially, spiritually, and socially. With God's blessings, this will continue.
Assumption of the Virgin Mary Byzantine Catholic Church (Official Site)
Mahwah, Bergen County, New Jersey
During the turn of the century, thousands of individuals came to America from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Many immigrants settled in Passaic, Garfield and Clifton, New Jersey. However, a number of immigrants moved farther north to Suffern and Tuxedo New York including Mahwah, New Jersey. In 1915 Greek Catholics had no church of their own in this area close to the New York State boarder. Some attended Immaculate Heart of Mary Polish Roman Catholic church in Mahwah and others attended Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Suffern, New York. To worship in their ancestral faith on major holidays or for important services such as marriages and baptisms, they traveled by train to Saint Michael’s Greek Catholic church (later Cathedral) in Passaic, New Jersey. During these early days, Father Michael Jackovics of Saint Michael’s travelled to Mahwah and performed liturgical services on a limited basis.
The initial meeting to begin Holy Spirit Greek Catholic Church was held on September 12, 1925. These members sought guidance from their Bishop, Basil Takach. He instructed them to seek assistance from Father Michael Jackovics. The original trustees elected for the church were John Luckas and Michael Micik as President. John Sima was elected Treasurer and some at the meeting were John Lucas, Stefan Tymcyzyn, Michael Micik, Zachary Hruscik, Ignatius Petrick, Stefan Gazda, Daniel Tymoch Michael Belovics, Basil Melnik, Andrew Fedor, George Homa, Michael Yuhas, Anthony Karpovich and John Balog. By 1926, Greek Catholics were attending services in Suffern, New York. During 1926 Greek Catholics held services at a community hall and later at a private home. Holy Spirit Church was originally incorporated as “Holy Ghost Catholic Church of the United Greek Catholic Rite.” From its inception until the 1960’s Holy Spirit would have pastors and assistant pastors from Saint Michaels Greek Catholic Church in Passaic tend to their spiritual needs.
After making firm plans and raising funds, on August 19, 1928 a contractor and architectural firm was retained to construct the church. At that time, the cost was approximately $14,000 (today the cost would be approximately $200,000.) The construction progressed quickly and by August 29, 1928 the cornerstone was in place and blessed by Father Michael Jackovics of Saint Michaels in Passaic and Father John Dorohovich. When the frame of the church was erected Father Jackovics and Father Dorohovich blessed the three bar cross that was installed on the main church tower. Later, Father Jackovics and Father Dorohovich came to bless two bells for the church which were named Nicholas and Michael. Finally to all the members great happiness, on January 23, 1929 the church was ready for worship. In 1929 Bishop Basil Takach along with numerous Greek Catholic priests dedicated Holy Spirit Greek Catholic church. While the church had taken a mortgage to finance construction, it is to the parishioners’ credit that within a few short years the entire mortgage was fully satisfied.
During the hard years of depression and war, Holy Spirit’s parishioners stayed close to their church and worked hard to meet all financial obligations. The parish grew and by 1953 it was time to celebrate the church Silver Anniversary. On November 7, 1953 Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was held and after this a full banquet was enjoyed by those in attendance. Some of the dignities who took part in the ceremonies at this joyful event were Father Joseph Haluch, Pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church Mahwah, Father Sergius Bachkovsky, Pastor of Saint Mary’s Greek Catholic Church in New York City and the Mayor of Mahwah, Charles N. Feldman. Within a short time after this event the entire church was completed remolded. Most Reverend Bishop Nicholas T. Elko rededicated the church. A Pontifical Liturgy was held and a banquet followed. In 1963 the first resident pastor was installed at Holy Spirit, Father John S. Danilak. Later, Father John Drozda was assigned to Holy Spirit and served the parishioners faithfully for a number of years. As more people who were Byzantine Catholic moved to the suburbs another Eastern Rite Church, Saint Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church, was started in the Mahwah area (Ramsey) in 1967. Holy Spirit continued to expand and in 1969 a large parcel of land was purchased for a parish center. In 1970, Father Nicholas Alishofski was installed as pastor and he worked tirelessly on exterior renovations for the church. He also managed interior renovations which included beautiful crystal chandeliers. During Father Alishofski’s tenure plans were implemented for a beautiful Icon of Christ which was painted by Baransky Studios of Yonkers, New York. This icon still remains on the wall behind the main altar.
Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic church has remained an important house of worship to Byzantine Rite Catholics in the Mahwah area. The church has been blessed with two vocations, Father Joseph Homa and Sister Ambrosia (Homa), O.S.B.M. A number of priests who served Holy Spirit during its early years were: Father Michael Jackovics (1926-1928, 1938-1939), Father John Dorohovic (1928-1934), Father John Parasconta (1934-1938), Father Eugene Volkay (1940-1941), Father John Macko (1941-1944) and Father Roland Maruscak, O.F.M (1944-1949.) A very enjoyable function has been Holy Spirit’s annual church picnic. Held on the grounds of the church, this social event is an enjoyable time for parishioners and friends of the church. Another event the children of the parish look forward to is the annual Saint Nicholas celebration which is held in the hall of the church. The interior of Holy Spirit is very welcoming. The main altar is blue with a green stenciled boarder. On the left is an icon of the Virgin Mary and to the right is an icon of Christ the Teacher. To the far left is an icon of Saint Nicholas, Patron of the Byzantine Catholic Church and to the far right is an icon of the Decent of the Holy Spirit. Over the exterior entrance to the church is an icon of Christ which gracefully welcomes all those who enter for worship. For over 87 years, Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic church has served the needs of Byzantine Catholics in this region of Northern New Jersey. The church confidentially looks to the future as a new generation of Byzantine Catholics will worship at Holy Spirit in the faith of their ancestors.
Passaic, Passaic County, New Jersey
Don’t let St. Mike’s History Fade Away!
Please help us preserve St. Michael’s rich Eastern European history by offering anniversary booklets/photographs, and/or various society booklets/photographs (i.e.: Rosary Society, Holy Name Society, Immaculate Conception Sodality, etc.).
Please contact us at email@example.com
If you are unable to email your contribution please feel free to forward it to us via US Post Office. We will promptly return your submission and reimburse your postage costs. If interested Email us for details.
The Clergy of Saint Michael’s United Greek-Catholic Church
Cantor and Choir Director
With Permission of "The Herald"
Courtesy of Julie Frances Messitt
Courtesy of Dennis Halusker
Courtesy of Joy E. Kovalycsik
Courtesy of Raymond Gavlak
TCC would like to thank Mrs. Avaline Sokol Nebesnak for offering us her original copy of this photo. The photo was taken Circa 1919. Several of those identified are men that left St. Mike's to start St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Church. Mrs. Nebesnak's Father, John Sokol, (Left 4th Row #3) was the only living charter member of St. John's before he passed away in 1982. (see headshot on the Gallery Page)
Nov. 2001 - My Father's maternal Uncle John Zavatsky, born in Hajtovka in 1862 is in Row No. 4, position No. 13. He resided on River Road in Garfield. Thanks to D.Crowley
Row No. 6, position No. 8 sure looks like my Father, Peter Dornics (aka Dornik) who was born in Ujak in 1896. I can't be sure but it looks like him. When I was born in 1939 the family went to St. John's RO Church. Thanks to John Dornik
I have been researching my Grandfather's family tree and he was a member of St. Michael's Church so one of the men pictured may be him. Thanks to Bill Vensko
My Grandfather, Peter Muha, born in Hajtovka in 1888, is in the fifth row, eighth from the left. Thanks to my Aunt Rose Muha Chabay and my Uncle Bill Chabay for their assistance in confirming Peter Muha's presence in the picture. Thanks to Patricia Muha
My Grandfather John Seredich is on the top row, third from the right. Thanks to Judy Voegeli
Fourth Row (front bottom), eighth man from left--COULD be my Grandfather Michal Szadloch from Udol. Thanks to L. Pelaia
Fourth Row (from the bottom), forth in from the left--Joseph Kollar. He is my Uncle, related to me on my Mothers side. Sixth Row (from the bottom) sixth from the left)--Peter Kravchak Thanks to D.Crowley
Second full row, fourth in from left John Maczko --Thanks to Alyysa Eppich
(see headshots on the Gallery Page)
TCC would like to thank Linda Stufflebean for offering us a copy of this photo. The photo was taken in mid 30's to 1940's. Linda's grandmother Julia Scerbak Sabo is in the second row on the left. Julia's brother Peter Scerbak is directly behind her, with the hat on and the white banner across his chest. (see headshots on the Gallery Page)
George Anderson (see headshot on the Gallery Page). He was a cantor at St Mikes for a few years. He is deceased.
Professor Anthony Ratzin (see headshot on the Gallery Page). He was the cantor and choir director for many years until he died. Professor Ratzin also taught catechism classes in preparation for first holy communion. He directed this play and all the others at St. Michaels.
Thanks to Dorothy Crowley for her identification of G. Anderson & Prof. Ratzin. Professor Ratzin was also identified in this photo by his niece Catherine Ratzin Jackson.
St. Michael the Archangel (Official Site)
The Clergy of Saint Michael’s United Greek-Catholic Church
During the latter part of the Nineteenth century, a large influx of immigrants arrived in the City of Passaic. Along with shops, stores and other service-orientated businesses, immigrants turned to building various houses or worship for their spiritual needs. An imposing edifice constructed was Saint Michael’s United Greek Catholic Church (which, in later years would be raised to the status of a Cathedral). It was in the Dundee section of Passaic that this church would grow and expand. In 1890 Reverend Nicephor Chanath formerly undertook the limited work of Father Alexander Dzubay. Father Chanath was a scholar/priest who hailed from the Diocese of Munkacs which was located in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Being a man of great educational background and foresight, Father Chanath realized a church was necessary for the immigrant population who were of the Greek Catholic religion. He was sent to the City of Passaic to organize a new church and he functioned though the Apostolic Delegate Satolio of Washington, D.C. On November 14, 1891 he met with a number of families and began Saint Michael’s United Greek-Catholic church. During this meeting a group of individuals were selected to make this dream a reality. Father Chanath appointed Michael Boyko, Joseph Nebesnyak, Peter Kovalycsik and Michael Prisztas to explore ideas to build a church. Once a suitable site was located, this group along with Father Chanath petitioned Bishop Wigger of the Diocese of Newark for the necessary permission to proceed. By November 14, 1892, Stephen Sokol and Nicholas Hytra were elected the first trustees of Saint Michael’s. The church had purchased the Dundee Mission church on First Street and began the necessary renovations to convert the former Protestant mission church into a Greek Catholic house of worship.
Saint Michael’s originally had a seating capacity of 300 individuals. Father Chanath worked tirelessly to expand the church and when his tenure ended on December 20, 1894, Saint Michael’s was firmly established. Bishop Wigger of Newark then appointed Father Eugene Szatala to oversee the new church. During Father Szatala’s tenure the church grew in large part via the constant immigration from Eastern Europe and, this was the only church for Greek Catholics in Passaic. During March, 1902, another priest, Father Nicholas Molcsanyi was sent to Saint Michael’s. During this period, families from Passaic, Garfield, Clifton, Lodi and some from as far as Dover, New Jersey were members. New families increased the congregation and by the later parts of 1902, church membership consisted of 600 families. Due to this expansion, the original church became too confined for religious worship. Plans were drawn to expand the church upon its original site. This expanded church offered two magnificent towers, complete with a clock set within each tower. These towers were not without problems and during a storm in 1903, one totally collapsed. Both towers had to be taken down and re-constructed by the order of the Building Department of the City of Passaic. A main "Cupola" rested on top of the main roof and this church could be seen for miles. Both towers and the cupola were graced by an Eastern three-bar Cross. After many set-backs, expansions and renovations, the completion date of 1905 saw the interior of the church holding approximately 800 individuals. Prior to 1905 many internal religious divisions began which had a negative effect upon the membership. The church became split upon various spiritual and material issues. The priests of Saint Michael’s were caught up in these divisions along with their members. Seeing no resolution to the conflicts, many members prior to 1905 had withdrawn and erected Saints Peter and Paul Greek Catholic church located two blocks away from Saint Michael’s on Third Street. During and after 1905 other members of Saint Michael’s would leave for Saints Peter and Paul’s and, later on, build another church which would leave the Greek Catholic church and return to the Russian Orthodox jurisdiction.
During February of 1906, Father Iren Janicky was appointed the administrator by Bishop John J. O’Connor of Newark. Father Janicky stayed with Saint Michael’s until September, 1915 when Father Valentine Balogh, was appointed by the first Greek Catholic Bishop in the United States, the Right Reverend Sotor Ortynsky of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Father Balogh administered the parish during these high years of expansion and left Saint Michael’s in 1918. During 1918, the Very Reverend Martyak, Apostolic Administrator of the Greek Catholic church in the United States appointed Father Michael Jackovics to administer Saint Michael’s. Father Michael Jackovics had previously served at Saint John the Baptist Greek Catholic church in Scranton, Pennsylvania for sixteen years. When Father Jackovics arrived in Passaic, Saint Michael’s membership had swelled to over 3,000. Father Jackovics was a very hard working priest and competent administrator. Under his tenure two rooms were converted for school instruction use and various renovations and expansions were conducted under his guidance. Father Jackovics would have a long and very constructive tenure at Saint Michael’s and he would become the first long-term priest since the churches inception.
Father Michael Jackovics was born in the village of Puznyak-Falva in the Austro-Hungarian Empire on January 24, 1875. He came from a very long and distinguished line of Greek Catholic clergy in his homeland. His father had been a Greek Catholic priest and for seven generations his family had been Greek Catholic clergy. Father Jackovics was educated in the high school which was located in Ungvar and upon completion entered University in the same city. He was ordained a Greek Catholic priest when he was twenty-three years old by the Right Reverend Julius Firczak, Bishop of the Munkacs diocese. He was an assistant priest in Hust which was one of the larger congregations within the entire diocese. Father Jackovics arrived in the United States and originally settled in Bridgeport, Connecticut. After Bridgeport, he was assigned to Lansford, Pennsylvania and in 1902, was offered an invitation by the Right Reverend M. J. Hoban, Bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania to take charge of Saint John the Baptist Greek Catholic church. During 1908, Father Jackovics was elected spiritual director of the Greek Catholic Union of the United States which had over 100,000 members. Father Jackovics as was the long standing custom in the Greek Catholic church had married before ordination. He was married in Makaria, Austro-Hungary to Yolanda Kaminsky. Yolanda Kaminsky was also from a priestly family. Her father was stationed in the United States as rector at a Greek Catholic church. As of 1922, Father Jackovics and his wife, Pani Yolanda had Thomas who was a student of medicine at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Joseph, a student at New York University, Michael, a student at Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey, Yolanda, a student at Marwood College, Scranton, Pennsylvania and Theodore, a student at St. Nicholas Parochial School, Passaic, New Jersey. Under Father Jackovics many improvements and expansions would be seen. He opened the first official part of a cemetery for Saint Michael’s in 1921 and consecrated the remaining ground in 1936. He was also instrumental in the construction of a modern rectory and church Auditorium which are still utilized by the church today.
Photo Courtesy of Joy E. Kovalycsik
During the latter part of the Nineteenth century, a large influx of immigrants arrived in the City of Passaic. Along with shops, stores and other service-orientated businesses, immigrants turned to building various houses or worship for their spiritual needs. An imposing edifice constructed was Saint Michael’s United Greek Catholic Church. It was in the Dundee section of Passaic this church would grow and expand. In 1890 Reverend Nicephor Chanath formerly undertook the limited work of Father Alexander Dzubay. Father Chanath was a scholar/priest who hailed from the Diocese of Munkacs which was located in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Being a man of great educational background and foresight, Father Chanath realized a church was necessary for the immigrant population who were of the Greek Catholic religion. He was sent to the City of Passaic to organize a new church and he functioned though the Apostolic Delegate Satolio of Washington, D.C. On November 14, 1891 he met with a number of families to begin a future parish. During this meeting individuals were selected to make this dream a reality. Father Chanath appointed Michael Boyko, Peter Kovalycsik, Joseph Nebesnyak, and Michael Prisztas to explore ideas for building a church. Father Chanath and the original founders petitioned Bishop Wigger of the Diocese of Newark for the necessary permission to proceed. A suitable site was located and The Dundee Evangelical Mission Church was purchased. After necessary renovations were completed, the church was dedicated to the Archangel Michael with the official name of Saint Michael’s United Greek-Catholic church. This church became the second Catholic Church in the City of Passaic. By November 14, 1892, Stephen Sokol and Nicholas Hytra were elected the first trustees of Saint Michael’s.
Photo Courtesy of Joy E. Kovalycsik
Saint Michael’s originally had a seating capacity of 300 individuals. Father Chanath worked tirelessly to expand the church and when his tenure ended on December 20, 1894, Saint Michael’s was firmly established. Bishop Wigger of Newark then appointed Father Eugene Szatala to oversee the new church. During Father Szatalas tenure the parish grew in large part via the constant immigration from Eastern Europe and, this was the only church for Greek Catholics in Passaic. During March, 1902, another priest, Father Nicholas Molcsanyi was sent to Saint Michael’s. During this period, families from Passaic, Garfield, Clifton, Lodi and some from as far as Dover, New Jersey were members. New families increased the number of parishioners and by the later parts of 1902; church membership consisted of 600 families. Due to this expansion, the original church became too confined for religious worship. Plans were drawn to expand the church upon its original site. This expanded church offered two magnificent towers, complete with a clock set within each tower that chimed upon the hour. These towers (soaring upwards 140 feet into the air) were not without problems and during a storm in 1903, one totally collapsed. Both towers had to be taken down and re-constructed by the order of the Building Department of the City of Passaic. A main Cupola rested on top of the main roof and this church could be seen for miles. Both towers and the cupola were graced by an Eastern three-bar Cross. After many set-backs, expansions and renovations, the interior of the church was finished and held approximately 800 individuals. During the early months of 1902, a few internal religious divisions began. Unfortunately, there were disputes over spiritual and material issues. Father Nicholas Molcsanyi strove with great patience to heal the tensions. However, no resolution could be reached and some members withdrew The members who left Saint Michael’s requested Father Volosin, a priest from Hungary, serve as pastor and erected a Greek Catholic Church two blocks away from Saint Michael’s. After leaving, the turmoil escalated in this new church and they left the faith of their ancestors for the Orthodox Church.
During January of 1906, Father Iren Janicky was appointed the pastor by Bishop John J. O’Connor of Newark. Peter Kovalycsik was appointed Treasurer of Saint Michael’s by the Vicar General of the Diocese, Monsignor Sheppard of Jersey City. Under Father Janicky various societies began such as Saint Michael’s Rosary Society. Father Janicky stayed with Saint Michael’s until September, 1915 when Father Valentine Balogh, was appointed by the first Greek Catholic Bishop in the United States, the Right Reverend Sotor Ortynsky of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Father Balogh administered the parish during these high years of expansion and left Saint Michael’s in 1918. During 1918, the Very Reverend Martyak, Apostolic Administrator of the Greek Catholic church in the United States appointed Father Michael Jackovics to administer Saint Michael’s. Father Michael Jackovics had previously served at Saint John the Baptist Greek Catholic church in Scranton, Pennsylvania for sixteen years. When Father Jackovics arrived in Passaic, Saint Michael’s membership had swelled to over 3,000 members. Father Jackovics was a hard working priest and competent administrator. Under his tenure two rooms were converted for school instruction use and various renovations and expansions were conducted under his guidance. Father Jackovics had a long and very constructive tenure at Saint Michael’s and he would become the first long-term pastor.
Father Michael Jackovics was born in the village of Puznyak-Falva in the Austro-Hungarian Empire on January 24, 1875. He came from a very long and distinguished line of Greek Catholic clergy in his homeland. His father had been a Greek Catholic priest and for seven generations his family had been Greek Catholic clergy. Father Jackovics was educated in the high school which was located in Ungvar (Užhorod) and upon completion entered University in the same city. He was ordained a Greek Catholic priest when he was twenty-three years old by the Right Reverend Julius Firczak, Bishop of the Munkacs diocese. He was an assistant priest in Hust which was one of the larger congregations within the entire diocese. Father Jackovics arrived in the United States and originally settled in Bridgeport, Connecticut. After Bridgeport, he was assigned to Lansford, Pennsylvania and in 1902, was offered an invitation by the Right Reverend M. J. Hoban, Bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania to take charge of Saint John the Baptist Greek Catholic church. During 1908, Father Jackovics was elected spiritual director of the Greek Catholic Union of the United States which had over 100,000 members. Father Jackovics as was the custom in the Greek Catholic church had married before ordination. He was married in Makaria, Austro-Hungary to Yolanda Kaminsky. Yolanda Kaminsky was also from a priestly family. Her father was stationed in the United States as rector at a Greek Catholic church. As of 1922, Father Jackovics and his wife, Pani Yolanda had five children, Thomas, Joseph, Michael, Yolanda and Theodore. Under Father Jackovics many improvements and expansions would be seen. He opened the first official part of a new cemetery for Saint Michael’s in 1921 and consecrated the remaining ground in 1936. He was also instrumental in the construction of a modern rectory and church auditorium which are still utilized by the church today.
After serving Saint Michaels for over 31 years Father Emil Masich was installed as temporary pastor upon the death of Father Jackovics. In 1950, Father John Stim (later to be elevated to Monsignor in 1959) was installed as pastor. Monsignor Stim oversaw the Immaculate Conception Sodality, a Junior Choir and Boy Scout Troop. He was always focused on spiritual and social matters. Addressing the needs of the younger members of the parish was very important during his pastorate. Later, renovation projects were implemented some of which were updating the interior, placing new pews in the church, obtaining modern light fixtures and installing a brand new heating system. Monsignor Stim also saw the creation of Saint Michael’s Parochial School. He invited teaching sisters from the order of the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate (their Motherhouse was in Toronto, Canada) to teach at the school. People still recall how the Sisters decorated all the ground floor windows yearly. At the beginning of the school year, autumn scenes were painted, in March spring scenes and finally summer scenes were painted in May and June. These artistic sisters were school principal, Sister Cyprian along with Sister Rosalie, Sister Ivanna and Sister Aurella.
The highest honor Saint Michael’s received was bestowed on this dynamic and faithful church during July of 1963. The Apostolic Delegate to the United States informed Saint Michaels that His Holiness Pope Paul VI established a new diocese for Byzantine (i.e. Greek) Catholics. The new Diocese would be named the Diocese of Passaic and Saint Michaels would be the Cathedral church. The first Bishop of Passaic, Stephen J. Kocisko was installed in September of 1963. Due to this designation, a review of the church exterior and interior was taken. It was decided the original church towers and domes should be removed. New more practical towers were put into place. After 13 years of dedicated service, Monsignor Stim was transferred and a new pastor, Monsignor George Durisin, Vicar General for the new Diocese was installed as pastor of Saint Michael’s Cathedral.
Monsignor Durisin was a devoted priest and oversaw a number of events in the life of Saint Michaels. The exterior of the church under his leadership was brick faced, new carpeting was installed and more upgrades and renovations were performed. A tireless worker, Monsignor Durisin also thought of the future and was very concerned for the spiritual welfare of his members. He established an expansive CCD program so the young people of the parish had weekly instruction in the faith. Also, knowing how important the church cemetery was to Saint Michael’s, he reviewed the cemetery and made wise improvements and additions which were greatly appreciated.
In 1969 a second Bishop for the Diocese of Passaic, Bishop Michael Dudick was consecrated and installed at the Cathedral. Monsignor Durisin also witnessed the 90th Anniversary of the church and many other renovations were managed under his pastorate. The Cathedral joyfully celebrated its 90th Anniversary on November 9, 1980. How far Saint Michaels had come from the initial church which only had a seating capacity of 300 people! It was the steadfast faith in God of the past and current members in conjunction with their clergy and the deep love held for their Greek Catholic (Byzantine Rite) faith which brought them to this celebration.
Saint Michael’s continued its growth and expanded. In 1982 a new Diocesan Center and Chapel were built in Woodland Park, New Jersey. Many members now resided in areas a far distance from the Cathedral. The building of a chapel was very beneficial for those members who could now worship closer to their areas of residence. The Chapel has a seating capacity of 250 and includes a social hall and classrooms on the lower level. The Diocesan Center building across from the chapel also hosts the Eparchial Heritage Museum and Library. A repository of history, numerous items are tenderly cared for at the museum for present and future generations. Some holdings are priceless such as liturgical items, chalices, liturgical books, jewelry, original paintings, music, prayer books and cultural items. The preservation of the history of the Diocese is a testament to all who worked so hard to preserve these items. The Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel was solemnly blessed in May of 1987 and regular services, which now include two Liturgies weekly, are held.
Monsignor Durisin left to undertake duties as Director of Formation and Vice-Rector at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburg in 1988. Two successive priests served the faithful of Saint Michaels during this time, Father Eugene Fulton and Monsignor Nicholas Alishofski. Unfortunately, both pastors’ experienced unexpected illness and they had to depart Saint Michael’s Cathedral. For the first time in many years, Saint Michael’s was without a long term pastor.
The members of Saint Michael’s were terribly shaken at the loss of two pastors within a very short period. However, God provided a new pastor to comfort and guide the parish. In 1989, Father Marcel Szabo was installed as the new pastor of Saint Michael’s. Father Marcel’s kind personality, sincerity and humble spirituality instantly revitalized the parish. A tireless worker and, with the Centennial Anniversary not far in the future, Father Marcel set out to prepare for the celebration. In August of 1989, Saint Michael’s Cathedral and the entire City of Passaic were dedicated to the loving arms of the Blessed Mother. Bishop Dudick presented the Cathedral with an icon “Our Lady of Passaic.” (Photo Courtesy of Joy E. Kovalycsik) This beautiful icon can be viewed today in the church. The icon is flanked on each side by an icon of the Archangel Rafael on the left and an icon of the Archangel Michael on the right. The icon portrays the Blessed Mother holding the infant Jesus in her arms. All who light candles and pray are tenderly looked upon by this beautiful icon.
During the years leading up to 1990 many improvements were made. A renovation of the current rectory was undertaken. The CCD program, now renamed the Eastern Christian Formation Program (ECF) was relocated to the classrooms at the Chapel facility. As always, the dedication of the members to the Cathedral was overwhelming. The Ladies Guild donated $25,000 for replacement of the rectory windows and numerous parishioners offered their time and talents to assist in any way they could during the renovations.
Finally, on the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, November 8, 1989, the parish formally began their Centennial Celebrations. Numerous programs were held, some being a Homecoming Dinner Dance, a Slavic Music Festival and a Centennial Picnic which saw an attendance of approximately 1,000 people. Through the years the Cathedral has continued to be a vibrant parish. Each year numerous weddings and baptisms are held. The annual parish picnic/festival draws hundreds of people to a three day event well known throughout the Northern New Jersey area. Countless baking and cooking projects at Easter and Christmas are the delight of members and friends of the Cathedral who look forward to purchasing homemade ethnic foods. The Holy Name Society sponsors annual Beefsteak, Fish and Chips dinners and a Communion Breakfast which are popular events. Recently, the ECF has begun sponsoring a yearly bus ride to Radio City Music Hall to attend the Christmas Show in New York City. They also host an annual Mother’s Day Flower Sale.
Always mindful of their spiritual obligations, Saint Michael’s holds an annual food drive for the needy each year during the months of July and August. The religious life of the parish has remained strong and vibrant. Participation at services, lectures, retreats, pilgrimages and the Lenten “Pasta and a Prayer” dinners are well attended. Also, each year the students of the ECF classes collect Teddy Bears. These Teddy Bears are given as presents to children in hospitals and care facilities during the Christmas season. On Sunday, November 7, 2010, Saint Michaels Cathedral once again had cause to rejoice. At this time the 120th Anniversary Celebration was scheduled. A solemn Hierarchal Divine Liturgy at which the Cathedral choir magnificently sang the responses was held. The main celebrant was the current Bishop of Passaic, the Most Reverend William C. Skurla, D.D. After the service all attended the anniversary banquet at The Venetian in Garfield, New Jersey. The banquet hall was filled with clergy, religious, parishioners and friends of the Cathedral. The affection and devotion people have for Saint Michael’s has always been constant. An overwhelming success; the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy and banquet offered everyone a chance to participate in celebrating 120 years of God’s blessings and grace upon Saint Michael’s Cathedral.
The first church structure (Dundee Mission Church) was built in the early 1870’s by the Dundee Water, Power and Land Company
Saint Michael’s has five Church bells cast by the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore, Maryland. The largest bell in the right tower was named “Andrew”, and weighs 4,300 pounds, it cost 1,300 dollars. In the left tower are found “Nicholas” which weighs 2,000 pounds, “Michael” which weighs 1,200 pounds, “Nicephor” which weighs 600 pounds and “Daniel weights approximately 300 pounds.
The architect’s plans for the new church were drawn by Louis Giele of Jersey City who also drew the plans for remodeling Passaic City Hall.
On Wednesday, January 28, 1891, Saint Michael’s “Hungarian and Slavonian Society” sponsored a formal dance at Rettinger’s Hall. Officers of the Society were Joseph Pristas, President, Michael Bolekas, Vice-President, George L. Molson, Secretary, John Kovalycsik, Assistant Secretary and Michael Bojko, Treasurer.
The first baptism of Mary Hrinya was performed on December 25, 1890.
The first wedding of John Ferinko and Suzanna Chromoho was performed on January 1, 1891.
The first funeral of Michael Mascary was performed on June 16, 1891.
The first rectory was constructed in 1893.
The corner stone of the newly constructed church was placed on Sunday, July 6, 1902 with twenty thousand people in attendance. Inset into the corner stone were the names of those who officiated at the ceremonies and those who had contributed towards the building fund be they member or non member. The church cost approximately $60,000.00 to construct.
On August 15, 1903, a raffle was held at Peter Kovalycsik’s hall on Second (Market) Street Passaic to dispose of the first church structure due to the construction of a new and expanded Saint Michaels. The winner of the raffle would have the right to remove or tear down the building. Tickets were one dollar each. Over one thousand tickets were sold. The funds raised were used to pay down the expenses for the building.
In 1906 the firm of Priore and Grecco, decorators, painted mural decorations and the entire interior of the church. The cost of labor and materials was $4,000.00.
The Rosary Society was formally organized in October of 1909.
Property for a cemetery was purchased in 1917.
In 1919, Saint Michael’s Choir had approximately 54 members.
In 1920, Saint Michael’s had a parish baseball team (“St. Mikes”) of 18 members.
An Evening School was established in 1922.
In June, 1922, Saint Michaels had over 450 families, well over 3,000 people in total.
In 1922, Saint Michaels had a number of specialized societies, some being the “Saint Michaels” society with over 600 members, an Altar Society for Boys and Girls, 300 members, Saint Anna’s Society for Women, 150 members and Saint Joseph’s Society, 50 members.
The Mothers Club was formally organized in February, 1935.
In 1935 Saint Michael’s had approximately 15 altar boys.
Saint Michael’s satisfied their mortgage on November 7, 1949.
The Ladies Guild was formally organized in April, 1953.
Saint Michael’s purchased City of Passaic School Number 2 and began St. Michael’s Parochial School in September, 1953. Teachers were nuns from the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate order.
The Holy Name Society was formally organized in 1955.
The First graduating class of Saint Michael’s Parochial School (Kindergarten to Eighth Grade) was held in June, 1957.
Saint Michael’s Church was elevated to the status of Cathedral on July 31, 1963.
Saint Michael’s offered a Divine Liturgy/Mass every Sunday at 10 a.m. exclusively in Slavonic until the 1980’s.
Upon entering the Cathedral in an area reserved for lighting candles, there are four wall length stained glass windows. The windows were donated by Andrew and Mary Chaky & Family (the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden), In Memory of Sgt. Peter Plavchan, Killed in Action in the Second World War (the Baptism of Jesus Christ), Michael and Anna Fecho (The Presentation) and Peter and Mary Choma (Penance).
Cantor and Choir Director
Professor John Kahanick was born in 1914 in Dunmore, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. He was one of eight children born to immigrant parents Stephen and Anna (Wozniak) Kahanick. His father supported the family by working in the local coal mine and his mother was a homemaker.
Inspired by the Slavonic Chant of his Greek (Byzantine) Catholic Religion Mr. Kahanick began studying choir singing on his own. It was not long before he was training others and forming junior and senior choirs at churches throughout Pennsylvania. Encouraged by his natural gift he later went on to study at the University of Minnesota where he received a degree in music. After graduation he trained for the opera. However, he decided that choir leadership was where his heart was at. Professor Kahanick was a skilled and talented tenor. He had a flawless execution of the music and accurate timing while chanting the epistle. He penned many compositions and arrangements of various melodies and historical “Prostopinije” chants. He had a full knowledge of Slavonic and knew the benefit of translating these timeless hymns and chants.
After serving a number of churches in Pennsylvania, Professor Kahanick spent eight years forming choir. Later he served at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in Minneapolis. After this, he served Saint Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Gary, Indiana. While in the Midwest, Professor Kahanick continued to organize church choirs. Some of these choirs were organized in East Chicago, Whiting, Hammond, Indiana, Joliet and Chicago, Illinois. His true genius was for composition and arrangements. It did not take long for word to circulate he was a genuine artist. Clergy, cantors, choir directors and choir members sought out Professor Kahanick from all areas of the United States. It gave him great pleasure to assist other Cantors and Choir Directors expand the scope of their choral musical endeavors.
On September 10, 1979 Professor Kahanick began his tenure at Saint Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Cathedral as their Cantor/Choirmaster. He would remain in this position until his death on March 2, 1988. Professor Kahanick was devoted to the Byzantine Catholic Church and the art of Prostopinije chant. In his later years to those expressing an interest in becoming a cantor he was known to remark “it is a life of sacrifice.”
The settings for all his scores and arrangements were kept within the traditional harmony manner for Carpatho-Rusyn plain chant. The arrangements, compositions and original scores he created are too numerous to mention. He also translated and arranged music from Slavonic into English for Byzantine Catholic churches throughout the United States. One important composition is still performed today at Saint Michael’s Cathedral in Passaic. On the holy day of Saint Michael, the “Hymn to Saint Michael” is performed. All who have attended the Cathedral are familiar with the hymns opening words “Archangel Michael, Prince of all angels, Leader, defender, of the heav’nly hosts.” This hymn is greatly loved by many parishioners of Saint Michael’s Cathedral.
Professor Kahanick was well known within the Passaic area churches. A choir member of St. Michael’s Greek Catholic Orthodox Church in Binghamton, New York recalled Professor Kahanick’s arrangement for the hymn “Tichy Vecer.” He recalled it was performed in Professor Hilko’s repertoire of Saint John’s Russian Orthodox Church in Passaic. Professor Kahanik also scored music for four part choir (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass.) He was well known for his hymn “Rejoice, O Purest Mother” (Veselisja Vo Cistot’i.) This hymn is a jewel in chant repertoire and is complete with six verses and refrain. This composition is utilized to this day. The original setting for this arrangement was scored by Professor Kahanick in June, 1978 along with dozens of other works. Another glorious composition was the solemn feast hymn for the leave taking of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary into the Temple. Professor Kahanick wrote the text and lyrics; then gently wove them into the melody of “Beautiful Holy Queen” (Radujsja Carice).
Professor Kahanick knew sorrow during his tenure at Saint Michaels. His beloved wife Mary Kahanick nee Fatula passed away in 1993. Perhaps a testament to his faith and talent he continued to serve for another five years after his wife’s death. Even as his own health declined he never neglected his duties as Cantor/Choir Director. His dedication was appreciated by all who knew him. During his tenure, the Cathedral offered a mass each Sunday at 6:45 a.m., 8 a.m., 10 a.m. (all Slavonic) and at 12 noon. This was his Sunday, singing and directing the choir from the very early hours of the morning until the early afternoon. As needed he also performed other services such as funerals, weddings, and other special services during the liturgical year. After a long life of service to his church and his art, Professor Kahanick succumbed to Congestive heart failure and died on March 2, 1988. His funeral Liturgy was held at Saint Michael’s Cathedral in Passaic on Friday, March 6, 1988.
During the Byzantine Catholic funeral service, a section professor would have performed is chanted. The Prokeimenon in Tone 6 states “Blessed is the way on which you go, O Soul, for a peaceful place has been prepared for you.” He was interred in Saint Michael’s Cathedral Cemetery. Professor Kahanick was survived at the time of his death by his brother George of Scranton, Pennsylvania, his sisters Pauline of Dunmore, Pennsylvania and Mary of New York City, nephews Michael Fatula and Michael Masich and nieces Doreen Fatula and Delia Lafferty.
Today, individuals still stop by his grave and say a silent prayer for this devoted Cantor. Professor gave everything he had while remaining firm when it came to music and his art. His talent, smile and gentle demeanor graced Saint Michael’s Cathedral for many years. The words from Psalm 104 truly applied to his life: “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.”
George Durisin was the son of George and Mary (Kizlin) Durisin. He was born on the 12th of August 1920 in Pittston, Pennsylvania. His father hailed from the village of Trebisov, Slovakia and served as a corporal in the Austro-Hungarian Army. George Sr., settled in Pittston and was employed as a foreman for the Lehigh Valley Rail Road Company No. 23. He married Mary Kizlin, a native of Pittston, on the 9th of June 1919. George and Mary were the proud parents of six children. They were devoted members of St. Michael’s (Greek) Byzantine Catholic Church, Pittston. Three children of George and Mary Durisin would enter religious life. Their son George Jr. was ordained a priest of the Byzantine Catholic Church. Their daughters Anna (Sister Paula) and Rita (Sister Philip) joined the Sisters of St. Basil the Great Byzantine Catholic Convent in Uniontown, Pennsylvania
Upon completion of his elementary and high school education, George, Jr. began the process of working towards the priesthood. At the time the Greek Catholic Church did not have a specific Greek Catholic Seminary so he attended Saint Procopius Roman Catholic Seminary in Lisle, Illinois. Upon completion of his seminary education he was ordained in the priesthood on November 13, 1945. From 1950 to 1964 he was assigned as pastor in Greek (Byzantine) Catholic churches in Old Forge, Pennsylvania, Cleveland, Ohio and Bridgeport, Connecticut. It was in January of 1964 while serving as pastor of St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in Bridgeport and also as Diocesan Vicar General that Father Durisin was conferred the papal honor of Monsignor by Pope Paul VI. On August 4, 1964 he was assigned as the eighth resident pastor of St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in Passaic, New Jersey. Monsignor Durisin began his work in earnest. He addressed necessary improvements to the church and parish house. Since St. Michael’s is the seat of the Bishop Monsignor included a Bishop’s throne as one of these upgrades. Monsignor helped to coordinate the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of Saint Michael’s Cathedral which took place on October 31, 1965. He also undertook urgent repairs to the church cemetery and purchased additional property for the parish and school. Although these projects demanded a great deal of his time his parishioners spiritual and worldly needs came first. In the month of May he held special weekly services in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and each June he held a *Moleben in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He also established a “poor fund” available to those of his parish experiencing financial hardships.
During the 1960��s Monsignor Durisin’s tenure was in full swing. He was elevated to the title of Vicar General of the Diocese. This position in the Bishop’s absence would require him to assume all of the Bishop��s responsibilities. He also served as a member of the Board of Consultors, Chairman of the Commission on Ecumenism, and as a member of the Board of Trustees for Saint Mary’s Catholic Hospital in Passaic. On May 8, 1966 the Cathedral began their first CCD program. Children of the parish would now receive religious instruction from ages of five to eighteen. Although he already had a full plate Monsignor Durisin took an active role with the CCD program and taught the high school grade level class.
November 8, 1970 marked the twenty fifth year since Monsignor Durisin was ordained. He celebrated his silver jubilee of ordination to the priesthood at Saint Michael’s Cathedral. He was a devoted priest to his beloved parishioners and was dedicated to conditions of the faith.
On November 9, 1980 the Cathedral celebrated its 90th anniversary and Bishop Michael Dudick blessed a new iconostasis. Many organizations and groups were formed during Monsignor Durisin’s tenure. The Byzantine Service Group was started to assist parishioners with a wide range of services, the Ladies Guild was organized, Saint Michael’s Parochial School celebrated its 25th anniversary and Professor John Kahanick was installed as Saint Michael’s full-time Cantor/Choirmaster. A new undertaking by Bishop Dudick and Monsignor Durisin was initiated in 1980 for the relocation of the Diocesan offices to a larger complex. In 1982 nineteen acres of wooded land on Lackawanna Avenue in West Paterson were purchased for this purpose. By 1987 this space would house the Chancery offices, Bishop’s residence, Heritage Museum and Saint Michael’s Chapel and social hall. The chapel site was blessed by Bishop Michael Dudick with Monsignor Durisin as co-celebrant on April 28, 1985. After construction and placing of the cornerstone, Saint Michael’s Chapel was blessed on May 31, 1987.
After faithfully serving Saint Michael’s Cathedral for almost 25 years, Monsignor Durisin was given the honor of being installed as the Director of Formation at Saints Cyril and Methodious Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After a brief period of time in this service he was promoted to the new position of Vice-Rector of the Seminary. While serving as Vice-Rector, Monsignor Durisin’s health began to deteriorate. On Sunday, October 11, 1992, after serving faithfully as a Byzantine Catholic priest for approximately 47 years, Monsignor Durisin passed away at the age of 72. At the date of his death, he was survived by his brothers, Joseph and Paul, three sisters, Mary, Sister Philip, Sister Paula and several nieces and nephews. A Pontifical Requiem Divine Liturgy was held on Thursday, October 15, 1992 at the church of his baptism, Saint Michael’s in Pittston, Pennsylvania. He is interred at Saint Michael’s Byzantine Catholic cemetery in Pittston. The prayer card handed out at his wake denoted Monsignor Durisin’s last words “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord” which was a fitting epitaph for a devoted priest who loved the Byzantine Catholic Church.
The simple cemetery monument identifying his final resting place has an engraved three bar cross on the left. To the right denoting his priestly status is a chalice with a host imprinted with ICXC. A rosary graces the middle between his name and the dates below it. The modest rose colored stone is engraved with Monsignor’s name, date of birth, date of ordination and date of death.
Monsignor George Durisin served the church, Saint Michael’s Cathedral, the faithful and his fellow clergy devotedly. He was a man of great humility and self-sacrifice. Even though many well earned titles and promotions were bestowed during his priestly vocation, Monsignor George Durisin’s dedication, integrity and hard work continue to inspire those who were fortunate to have had their lives touched by his example.
*A service of intercession, or service of supplication, is a supplicatory prayer service used within Eastern Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Christian Church and various Eastern Catholic Churches in honor of Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, a Feast, or a particular saint or matyr.
Passaic Daily Herald - Monday - July 7, 1902
THOUSANDS AT ST. MICHAEL’S
GREAT AUDIENCE WITNESSES LAYING OF
ALTAR STONE FOR NEW CHURCH
VICAR GENERAL AND FORMER RECTOR OF ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH
REPRESENTS BISHOP O’CONNOR AT CEREMONY OF GREEK RITE
CONGREGATION HELD YESTERDAY AFTERNOON
OTHERS IN ATTENDANCE
In the presence of at least twenty thousand people the first stone of the new church of St. Michael the Archangel was laid with appropriate ceremonies yesterday afternoon. The crowds which gathered to witness the ceremonies completely filled the space extending from the fence surrounding No. 2 school to the easterly bank of the canal a distance of at least six hundred feet. The ceremonies were preceded by a parade though the principal streets of the city. In the parade were several societies connected with St. Michael’s, St. Joseph’s Polish, and St. Marie’s Slavish (Slovak) church, together with a number of visiting societies. In the procession were two societies of the Children of Mary and Young Ladies’ Sodality connected with St. Marie’s and St. Joseph’s churches. They were all dressed in white and wore white veils. They attracted considerable attention as they marched through the streets. The brass band and the Slavish fife and drum corps headed the first and second divisions. The procession was followed by several carriages containing the guests of honor and the officiating priests. The guests of honor were County Clerk John J. Slater Councilman John J. Welsh, Collector Albert T. Zabriskie, S.T. Stanley, and Paul R. Lefferrts. The priests were the Very Rev. Andrew Hodobay, vicar of the Greek Rite, Bishop of Rome, The Very Rev. John A. Sheppard, vice-chancellor of the Roman Catholic diocese of Newark, the Rev. Father E. Haitenger, rector of the Church of St. Marie of the Assumption, the Rev. Val Chlebowski, rector of St. Joseph���s Polish church and the Rev. Father Molcsany, rector of St. Michael’s church.
The idea of laying a corner stone as the first stone of a new Greek Rite church is an ancient and beautiful custom. The stone laid yesterday will be the first stone of the altar of the new church and will be inside the Iconstanis or holy of holies where the act of consecration in the mass is performed and where only the priest and those empowered to officiate are allowed to enter. The ceremonies attending the laying of this stone were very impressive and consisted principally of the chanting of Psalms and prayers. The priest chanted one verse of the Psalms and the large congregation took up the second verse. The singing could be heard blocks away and although there were many who could not understand what was sung the singing made an impression which will be a lasting one. The stone was laid by the Greek Rite vicar. He was vested in a cope of white and gold and wore on his head a purple beretta the only insignia of his office with the exception of a large turquoise ring on his right hand. He laid the stone with numerous blessings on the congregation. He struck the stone with a silver trowel in the shape of a Greek Cross. The same thing was done by the other priests and the guests of honor.
Father Sheppard was the only one to speak in English. He talked but a few minutes but what he said was listened to attentively by those within hearing of his voice. It is a grand beginning Father Sheppard said and the people of St. Michael’s deserve great credit for the amount of good work they have done sine the church was organized. He said he sincerely hoped that the congregation would never get to that point when it would be anything but a credit to the Greek Rite faith and the city at large. Addresses were made by Father Molcsany and the Greek Rite Vicar. In the cornerstone were placed the names of those who had officiated at the ceremonies of the day and those who had contributed towards the building fund whether members of the church or not. The visiting priests and guests were entertained at the rectory after the services. The new church is expected to be completed by May of next year. It will be of the Romanesque Byzantine style and will seat one thousand people comfortably. At either end fronting on First Street will be towers while rising from the center will be a glass dome. This is an old country style and one that is adhered to strictly in all Greek churches where it is possible. The building will be 71 by 100 feet and the plans were drawn by Louis Giele of Jersey City who drew the plans for the remodeling of city hall ten years ago.
Passaic Daily Herald, Wednesday, July 29, 1903
ANOTHER BELL FOR NEW CHURCH
Will Be Placed In St. Michael Church Next Sunday
Ceremonies Attending Its Blessing Will Be
Participated In By Several Priests Of The City
Another bell for the new St. Michael’s United Greek Rite Catholic church was delivered at the church yesterday afternoon. The bell will be blessed next Sunday by the rector, assisted by the priests of the various churches in this city. The bell with the hangers weighs 6,400 pounds and bell alone, 4,300 pounds. It cost $1,300. The bell was made at a foundry in Baltimore and was ordered three months ago. The contract called for its delivery some time ago but owing to a fire in the foundry it was delayed. It is known as the Andrej and its name is inscribed on the top in gold letters. The other inscription is as follows: "A free will offering by the Russian Greek Catholic people to St. Michael’s United Greek Rite Catholic church, Passaic, New Jersey. The bell is the third bell for the church now in the course of erection. The others are known as "St. Michael" named after the church and "St. Nicholas" after their rector. The St. Michael bell is now in the tower of the old church, with two smaller ones. The bell will be taken down in a few days and placed in a steeple of the new building. The smaller bells will be stored until next fall when they will be placed in a mortuary chapel it is intended to erect at the cemetery recently purchased by the church.
Passaic Daily Herald, Thursday, December 21, 1905
SHERIFF TO SELL A CHURCH
Failed To Pay Judgment And Notice Of Sale Is Advertised In Herald
Lien Claims On The Property
Bishop Refused To Endorse More Notes & Priest Cannot Raise Cash
Sheriff Charles A. Bergen gives official notice in another column of the Herald today of the sale on January 19 of St. Michael's United Greek Rite church on First Street. The sale of the church will be the outcome of a suit brought in the Passaic county circuit court by Falstrom and Tornqvist company and John G. Schmidt. Judgment was given at the time for $1,875. This was two years ago and the judgment has never been satisfied. The proceedings were begun by City Attorney Sullivan and Watson & Watson, for the plaintiffs. The Flastrom and Tornqvist company were sub-contractors on the new church on First Street. They furnished the tin and metal work for John Skvarla the contractor. Several other judgments have been started against the church. St. Michael's Greek Rite church was completed about two years ago. The troubles of the congregation during the past few years have been many. Opposition to the rector, the Rev. Father Molcsanyi, caused a split in the church three years ago resulting in the organization of SS. Peter and Paul's Greek Rite church on Third Street. Then the church began to get into financial difficulties. The New York Life Insurance company holds a mortgage of $35,000 on the church while there are notes amounting to about $13,000 against the church on banks in this city and Newark. Bishop O'Connor has endorsed most of the notes as head of the diocese.
When Father Molcsanyi received notice of the sheriff's sale he appealed to Bishop O'Connor to help his congregation out of the financial difficulties by endorsing another note sufficient to meet the amount of the judgment. Father Molcsanyi's appeal to the bishop was most pathetic. The bishop replied several days ago that he could under no circumstances endorse any more notes for the Passaic churches. He wrote the priest that there were already enough encumbrances on the Passaic churches and he did not intend to be responsible for any more. He advised the priest to go among his parishioners and raise the money by popular subscription. "It would be next to impossible for me to secure the money needed to meet the judgment by popular subscription" said the pastor. "At the most I could only raise about $500 in this way from my people". I am sorry that Bishop O'Connor can't help the church any more and unless the money is raised the members will have to stand the disgrace of having their church put up at sheriff's sale, it will be a great disgrace but I for one can't help it.
Passaic Daily Herald, January 17, 1906
REV. IREN JANUSKY COMING
Pennsylvania Priest To Take Place Of
Father Molcsany—Says He Is Not Removed
At the request of the trustees of St. Michael’s Greek Rite church on First Street, Peter Kovalycsik, one of the oldest members of the congregation has been appointed treasurer of the church. This is an unusual appointment for the rules of the church state that the rector shall in all cases be custodian of the funds. The request to have Kovalycsik made treasurer was made to Monsignor Sheppard of Jersey City, the vicar general of the diocese. Several days ago a committee from the trustees called upon Bishop O’Connor and told him that the rector, the Rev. Father Molcsanyi, was not conducting the financial affairs of the church in a satisfactory manner. The bishop referred the committee to Father Sheppard. Father Sheppard came here the next day and investigated the charges with the result that he recommended that a lay treasurer be appointed and that Father Molcsanyi be removed from the rectorship. On the authority of the vicar general the committee invited the Rev. Iren Janusky, rector of a church at Freeland, Pa; to take hold of the Passaic church. Father Janusky has accepted the call and has promised to hold a conference with Bishop O’Connor and Father Sheppard next Monday, taking charge of the Passaic church on Tuesday.
Father Molcsanyi denies the statements of his accusers. He says that instead of the church being without funds because of his extravagance the congregation owes him about $1,000 he raised on an insurance policy. "I have received no notice of my removal," said the priest this afternoon. "Bishop O’Connor has notified me to visit him tomorrow morning. I shall then submit a financial statement of the affairs of the church and am confident that it will be satisfactory. If I am put out of the rectory all right, but those who have accused me will have to prove their statements. I have placed the matter in the hands of my attorney and some exciting things may be exploded."
Passaic Daily Herald, Saturday, July 13, 1912
SQUABBLE IN GREEK CHURCH
Vice Chancellor Denies Motion To Throw Out Bill Of Complaint
Counsel for George Piries and fifty other members of the Third Street SS. Peter and Paul's Greek Catholic church of Passaic, received an opinion from Vice Chancellor Stevenson in which he denies the motion of counsel for the First Russian Slavonic Greek Catholic Benevolent Society, under the Protectorate of Archangel St. Michael to throw out the bill of complaint in a Chancery Suit instituted by the Third Street church members of the society. Willima V. Rosenkrans, Michael Dunn and A.D. Sullivan are counsel for the Third Street church and Lefferts & Lefferts represent the society. The suit was brought as a result of a church squabble. The society, which is the defendant in the above action, is composed almost chiefly of members from the First Street, St. Michael's church of this city. These swear allegiance to the Holy See while the Third Street members are sworn to the Eastern Church under the domination of the Czar of Russia. The society was organized with members of both churches on the rolls but later the First Street members got into power and so changed the rules and regulations by amending them that it was impossible for a Third Street church member to get in unless he changed his faith. Inasmuch as many of the Third Street men had paid a tidy sum into the benevolent society they objected to being forced out in this way and for this reason started a suite in the court of chancery praying that a restraining order be issued enjoining the officers of the society from distributing any of the funds in their hands and that a receiver be appointed and that an equitable division of the funds be made.
To this bill of complaint, counsel for the First Street church objected on the ground of want of equity and because he held the bill did not set forth facts to justify the appointment of a receiver. Arguments on the petition for dismissal were heard before Vice Chancellor Stevenson on April 30th in Newark. The troubles between Piries, who really voiced the sentiment of the Third Street church, and the society, was due to the difference of faith between the two bodies. The society was formed in 1902 as a voluntary association with bylaws and rules and regulations with the object of helping the sick members and, in case of death, to give decent burial. Under the original constitution, membership in the society was constituted of men speaking a Slavonic language and belonging to either the Greek or Roman Catholic faith. The assets of the society now aggregate $40,000. Three years ago, the element forming the First Street church grew to be the majority in the society, elected their own officers and received full control. The First Street church members then tried to get the members of the Third Street church to foreswear their allegiance to the Eastern Church and take up with the Holy See at Rome. They were given the choice of doing this, it is alleged in the bill of complaint, or of getting out of the society altogether. Inasmuch as many of the members who were affiliated with the Third Street church and had been with the society since it was formed were now too old to obtain insurance in any other society and had paid into the fund approximately $12,000 in all such a threat as being removed from the benefits to which thy felt themselves entitled was a serious matter. Under the constitution and bylaws of the society a member was entitled to $300 upon the death of his wife, if he were in good standing, and a woman $600 in the event of the death of her husband, with the same condition prevailing. In case of sickness the member received $5 per week.
After many meetings a final meeting was held on June 10, 1911, at this Joseph Lefferts of Lefferts & Lefferts appearing for the First Street church, called the roll and put on record the wishes of each member as to whether he would cling to the old faith or join the new. Those who were not willing to disassociate themselves with the Third Street church were excluded thereafter from the meetings, the bill of complaint says, although they had paid their dues up to the last. If members of the Third Street church had been willing to affiliate themselves with the First Street congregation they might have still been members of the society and drawn benefits in case of sickness or death. After this action was taken, Piries acting for the fifty excluded members filed a bill in the court of chancery praying for relief. The defendants number about two hundred.
Passaic Daily Herald, Monday, October 4, 1920
GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST IS GIVEN WARM WELCOME
FATHER NEVICKY, FROM RUSIN TOWN OF UJAK, HOME
OF MANY LOCAL PEOPLE GREETED BY ST. MICHAEL’S MEN
GIVE RELIEF FUND
Memories of their homeland under the shadow of the Carpathian Mountains and tales of their home folk in Ujak, a little town of Podkarpatska Rusinia, were brought across the Atlantic yesterday to parishioners of St. Michael's Greek Rite Catholic Church, of Third Street, by the Rev. Emilian Nevicky eleven years the pastor of the Greek Catholic Church in Ujak. Father Nevicky came here yesterday on a tour of the United States, having spoken in sixty communities. He arrived in America on June 19, and will leave for his native land at the end of this month. He said Mass at St. Michael’s yesterday morning, spoke at a public meeting in St. Nicholas auditorium in the afternoon and was the guest at a dinner in the Hygeia hotel in the evening. The town of Ujak is linked to Passaic by the Uhro-Rusin people who left there to immigrate to the United States. Fifty percent of the parish of St. Michael’s came from Ujak. Hence the visit of Father Nevicky was an event of unusual interest. A man who had come to Passaic from that town, only a few weeks ago, was surprised and delighted to meet his former pastor here.
Podkarpatska Rusinia means in the American language literally, "Little Russia beyond the Carpathians". The Greek Catholic people of those provinces, like many other nationalities, are dissatisfied with the arbitrary dismemberment of the old nations and the creation of new by the Peace Conference in Paris. Formerly in a part of the Republic of Czecho-Slovakia, with a civil governor appointed by President Masaryk with the assent of the Peace Conference, a Pittsburgh lawyer, Dr. Gregory Zsatkovicz. At the meeting in St. Nicholas auditorium yesterday afternoon, resolutions were passed, addressed to the Czecho-Slovakian government calling for the unification of all Rusins, asking for government of the Rusin peoples by Rusins only and demanding the removal of "all stranger vagabonds." This is the self-determination program of these people. The capital of the Rusin provinces is Uzhorod, about 100 miles from Ujak. The Population numbers one and one-half million. The Rev. Michael Jackovics, pastor of St. Michael’s, was chairman of the meeting with was opened by Mayor John M. McGuire. John Kelly spoke in English making reference to Thursday night meeting this week at the high school. The Rev. Thomas J. Kernan, pastor of St. Nicholas’ expressed a sympathy for the people at the meeting in their desire for self-determination for their native land, promised to urge his parish to contribute to the relief fund and make an appeal for a large representation in next Sunday’s Holy Name parade. A collection was taken for the relief of the people of Podkarpatska Rusinia.
Others who spoke in the Little Russian tongue were Father Nevicky, the visiting priest, the Rev. Leo Lewisicky, pastor of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Greek Catholic church, John Miklus, of Garfield and John Julak, 88 Hope Avenue. The speakers recalled memories of their native land and stressed the necessity for relief work now. Father Nevicky told of the seventy-five churches that were burned there, of the desolation and want after the Russian army occupation of 1915, of the gleam of hope held out to them in President Wilson’s "fourteen points" and the final dissolution of that dream of freedom. Father Jacovics headed the committee of arrangements assisted by Michael Kudla, recording secretary; Michael Fedush, financial secretary; Michael Mucha; treasurer; Joseph Gagyo; Michael Nebesnyak; John Miklus; Joseph Orechovsky; Frank Hazuda; John Takach; John Surgent; Nicholas Kovalycsik; Peter Kovalycsik; Michael Antonyk; Nicholas Lazorchik; John Dolyak; Hriczov Lukacs and Joseph Pavlick. The choir of St. Michael’s under Ignatius Palazy, choirmaster, was a delight. The numbers were: "The Star Spangled Banner;" a hymn "Daleka" a patriotic song "Zaruss" and another, "Bratia Valavijte." The members of St. Michael’s choir are: Marie Guback; Anne Lulak; Elizabeth Kotcher; Anna Murcko; Anna Lopuch; Anna Besaha; Anna Timochko; Anna Marckovich; Anna Gubak; Ela Kotcher; Marie Gernath; Maria Murcko; Anna Sedlack; Marie Lanosky; Anna Mucha; Marie Halushka; Helen Lelya; Catran Mulik; Anna Babyak; John Artim; John Sardich; Joseph Orechovsky; John Miklus; John Mushka; Michael Ziga; John Takach; Joseph Pavilik; John Surgent; Michael Lanosky; John Besaha; Nicholas Kovalycsik; John Jurchishin and George Stefancic.
Phillipsburg, Warren County, New Jersey
Saints Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church was officially founded on March 5, 1916. Prior to this, Father Michael Mitro of Saint Michael’s Greek Catholic church in Allentown, Pennsylvania held services once a month in Saints Philip and James Church hall. The original founders of the church were Stephen Kravecz, Andrew Matviak, Joseph Chando, Joseph Sestak, Joseph Youpa, Stephen Boreczky, John Butchko, Jr., Michael Wilchak, Joseph Hnath, Michael Tkach, Nicholas Svachak, J. Jurachovski, H. Kyz, Peter Ridos, Nicholas Youpa, Andrew Lukachek, John Maczko, Sr., Mike Stangel and S. Regrut. Saints Peter and Paul had a close relationship with the oldest lodge of the Greek Catholic Union fraternal society. The Phillipsburg, New Jersey G.C.U. Lodge #186, was organized in 1899 and a Women’s Lodge #631 was organized in 1911. On January 10, 1916 members voted to purchase land for a future church building. The Lodge authorized a loan of $500.00 to complete the transaction.
After the construction period and when the church building was completed, Father Michael Andrejkovich blessed and dedicated the first church on Center Street. The cornerstone of Saints Peter and Paul was put into place on August 19, 1917 and a solemn dedication service was held on Memorial Day, May 30, 1918. After this, the church next proceeded to obtain land for a cemetery which was located in Alpha, New Jersey. The land purchased for the cemetery was sold to Saints Peter and Paul by a devoted member, Nicholas Youpa.
The cemetery was opened and dedicated on May 30, 1921. During these years, numerous Greek Catholic priests ministered to the spiritual needs of the growing parish. The need for a resident priest was necessary due to the expansion of the parish and in January 1921, a resident pastor, Father Emil Semetkovsky, was appointed for Saints Peter and Paul. The members of the church immediately set out to purchase a house on South Main Street and after remodeling and furnishing, the new rectory was complete. Saints Peter and Paul now had a resident full time priest to serve their spiritual needs.
During this period the church continued to expand. Members worked diligently to keep the interior and exterior of the church beautiful and many gave of their time and talents working for the church in various ways. The faithful of the Phillipsburg area were overjoyed at having their own parish as without it they had to travel long distances to other towns for services. However, on December 19, 1922 tragedy struck when the church burned to the ground. The members immediately began to organize and work to construct a new church. During this time members attended Saints Peter and Paul Slovak Roman Catholic Church who offered their church so Greek Catholic services could he held. The members decided not to renew the church at the burned property but to sell it, obtain the purchase price and build a new church on South Main Street. The cost of the property was $3,500 and the cost to build a new church was $7,355.00. On June 4, 1923 the new church was blessed and opened for worship by resident pastor Father John Krusko. In June, 1924, Father Krusko was reassigned and the church was placed under the administration of the priests at Saints Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Saints Peter and Paul in Phillipsburg experienced phenomenal growth in these years. In 1929 the members decided to build a larger church to meet their membership requirements. Plans were made and along with a church, a full basement and hall area were added. The cornerstone was added and lists “St. Peter and St. Paul Greek Catholic Church 1930. Under the English title it is again written in Cyrillic lettering. The new church was fully completed in July, 1931 with loans totaling $36,000.00. During the great depression, the members and the parish were strained extensively. With a new church and outstanding debt, the members worked hard to satisfy the church financial obligations. It is a credit to all the devoted members of Saints Peter and Paul in Phillipsburg the church continued to grow and meet their bills when so many other churches closed. As the economy improved, plans were made to decorate and furnish the interior of the church. Father Email Nevitsky was an architect and he designed the new altar. The church interior was decorated in 1943 by Walter Boetcher with murals that were painted by Father Anthony Kubek. New side altars and pews were also installed at this time. Through all this, in the early months of 1947, the mortgage on the church was finally satisfied.
During the period of 1956 to 1980 many accomplishments were achieved. The Holy Name society was organized and the Sodality reorganized. The old boiler room was remodeled into a kitchen, a gas heating system was installed, a new oak floor constructed, repairs of the stained glass windows were undertaken and new sidewalks built. Also, wanting to help their church in all these endeavors, the devout ladies of the parish offered funds from their “pirohi” projects for the purchase a new parking lot. It was also at this time period the murals painted by Father Anthony Kubek were restored to their original beauty and new lighting fixtures were placed inside the church.
A listing of clergy who served from inception to the present at Saints Peter and Paul in Phillipsburg are: Father Michael Andrejkovich, Father Michael Mitro, Father Michael Andrejkovich, Father Stephen Gulyasy and Rev. John Krusko. Father Emil Semetkovsky, Father. Ireneus Janitzky and Father. Emil Nevitsky. Father John Krusko, Father Basil Lipeczky, Father Alexis Bakajsa, Father Emil Moskva, Father Nicholas Bonetsky, Father Joseph Milly, Father Basil Stankaninecz and Father Michael Chubirko, and Father Stephen Safko. At the present time the church is without a resident priest.
During its long and sterling history, five cantors served Saints Peter and Paul from 1917 to 1928. In 1928 George Mitroka served as cantor of the parish until his retirement in 1972. During his forty five years of service, he was also a cantor in the Bethlehem church. Michael Pataki and Edward Chando also served as cantors upon Mr. Mitroka’s retirement. After Michael Pataki was ordained as a permanent Deacon, Edward Chando continued to serve faithfully as cantor at all liturgies and services until 1981. After 1981, the church religious education program became active in the annual May Crowning and Christmas pageants. They also instituted a food collection program for the needy of the parish during the Thanksgiving holidays. A Fun and Travel Club was also organized which offered numerous social activities for seniors and friends of the church. The Holy Name Society has sponsored Lenten fish dinners and other activities such as spaghetti dinners and the fall Halupki sale are enjoyed by members and those from the surrounding community.
During its 95 year history Saints Peter and Paul Greek Catholic church has devoutly maintained their faith and heritage. This church has experienced positive growth and transition. It is a testament to every member who sacrificed so future generations may also continue to worship within the traditions of their Greek Catholic faith.
SS Peter & Paul Byzantine Catholic Church (Official Site)
Passaic, Passaic County, New Jersey
Formerly known as Saint John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church
Original Church Building 1931
Photo Courtesy of Susan Opihory
Front of the Church as of 1935 with the addition of Windows in the Choir Loft
As of 2011 the old church was occupied by the Spanish Evangelical Pentecostal Church
St. John's Stained Glass Windows Remain
Church Interior and Altar of the Spanish Evangelical Pentecostal Church
Choir Loft of the Spanish Evangelical Pentecostal Church
Older Church Pews remain in the Basement 2011
During 1924 a group of individuals gathered at Michael Glita’s Hall to begin planning a new church. At this time, these members were attending Saint Michael’s Greek Catholic church on First Street, Passaic. The majority of these Carpatho-Rusyn founders/members originally came from the villages of Hajtovka, Hrabske, Maly Lipnik, Matysova, Orlov, Starina, Udol/Ujak, and other towns in Eastern Slovakia and the Ukraine. The initial organization committee consisted of John Pida, John Kundrat, John Knapp-Patoray, Andrew Bobey, Michael Nebesnak, John Sadloch, Vasily Olasin, John Moroz and Michael Yulak. The committee designated John Sadloch, Andrew Lyons and Vasily Olasin to meet with Father Kohanik who was stationed at Saint Nicholas church in Whitestone, New York.
Father Kohanik a Carpatho-Rusyn immigrant was born in the village of Becherov which is located in present day Slovakia. He was born in house 108 on August 22, 1880, the son of George Kohanik a village farmer and Anastasia Lescsisin. He was baptized in the Greek Catholic Faith on August 27, 1880 at the Nativity of the Virgin Mary Greek Catholic Church in Becherov by Father Michal Artim. He received his preliminary education in Uzhgorod, Ukraine. He completed his theological education in St. Petersburg, Russia and Simferopol, Ukraine. He married Eugenia Dimytrievna a resident of Crimea, Ukraine on July 27, 1902 in his native village of Becherov. He was ordained into the priesthood on October 13, 1902. On January 20, 1903 Father Kohanik and his wife left for America from Cuxhaven, Germany traveling on the S.S. Auguste Victoria. They arrived at the Port of New York.
Father Kohanik agreed to leave his parish and Whitestone and come to Passaic to head the newly formed parish. After receiving permission from the hierarchy, it was decided to name the new church in honor of Saint John the Baptist. The church however did not yet have a building or parish house. The Rev. Emery Jecusko of the Holy Name Slovak National Catholic Church granted permission to Father Kohanik for services to be held in the temporary Holy Name Slovak National Catholic Church in Paris’ Hall.
In October of 1925 the new parish applied for a Certificate of Incorporation under the name of “The Trustees of St. John Baptist’s Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of Passaic, New Jersey”. The Church officers and Board of Trustees were John Pida, Andrew Babey, Michael Yulak, Vasily Olasin, Michael Chanda, John Sokol, John Kundrat, John Vrable, Theodore Homyak, John Patoray-Knap, John Moroz, Michael Stefanchik, George Dubanjansky, John Komanitsky and Michael Pristash.
On July 12, 1925, a Vesper service was conducted. In attendance were approximately 130 people and at this service Saint John’s officially began. Members initiated a search for properties in Passaic that would be suitable for a new house of worship. After negotiations were concluded, the members purchased the Swedish Lutheran church which was located at 59 Jackson Street in November, 1925. After renovations, the building was consecrated on October 26, 1926. Later, another property was purchased, The Morris House, which was located at 136 Hamilton Avenue. This house would be utilized as St. John’s Rectory. During this period the church grew and many societies were formed. Some of these organizations were the Friendly Sons’ of St. John’s, a Men’s Club, Senior and Junior Choirs, a Mothers Club-Women’s Society, the Russian Orthodox Brotherhood (Spolok) and a Church School.
Known villages of birth for some of the early church members are as follows:
Arendacs – Hajtovka, Slovakia
Birchak – Hajtovka, Slovakia
Biss – Ujak, Slovakia
Chanda – Starina, Slovakia
Dopirak – Starina, Slovakia
Dornich – Ujak, Slovakia
Dornics – Ujak, Slovakia
Fabian – Hajtovka, Slovakia
Fedor – Ujak, Slovakia
Fedush – Hajtovka, Slovakia
Fenda – Ujak, Slovakia
Fengya – Ujak, Slovakia
Geryak – Matysova, Slovakia
Haschak – Maly Lipnik, Slovakia
Hilko – Starina, Slovakia
Hirkala – Legnava, Slovakia
Hnat – Ujak, Slovakia
Hrinya – Ujak, Slovakia
Hudak – Matysova, Slovakia
Ilkovics – Matysova, Slovakia
Junda – Kruzlov, Slovakia
Kollar – Ujak, Slovakia
Kovalak – Orlov, Slovakia
Kovalycsik – Ujak, Slovakia
Knap – Ujak, Slovakia
Knapik – Hajtovka, Slovakia
Kundrat – Ujak, Slovakia
Lazorchak – Maly Lipnik, Slovakia
Lesko – Ujak, Slovakia
Marko – Starina, Slovakia
Miklus – Ujak, Slovakia
Mikulik – Ujak, Slovakia
Mudrock - Osturna, Slovakia
Mucha – Hajtovka, Slovakia
Murcko – Hajtovka, Slovakia
Olejar - Ujak, Slovakia
Onufer - Lukov, Slovakia
Patorai – Ujak, Slovakia
Petrisin – Ujak, Slovakia
Pivovarnik – Svidnik, Slovakia
Pristas – Ujak, Slovakia
Ruff – Moor (Austro-Hungary)
Sadloch – Ujak, Slovakia
Sadlock – Ujak, Slovakia
Sedlar – Matysova, Slovakia
Shedlak – Ujak, Slovakia
Sokol – Ujak, Slovakia
Soroka – Ujak, Slovakia
Stegena – Orlov, Slovakia
Super - Orlov, Slovakia
Surgent – Ujak, Slovakia
Svistak – Maly Lipnik, Slovakia
Tulenko - Lukov, Slovakia
Vancho – Ujak, Slovakia
Vasilik – Maly Lipnik, Slovakia
Vrabel – Lenartov, Slovakia
Zavatsky – Osturna, Slovakia
In May, 1942 it was decided to purchase a section of land from the non-denominational East Ridgelawn Cemetery in Clifton. This section of land at East Ridgelawn would be designated as a cemetery for St. John’s parishioners. Later, the church constructed a small chapel in this section. It has one gold cupola on top of a brown roof with light brown walls.
As time progressed, it was determined a new church building was required to meet the needs of the parishioners. In September, 1955, the church purchased the Gaston property which is located at the corner of Lexington Avenue and Harrison Street. This is the site of the current church. After planning and negotiations, in June, 1959, construction of the new church began. On September 18, 1960 the cornerstone of the church was blessed. In October, 1960, the church purchased the Bonnar property and a Church School was constructed. Finally, on November 27, 1960 the consecration of the completed Church building was held. Due to the continued expansion of the parish, a new rectory was constructed in June, 1962. As time went on, many updates and improvements were made. One important upgrade was the installation of an air conditioning system for the entire church in June, 1973.
The church at Lexington Avenue and Harrison Street was constructed of light red/brown brick facing with two towers. Each tower has one golden cupola. A large oval stained glass window is positioned in the center of the front portion of the church. To the left and right lower portion of the main window are singular elongated stained glass windows. The main entrance has three doors, two main doors and one door on the left and right of the main entrance. The main focal point of the interior is the light brown and gold trimmed iconostasis. The altar area proper is painted blue and this accents the color of the iconostasis. The walls are a light color without painted murals.
Pastors who have served St. John’s throughout the years are: Father Peter Kohanik, 1924-1969, Father dan Donovan, 1969-1981, Father Leonid Kuberski, 1981-1989, Father Dan Pavelchak, 1989-1991, Father James Mason, 1991-1999, Father Nicholas Iuhos, 1999-2001 and Father Christopher Swanson, 2001-2003 and Father Sophrony Royer, 2003 to present.
Please Help Us to Name the Participants in the Following Church Plays
TCC would like to thank Slavomir Gladis for offering us copies of the following photos. The photos were located in the village of Udol in the Slovak Republic. Evidently sent to a friend or relation from a former Udol villager who was residing in the Passaic area.
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(Center) Father Peter G. Kohanik
Back row third from the left is Nicholas Stefanchik
Bottom row seated second from the left is Margaret Elkovics
Second row from the bottom seated to the Right of Fr. Kohanik is Prof. Michael P. Hilko.
Seated three to the Right of Prof. Hilko is his sister Elaine Hilko wife of Nicholas Stefanchik.
(Identified by Paul M. Hilko)
Top Row from Left
John Hrinya 1925-2012; Stephen Nebesnak 1890-1971; Rt. Rev. Archpriest Peter G. Kohanik; Prof. - Choirmaster Michael. P. Hilko
Identified by the members of St. John's "Coffee Hour"
Middle Row from Left
John Hrinya (possibly John Herina b. 1893)
Identified by the members of St. John's "Coffee Hour"
Michael Fechisin, Jr. 1917-1989; Stefan Fenda 1905-1969 (Santa)
Identified by Slavo Gladis & verified by the members of St. John's "Coffee Hour"
Mr. Dolak (Not Sure) and Unknown
Identified by the members of St. John's "Coffee Hour"
Indentified by JoAnn Olasin Veith, Emil's daughter & verified by the members of St. John's "Coffee Hour"
Right is Peter Junda
Identified by Paul M. Hilko & verified by the members of St. John's "Coffee Hour"
Stefan Fenda 1905-1969 (Third in from Left, white shirt/vest)
(Identified by Slavo Gladis)
Father Peter G. Kohanik (Center)
Seated to the Right of Father Kohanik is Prof. Dickun (suit with vest)
(Identified by Paul M. Hilko)
Alpha, Warren County, New Jersey
One of St. John's early founders was Nicholas Youpa a Rusyn immigrant from the village of Maly Lipnik, Slovakia and a resident of Alpha since the 1890s. Mr. Youpa was also one of the original founders of Saints Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church in nearby Phillipsburg, New Jersey. In 1916 the First Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the newly formed parish of St. John's by the Rev. Stephen Sipaya. This service was held in a private home that was to become the rectory. In the year 1917 the church building was completed and consecrated by the Bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania the Right Reverend Stephen. In 1923 the parish entered the Carpatho-Russian Diocese under the Omophorion of Archbishop Adam. In 1942 the parish came under the Omophoroion of Metropolitan Theopilus. The parish cemetery can be located on Fifth Street in Alpha.
Photos Courtesy of Steven M. Osifchin
Passaic, Passaic County, New Jersey
Transcribed by Ed Hlipala and Tom Peters
Photo Courtesy of Joy E. Kovalycsik
Saints Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in Passaic, New Jersey was composed of individuals who immigrated to the United States from former areas within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Many members came from the village of Vysni Orlik which is located in present day Slovakia. Others hailed from villages within the Galicia region which today is known as Southern Poland. Arriving in the City of Passaic, these immigrants desired to worship God as they had for centuries in their homeland. Originally, members attended Saint Michael’s Greek Catholic Church on First Street. Later, a segment of the membership wished to start another parish. A meeting was held on March 24, 1902. The decision was made to leave Saint Michael’s and form a new church. The new church was named Saints Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church. The first elected trustees for Saints Peter and Paul were: Joseph Timko, Joseph Olcholvsky, Peter Gladis, Michael Dudaschik, Peter and George Kmetz, Andrew Sidor, John Kiselica, John Kopcho, Michael Buriak, Andrew Cuper, Michael Mandiak, George Pirich, Joseph Tkach and Joseph Hudak. The members agreed to purchase the Presbyterian Church and adjoining property which is the site of the present Cathedral. The members petitioned Father Basil A. Volosin, an ordained priest from Hungary, to become pastor of the newly formed congregation. Father Volosin left Pennsylvania and arrived in Passaic in 1902. The parishioners made alterations to the Presbyterian Church structure and purchased a set of bells. The church was dedicated on July 13, 1902. From 1902 to 1905 the church was not attached to any jurisdiction. However, in 1905, the church formally submitted to the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Newark, Bishop John Joseph O’Connor. Upon this acceptance, Father Basil Volosin left the parish and a new pastor, Father Eugene Homicsko was assigned to Saints Peter and Paul. Father Homicsko remained at the church until his departure in February of 1909.
Father Homicsko was followed by Father John Krochmalny. Father Krochmalny served as pastor of the church until 1910. During this period the church decided to change jurisdictions and join the Russian Orthodox Church. The Reverend Alexander A. Hotovitzky was installed as pastor on February 21, 1910. A meeting was held and the decision to change jurisdictions was finalized. Resolutions of acceptance were approved by Archbishop Platon and Saints Peter and Paul officially became part of the Russian Orthodox Church on March 6, 1910.
Father Elias Klopotovsky was appointed pastor in April 1910. The parish grew and by 1910 it became necessary to enlarge the church. Father Klopotovsky and the trustees of the church contacted Archbishop Alexander Nemolovosky of St. Nicholas' Cathedral of New York City for financial assistance. Archbishop Nemolovosky informed the church that the Czar of Russia agreed to contribute the sum of $40,000 of the total construction costs which were estimated at that time to be in excess of $125, 000. The new edifice was constructed on the corner of Third and Monroe Streets.
The new church was consecrated by Archbishop Platon in 1911. Father Joseph Stephanko replaced Father Klopotovsky in August 1913. At that time many auxiliary organizations were formed. Some of these were: The Brotherhood of Saints Peter and Paul, the Saint Vladimir Brotherhood, the Women’s Altar Society and the Saint Mary Russian Orthodox Women’s Society. In April 1922 Father Michael Sotak succeeded Father Stephanko as pastor. He served the church well until March 16, 1930 when Father Joseph A. Havriliak became pastor.
Under Father Joseph’s guidance the parish experienced many new additions and saw membership numbers soar. The interior was completely remodeled. A new altar and iconostasis were installed. Pews were added, stained glass windows replaced plain glass windows which were over 25 years old and the bells were electrified. Father Joseph, a patriotic American, assisted many of his members with the application process leading to American citizenship. He also promoted the use of English for various services so the youth of the parish could participate more fully. Also, during the terrible days of the Great Depression, Father Joseph worked tirelessly to find jobs for the members of the Cathedral who were unemployed. After renovations were completed, the interior of the Cathedral was blessed in May 1943 with a Pontifical Divine Liturgy co-celebrated by the highest Prelates of the Jurisdictions in America. Metropolitan Benjamin, Eparch of the Russian Patriarch in the Americas, Archbishop Athanogoras, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas (who later became the Ecumenical Patriarch) and Metropolitan Orestes P. Chornock of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. In 1952 the 50th Anniversary of the parish was celebrated. Over 500 parishioners and friends of the church attended an anniversary banquet at the church auditorium. Father Joseph was very fortunate to be assisted by his brother, Demetro Havriliak, a gifted Cantor/Choir Director. “Metro” as he was affectionately known within the choir, assisted Father Joseph for years singing responses for all services and directing the choir. A humble man of God given natural talent, he excelled in the art of singing Prostopinije (Plainchant) which is a traditional form of music in the Carpathian regions of Slovakia and Poland.
In 1953 Father Joseph was honored by his Holiness Patriarch Alexis with the honor of a miter. In May 1954 the status of the church was changed from that of church to Cathedral (Katholikon) by His Holiness Patriarch Alexis. Archbishop Dyonisy read the proclamation during a Pontifical Divine Liturgy. Saint Peter and Paul’s now held the same title designation as Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral on East 97th Street in New York City.
In 1958 a home on Market Street in Saddle Brook was purchased for $1.00 and moved to the parish cemetery. The first floor was converted to a chapel. The cemetery chapel was dedicated in 1959 by Father Joseph and his assistants, Father Nicholas Brodionoy and Father Anthony Renye.
Father Joseph was instrumental in purchasing property on Third and Fourth Streets. This property was utilized for a parking lot as more members had cars than in previous years. Also, property was utilized for the building of a new auditorium and school. A banquet was held at the Passaic Armory. Over one thousand people attended to raise money for this project. A Cultural Center was constructed on the side of the cathedral. The center included classrooms for Sunday school, a lounge and a large auditorium. A new church office was also constructed at this time. In 1963 the cultural center was dedicated with Metropolitan John, Archbishop Dositheus and Archbishop Panteliemon co-celebrating the Pontifical Divine Liturgy. A banquet followed the blessing of the Center.
On October 28, 1969 after 40 years of dedicated service, Father Joseph passed away. His son, Father Dennis, who served as assistant priest for the past ten years, became the new pastor. Father Dennis oversaw the remodeling of the Cathedral. Projects such as painting, installation of rugs and the construction of a new rectory were completed. Also, new window frames were added to the Cathedral and the parking lot was expanded. The main steeple of the cathedral was refurbished with copper and a new cross was installed. Due to the height, a helicopter needed to be utilized to complete this project.
Father Dennis was instrumental in organizing the Federated Russian Orthodox Chapter #30 and also a Junior Chapter. The Junior Chapter of this organization had a basketball team that won a number of awards. To help the Sunday School, the P.P.T.A. took a very active role by organizing trips and the sponsoring of Christmas and Halloween parties. Many members also assisted in the church kitchen for various functions held at the cultural center. All funds received for these functions were donated back to the Cathedral. Always looking for ways to meet the needs of his spiritual children, Father Dennis organized many bus rides. A favorite trip was the annual bus trip to Seaside Heights, New Jersey.
In March 1970, Father Dennis was elevated to the title of Very Reverend Archpriest by Metropolitan Nikodim of Lenningrad and Novgorod. On Holy Saturday 1973 he was given the jeweled cross and named Dean of Eastern States by Bishop Makary, then Vicar-Bishop. On Holy Saturday 1976, Father Dennis was once again honored with the miter. He was given the title Right Reverend by decree of His Holiness Patriarch Pimen for his zealous work for the church. He was also a member of the Bishops Council. In 1982 Father Dennis was awarded a second Patriarchal Cross and in 1989, he was awarded a third Patriarchal Cross. In 1989 after 30 years of devoted service, Father Dennis retired. Father Alexander Krenicki, a priest who assisted Father Dennis, was installed as pastor of the Cathedral. In 1990 Father Eugene Carroll was called upon to serve temporarily due to the illness of Father Alexander. Father Eugene began his service to the Cathedral as a member of the choir. Later he was tonsured a reader and ordained to the Diaconate in 1980. He served the Cathedral for three years as Deacon and also as Choir Director. Father Eugene Carroll, along with past Cantor/Choir Director Demetro Havriliak, were thoroughly experienced and talented Choir Directors who served at the Cathedral. Under Father Eugene’s leadership, the Choir flourished. A genuine artist, Father Eugene would enter the Cathedral when no services were scheduled to practice signing various services and hymns. Father Eugene devoted himself to striving for perfection in God’s House. His unique and beautifully majestic voice adorned the Cathedral like a jewel. Father Eugene Carroll was ordained to the priesthood in 1984 and was assigned as pastor to St. George the Great Martyr Russian Orthodox Church in Bayside, New York.
Father Eugene served as interim pastor for Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral for three months. After this period of time, he was installed permanently. To assist Father Eugene with the spiritual care of the members, Father Gregory Onisko and Father Sergius Kosich were also assigned to the Cathedral. Father Eugene oversaw many improvements and worked diligently to accomplish all tasks set before him. Under his pastorate, the property at 197 Fourth Street was purchased. He also took initial steps for a massive remodeling project. The Cathedral had not been maintained on a regular basis for a long period of time. The Cathedral required extensive interior and exterior renovations. These renovations also included a new roof for the entire church. The renovation estimate costs for these projects were staggering even for that time period. Father Eugene, always placing his trust in God, worked constantly to make sure the restoration project would be implemented. Sadly, Father Eugene became ill during this phase of the Cathedral’s history. Father Gregory Onisko assisted and took over many duties to help Father Eugene during his illness which later, turned serious. It was with profound sadness the parish learned the news on November 14, 1995 that Father Eugene had passed away.
Since the beginning, members worked along with their pastors for the church. God brought the Cathedral through good and trying times right into the 21st Century. The Cathedral has a vibrant past which witnessed many changes and transformations through the years. The love, devotion and sacrifices of the parishioners of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral have made it an inspiring house of worship. The Cathedral looks to the future when a new generation will continue the work begun in 1902.
Center - View of the Iconastasis with Main Alter, Left - Dormition of the Mother of God, Right - Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Father Basil A. Volosin
Basil A. Volosin was born in Szinever, former Maramaros district, present day Ukraine, in 1863. Basil came from a long line of Greek Catholic priestly families. Basil was the son of Anthony Volosin and Hermina Kovordany. Prior to ordination, he married Sofia Danilovics. Pani Sofia was born in Csornoholova, former Ung district, present day Ukraine, in 1870. Father Basil and Pani Sophia had three daughters, Amellia, Helen and Irene who were born in the town of Kisszolyva. Today the town is known as Skotars’ke and is located within the Ukrainian Catholic region of Western Ukraine. Father Basil and Pani Sophia’s children born in America were Elizabeth, born in Mahanoy City, Schuylkill county, Pennsylvania, Magdalene, Mackinaw City, Cheboygan County, Michigan and Olga who was born in Passaic, Passaic County, New Jersey.
Father Basil was a missionary priest of the Mukachevo (present day Ukraine) diocese. During the turn of the century, thousands of Greek Catholics were immigrating to America and priests were needed to care for their spiritual needs. In 1898, a petition was sent by the Greek Catholic clergy of the United States to the Austro-Hungarian government. A number of the thirty-three men who signed the petition including Father Basil Volosin, were among the first Greek Catholic priests to arrive in America. The petition requested assistance from the Austro-Hungarian government to aide them in the construction of churches. A copy of the petition was also sent to Pope Leo XIII. At this time Father Basil was the parish priest of St. Mary’s Greek Catholic Church in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania. Father Basil served St. Mary’s for a number of years. In 1902, he received a direct invitation from a segment of Greek Catholic men and women residing in the City of Passaic, New Jersey to be the priest for a newly founded church. These members had previously attended Saint Michael’s Greek Catholic Church two blocks away. However, due to irreconcilable differences in dialect and traditions, they chose to start a new Greek Catholic Church.
After making arrangements, Father Basil left Mahanoy City and began his tenure at Saints Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church on Third Street, Passaic during April, 1902. Father Basil worked relentlessly with his congregation. Parishioners were very generous and donated funding to remodel the Presbyterian Church that had been purchased. The parishioners sacrificed and paid for a new set of bells, interior decorations, required liturgical items and the installation of an altar. Many sacrifices were made to construct this church for worship in the centuries old faith of their ancestors. The confidence of these members and their pastor inspired everyone to make this dream a reality. Father Basil assisted in every way possible to complete the work quickly. Finally, on July 13, 1902 the church was ready for full-time worship. Father Basil along with Roman and Greek Catholic prelates and clergy including Father Cornelius Laurisin (Diocese of Mukachevo) of Saint Michael’s Greek Catholic Church in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania and Father Anthony Kecskes (Diocese of Presov) of Saint Michael’s Hungarian Greek Catholic church in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, solemnly dedicated the new church. This was the first church Father Basil had managed “from the ground up” and in conjunction with his committed parishioners; the City of Passaic now had a second Greek Catholic church. It is to the credit of Father Basil and his congregation that Saints Peter and Paul still exists today. The church would never have begun without their hard work, dedication and benevolence.
Father Basil continued to serve Saints Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church in Passaic until 1905. At this time the membership voluntarily transferred the church to the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Newark, Most Reverend John J. O’Connor, D.D. Father Basil was then assigned to assist Father Acacius Kaminsky, pastor of Saint Mary’s Greek Catholic Church in Kingston, Pennsylvania. St Mary’s was expanding rapidly and Father Acacius required assistance to serve his large congregation. During 1906 Father Basil was called upon to relocate back to New Jersey and serve Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Catholic Church in Trenton. Father Basil would serve this growing parish until 1908. Father Basil began a practice at Saint Mary’s that was taken up by his successor, Father Anthony Laurisin. Father Basil worked to purchase property and have two family brick homes constructed to be sold to members of his parish at cost. In total, five blocks were purchased and eventually held a majority of residents who attended Saint Mary’s Greek Catholic Church in Trenton. During his priestly service, Father Basil would serve parishes throughout the United States including Holy Trinity Greek Catholic Church, New Britain, Connecticut, St. Mary’s in Winber, Pennsylvania, St. Nicholas of Myrna in Yonkers, New York and Saint Gregory the Theologian Greek Catholic Church in Lakewood, Ohio. Father Basil was installed as pastor of Saint Gregory’s in June of 1922. During his tenure a new enlarged brick church was constructed in place of the original wooden church which became too small for the growing parish. The church was dedicated on August 8, 1926 by His Excellency, Bishop Basil Takach, D.D., who was the Bishop of the Greek Catholic Pittsburgh Exarchate. During the end of 1927, Father Basil left Saint Gregory’s after faithfully serving this parish for five years.
At the end of his life, Father Basil’s health deteriorated. He was admitted to St. Alexis’ Catholic hospital in Cleveland, Ohio on March 16, 1931. He condition deteriorated and he died on Wednesday, March 18, 1931. He was approximately 67 years old. The funeral mass for Father Basil Volosin was held at Saint Michael’s Greek Catholic Magyar Church in Lorain, Ohio. Reverend Father Thomas Szabo, Dean of the Cleveland District and other members of the clergy in Lorain officiated. He was buried in Calvary Roman Catholic Cemetery in Lorain, Ohio. Later, his family would be interred with him in the family plots. Buried with Father Basil are his wife Pani Sophia (d.1949), daughters Elizabeth (d.1964), Amellia (d.1969) and Helen (d.1973). Father Basil Volosin served during the infancy of the Greek (Byzantine) Catholic Church in America and assisted in its expansion. Today, due to the devotion of priests like Father Basil, the Byzantine Catholic Church in America continues to grow. The church is strong, vibrant and has remained constant and faithful to its centuries old traditions while welcoming all ethnic backgrounds within American society.
Eugene Homicsko was born approximately 1869 in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. He studied for the Greek Catholic priesthood and prior to his ordination he married the former Elizabeth Miksievicz of *Bilke, Austro-Hungary. Soon after the birth of their first child the couple immigrated to America. Father Eugene and Pani Elizabeth were blessed with three children, Magdalene (1897- 1983); Olga (1902-1975); and Nicholas, (1911-2000). Magdalene became the wife of John Louis Darabanth. Olga became a librarian and later married Julius Schey. Nicholas attended Georgetown University and graduated with a degree in dental surgery from a dental college in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He later joined the armed services and became a Commanding Officer of a United States Navy Submarine during World War II. Nicholas was the husband of Margaret Elizabeth a native of Munich, Germany.
Father Homicsko was appointed by Roman Catholic Bishop John Joseph O’Conner of Newark in 1905 to take charge of Saints Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church in Passaic, New Jersey. This was a young parish that had been lead by Father Basil Volosin since its inception in 1902. Father Eugene along with the financial assistance of dedicated parishioners continued the expansion that Father Volosin began. Four years into Father Eugene’s tenure an internal turmoil regarding property rights arose. Father Eugene worked diligently to preserve the historical and spiritual ties of his parishioners to their beloved Greek Catholic faith. However, his efforts failed and it was decided that the church would transfer from the ancestral Greek Catholic faith to Orthodoxy. A requirement for Father Eugene to remain with his flock was that he had to convert to the Orthodox faith. As a matter of conscience Father Eugene refused to comply with this request. After much persuasion this matter remained unresolved. On February of 1909 he was forced to give up his leadership of the church. On February 21, 1910 the church officially changed jurisdictions.
Father Eugene served various churches from 1909 until 1912. In 1912 he was appointed the first resident pastor of the newly constructed Saint Mary’s Greek Catholic Church in New York City where he served for two years. In 1915, Father Eugene was appointed as resident pastor of Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Saint Mary’s) Greek Catholic Church in Trenton, New Jersey. Since its inception St. Mary’s had grown rapidly consisting of 700 families by the year 1915. The former church building could no longer support the growing flock. The faithful raised the funds for a new granite church that was blessed and dedicated by Bishop Soter Stephen Ortynsky with Father Eugene assisting as a concelebrant. In the years that followed under Father Eugene’s leadership the parish prospered. Father Eugene was firm in the conviction his parishioners’ children should have access to education in their ancestral faith. He implemented plans to construct a Greek Catholic parochial school which would be the first parochial school constructed within the Greek Catholic Apostolic Exarchate. On August 15, 1920 the school was constructed and stands to this day. In that same year Father Eugene went forward with plans for the construction of a two story rectory on Adeline Street. The parochial school was blessed and dedicated on November 27, 1922 by His Excellency, Metropolitan Septycki, D.D., who at that time was visiting the United States from Europe. Father Eugene requested the Sisters of Saint Basil the Great in Uniontown, Pennsylvania staff the school as teachers. Construction also began on a convent for the Sisters. Father Eugene worked intensely to ensure his church expanded and that every need, spiritual and temporal, of his parishioners were met. Due to his hard work, Saint Mary’s in Trenton became a prominent Greek Catholic church on the East Coast. Under Father Eugene’s personal supervision he began and trained a professional choir. This choir was recognized as a prominent choir and had no equal on the East Coast at that time. Under his direction the choir travelled and performed concerts in various states and had a reputation as one of the finest choirs on the East Coast.
By 1928 after years of hard work and intense devotion to his parishioners, Father Eugene’s health began to deteriorate. Realizing he could no longer attend to the duties of such a large congregation, he offered his resignation to the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Bishop, Bishop Basil Takach. It was decided that Father Eugene would take a much needed respite and then be transferred to the more manageable parish of Saints Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church in Beaver Meadows, Pennsylvania.
Prior to Father Eugene’s departure, the choir of Saint Mary’s gave him a large farewell banquet in the parochial school auditorium to recognize his achievements. The toastmaster at the banquet was Professor John Nemesh. Others who spoke in praise of Father Eugene were Michael Nemchik, Joseph Remenicky, Michael Tursncik, Joseph Kusnir, John Ceremsak, George Slaboda and Mrs. Elizabeth Bacsik. Father Eugene was presented with a gift and students of the parochial school greeted him and offered their thanks and well wishes.
Father Eugene’s service to Saints Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church would be brief. His health continued to decline and on January 20, 1932 he died as the result of a stroke in Hazelton, Pennsylvania. Father Eugene’s wife Pani Elizabeth died a few years later on May 19, 1936 in Trenton, New Jersey.
Father Eugene Homicsko worked to ensure the Greek Catholic Church in America expanded and flourished. It is a testament to all his faith and dedication that Greek (Byzantine) Catholic churches he administered are still in existence today.
* Bilke, Austro-Hungary later became part of Slovakia. Today, this town is called Bilky and is located in present day Ukraine.
The following databases were compiled by both Ed Hlipala and Tom Peters from the records of SS Peter & Paul Russian Orthodox Church in Passaic, New Jersey. This data is an excellent resource for those researching their Rusyn ancestry with a historical connection to Passaic, New Jersey.
The Carpathian Connection wishes to acknowledge Mr. Edward Hlipala who passed away on January 7, 2005. Born in Passaic, New Jersey, he was a graduate of the Newark College of Engineering where he received his Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering and Masters Degree in 1968 in Electrical Engineering. He served in the United States Navy and was President of SS. Peter and Paul’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Passaic. Ed was a devoted family researcher and he graciously shared his research with TCC so that our readers could have free access to the data he researched and compiled.
Baptism's 1902 to 1912 (Coming Soon)
Marriages 1916 to 1930 (Coming Soon)
Binghamton, Broome County, New York
TCC wishes to extend a special thank you to Father Peter Tomas and Pani Michelle Tomas.
Holy Spirit Greek (Byzantine) Catholic Church was originally organized in 1903. It was named Saint Michael’s Greek Catholic Church and was located at 296 Clinton Street in Binghamton. However, by 1936 an unfortunate division occurred within the parish. Some members wanted to convert to the Orthodox faith while others desired to remain Greek Catholic. By 1936 problems escalated. Litigation over church ownership was not settled until 1939. Those who converted to the Orthodox Church joined the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church Diocese. This segment of the congregation was given possession of the church and property. The pastor of Saint Michael’s, the Reverend Michael Staurovsky and his parishioners, were determined to remain Greek Catholic. After the court decision, Father Michael and his parishioners were allowed to hold services at St. Joseph’s Lithuanian Catholic Church on Judson Avenue in Binghamton. Saint Joseph’s had been in existence since 1914 and graciously offered their church so Greek Catholic services would continue. Father Michael and his parishioners were not discouraged by the events that transpired. Instead of being down-cast at the loss of their church and property, they immediately set out to obtain a new church. The Mother’s Club was started in 1934 with the main function of assisting at church events. During World War II, these kind and dedicated women mailed numerous packages to servicemen. Even today, this tradition continues. Gifts are still sent to United States military personnel. The Mother’s Club of Holy Spirit Church is to be commended for their patriotism to those in the United States armed forces. During 1947 the Mother’s Club compiled their own cookbook. It is still in print and can be purchased from the church today. Numerous copies have been mailed all over the United States and even to other countries. The income derived from the sale of this cookbook is collected and utilized for various church needs.
By October of 1941, 32 acres of property were purchased. In 1941 Holy Spirit Church Holy Name Society was begun. The society was formed to assist the church with various services. To this day, the society still perform duties such as ushers and also continue the long tradition of standing guard on Good Friday throughout the night at the grave (Plaschanitza) of Christ. The Holy Name Society has continued to support Holy Spirit Church with fundraisers and offers many functions throughout the year. As time progressed another 65 acres of property were obtained in 1947. The second purchase of property was consecrated and dedicated for use as Holy Spirit cemetery. Other property had been purchased and the parcel at 360 Clinton Street, not far from their original church, was designated as the site for Holy Spirit. Construction of the new church began with a ground breaking ceremony and blessing service in 1950. Holy Spirit would be constructed of Indiana limestone and two majestic towers graced by two gold cupolas with three bar crosses. In the front of the church, above the entrance doors, is a breathtaking full-length stained glass window. When the sun gently rests upon the church, the blending of the limestone color, tiled roof and the golden cupolas are an impressive sight to behold. The church blueprints for construction followed Byzantine/Romanesque architecture while taking into account the surrounding landscape. After waiting so long to have their own house of worship, construction was finalized and all interior decorations were completed. On Palm Sunday of 1952, the first Divine Liturgy was offered by Father Michael Staurovsky. This church, built because their own church had been lost, is a genuine testament of the devotion and love for the Byzantine Catholic faith of its members and clergy.
Holy Spirit church began to experience growth and their membership numbers increased. In 1959, a new rectory was built. By 1974 the Holy Spirit Center was constructed with a modern kitchen, auditorium and classrooms. These classrooms were vital as they were dedicated specifically for teaching religious instruction to the parish children. During 1987, the Mother’s Club also revised their name to the Mother’s Club/Guild. They are known is the area and beyond for their various baking endeavors. Every year, these hard working members bake numerous nut, apricot, lekvar, poppy seed rolls and Paska (Easter Bread). The income derived from these sales is of great benefit to the church which helps with financial obligations. During 1990 the church was updated and interior mosaics, paintings and stenciling were added to the church interior.
The church interior is elegant. A perfect balance of color graces the iconostasis and draws visual attention to the altar which is a work of art. Adorned in mosaic, it has a cross in red and green with the letters IC XC NI KA, which translate to “Jesus Christ Conquers.” A gold cross is graced on each side by two golden fans. Above the baldacchino is a mosaic icon of the “Mother of God of the Sign.” Under the baldacchino (right over the altar proper) is a stained glass masterpiece depicting the Holy Spirit. An oval area that surrounds the outside altar is adorned with icons of Christ, the Virgin and the Saints. All pillars are in green marble and three graceful chandeliers’ illuminate the interior. The tretapod is delicately adorned with an inlaid gold and blue three bar crucifix flanked by two standing vigil lights. The color scheme of green, light green, gold and light brown all escalate towards the ceiling which has painted stars on it.
Always mindful of their origins, in October of 2008, a Carpatho-Rusyn dancing group was formed. These young folk dancers have performed for many church functions and events. Ever mindful of following their Byzantine Catholic faith and performing works of love and compassion, they perform at a local nursing home for the enjoyment of many residents. At present, Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic church is served by Father Peter Tomas and his family, Pani Michelle and their son Peter. Divine Liturgy is said on Saturday evenings at 4:30 p.m. and on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. A church that is friendly and inviting, Holy Spirit is a parish filled with great love and devotion to the Byzantine Catholic faith and for all who worship here. This church is a permanent monument to those who persevered through many trials to build a new church. Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church had a remarkable history, but, more important, has a future filled with an abundance of great promise. Guided by the traditions of the past and as they move forward with a strong focus into another decade, this church is as dynamic and welcoming as it was when first begun in 1903.
More photos are available for viewing in the Gallery Section
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Corning, Steuben County, New York
TCC wishes to extend a special thank you to Father Dan Mahler for offering the history and photo of his parish.
St. Mary’s Orthodox Church was incorporated in 1914 in Corning, NY. Building the present church commenced in 1916 and was completed in 1917. At that time it was a Greek Catholic Church, celebrating its Eastern Rite services and under the jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome. In the late 1930's, however, motivated by a variety of factors, St. Mary’s joined a group of other Greek Catholic Churches and formed a new diocese which returned to their ancestral Orthodox Faith under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
The diocese formed was and is The American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A. The parish was founded by immigrants coming from the Carpatho-Russian Mountain regions of present day Slovakia and the Czech Republic. These Carpatho-Russian faithful began settling in the Corning area circa 1895-1900 coming mainly from the town of Stakcin in what was then Austria-Hungary. These people emigrated, like so many others, from their villages to better themselves economically and avail themselves of the political freedoms enjoyed in the United States. Besides finding employment, one of the first tasks of these immigrants was building a church in which they could worship and pass on their faith to their children. 1910 was a decisive year in the history of the parish. In that year numerous meetings of the church founders occurred in order to plan a church of their own in Corning. At that time services were held in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church hall whenever a Greek Catholic priest was available., but the faithful desired to have their own church. From that desire came sacrifice and a great deal of hard work (ditch digging and the like) to build St. Mary’s Orthodox Church.
Throughout the years, the parish purchased a home for its priests, built a church hall, and purchased a cemetery plot. Since their beginnings, the parish properties have undergone a variety of renovations.
Today, the parish faithful continue to profess their Orthodox Faith in a manner consistent with what has been given over to them from the Orthodox Church's 2000 year history. The faithful celebrate in worship and live out the faith communicated to them by generations of Orthodox faithful. St. Mary’s honors its past and continues to ask God to bless its efforts in the present day. It welcomes all who are seeking faith in God in an often troubling and doubt-producing time. The heritage of our church reveals a firm and fervent faith, and we invite you to visit us so that this faith might be yours as well.
Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
UPDATE: Although it no longer operates as a parish, Holy Ghost remains open as a “Byzantine Catholic Cultural Center.” Vespers are sung every night, and the Divine Liturgy is celebrated every Sunday. Their official website can be found at http://www.byzcathculturalcenter.org/
Holy Ghost Greek (Byzantine) Catholic Church was organized in 1909. Initially, members met at Justis Hall on Literary Avenue until construction of the church was finalized in 1910. Prior to 1900, immigrants began arriving from the Carpathian Mountain regions of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire (present day Slovakia, Southern Poland and Western Ukraine) to Cleveland. The majority of the immigrants who began Holy Ghost were Carpatho-Rusyn. The immigrants were mostly laborers and found employment in the various mills and factories. After they became settled, the focus turned to constructing a Greek Catholic church to serve their spiritual needs. Two Greek Catholic churches were previously established in Cleveland. Unfortunately, these Greek Catholic churches were a long distance from where members of Holy Ghost resided. Father Emil Burik, pastor of St. John’s Greek Catholic church, obtained permission to discuss the possibility of building a new church on the West Side of Cleveland.
On October 8, 1909 Holy Ghost Greek Catholic church was incorporated by charter by the State of Ohio. Services initially were held at the Star Turn Hall. Later, property was purchased at West 14th Street and Kenilworth Avenue for $17,650.00. On February 6, 1910, Very Reverend Stephen Jaritzky of Hazleton blessed the cornerstone of the new church. Assisting Father Jaritzky were Father Auibrem Hazega, Father Miron Lukacs and Father Emil Burik, Pastor of Holy Ghost. The new church cost $15,000.00. Also, approximately twenty plus acres was purchased and dedicated for a cemetery. The cemetery land in Parma cost $6,000.00. The original membership of the parish consisted of 50 families. Within a short period of time the number of families soared to over four hundred. In 1918 Father Joseph P. Hanulya was installed as pastor of Holy Ghost where he served until 1962. During the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, an Orphanage was established to provide a home for children who lost their parents. Holy Ghost became the first home in the United States for the Sisters of St. Basil the Great who managed the orphanage until it closed in 1923.
During the 1920’s more property was purchased by the church and in 1924 three bar crosses were installed on the church towers. Also, during this period the iconostasis, a true artistic work of art, was installed. Hand crafted in Budapest Hungary, it cost $6,133.66 and was brought to America and reassembled on site.
Classes in religious instruction and the Rusyn language were held for children in the church basement. By this period, Holy Ghost had expanded to over nine hundred families. As time progressed many improvements were made to the church and property. New lighting fixtures, marble altars, pews and updated mural paintings were added. Holy Ghost Church was rededicated on September 11, 1955. On February 17, 1957 construction began for a parochial school across from the church. The school was dedicated on October 19, 1958 and the first graduating class was held in June, 1960.
During the period of Holy Ghost’s Golden Jubilee celebration in 1959, the membership had increased to over three thousand people. Unfortunately, parish growth reversed itself when many individuals began to move to suburban areas. By 1970 Holy Ghost made the decision to build a new church on their cemetery property. To assist with these construction costs, the parochial school was sold. Many other changes took place as the existing rectory was dismantled to provide a larger parking area and the former convent area became the new rectory.
In 1969 tragedy struck when during a terrible storm one of the church towers collapsed. The parish at this time had limited finances and it was decided not to undertake repairs. The second tower was removed and the crosses were set upon both tower foundations. Later, funds were collected to restore the towers and in November of 1978, the old copper crosses were replaced with new stainless steel domes on new towers. In the years leading up to 1984 the marble altars were replaced by wooden altars and the entire interior of the church was remodeled to restore its original beauty. The church interior has many artistic aspects such as stained glass windows with life size figures, a large rose window which dominates the façade and is supported by three towers. These towers are graced on the exterior by onion domes and three bar crosses. Holy Ghost had many organizations such as a choir, boy’s baseball team, a Sokol for gymnasium sports, the Strong Set Club, a basketball team and a church social club. The Liturgy/Masses were held in the Slavonic language up until the 1970’s.
Some of the Clergy who served Holy Ghost were: 1909 – 1913, Rev. Emil Burik, 1911 – 1918, Rev. Michael Mitro, 1913, Rev. Sigsmund Brinsky, 1913 – 1916, Rev. Cornelius Zapotoczky, 1916 – 1918, Rev. Nicholas Duda,1918, Rev. August Komporday, 1921, Rev. Emil Burik, 1926, Rev. Demetrius Yackanich, 1949 – 1950, Rev. Michael Hrebin, 1950 – 1951, Rev. Stephen Luzetsky, 1951-1952, Rev. Myron Horvath, 1952 – 1953, Rev. Paul Waslus, 1956, Rev. Raymond Misulich, 1957 – 1958, Rev. John Borodach, 1958 – 1959, Rev. Myron Badnerosky.
On November 1, 2009, it was with great sadness that Holy Ghost Greek (Byzantine) Catholic Church in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood was permanently closed. At the final Divine Liturgy Bishop John Kudrick of the Parma Byzantine Eparchy and the Rev. Steven Koplinka, pastor of St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Cleveland along with 200 members celebrated the last service in this historic Carpatho-Rusyn church. In the past few years membership numbers declined to the point where only nine families were parishioners. It was impossible for these nine families to financially support the entire church. The difficult decision was made to permanently close the parish. At the emotional conclusion of the service for all who were in attendance, two parishioners tearfully handed over to their bishop the keys to the church, the parish accounting books and a relic of a saint that had been venerated at Holy Ghost Greek (Byzantine) Catholic Church for years.
In memory of this beautiful Carpatho-Rusyn church, if anyone has photos, information, anniversary books, etc., please contact us so that we may add to this page and keep the memory of Holy Ghost Greek (Byzantine) Catholic Church alive for future generations to learn of its remarkable and distinguished history.
Utube Video Final Mass November 1, 2009
Lakewood, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Saint Gregory the Theologian Byzantine Catholic church was originally organized in September of 1905. Many immigrants who settled in Lakewood wished to have a church that reflected their customs and heritage. Saint Gregory was started to meet that need. It was difficult in the beginning for many to raise the necessary funding to build a church. Due to these financial constraints, the church was not constructed until 1906. Located on Quail Street, this church was built at the heart of the immigrant community. There were many from Eastern Europe of Slavic heritage that came to this area during the turn of the century and beyond. During its early years Saint Gregory’s had no bishop since Rome did not appoint a bishop for Greek Catholics in the United States. The church had no choice but to be placed under the Roman Catholic Bishop of Cleveland, the Most Reverend Ignatius F. Horstmann, D.D. The members worked hard and pooled their resources to realize their dream. Two lots on Quail Street and Thrush Street were purchased to serve as the site of the church. After all construction was completed, the new wooden church was solemnly blessed and dedicated on July 30, 1906. This was the beginning of Saint Gregory’s church in Lakewood.
During the years 1906 to 1922 the parish grew. The members were proud of their new church, which they had sacrificed to erect. In 1922 the parish house on Quail Street was purchased along with another house that in the future would be sold. In June of 1922 the Reverend Basil Volosin was installed as a permanent priest to serve St. Gregory’s. During 1925 a brick church was constructed to replace the older wooden one. This second church was blessed and dedicated on August 8, 1926 by His Excellency, Bishop Basil Takach, D.D., who had been installed as Bishop for the newly created Pittsburgh Exarchate. During the year 1927 a new priest, Reverend George Hirtz succeeded Father Basil Volosin. Time moved on and during September of 1955 the Reverend Nicholas Pavlik, O.S.B. was appointed to serve St. Gregory’s. The golden jubilee of Saint Gregory’s was celebrated with fond memories of their former history and with hopes for a bright future. The golden jubilee was held on October 16, 1955 and during this celebration the newly remodeled interior was blessed. Expansion was always a high priority at the church and on November 23, 1958 the church undertook yet another building campaign to secure funding to build a school and recreational building. This new building was constructed on the three lots at Madison and Cohasset Avenues, two of which a former rector, Father George Hritz had purchased. Father Bernadine Hvizdos had purchased another former rector the third lot previously. Upon completion, the school was blessed and opened on June 17, 1962 by Most Reverend Nicholas T. Elko, D.D.
Upon the death of Father Nicholas Pavlik in February 1977 Reverend Hilary Benedik, O.S.B.M. was appointed a temporary administrator of St. Gregory’s. The church was without a permanent rector for over a year but finally, in September of 1978, Father John S. Kachuba was installed as rector. During 1990 Father Kachuba left for Saint Stephen’s church in Euclid, Ohio and the church again had a temporary administrator, Father Michael Hayduk. In September 1992, Monsignor Basil Smochko was appointed rector. The success of Saint Gregory’s was due to the devotion and dedication of her members. Many sacrificed to keep the church running and gave financial support even when times were difficult. The 90th Anniversary of the church was celebrated on October 29, 1995. A solemn liturgy of which the main celebrant was the Most Reverend Andrew Pataki, J.C.L., D.D., Epharch of Parma, Ohio, was attended by large numbers of members, invited friends and clergy.
After the liturgy, a banquet was held in Saint Gregory’s Hall. The members of Saint Gregory’s had come far in their first 90 years as a church. The trials and sacrifices that were made in the beginning now were recalled and celebrated in a fully functioning and beautiful church. It is to the credit of the original members that all this was accomplished. Due to their grand vision of having a church to worship in their faith and heritage, the present day members have a beautiful church for religious observances and to honor their traditions. The present members have unselfishly given of their time, talents and finances to make St. Gregory’s a beautiful edifice for the Glory of God. The present church is a magnificent building with red brick exterior and a main golden cupola (dome) surrounded by four smaller ones on a main tower. These cupolas offer a striking view from many directions on Quail Street. The iconostasis construction is simple, yet regal. The icons with partial gold backgrounds that support the two-tiered iconostasis offset its soft brown wood color. A superb piece of art, the main golden chandler, offers exquisite beauty in an atmosphere well suited for prayer and the worship of God.
Brecksville, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
TCC wishes to extend a special thank you to Father
Bruce Riebe for offering the history and photos of his parish.
The history of St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church had its beginning in the Eastern Provinces of Slovakia near the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. It was from the towns and villages of this part of Europe that the majority of the early members of St. Joseph parish immigrated to America to seek a new life at the turn of the century.
Although the history of the Rusyn immigrants who inhabited the city of Cleveland goes back to approximately 1898, the story of St. Joseph Church really begins on June 9, 1912. Records show that the first general meeting to organize a parish was held in Jelinka Hall on Aetna Rd. A decision was reached to purchase suitable lots where a church and school could be built. On June 16 of that year, the committee recommended property on Orleans Avenue be purchased. A contractor then was hired to start construction on the church. Within two months the church was completed at a cost of approximately $3,000.00! On January 7, 1913, the Divine Liturgy was offered for the first time.
Because of increasing membership, just nine years after the parish was founded, the congregation began discussing the needs of a new church. After raising the necessary funds, a motion was passed on September 17, 1928, that a new church be built. Due to various obstacles the new building was not completed until the pastorate of Father John Krusko (1931-1950). The old church was renovated and made into a recreational hall.
Being an inner city parish, the flight to suburbia was felt, and by the 1970's the congregation was growing smaller and smaller. The situation was quite bleak with the members barely able to meet the expenses for the church and school buildings.
Eventually the congregation decided to relocate. After many prayers, a 35 acre parcel was purchased from the Diocese of Cleveland for a moderate asking price. The Orleans property was sold to Zion Baptist Church and it was full steam ahead for building in Brecksville. During the planning and construction years the congregation worshipped at Brecksville High School. In late Autumn of 1984 the parish received permission to have a one day occupancy permit from the city of Brecksville and the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated.
In 2001 an Education Center and Activity Center were added. The congregation numbers three hundred families and has been labeled as one of the most vibrant Byzantine parishes in the country!
Jaslickari Christmas Program 2009
Father Bruce Riebe blessing Easter baskets on Holy Saturday 2010
Father Bruce Riebe performing a blessing of pets in 2011
Parma (Cleveland), Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Church building and altar photo from Byzantine Catholic Church in America
Saint Mary Byzantine Catholic church was organized by a small group of pious individuals who wanted to worship in their own faith. In 1938, a listing was compiled and 137 families were interested in this endeavor. Rev. Eugene Tabakovich, area priests and approximately 70 families gathered to take the next step in beginning a church. These people petitioned Bishop Basil Takach to accept their request so that construction could begin. Bishop Takach gave his permission and a new church was begun. After consultation the church was placed under the patronage of Mary the Dormition of the Mother of God.
A wooden church was purchased which originally was a rented wooden shop at the corner of West 35th Street and Stickney Avenue. Also, three lots were included and a rectory and auditorium/recreation center were constructed. The first pastor was Father Stephen Petrick and he arrived on September 25, 1938. Father Stephen along with father Tabakovich and many area clergy blessed and dedicated the new church. The first resident priest assigned to the church was Father Daniel Ivancho.
As time went on the church building became too small for the members. On April 1, 1947 Father Nicholas Elko was installed as the new pastor. After plans were reviewed and implemented, groundbreaking for the new church took place on October 3, 1948. On May 9, 1949, Bishop Ivancho blessed the cornerstone of the new church. On April 30, 1950, Bishop Ivancho officiated at the solemn blessing and dedication of the new church. On November 15, 1952, Father Joseph Bodnar was installed as resident pastor and he served with distinction for 25 years.
The church grew and on July 10, 1956 Bishop Elko gave his permission for the old church and rectory to be converted into a parochial school and convent. When these buildings were ready Bishop Elko blessed them on August 19, 1956. In 1958 Father Bodnar expanded the school and on July 15, 1958 Auxiliary Bishop Stephen Kocisko officiated at the groundbreaking ceremony. The parochial school was blessed and dedicated on February 28, 1960 and the Sisters of St. Basil from Uniontown, Pennsylvania were installed as teachers.
On January 20, 1981 the Producers Dairy was purchased and remodeled into a hall which began operating in November, 1982. The building houses a day care program, a pre-school program and two kindergarten classes of Saint Mary School. Saint Mary Hospitality House was opened on March 21, 1981. This vital community service is staffed by volunteers and offers hot meals to those of limited means in the community.
St. Mary Church celebrated their sixtieth anniversary on August 15, 1998. During the past sixty years much has been accomplished. St. Mary Church has produced vocations, educated children and helped people to grow in their Byzantine Catholic faith. St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church looks forward to the future with faith and in service to the church and the local community.
1948 or 1949 Catechism class. Mr. Calvin (the cantor) on the left. Marti Timura is standing second to Mr. Calvin. If you would like to add your name please contact us at email@example.com
Courtesy of Marti (Timura) Worth
1950 St. Mary's Greek Catholic Church First Holy Communion Class
Father Nicholas Elko (Later Bishop Elko) in the center. Marti Timura (first girl on the right) If you would like to add your name please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtesy of Marti (Timura) Worth
Barberton, Summit County, Ohio
TCC wishes to extend a special thank you to Father Miron Kerul-Kmec for offering the history and photos of his parish.
By James Senderak
Saint Nicholas Church was founded by immigrants from both the Backa and Presov areas of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. This group first organized a lodge in the Greek Catholic Union fraternal organization and then focused their attention on organizing themselves as a church congregation. The Articles of Incorporation were signed on June 26, 1916. The congregation was dedicated on July 6, 1916 under the patronage of St. Nicholas. On September 20, 1916 , the property for their church was purchased. While the church was being built, services were held in the downtown opera house. By the spring of 1918, the parishoners moved into their newly built church, located on the corner of First St. and Lake Ave. in downtown Barberton. Reverend Peter Popovich was brought to Barberton from Cleveland. He was a widower, with one daughter.
As the new industrial city of Barberton quickly grew and prospered, so too did the church of St. Nicholas. In 1935, five and a quarter acres of land were bought in the neighboring village of Clinton as a burial place for the deceased members of the parish. This ground was consecrated on September 6, 1936.
The visionary leadership of Rev. Michael Rapach led to the purchase in 1956 of 40 acres of land in Coventry Twp. By 1958, picnic grounds were developed on the new property and a modern indoor pavilion was built. Groundbreaking for a new church took place on Sunday, May 23, 1965. On Sunday, July 31 1966, the congregation celebrated the dedication of its new church, together with the 50th anniversary of its founding. On Sunday, April 14, 1974, at the celebration of the Feast of the Resurrection, they burned the mortgage.
Much was accomplished during the pastorate of Rev. Robert Yarnovitz. In 1976, the bell tower and front drive canopy were added to the church complex. Throughout the 1970's, the interior of the church was remodeled appropriate to the design for a Byzantine church.
A fruitful, cultural renaissance took place at St. Nicholas. The liturgical choir began to learn Rusin folk songs, performing at parochial and public affairs. In addition a dance group was organized in 1979, which took the name of The "Carpathians"’ in recognition of the geographical roots of the church founders. That same year, the St. George cultural-recreation center was built. This building houses classrooms for the growing ECF program, a library, kitchen and other amenities.
Furthermore, a Christmas Velija Supper for the parish family was implemented, as well as a breakfast of the Easter foods following the Saturday late night Resurrection matins and blessing of baskets.
In 1991 the city of Barberton celebrated its centennial, and St. Nicholas celebrated its 75th anniversay. First, an open house for the public was held on June 23 in conjunction with the Barberton Centennial Tour of Historic Churches. Later in the year, the parish’s Rusin heritage was displayed at the Barberton Centennial "Something Ethnic" International Festival. A specially organized dance group, and the church choir performed. A booth of ethnic cuisine and an exhibit of cultural and religious items displayed the heritage of St. Nicholas. The formal celebration for the congregation took place on Sunday, Sept. 22.
The Rev. Michael Felock instituted programs that enabled the children to be more actively involved in the life of the parish. Most noted was Student Sunday. The ECF students, together with their teachers would enter the church in procession and sit together as a group. The highschool and college graduates were honored with a special Divine Liturgy followed by a parish breakfast. Father Felock was nearing the end of his ninth year as pastor, when he was called by God to enter into his eternal reward on May 12, 1997.
Subsequent to his passing, St. Nicholas was administered for the next 11 years by several priests ordained by the Roman church; who were then accepted into the Byzantine Rite.
A grape vineyard was planted during the administration of Rev. Alan Kapron. The parish was able hold their first auction of wine from this vineyard in the Spring of 2008. Also, the Sunday Divine Liturgy began to be televised on the local CAT public access station.
For the first time in 42 years, with the appointment of the Rev. Fr. Miron Kerul’-Kmec, St. Nicholas Church would once again have a married priest as pastor. Father Miron is a native of Slovakia and has been in the United States for two years.
The past few years have proven to be difficult times for the parish family. Fr. Miron is uniquely able, as a father of his own family, to provide the confidence and stability needed by the parish of St. Nicholas; so that we may continue to perpetuate the spirit of human kindness. We will continue to strive, just as our (great-grand) parents did when they first arrived in this country, to live and honor the message of Jesus Christ, according to our beautiful Byzantine Rite.
Good Friday 2009
Lorain, Lorain, Ohio
TCC wishes to extend a special thank you to Father Nicholas R. A. Rachford for offering the history and photos of his parish.
Saint Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Parish was established on Sept. 14, 1914, at the former location on Toledo Avenue in Lorain, Ohio. On that date, the first Byzantine Catholic bishop, Bishop Soter Ortinsky, dedicated the one-story structure of Saint Nicholas church. The pastor at the time was Father Basil Beretz.
The people who were members of Saint Nicholas Parish in September, 1914, were the same ones who had initiated plans for a parish of the Ruthenian Byzantine Rite Catholics in 1905. Founders of this parish emigrated from the Austro-Hungarian Empire (today, the eastern-most section of Slovakia), to Lorain, in the last part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. For a few years they attended Saint Michael Hungarian Byzantine Catholic church on Wood Avenue (presently on Reeves Avenue), and for a brief time services were held in Kohlmeyer’s Hall on Pearl Avenue in Lorain.
During the pastorate of Father Andrew Pataki (former bishop of Parma, Ohio, and presently the bishop of Passaic, N.J.), a giant step was taken toward assuring the future of Saint Nicholas Parish. On Dec., 7, 1958, ground was broken for the construction of a parochial school. The cornerstone dedication took place on Sept. 20, 1959. Because of a fire originating in the altar boys’ sacristy in the church in March of 1960, the church was renovated by the Nobris Decorating Company of North Canton, Ohio. A festive dual observance took place on Sunday, June 1, 1960. Archbishop Nicholas T. Elko, blessed the newly-renovated church and the new Saint Nicholas school.
During the pastorate of Father Michael Felock, plans for a new complex became a reality. A ground-breaking ceremony was held on Jan. 25, 1981 on the present property at West 40th Street. The dedication and solemn blessing of the new Saint Nicholas complex was held on Sunday, Oct. 10, 1982. The interior of the church and sanctuary were renovated under the pastorate of Father David Hannes in 1994. Since then, a few seraphim and cherubim have been added to the ceiling surrounding the existing icons. A new mobile classroom has been set up so that the two mobile trucks could be removed from the property. A computer lab with a network connection to each classroom, has been created for the students and faculty of Saint Nicholas Academy.
During the pastorate of Father James Batcha, 1995-2003, there was an upgrade of the computers in the school. This was part of the parish outreach program and evangelization. He also established a Web site for both the Academy and Saint Nicholas Parish. The site includes links to the Parma Eparchy’s Web site, the Byzantine home page and Saint Nicholas Academy home page with an alumni section where former students from Saint Nicholas Academy may register.
He also established a Father Michael Felock Memorial Fund in memory of the pastorate of Father Michael Felock, who served Saint Nicholas Parish from 1963-1987. He passed away on May 12, 1997. This fund was established on Oct. 4th, 1997 in order to raise funds for building maintenance and future construction.
On Oct. 15, 2003, Father Batcha began a new pastorate at St. John Chrysostom Parish, Columbus, Ohio, and Father Nicholas Rachford became the new pastor of St. Nicholas Parish.
In December, the first organizational meeting for a parish youth/young adults group took place. At a meeting in January, the members elected officers. There was an officers workshop in February and the first event was planned.
The month of May saw the formation of a Building and Maintenance Council. Its purpose is to review the needs of the physical properties of the parish, make recommendations for repairs and improvements and assist in carrying them out.
Over the next years the parish worked to implement its first three-year plan. At the end of that period, in 2008, the Parish Pastoral Council undertook an evaluation of parish life based on the parish mission statement. From this evaluation arose the 2009-2011 three-year plan. This plan calls for improvement in the liturgical life of the parish, further outreach to the parish youths, outreach in service to the surrounding community, various avenues of education and formation for adult parishioners and a revised ECF program structure.
Lakewood, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Special thanks to Rev. Father Timothy Sawchak for offering us this history from the 1992 SS Peter and Paul’s 75th Anniversary Book.
Seventy-Five Years of Orthodox Witness
The early history of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Lakewood is similar to that of most Orthodox parishes in the United States. Immigrants, mostly from the Sub-Carpathian Mountain region of what was then Austria-Hungary and the western part of Russia, left their homeland, their beloved parents and friends and came to our country to begin a new and hopefully, better life. They left all behind except their love of God and their devotion to their faith. Although many of them had been farmers in their native country, in America they settled mostly in the industrial areas such as Cleveland and its suburbs. After arriving, they not only maintained their culture and language, but also built their church before building their own homes so that they could continue with the spiritual legacy they had received from their fathers and mothers, the holy Orthodox Saints and Righteous and from the Holy Apostles. Today, as we think in retrospect of their sacrifices, our hearts are filled with praise for those who had the vision and certitude to establish this church. The history of Saints Peter and Paul is embodied in the contributions of its many diligent and faithful Orthodox Christians between 1917 and 1992. The church has added and still offers a great deal to the quality of life of its members. Therefore, the history represents the sacrifices of Saints Peter and Paul’s founding fathers and mothers, and the continued support extending down through time to today���s parishioners.
On July 1, 1917, Rev. Joseph Takach met with a group of people and organized a parish in Lakewood, Ohio. The Saints Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic parish was founded and incorporated on July 19, 1917. In 1918, the Reverend Dimitrius Darin served briefly as pastor at the wooden church on Quail Avenue, but this proved to be inadequate for the newly established congregation. Under the pastorship of Father Michael Dziama, who began serving the parish on August 11, 1918, the new parish moved to the Madison Avenue property where the church stands at present. On October 19, 1922, the cornerstone of the edifice was laid by His eminence Metropolitan Platon. With great spirit and determination these faithful people had planted the seeds of Orthodoxy in Lakewood. Reverend Michael Kostyk became our pastor on February 1, 1923, and during his pastorate the congregation grew and the 870-pound bell was purchased. Although the income of the parishioners was meager, on July 27, 1925, strengthened by their faith and with trust in the Divine Help, they undertook the task of building a new rectory and constructing an iconostas. The Lakewood "R" Club of the Federation of Russian Orthodox Clubs (FROC) was formed in 1928. This organization was active to the present day, offering its service and donations while advancing the religious, educational and social activities of the church. On March 11, 1928, Reverend Vladimir Levkanich came to serve the parish and remained for approximately two years. During his pastorate, the St. Mary’s Altar Society was formed. Many articles of necessity for the altar and church were donated and the ladies of the parish worked tirelessly to assist the church, and continue to do so to the present time.
Reverend George Barany was appointed past on July 1, 1930. During Father Barany’s administration, a fine choir was developed under the direction of his son, William. Despite the depression and economic distress of our country during this time, the parish flourished and continued to grow. The worshipers zealously participated in their cherished Orthodox services and the basement church was filled to capacity, including holy days. During the six-year pastorship of Reverend Andrew Chemushin, talk began of building a new edifice above the basement church. Father John Obletiloff, who was assigned to Saints Peter and Paul Church on December 2, 1942, instituted the envelope system for contributions, which proved to be extremely helpful in meeting the parish’s financial obligations. On September 1, 1947, Father Obletiloff resigned because of ill health. Reverend Stephen Rusiniak was appointed pastor on September 1, 1947 and the plans for a new church accelerated. A meeting was held on March 7, 1948 to draw up contracts to construct the new edifice. With the generous assistance of the American Russian National Brotherhood, $500,000 was borrowed by the congregation for the construction. Building of the new church began on June 24, 1948 and was completed in June 1950. On July 2, 1950, the parishioners realized one of their dreams when the dedication of the church took place. The growth of the parish continued and parishioners renewed their efforts to complete the interior of the church though donations of stained glass windows, pews, chandeliers, kitchen equipment, and other necessities. His Grace, Bishop John, officiated at a special ceremony to dedicate the altar and iconostas. Beginning in February 1958, Reverend Stephen Burdikoff served as interim pastor. Reverend John Miller, who was to serve as pastor for 29 years, was assigned to the parish and served his first Liturgy at SS Peter and Paul Church on May 4, 1959. During Father Miller’s pastorship the parishioners voted to have Liturgy sung in English on two Sundays every month. The parish home was repaired and refurnished, and with much of the work done by church members. Also, during this time 463 lots were purchased at Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery by the Parish Council, and a monument was installed to mark this area. Nine years after the dedication of the new church on October 25, 1959, the "burning of the mortgage" took place with the blessing and presence of His Eminence, Archbishop John of Chicago.
The parish was honored that two sons of the parish were called to serve our Lord in His Vineyard. Rev. Samuel (Harry) Garula and Rev. Andrew (Drew) Clements. The Men’s Club of Saints Peter and Paul was formed in July 1962. Besides the good fellowship that the club promotes, the men generously donate their time, energy, and financial support to beautify and maintain the church. In 1969, on the thirty-fifth anniversary of Father Miller’s ordination, the parish members gave a testimonial dinner for him. The Holy Synod of Bishops awarded Father John a Mitre on November 9, 1975, which was presented by His Eminence, Archbishop John. Continuing their commitment to beautify the church and the parish house, the parishioners made many physical improvements and continue to do so. These improvements include: gold-leafing of the iconostas; varnishing of all wood in the church; addition of folding partitions in the church hall to make Sunday School classrooms available; addition of an Angel Room for babies and small children; covering of the stained glass windows with Lexan; purchase of a house adjoining the church, demolishing it and creating a surfaced parking lot; erecti8on of a new storage building; installation of a new air conditioning and heating system; replacement of the old dome with a new large golden cupola and four smaller domes; addition of a wall and fence surrounding the property; replacement of carpeting; complete redecoration and refurnishing of the rectory. In 1984, the parish members helped Father Miller to celebrate the fiftieth year of his ordination. Father Miller retired in 1987. After an interim period during which Reverend Father Vasile Hategan served as substitute pastor, Father George Breyan was appointed and served as our pastor until 1990. During his pastorate several items were donated to the church including a new Gospel, new baptismal font, a memorial table, and new carpeting for the altar and center aisle.
In Orthodox worship, music has always been an integral part and source of beauty and inspiration. As the parish developed both congregational and choral signing were important. A unique position in many of our churches belongs to the cantor. Saints Peter and Paul has been blessed in having several dedicated and well-trained cantors who were very important in the liturgical life of our church. The church was also fortunate in having several outstanding choir directors. For the last twenty-nine years, our church’s choir has been under the adept leadership and talents of Mr. Peter Uhren. The dedicated members under his direction have consistently done an exceptional job of augmenting the beauty of our services. In July 1990, Rev. John Adamcio and his family were officially welcomed to Saints Peter and Paul Church. In his short time with us, he has done much to make our church a visible presence in the Lakewood Community. This has been accomplished in part by our participation in the Lakewood Christian Center food drive, Lakewood Festival, and monthly contributions to St. Herman’s House of Hospitality. The culinary heritage of our church is being preserved through Baba’s Kitchen, which cooks, bakes and sells savory delights. There has been tangible growth in church membership the last two years. The Restoration Fund was established in November 1991 to continue the parish’s efforts to restore, mainstream, and improve church property. The two-phase program is hoping to raise $61,000.00 In August 1992, the first major project, re-pointing of the beautiful stained glass windows was completed. All of this has been accomplished though the hard work, devotion and self-sacrifice of the church leaders and officers, past and present, and through the love and faith of ALL Orthodox Christians of this parish. Despite stumbling blocks along the way, the spirit of Saints Peter and Paul parish has been unconquerable. This is more than just another day of celebration. It is a pledge of a new generation to carry on and hold fast the cherished beliefs of Orthodoxy. This is our sacred obligation.
Since this history was written in 1992 there have been two priests who served SS Peter and Paul’s after Father John Adamcio. One was Father Dimitri Voytilla and the other is the present pastor of SS Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church, Rev. Father Timothy Sawchak.
TCC wishes to extend a special thank you to Father Nicholas de Prospero for offering the history and photos of his parish.
St. John's Church in 1903
Immigrants from areas of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire began arriving in Pottstown in 1893. There were many opportunities for work at the mills which produced textiles, constructed boilers and constructed farm tools. Also, there were different foundries and many factories which produced shirts, bricks and fabrics. The area surrounding Pottstown was also known for its productive farming and dairying. By 1900 the population of Pottstown was 13,696, in 1910 it was 15,559 and by 1920 the population expanded to 17,431. Immigrants from the areas known today as Slovakia and Ukraine arrived in this town because of employment opportunities. Wishing to establish a Greek Catholic church to worship in the faith of their ancestors, the founders of St. John’s, John Artim, Michael Dezura, Michael Korinko, Andrew Parvenski, John Savko and Michael Suchoza, began the process of formerly taking steps for the construction of a church. In 1901 these original founders consulted with Father John Hrabar who was pastor of St. Michael’s Greek Catholic church in Mont Clare. Saint Michael’s was begun in 1896 and Father Hrabar was assigned as its first resident pastor. Father Hrabar was very knowledgeable with the requirements of beginning a new church; his experience was to prove invaluable to the members in Pottstown. The members in Pottstown wished to receive guidance and permission to begin a Greek Catholic Church and Father Hrabar agreed to assist them. To attend to their needs prior to the construction of a church, Father Hrabar traveled between Mont Clare and Pottstown to serve a Divine Liturgy and other sacraments for the Greek Catholics in Pottstown.
Once a plan was finalized, two lots were purchased at Vine and Walnuts Streets in Stowe. St. John’s was begun in 1903 and incorporated under the name “St. John the Baptist Church of Stowe, Pennsylvania.” However, most members resided in Pottstown and they revised the original plans to purchase new property in Pottstown. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on August 17, 1903 and the new church was begun. The Apostolic Visitator, Reverend Andrew Hodobay conducted the dedication service on November 22, 1903. The Apostolic Visitator was also the Titular Abbot and Canon of the Greek Catholic Diocese of Presov. He had been sent to America to survey conditions and the needs of Greek Catholic in the United States. He returned to Europe in 1906. His report resulted in the appointment of the Right Rev. Stephen Soter Ortinsky. Bishop Ortinsky was a Basilian monk and hegumenos of the Monastery of St. Paul in Michaclovka, Galicia. He was named as Bishop for Greek Catholics in America.The inside of the new Church
Once the church structure and interior plans were completed, the church was served by various visiting clergy, one being Father Michael Kuziv. In 1913, Bishop Ortinsky assigned a permanent pastor to St. John’s Greek Catholic church in Pottstown. During 1922, Father Zenon was appointed pastor and began an expansion program for the church. Having studied architecture, Father Zenon drew plans himself for the new church. Father Zenon previously had served during World War I and began to experience health problems. Unfortunately, he was forced to retire and later was buried in St. John’s church cemetery.
The construction program was not finished and in 1926, Father Peter Kustan was assigned to the church. St. John’s was expanding constantly due to the constant flow of immigrants from Europe. The church was finally completed and in 1929, Bishop Basil Takach performed the service of laying the cornerstone on May 30, 1929. It was during this period the old church was dismantled and a new pastor was assigned in 1930. The interior of the church was a beautiful house of worship. The imported marble was artistically placed and many murals were painted by famous artists of the day. The altar was a masterpiece of beauty. The tabernacle had three large gold cupolas and the marble altar had an inset of the last supper. Later, property was purchased for the construction of a new parochial school. After long years of hard work and dedication, the parishioners burned their mortgage in 1947. Bishop Daniel Ivancho presided at the celebration dinner. St. Johns parochial School was built and dedicated in 1958 and Bishop Nicholas T. Elko blessed the new school building. The children at the new school were taught by the Sisters of St. Basil from Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
An anniversary celebration was held in 1983 to mark the 80th year of St. John’s. Interior renovations were undertaken and a new Icon Screen and Baldachino were installed. Bishop Michael Dudick and Bishop Thomas J. Doinay participated at the services. In 1987, Father Nicholas de Prospero was installed as resident pastor. The parish grew and Father de Prospero’s hard work and devotion to St. John’s was appreciated by all the parishioners. St. John’s has a long history of vocations and in 1988 witnessed three ordinations to the priesthood. Deacons Edward Cimbala, Eugene Hutter and William O’Brien were ordained by Bishop Dudick, Bishop Dolinay and Bishop Kuzma. A banquet was held after the services and a newly ordinate deacon, Michael Erdek was assigned to St. John’s.
The Church today, as seen from the choir loft
The continued growth of St. John’s continued and new teachers were added because of an increase in enrollment at the parochial school. In 2001 two assistant cantors were appointed to assist the permanent cantor, Mr. George Parvenski. St. John’s is a vibrant parish and holds numerous functions throughout the year. Some functions held are Vacation Bible School for children and young adults, an annual Slavic Food Festival, Adult Education Classes, St. John’s Guild Bus Trips and Sunday brunches. All these functions are very popular with parishioners and friends of St. John’s. For the past 108 years, St. John’s has been a thriving parish. Because of the hard work of its parishioners and clergy, St. John’s has seen a remarkable past and has a promising future.
Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
The City of Hazleton was incorporated on December 4, 1891. The population then was estimated at 14,000 people. In 1891, Hazleton became the third city in the United States to establish a city-wide electric grid. Due to the industrial nature of the city and with the factories, mills and coal mines, many laborers were required. Numerous immigrants came to Hazleton, including those who were Carpatho-Rusyn, in search of work. In 1889 approximately 40 families gathered to discuss building a Greek Catholic Church. Originally, the church was named Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary but due to internal problems, a new parish was organized under the title of Saint John the Baptist. The Most Reverend John Valyi, Bishop of Presov was contacted to send a priest to serve the church and care for the members spiritual needs. Property on Arthur Street was purchased and construction of the church initiated. In January, 1894, the church was dedicated with Fathers Cyril Gulovich of Freeland, Vladimir Molchany of Kingston and John Konstankevich of Shamokin officiating. In April, three bells were obtained and later two lots purchased for a cemetery from the Diamond Coal and Land Company. Father Cyril Gulovich and Father Vladimir Molchany blessed the bells and cemetery. Father Gulovich was the administrator of St. John the Baptist until a resident pastor could be appointed.
In 1894, Father Victor Martyak was appointed resident pastor of Saint John the Baptist. Like other members of the Ruthenian clergy, Father Martyak received his jurisdiction from the local Latin Rite Bishop, the Most Reverend Willliam O’Hara of Scranton. Sadly, on April 1, 1897, the entire church burned to the ground. The newly formed parishioners were devastated. After working hard and donating what little they could offer to build a Greek Catholic church, they would have to begin again. Not to be deterred, the parishioners set out immediately to rebuilt their beloved church. Herman Riebe of Landsford was hired as a contractor and within a year, a new St. John’s was built. The cost of the new church building was $4,500.00 and it was solemnly blessed on July 4, 1898. The interior altar, paintings and artistic decorations were executed by artist John Zacharias.
Father Martyak returned to Europe in 1900 and Father John Halyka was installed as the new pastor. Father Halyka purchased property and a rectory was built. Prior to this, the priest and his family were renting a home. The parish was incorporated on September 15, 1902 and father Halyka returned to Europe in 1907. Father Theodore Ladomirsky was appointed pastor but after four months was replaced in January of 1908 by Father Nicholas Martyak. Under Father Martyak’s guidance the church was enlarged due to the ever increasing numbers of parishioners. New stained glass windows were installed and other interior additions made. Bishop Ortynsky blessed the additions on September 7, 1908.
The church cemetery continued to expand and in 1909, 1915 and in 1930 more property was purchased. The cemetery cross was erected and blessed in 1916. A parochial school was begun in 1930 and on July 4, 1932 Bishop Basil Takach blessed the new school. On September 1, 1932, sisters from the Order of St. Basil the Great in Uniontown arrived as teachers. A new convent was constructed and finalized in April, 1933. On March 1, 1941 Father Valdimir Firczak was installed as Assistant pastor for Saint John’s. On February 1, 1954, the entire membership of St. John’s was heartbroken when they learned of the death of their pastor, Father Martyak. He had served St. John’s as a devoted and hard working priest for over 47 years. In March of 1954 Father Joseph Jackanich was installed as the new pastor. Father Jackanich began projects which were desperately needed. He oversaw renovations of the rectory, church and school and raised funds for a new church and rectory. After working tirelessly for many years, Father Jackanich was honored by being elevated to the rank of Monsignor.
During 1971 a new location was agreed upon which bordered on East 20th Street. Plans were drawn for a new church in April, 1973. A new church and rectory were constructed and blessed on July 7, 1974 by Bishop Michael J. Dudick. Monsignor Jackanich retired from the priesthood on June 17, 1981. He had served St. John’s for 27 years. In June, 1981, the Reverend Monsignor John Opalenick was installed as pastor. Monsignor Opalenick initiated many needed repairs and renovations to the church, parochial school and cemetery. Saint John the Baptist parochial school celebrated its 50th anniversary on May 29, 1983. The school library was dedicated to the memory of the late Father Nicholas Martyak who was the founder of the parochial school.
Monsignor Opalenick’s pastorate was very active and many spiritual activities were conducted. A special year of prayer for vocations was held at the church and during the Marian Year; the Icon of Our Lady of perpetual Help from Uniontown was taken to each parish in the deanery. Later, the cemetery was updated and a program initiated to offer perpetual care. Renovations of the church also took place at this time and a new altar was installed.
Saint John’s has been blessed with numerous vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Some of these vocations are Fathers Michael Korba, John Krushko, Michael Rapach, Paul Firczak, Basil Schott (later to become Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh) and some of those names who entered religious life are Sister M. Victoria (Ann Puhak), Sister M. Nathaniel (Catherine Prosko), Sister M. Annunciata (Helen Schott). Saint John’s has always been a spiritual and vibrant parish and this is truly seen in the number of priestly and religious life vocations from the church.
The 100th Anniversary of Saint John’s took place on October 17, 1993. Bishop Dudick offered a Pontifical Divine Liturgy. Also, in honor of the church ancestors and founders, ninety-eight members, past and present, appeared to sing a majestic Divine Liturgy in Church Slavonic under the director of Cantor Professor Emil Simojdejka. Saint John the Baptist Greek (Byzantine) Catholic has a long history and has been abundantly blessed by God during this time. The church is still a thriving parish with weekly Pirohi making sessions and aluminum can drive which assists to benefit the cemetery fund. St. John’s is currently served by Father Carmen Scuderi, OFM and Deacon Lawrence Foran. St. John’s continues to serve the Greek (Byzantine) Catholic faithful. A beautiful house of worship, for over 118 years the church has seen a rich history and has a promising future.
Freeland, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
The oldest church in the Pittsburgh Byzantine Metropolia The First Byzantine-Ruthenian Church in the United States
St. Mary's (new) church 1907 is on top of the hill. The (old) church 1888 is in the center of the three churhes.
Waves of immigrants came to the United States in the middle to late 1800’s seeking a better life. It was during this time thousands of people from the Carpathian Mountain regions left their homes and came seeking employment. During 1885, many Carpatho-Rusins/Ruthenians began to arrive in Freeland, Pennsylvania. Since coal mining was the major industry in this borough, the need for laborers was a necessity. The town had many other churches for those from Eastern Europe. The first Slovak Lutheran church in America was begun in Freeland during 1883. A church which would become the oldest church in the Pittsburgh Byzantine Catholic Metropolia, St. Mary’s, was started here. In 1884, the members desperately wanted a Greek Catholic church. They sent a petition to Archbishop Sylvester Sembratovitch, Metropolitan of Lemberg (today called Lviv) stating if a priest were sent, a church would be constructed. Father Ivan (John) Volansky of the Diocese of Lemberg arrived in the United States in late 1885. Father John was the first Greek Catholic priest to arrive in the United States. For one year he celebrated the Divine Liturgy and other services in a rented hall. Finally, after much planning and hard work, St. Mary’s was formally incorporated in 1886.
The membership arranged for construction of a church in March of 1887. Work progressed quickly and the new church was fully completed during 1888. The church was blessed and dedicated to the Virgin Mother of God under the title of her Dormition. The church grew rapidly and before long it was apparent a new structure would be required. During 1907, a new church was constructed. The old church was relocated further down the street for the new church to be constructed on the original site. The corner stone was placed with solemn ceremonies on Memorial Day of that year. Bishop Hoban participated along with the pastor of St. Marys. The architect of the new church, Architect Owen McGlynn of Wilkes-Barre, was also invited to witness the dedication of the church he drew plans for. At this point, the roof still was in the process of construction which, was completed a short time later.
After completion of the construction and relocation of the churches, the members turned their attention to the children of St. Marys. The church felt it was important that their children receive a good education. Plans were made over time to construct a parochial school which would have a eight grades and also include classes for the students in their Greek Catholic faith.
During 1925 the exterior of the church building was stuccoed and a dedication service was held for the parochial school. The school building was finally completed during 1926. To teach the Greek Catholic religion, the school invited the Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great in Uniontown to serve as catechists. Later, during 1945, five sisters were permanently installed to teach eight grades. The school was in operation for many years but, in 1979 had to be disbanded due to high operational costs. The entire building was taken down in 1984 and a new building, St. Mary’s Parish Center, was constructed. Father Leonard Hoffick was pastor during this period and he installed a new icon screen and oversaw numerous renovations within the church.
Major preparations were made in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of St. Marys. The members and their pastor worked hard to organize a large celebration for this important day. On August 17, 1986 numerous clergy and dignitaries filled St. Marys, the first Byzantine-Ruthenian parish in the United States. In attendance were Metropolitan Archbishop Stephen Kocisko, Bishop Michael Dudick, Bishop Andrew Pataki, Bishop Thomas Dolinay, Bishop John Biock and Bishop James Timlin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton.
St. Mary's has numerous organizations within the church. Some of the organizations are: the Altar & Rosary Society (the oldest organization within the parish), St. Nicholas Apostolate, St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Youth Organization, St. Mary’s Choir and St. Mary's Athletic Association. These various organizations and societies benefit not only the members but, those in the community with their events and various functions. St. Marys has no lack of those willing to work hard for their church. St. Mary’s Pirohi Workers and Caterers have continued for years with fund raising events that benefit the church. The funds raised by the workers and caterers are of great financial assistance to the parish. Also, the church has provided a weekly broadcast on local radio of the Sunday Divine Liturgy. During Christmas and at other times of the year, special programs are also offered for those who cannot come to church. For over 125 years, St. Mary’s has been a vital presence in Freeland, Pennsylvania. The church and her members look forward to the next 125 years of service to the Byzantine Catholic church and to their local community.
TCC wishes to extend a special thank you to Mr. Paul Gresh & the church council for offering the history and photos of the parish. In 2012 they will be celebrating the 125th Anniversary their church.
History & Photos
The history of St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church traces its beginning to the year 1887, when a group of dedicated Eastern Europeans gathered to make plans to erect a church in which they could worship according to their Eastern Catholic traditions.
These Sub-Carpathian Ruthenians, or Carpatho-Rusyns, came from the northeastern part of the then Austro-Hungarian Empire (present day Slovakia and Ukraine) and held a great devotion to their Byzantine (Greek) Catholic Church. Other Slavic groups, that is Slovak and Polish, who had earlier immigrated into this region possessed similar ethnic customs, however, they were quite different in their religious (Roman Catholic) rites. It was this difference in religious ritual, along with a fervent desire to worship in their own tradition that led to the formation of St. Mary's Church.
St. Mary's, of Kingston, PA., is a member of the Eparchy of Passaic under the direction of His Grace The Most Reverend William C. Skurla, DD Eparch of Passaic. It is one of the oldest Byzantine parishes in the United States, having been started in 1887 under the leadership of Rev. Father Ivan Volansky the first Ruthenian priest to arrive in America. In 1892 an application for a charter was presented to the local Luzerne County Court. On May 16, 1892 the articles of incorporation were granted to the parish under the title of Saint Mary's Patronage (Pokrov) Greek Catholic Church of the Borough of Kingston, Pa.
St. Mary's Church in Kingston is the mother church for four other Eastern parishes in the area: Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church, Plymouth, Pa.(f.1898); St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church, Swoyersville, Pa.(f.1904); St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church, Edwardsville, Pa.(f.1910); and St John's Russian Orthodox Church, Edwardsville, Pa.(f.1910). St. Mary's Byzantine Church, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., was founded and built soon after St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church in Kingston was established. Until their church was completed the Wilkes-Barre faithful attended the Kingston church.
The original wood frame structure, which was later brick veneered and now serves as the parish hall, served as the parish church until 1911. In May of 1911, about one hundred St. Mary's parishioners met to formulate plans for the construction of a new church. The new, red, brick church, whose cornerstone was blessed on July 4, 1911, was built for the sum of $32,933.00.
Two new church bells were purchased from McShane Bell & Foundry Co., Baltimore, Md. for the sum of $1,450.00. The largest bell, named Paul, and the smallest bell, named Peter now joined a medium sized bell named Mary, which was moved from the original church and to this day they continue to call the faithful to worship at their beautiful church.
The parish celebrated the One Hundredth Anniversary of its founding in 1987. In addition to the considerable work done to prepare the church for this celebration, a chapel was constructed in the parish cemetery in Edwardsville, Pa. The chapel was blessed and additional cemetery land consecrated on November 7, 1988 by The Most Reverend Michael J. Dudick,DD, who was then the Bishop of the Eparchy of Passaic.
Over the years, the dedication of the many pastors, cantors and church council members, along with the generosity of the parishioners has resulted in many restorations and new constructions to maintain the beauty and structural integrity of the church and parish grounds. However, none was more significant than the effort made to restore the church after the devastation caused by the Hurricane Agnes Flood of 1972.
A brief history such as this does not allow sufficient space to name all of the individuals who have made significant contributions to our church. However, their efforts are nonetheless greatly appreciated and quite evident in maintaining St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church, in Kingston, Pa. as a beautiful house of worship.
Homer City, Indiana County, Pennsylvania
TCC wishes to extend a special thank you to Fr. Cuthbert Jack,O.S.B. for offering the history and photos of his parish.
A Short History of Holy Protection Church
Our parish has its beginnings in 1918 under the guidance of Fr. Constantine Auroroff when a parcel of land was bought on Yellow Creek Street in Homer City for $3,500. The Very Rev. Gabriel Martyak was chosen to be the first administrator and the parish was dedicated to the Mother of God under the title of Her “Holy Protection” or “Pokrov” in Slavonic. This is the actual dedication of most Byzantine Catholic parishes known as “St. Mary.”
The original parishioners numbered some 50 families most of whose fathers were immigrant coal miners. From the very beginning, there has been an ethnic mix of those who identified themselves as “Ukrainians” and others who were called “Euro-Rusyns (the latter having their origins in the Carpathian mountains of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire). Ordinarily, these two groups would have formed separate churches but it seems to have been agreed from the beginning to put aside differences and establish a single “Greek-Catholic Church” to serve the needs of both peoples.
The first church building was constructed in 1919 at a cost of $12,775 and in 1920 Fr. Andrew Koman became the first resident pastor and a house was purchased for use as a rectory.
After a several more interim pastors, Fr. John Bajcura was appointed and remained for the next 38 years. It was during his pastorate that Bishop Basil Takach was forced by the Vatican to introduce mandatory celibacy into Byzantine Catholicism in America. This was very controversial and many supporters of the older system of clerical marriage expressed their opposition. As a married man with a wife and children, Fr. Bajcura protested by means of a hunger strike in front of the Apostolic Delegate’s office in Washington but to no avail. Fr. Bajcura reluctantly accepted the decision and returned to his parish and served well for the next 35 years.
With the increasing use of the Gregorian calendar, a bitter parish dispute broke out in the early 1940s resulting in the loss of 35 families and the formation of a new parish dedicated to SS Peter and Paul under the direction of the Johnstown Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church.
In 1945 a mission church, dedicated to the Holy Cross, was established in nearby Coal Run to meet the needs of the people in that town. Fr. Bajcura, despite poor health, was able to organize a second mission parish dedicated to St. Jude in Ernest in 1949. A year later in 1950, English was introduced into the liturgy a full 13 years before the start of Vatican II. In 1965 a new rectory was completed but Fr. Bajcura would only live in it 6 months longer before being forced to retire due to poor health. He died in 1967.
Father Bajcura was succeeded by a series of short term pastors and in 1969 the parish celebrated its 50 year anniversary with a burning of the mortgage for the new rectory and a renovation of the church with the installation of a new icon screen in line with the directives of Vatican II for the Eastern Churches. By 1985 the parish was out growing the church and a steering committee was established to explore the possibility for a new building. With the coming of Fr. Nicholas Ferencz in 1986, things came to fruition and construction began in 1988.
The new church is in keeping with the ancient Byzantine tradition. It is oriented toward the East which is the traditional direction of prayer for all Christians. (The original meaning of the word “oriented” means to be “facing east”). The nave is surmounted with a classic “onion” dome representing the vault of Heaven made by Tech-Fab Inc. of Kentucky. Atelier of Eugene, Oregon designed and built the icon screen. The icons themselves are the work of iconographer, Nicholas Papas of Greensburg.
Looking up we see Christ the Pantocrator “Ruler of all.” And in the apse above the altar we see Mary the Theotokos “God-bearer” representing the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, Her Hands stretched out in intercession.
The icon screen itself contains Christ and the Theotokos in their usual positions on either side of the great doors along with icons of St. Nicholas and St. John the Forerunner to the north and south of the deacon’s doors. March 25 the Feast of the Annunciation was in 1989 also Great Saturday and the first occasion for the Divine Liturgy to be celebrated in the new church.
In the year 2002, the mortgage on the new church was paid off by the combined efforts of the whole parish. The people of Holy Protection are today a multi-ethnic family of friendly and hardworking people always ready to greet visitors and to welcome new members.
Rev. Constantine Auroroff 1918 - 1919
Very Rev. Gabriel Martyak 1918
Fr. Andrew Koman 1920 - 1922
Fr. John Soroka 1922 - 1925
Fr. Eugen Volkay 1925 - 1927
Fr. John Bajcura 1927 - 1965
Fr. Peter Zeman 1965 - 1967
Fr. Thomas Maskornick 1967 - 1973
Fr. Regis Dusecina 1973 - 1977
Fr. Thomas Saiko 1977 - 1980
Fr. John Joseph Koza 1980 - 1985
Fr. Donald Valasek 1985 - 1986
Fr. Nicholas Ferencz 1986 - 1991
Fr. John Cuccaro 1991 - 2000
Fr. Edward Pyo 2000 - 2002
Fr. Cuthbert Jack 2002
In 1900, large numbers of Greek Catholics emigrated from the Carpatho-Rusyn populated counties of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire to the United States, Canada, and South America. Some found their new home in the Allentown area of the Lehigh Valley of Eastern Pennsylvania. At first these new immigrants worshiped with their fellow Greek Catholics at St. John’s in Northampton, Pennsylvania.
On April 13, 1907 an official meeting of members of Greek Catholic Union Lodge 418 was held at Sacred Heart German (Latin) Catholic Church to organize a Greek Catholic Church in Allentown. It was to be named and placed under the protection of St. Michael the Archangel. On July 5, 1907 through the sacrifice and dedication of these early parishioners the property at 152-162 Green Street was purchased from the Allentown Iron Company. Construction of the new church began in September of that year. The State of Pennsylvania granted a charter to St. Michael’s on June 6, 1908.
The Most Reverend Soter Ortynsky, Bishop of all Greek Catholics in America, solemnly blessed the new church on June 15, 1908. A parish cemetery was purchased in 1916. The cemetery is located in the Whitehall section of Allentown. The cemetery abuts St. Andrew’s Greek Catholic Cemetery. In 1923 again through the sacrifice and dedication of the faithful the rectory was built and three bells were placed in the church tower.
The growth of Allentown’s industrial base from the 1920’s through the 1940’s drew even more immigrant Carpatho-Rusyn, Galician, and Hungarian Greek Catholics to the area. St. Michaels prospered and grew during this time period. In 1940 some members of the church chose to leave St. Michael’s and formed the Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Orthodox Greek-Catholic Church which is under the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese.
Interior renovations to St. Michaels were made in 1977. In 1978 a property across the street was purchased for a Parish Center to be utilized for social events as well as the Eastern Christian Formation for the children of the parish.
Over time St. Michael’s has seen a decline in its numbers. However, it continues and welcomes those of varied backgrounds to partake in our Byzantine Catholic Faith.
Click Above go to "Our Churches" then to "St. Michael the Archangel - Allentown, PA"
Lopez, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania
History & Photos
Prior to 1905 those in Lopez, Pennsylvania had no local Greek Catholic (in America re-named Byzantine Rite Catholic) church to attend. The mass migration of people from Eastern Europe seeking employment led many Slavic immigrants to the small town of Lopez, Pennsylvania. Lopez is a rural town, graced by lovely scenery, lush trees and is very mountainous. It is not surprising some Slavic immigrants came to this town. Lopez probably reminded them of their former towns and villages in Eastern Europe. Before Saints Peter and Paul was organized, individuals had to attend religious services in the nearby towns of Plymouth and Wilkes-Barre (which had a population of Slavic immigrants). Seeing a need for the families in Lopez, the priest of the Greek Catholic church in Plymouth organized families to build a church. Meetings were held and funds collected. By December 15, 1905 land was finally purchased for a church and cemetery on Church and Quarry Streets. It is to the credit of these immigrants that this church was built. It was an extreme financial hardship for them to gain the needed funding. After two long years of saving construction on the church started in 1907. Upon completion Father Nicholas Chopey of Saint Mary Church in Wilkes-Barre dedicated Saints Peter and Paul. The church was constructed in a white clapboard type design with one main cupola graced by a three-bar cross. The single column exterior, front main entrance style is small, yet very serviceable. The church rests upon an incline which progresses up a hill. This type of architecture is very common in many rural areas of various states. The simplicity of design made it popular and this guide was utilized for a Ukrainian Catholic church in neighboring Edwardsville, Pennsylvania.
By 1911 the church was expanding. The first Bishop for Greek Catholics in America of that period, Bishop Soter Ortynsky, made a pastoral visit to Saints Peter and Paul. It was during this visit that he re-dedicated the church. Due to this expansion in 1914 a much-needed rectory was constructed. Until this time the church had no full time priest to serve the parishioners. Finally, Father Cyril Perozok was named to serve the families of Saints Peter and Paul. This was an important event in the life of the church. More and more families who were Greek Catholic migrated to Lopez and the surrounding areas seeking employment. Since there was now a church of their faith and language Lopez became an attractive place to settle especially due to its rustic nature. With the establishment of a Greek Catholic church in Lopez there was no need to travel to the neighboring towns for religious services. The decision to reside in Lopez became very agreeable for some immigrants and the town saw an increase in its population.
The church expanded rapidly and by the tenure of Father Andrew Ivanyshyn in 1915 Saints Peter and Paul had established a mission church in Sayre, Pennsylvania named Ascension of Our Lord. Father Ivanyshyn’s stay at Saints Peter and Paul was not that long but he did assist with the expansion of the altar, which included helping to hand-carve the main altar, and side altars, which adorned the interior. Many upgrades were completed during this period and Saints Peter and Paul became a fully operational Greek Catholic church. The church offered a school for its children, which taught religion along with language, and various customs, which their parents had brought, from the towns and villages of Eastern Europe. This school by 1924 had more than 50 students attending classes. Many priests had short tenures at Saints Peter and Paul and the last full-time priest to serve this congregation was Father John Ostap whose tenure ended in 1925.
As time moved forward and with no full-time resident priest, Saints Peter and Paul saw many changes. Weekly Divine Liturgies were not held any longer and priests administered the church from various churches within the area of Lopez. From the 1940's onward many families left Lopez and older members were fewer in number. Those who still attended Saints Peter and Paul were devoted to their church and refused to give up. It is to the credit of these dedicated families that Saints Peter and Paul stayed in existence. During this time many churches in Pennsylvania were closing or merging with other larger congregations for survival. The cornerstone families of this church still hoped that Saints Peter and Paul would once again be a thriving church. Not to be deterred, the members still made renovations and made sure their churches upkeep was current.
Before 1993 a total of 73 priests had already served at Saints Peter and Paul, some as full-time priests, some as visiting priests, to hold services but the church still survived. In 1993 Father Michael Mokris was sent to Saints Peter and Paul as its administrator. Father Mokris re-instituted weekly Divine Liturgies for the members and began the church school once again. Due to the hard work of this priest and the members new families have joined Saints Peter and Paul and the membership has grown. Many important renovations were begun during these years, which were seriously necessary.
Main concerns to complete were a new roof and heating system for the church. Other renovations included the interior of the church and a new parking lot. The interior was upgraded and new icons installed. The Iconostasis is a low two-tiered style and is totally non-visual (the altar cannot be viewed through it without the Royal or Deacons doors being open). An icon of Christ the Teacher oversees the inside main altar and the altar itself is magnificent. A beautiful part of this altar is that it offers a relief at its base of the last supper. This today can only be found in older churches and is rare to find on modern American Byzantine Catholic altars. A small but exquisite chandelier graces the interior and the atmosphere are very devotional and inviting. Completing all the upgrades and renovations was difficult to do but was not impossible for the devout members of Saints Peter and Paul. These were massive financial projects for such a small church. The members worked tirelessly to raise the large sums needed to complete these undertakings. A recent project was the proposed purchase of sound system equipment for live radio broadcasts of the Sunday Divine Liturgy. These broadcasts were to have started on Sunday, September 5th, 1999 but, instead of hearing a celebration of the Divine Liturgy, a live tragedy would be seen instead of a broadcast.
Sadly, on Friday, September 3, 1999 Saints Peter and Paul church was totally destroyed by a massive fire. This jewel of church architecture and adornment, which for so long had served the faithful Greek Catholics of Lopez, was wiped out in a few hours. A funeral had been held at the church during the morning hours and shortly after, smoke was seen coming out of the church. The fire department was summoned and by the time of their arrival, smoke was pouring out of the bell tower and church itself. The fire was so enormous that the local fire department could not handle it. A total of 15 fire departments were called in for mutual assistance. It was ascertained later that the fire began near the altar area. The heat and fire were so intense that when the fire departments arrived, a stained glass window exploded. As with all fires and wooden structures, the fire progressed rapidly. It engulfed the entire building and spared nothing it its path. Finally, the flames consumed the top of the church and to everyone’s horror, the roof totally collapsed.
The firefighters worked frantically to save what they could of the church but their efforts were unfortunately in vein. After working so hard to save this church there was very little the firefighters could do. They felt as despondent as the people who observed this tragedy. After the blaze was contained the firefighters in their kindness entered the ruined church. They recovered a fire scared cross for which their efforts were truly appreciated by the members and those watching this terrible sight. Amazingly, the church bell did not fall during this inferno. The firemen rang this bell after the blaze was designated under control. Word spread of this disaster and priests and members of neighboring churches came to offer support. The fire department classified the church a total loss.
News of this event spread with local radio and television crews coming to Lopez for coverage of this terrible loss. Newspaper reporters also were dispatched to Lopez to cover the story. They interviewed members, local fire officials and others who had watched in horror as the church slowly was consumed by flames. The strong will of the members of Saints Peter and Paul were again tested but as always, they were ready for the task at hand. Members with their priest made swift plans. They posted a tent on the property to serve as a makeshift temporary church. Items for worship were loaned and given to them from the surrounding community churches. Not to be deterred, space was converted at the rectory to serve as a temporary chapel. After all that had taken place in a short span, the members of Saints Peter and Paul had overcome this tragedy. On September 8, 1999 Divine Liturgy was celebrated in their temporary chapel to commemorate a holy day. Support has been received from various places in the Lopez area and even towns that are far away have offered aid. As of this writing, Saints Peter and Paul is destroyed by fire but its members are not destroyed in spirit. If their past history is any gauge of what is to come, it will not be long before a new Saints Peter and Paul church will once again grace the town of Lopez, Pennsylvania.
Weirton, Hancock County, West Virginia
At the turn of the century immigrants seeking work as laborers arrived in the town of Weirton. Ernest T. Weir relocated from Pittsburgh to Weirton early in the 1900s and began the Weirton Steel Corporation. Surrounding the steel mill were numerous homes where the expanding workforce resided. During the height of production, approximately 13,000 people were employed at the Weirton Steel Corporation. This corporation was the largest private employer in the state of West Virginia. Many Greek Catholics had arrived in Weirton seeking work. By 1920, they decided to build a church to worship in the faith of the ancestors. Originally, Greek Catholics attended services in two towns in Ohio, Toronto and Mingo Junction. As their numbers grew it was evident they required a church to meet their spiritual needs. The fraternal society of Saint Nicholas was started and mass was said once a month at the Finnish Hall in North Weirton. The first priest to serve the needs of Greek Catholics in Weirton was Father George Simchak of Avella, Pennsylvania.
In November of 1924 the Assumption of the Mother of God Greek Catholic church was founded. The members worked tirelessly and were very generous with donations so a church could be constructed. One year later, the new church was erected and blessed by the Most Reverend Basil Takach. Father Michael Warady was installed as the first full-time pastor and within a very short time a rectory was purchased. In 1925 the Rosary and Altar society were started. These societies were very helpful to the church as they served the sacred and secular aspects of the parish. The societies were and are of immense benefit as they have sponsored and assisted with parish dinners, piroghi sales, Mothers and Fathers Day breakfasts and the very popular annual parish picnic. Also, during this time a Men’s Club was begun and is another society which is very important. The members of Assumption of the Mother of God church continued to work hard and the church grew very quickly. During the difficult days of the depression, many parishioners continued to give donations for the church even though their own financial situations were strained.
After World War II, numerous upgrades to the church and grounds were made prior to the parish silver jubilee celebration. Renovations to the interior included a new altar and stained glass windows. Structural improvements included a new roof and entire indoor heating system. The parishioners were heartbroken in 1951. A terrible fire broke out and inflicted major damage to the church. Services continued to be celebrated and parishioners once again worked quickly to repair their beloved house of worship. During the early 1950’s the number of members of Assumption church expanded to over 500 members.
Over the course of the next few years the parish sponsored many popular events such as a Live Passion of Christ play every Palm Sunday. Members of other Catholic churches (St. Paul and St. Joseph) in Weirton also participated to make this a very popular event with residents. Every set for this production were hand made by Assumption’s parishioners. It is to their credit and their pastor, Father George Billy; this important spiritual play ran for over 25 years! For the Golden Anniversary of the parish, more improvements were implemented in 1974. During 1989, a new iconostasis was installed along with new carpeting and other minor improvements to the interior of the church.
The exterior of the church has one tower which is graced by a large cupola and a three bar cross. One mass is held on Sunday and it is well attended by devoted parishioners. A very important social function of the church is the coffee hour held after mass. This social time gives parishioners a chance to meet, talk and enjoy each other’s company. The interior of the church is painted in welcoming light brown colors and beautifully carved Stations of the Cross grace each side of the church. In front of the altar is a beautifully painted icon of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary and is a focal point of worship. For the past 89 years, Dormition of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic church has been a vibrant house of worship. The church has seen a very exciting past and all parishioners and their pastor look ahead to a promising and spiritually fruitful future.
Reverend Father Elias Gojdic
Elias Gojdic was born July 28, 1872 in Mikohaza, Hungary. He was the son of Stephen Gojdics and Maria Thekla Janovich. Elias’ father and grandfather had served as cantors. Prior to his ordination Elias married the former Maria Happel. He was ordained a Greek Catholic priest at Saint John’s Greek Catholic Cathedral, Presov, Slovakia on December 9, 1896. He served the Greek Catholic village church of Chorvaty, Slovakia from 1896 to 1902. In 1902 he immigrated to the United States and served Greek Catholic churches in America from 1902 to 1931. Father Gojdic was the founding pastor of SS Peter & Paul Greek Catholic Church in Portage, Pennsylvania in 1917. From 1924-1931 Father Gojdics was the pastor of Saint Michael Greek Catholic Church in Hermitage, Pennsylvania until his death in 1931. He was interred at Saint Michael Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Hermitage. His beloved wife Pani Maria died in 1957. Father Elias and Pani Mary were the parents of: Maria Olga (1897-?); Helen Maria Large (1898-1936); Mary Anna (1900-1983); Olga (1902-1971); Anne (1904-1988); Margaret Large (1906-?); Elias (1907-1974); and John (1908-1974).
Father and Son
Reverend Father Stephen Janicky
Stephen Janicky was born in Tichy Potok, Slovakia in 1852 into a Greek Catholic priestly family. He was one of 11 children born to the Reverend Father Antonius Janiczky (son of Reverend Father Elias Janiczky and Anna Kubek) and Amelia Ilykovics (the daughter of Reverend Father Joseph Ilykovics). Prior to his ordination he married the former Helena Rokiczky of Porubka, Slovakia (the daughter of Reverend Father Anton Rokiczky) on the 19th of February 1877 at Saint John’s Greek Catholic Cathedral in Presov, Slovakia. Stefan was ordained a Greek Catholic priest at Saint John’s Greek Catholic Cathedral in Presov on March 22, 1877. He served in the Greek Catholic village church of Homrogd in 1877, then in Torysky from 1877 to 1878 and Sulin from 1878 to 1908. Father Stefan immigrated to the United States and served various Greek Catholic churches in America from 1908 to 1931. He was appointed the full time pastor of Saint Michael’s Greek Catholic Church in McAdoo, Pennsylvania in 1909. He served the faithful of this parish for a full twenty-three years. He proved to be a zealous and faithful leader. He paid off the cost of the wooden church, erected the rectory and purchased a cemetery. The parish thrived under Father Janicky’s good guidance. He died on March 18, 1931 one year after observing his golden jubilee. During his tenure as resident priest of St. Michael’s Father Stefan also served at St. Mary’s Greek Catholic Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania in 1914 and again from November 1916 to April of 1917. Father Stefan and Pani Helena were the parents of three children: Rev. Father Irenej Janiczky (1878-?); Helena (1880-?); and Olga (1883-1979), the wife of Revered Father Nicholas Marytak.
Reverend Father Irenej Janicky
Irenej Janicky was born in Presov, Slovakia on April 28, 1878 into a Greek Catholic priestly family. He was one of three children born to the Reverend Father Stephen Janicky and Helen Rokiczky. He married Maria Kubek of Kruzlov, Slovakia, the daughter of Reverend Father A. Emil Kubek and Irma Maria Schirilla. (Irma Maria Schirilla was the daughter of Reverend Father Edward Schirilla and Clementine Pankovics). He was ordained a Greek Catholic priest at Saint John’s Greek Catholic Cathedral, Presov, Slovakia on August 26, 1900. He served at Sts. Cosmos & Damien Greek Catholic village church in Maly Lipnik, Slovakia from 1900 to 1904. He immigrated to the United States in 1904 and served at Saint Michael’s Greek Catholic Church in Passaic, New Jersey from 1905 to 1915 and again during 1917. In 1920 he was serving at St. Mary’s Greek Catholic Church in Trenton, New Jersey. In 1922 he returned to Slovakia and served the Greek Catholic village churches of Nizna Pisana 1922 to 1930 and Sulin from 1930 to 1936. Father Irenej and Pani Janicky were the parents of two sons, Sandor and Alexander. Father Janicky’s sister Olga (1883-1979) was the wife of Revered Father Nicholas Marytak.
Right Reverend Monsignor Gabriel Martyak
Gabriel Martyak was born on November 3, 1859 in Vyskovce, Slovakia into a Greek Catholic priestly family. He was the son of Reverend Father John Martyak (son of Reverend Father Basil Martyak and Catherine Janovics) and Melania Sztavroszky. Prior to his ordination he married the former Irene Dudinszky. He was ordained a Greek Catholic priest at Saint John’s Greek Catholic Cathedral, Presov, Slovakia on February 15, 1885. He served the Greek Catholic village churches in Jarabina, 1885 to 1886 and Kobylnice from 1886 to 1895. Father Gabriel and Pani Irene were the parents of six children: Nicholas (1885-1886); Mary (1887-1961), wife of Rev. Emil Semetkovsky; Gabriella (1889-?), wife of Rev. Zigmund Brinsky; Olga Gyulay (1890-?); Albin (1893-?); and John (1895-?). The family immigrated to the United States in 1894. Father Gabriel served at St. John the Baptist Greek Catholic Church in Lansford, Pennsylvania from 1895 until his death in 1934. From January 1898 to August 1903 he was pastor of St. Mary’s Greek Catholic Church in Freeland, Pennsylvania. In 1903 he returned to Slovakia and served Greek Catholic churches in Bardejov, 1903 to 1910, Beloveza, 1905 to 1906 and Andrejova, 1905 to 1908. He returned to the United States and served Greek Catholic churches, including Saint Mary’s Protection Greek Catholic Church in Homer City, Pennsylvania, from 1910 to 1934. In 1920 The Very Reverend Gabriel Martyak was instrumental in assisting Mother Macrina Melynychuk the first Ruthenian Greek Catholic Convent of the Order of Saint Basil the Great. In 1916 Right Reverend Monsignor Martyak was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church in the United States. He held this position until 1924. Rt. Rev. Msgr. Martyak died on April 16, 1934 in Lansford, Pennsylvania. His wife Pani Irene preceded him in death. Father Gabriel was the brother of Father Viktor Martyak and Father Nicholas Martyak.
Reverend Father Nicholas Martyak
Nicholas Martyak was born on July 16, 1879 in Vapenik, Slovakia into a Greek Catholic priestly family. He was the son of Reverend Father John Martyak (son of Reverend Father Basil Martyak and Catherine Janovics) and Melania Sztavroszky. Prior to his ordination he married the former Olga Janiczky. She was the daughter of Reverend Father Stephen Janiczky and Helen Rokiczky. He was ordained September 14, 1902. He served at the Greek Catholic Church in Krempach, Slovakia from 1903-1904 and at Sts. Cosmos and Damien Greek Catholic Church in Maly Lipnik, Slovakia from 1904-1907. Fr. Nicholas immigrated to the United States in 1907. In December of 1907 Father Nicholas became the pastor of St. John the Baptist Greek Catholic Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Father Martyak’s pastorate at St. John’s spanned 47 years until his death in 1954. He died on February 1, 1954 in Hazleton. His wife Pani Olga died on June 14, 1979. Father Nicholas and Pani Olga were the parents of six children: Anne M. (1904-1967), wife of Rev. Igor M. Maczkov; Dr. Emil Thomas Martyak (1906-1989; Helen M. (1907-1954); Stephen G. (1910-1912); Dr. Gabriel Martyak (1915-2000); and Bart Martyak. Father Nicholas was the brother of Right Reverend Monsignor Gabriel Martyak and Father Viktor Martyak.
Reverend Father Viktor Martyak
Viktor Martyak was born on April 4, 1865 in Vel’ka Pol’ana in Slovakia into a Greek Catholic priestly family. He was the son of Reverend Father John Martyak (son of Reverend Father Basil Martyak and Catherine Janovics) and Melania Sztavroszky. Prior to his ordination he married the former Vilma Maria Petrasovszky. Vilma Maria was the daughter of Reverend Father Joseph Petrasovszky. Father Martyak was ordained a Greek Catholic priest at Saint John’s Greek Catholic Cathedral, Presov, Slovakia on September 19, 1891. He served in the Greek Catholic village church of Korunkova, 1891 to 1893. He immigrated to the United States with his wife Maria and served Greek Catholic churches from 1893 to 1901. In 1893 Father Viktor was the first priest to serve St. John the Baptist Greek Catholic Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. He was instrumental in the organization and growth of SS Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church in Beaver Meadows, Pennsylvania. He returned to Slovakia and served Greek Catholic village churches in Cukalovce, 1901 to 1905 and Hostovice, 1905 to 1937. Father Viktor and Pani Vilma Maria were the parents of Rev. Alexander John Martyak (1892-?); Anna (1895-1989), wife of Father John Krusko; Nicholas (1899-?); Rev. Paul Martyak (1903-?); and Aranka Dobrovolsky. Father Viktor was the brother of Rev. Monsignor/Apostolic Adminstrator Gabriel Martyak.
Reverend Father Nicholas Molchany
Nicholas Blasius Molchany was born on Febrary 23, 1866 in Bajerovce, Slovakia into a Greek Catholic priestly family. He was the son of Reverend Father Michael Molcsany (son of Reverend Father Michael Molcsany and Francisca Rojkovics) and Emilia Andrejkovics (daughter of Reverend Father John Andrejkovics). Prior to his ordination he married the former Anna Kendrovsky in 1891. Anna was born in 1874 in Medvedzie, Slovakia. She was the daughter of Reverend Father Barthlomew Kendrovsky and Anna Neviczky. Nicholas was ordained a Greek Catholic priest at Saint John’s Greek Catholic Cathedral on November 1, 1891. He served in the Greek Catholic village churches of Sajopetri from 1891 to 1893 and Vysny Kazimir from 1893 to 1894. He immigrated to the United States in 1894. Father Nicholas was pastor of various congregations in Braddock, Pennsylvania; Freeland, Pennsylvania; and Kingston, Pennsylvania. He was pastor of Saint Michaels Greek Catholic Church, Passaic, New Jersey from 1901 to 1906. In each of these parishes new church edifices were erected during his pastorate. His final assignment was at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Greek Catholic Church in Youngstown, Ohio. Father Nicholas and Pani Anna were the parents of seven children: Dr. Paul (1899-1979); Helen; Rev. Peter Ernest (1902-1990); Ida Bosak 1905-1984; Alice; Meleni; and Martha. Father Nicholas died on January 4, 1918 in Youngstown, Ohio. Pani Anna died several years later on January 27, 1924 in Youngstown. Father Nicholas was the brother of Father Vladimir Molchany.
Reverend Father Vladimir Molchany
Vladimir Peter Molchany was born in 1856 in Bajerovce, Slovakia into a Greek Catholic priestly family. He was the son of Reverend Father Michael Molcsany (son of Reverend Father Michael Molcsany and Francisca Rojkovics) and Emilia Andrejkovics (daughter of Reverend Father John Andrejkovics). Prior to his ordination he married his cousin the former Anna Adalberta Molchany on September 28, 1880 at the Nativity of the Virgin Mary Greek Catholic Church in Mlynarovce, Slovakia. Anna was the daughter of Reverend Father Anton Molcsani (son of Reverend Father Michael Molcsany and Francisca Rojkovics) and Maria Podhajeczky (daughter of Reverend Father Alexander Podhajeczky and Maria Schirilla). Vladimir was ordained a Greek Catholic priest at Saint John’s Greek Catholic Cathedral, Presov, Slovakia on January 2, 1881. He served in the Greek Catholic village churches of Sobos from 1881 to 1882, Bodogkovaralja, 1882 and Breznicka, 1883 to 1891. In 1891 he immigrated to the United States and served in various Greek Catholic churches in America. As of 1900 he was serving St. Mary’s Greek Catholic Church in Kingston, Pennsylvania. Father Vladimir and Pani Anna Adalberta had four children: Margaret Magdalina (1882-1882); Yolanda (1885-1937), wife of His Eminence Metropolitan Orestes P. Chornock; Stephanie Rachel (1888-1972), wife of Rudolph Oscar Runtagh; and Bertha (1900-1941), wife of Rev. John Daniel Taptich. Father Vladimir died on September 9, 1904 in Cleveland, Ohio. His wife, Pani Anna Adalberta died in Pottstown, Pennsylvania on Dec 20, 1953. Father Vladimir was the brother of Father Nicholas Molchany.
Father and Son
Reverend Father Gabriel Vislocky
Gabriel Vislocky was born about 1855 in Vapenik, Slovakia into a Greek Catholic priestly family. He was the son of Reverend Father Anton Viszloczky (son of Reverend Father John Viszloczky) and Victoria Kovaliczky. Prior to his ordination he married the former Maria Dzubay. He was ordained a Greek Catholic priest at Saint John’s Greek Catholic Cathedral, Presov, Slovakia on August 27, 1880. He served Greek Catholic village churches in Kamienka from 1880 to 1882; Vysny Mirosov in 1882; Sedliska, 1883 to 1887; and Rafajovce, 1888 to 1890. He immigrated to the United States where he served Greek Catholic churches in Pennsylvania including Saints Cyril & Methodius Greek Catholic Church Olyphant, Holy Ghost Greek Catholic Church, Jessup and Saint Mary’s Greek Catholic Church, Scranton from 1890 to 1892. He returned to Slovakia in 1892 and served the village Greek Catholic churches in Bukovce, 1892 to 1895 and Ol’ka from 1895 to 1918. Known records indicate that Father and Pani Vislocky were the parents of four daughters all born in Slovakia, Anastasia Anna born in 1886 in Sedliska; Maria born in 1893 in Bukovce; Anna born in 1895 in Bukovce; and Margaret Martha born in 1898 in Ol’ka. Father Vislocky died on July 22, 1918 in Ol’ka. Pani Maria immigrated with her daughters Maria, Anna, Margaret, and son Father Alexis in 1920. Pani Maria died prior to 1930 in New York.
Reverend Father Alexis Vislocky
Alexis Gabriel Vislocky was born on April 27, 1885 in Sedliska, Slovakia into a Greek Catholic priestly family. He was the son of Reverend Father Gabriel Vislocky (son of Reverend Father Anton Viszloczky and Victoria Kovaliczky) and Maria Dzubay. Prior to his ordination he married the former Irene Maria Bisaha in 1909. Irene was the daughter of Reverend Father Michael Bisaha and Eugenia Hvozdovics. Father Alexej was ordained a Greek Catholic priest at Saint John’s Greek Catholic Cathedral, Presov, Slovakia on August 28, 1909. He served the Greek Catholic village churches in Zavadka from 1909 to 1916 and Vyrava from 1916 to 1920. In 1920 he immigrated with his family to the United States. He served as resident pastor at St. Mary's Patronage of the Mother of God Greek Catholic Church in New York, New York for 32 years. He later served at St. John the Baptist Greek Catholic Church in Rahway, New Jersey. Father Vislocky authored many publications, articles and language grammars in Rusnak and Hungarian. The Bisaha/Viszloczky Collection of Carpatho-Rusyn Materials is archived with the New York Public Library, Slavic & Baltic Division, 1999. Father Alexis and Pani Irene were the parents of four children, Anastasia (1911-1980); Paul (1912-1993); Alice (1914-1990); and Katherine (1919-2002). Pani Irene died on February 22, 1921 in Manhattan, New York. Their daughter Anastasia (Sister Mary Basil) became a nun and in 1958 pronounced her solemn perpetual vows as a member of the cloistered Poor Clare Nuns in Chicago, Illinois. She served this order for 40 years until her death in 1980. Their daughter Katherine together with her sister Alice founded the choir for Saint Michael's Russian Catholic Church. In the 1930s, Katherine and Alice were members of the Lay Apostolate movement and the Catholic Evidence Guild. Katherine was a graduate of Hunter College, and pursued a career as a research assistant at several University Hospitals. In 1950, she married Dr. Count D. Gibson, Jr. The couple played an active role in the civil rights movement. Later they moved to Palo Alto, CA, where Katherine continued her education at the University of California San Francisco. She earned her Master's of Social Work in 1973. In conjunction with Catholic Charities she founded a foster grandparent program and pursued an avocation as a hand bookbinder. In later life she organized and managed the preservation of the personal collection of books belonging to her father and grandfather and donated them to the New York Public Library. This collection is a priceless resource for those interested in the culture and religion of the Carpatho-Rusyn people.