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Fr. Jon Offline OP
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St. Nicholas Ukrainian Greek Catholic, St. Clair, PA

It's been a while since I've uploaded some images of Pennsylvania's Slavic Diaspora, so I hope you enjoy these!

These are pictures of St. Nicholas UGCC Church in St. Clair, Pennsylvania. St. Clair is a typical small coal region town, complete with presently four Eastern Churches, each from a different jurisdiction. This is down from 5 a few years ago, when Holy Trinity UGCC closed.

This church is immediately out the back door of St. Michael the Archangel Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church, which is its "mother parish".

Its a few blocks away from St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church which is a "sister parish".

In between these two is the OCA Parish, which I have yet to enter.

These photos were taken in 2008 when I was in the area shortly before leaving for my last year in seminary. It was a Saturday afternoon and I drove past this church and saw the chandelier was on. I quietly entered and two priests were celebrating a simple liturgy with one lady making the responses. These two priests were Msgr. Peter Skrincosky and Fr. John Wysochansky who was then the pastor.

After the liturgy, I asked the pastor if I could take these photos, which he happily obliged. I realized, after meeting him, that he was my mother's pastor in the late '60s and witnessed my parents' marriage. Needless to say, I thanked him.

Msgr. Skrincosky and I exchanged a few words and immediately his humility and prayerfulness was evident. May he rest in peace!

This is a pretty little church, with a great "old-world" feel.

I hope that our forum historians can offer its history, especially why at one time until the closing of Holy Trinity there were two Ukrainian Catholic parishes just 2 blocks away from each other.
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Bless, Father Jon,

As best I've been able to learn (and John will, hopefully, correct as needed and fill in the gaps), St. Michael the Archangel United Greek Catholic Russian Orthodox Church (now St Michael the Archangel Orthodox Church - ACROD) is mother or grandmother to all the Eastern temples in St Clair.

It's not entirely clear to me with whom the parish was initially affiliated. The faithful are described in several places as Carpatho-Rusyn, Galician, and Czech. The styling of it as 'United' was invariably indicative of a 'Uniate' parish, but the addition of 'Orthodox' in the same titling is not something that I've encountered in any of the other 'United Greek' temples. Yet, every source that I've seen (possibly copying one from the other), employs both terms. I suppose that its not beyond possibility that it was indeed, initially, a mixed C-O congregation and named itself accordingly* (but I'm unaware of any other instance like that).

It is pretty clear that by about 1920, St Michael's was definitely Orthodox and allied with Bishop Adam (Philippovsky), of blessed memory. I'm not sure if, at that point, he was still with the Metropolia or had begun to corral his loosely-knit body of Carpatho-Rusyn 'independent parishes'. (David may be able to address that question.) By 1920, though, the first of the Ukrainian Catholic parishes was itself about 15 years old and prepared to birth its own - effectively, St Michael's grandaughters.

The first parish birthed from St Michael's itself had been Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church - a parish of the Metropolia (now St Mary Orthodox Church - OCA). That was in 1900. The founding members were described as Galicians, Carpatho-Rusyns, and Russians. The Galicians, who predominated, are said to have been principally from the village of Kamyanna.

In 1904, St Nicholas Greek Catholic Galician-Russian Church (now St Nicholas UGCC) was formed as the second daughter. Its congregants are described as Galician or as Ukrainian, without any further elaboration. However, it's suggested by the name of the temple, and made clear from subsequent events, that there were Carpatho-Rusyns among them as well.

In 1922, St John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church (later Holy Trinity UGCC) was formed, its faithful presumably drawn from St Nicholas' congregation, although I havn't seen that point made specifically. The congegants are described as being Lemkos, from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

St Mary's Byzantine Greek-Catholic Church (now St Mary Byzantine Ruthenian Church) was formed in 1926 by Carpatho-Rusyns who had, until then, worshipped at St Nicholas.

*There are known instances of parishes that hosted mixed congregations of Maronite, Melkite, Antiochian, Catholic and Orthodox Syriac, and both Apostolic and Catholic Armenian faithful in the early years of Middle Eastern immigration. Regardless of the congregational diversity however, each such parish had a distinct ecclesial identity related to some one of those bodies. I haven't seen anything similar among the Slavic parishes. However, the sometimes seemingly quick decisions to move to Orthodoxy - often described as 'returning' - and invariably interpreted to mean a return to origins, might perhaps have had more immediate connotations - a 'return' to someplace recently left. That could suggest that there were some such. (If anyone can't make sense of my comparison and the possibility that I've drawn from it, just yell.)

Many years,

Neil


"One day all our ethnic traits ... will have disappeared. Time itself is seeing to this. And so we can not think of our communities as ethnic parishes, ... unless we wish to assure the death of our community."
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Beautiful!

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Neil's memory is correct as to St. Michael's in St. Clair as I recall the oral history. . It was always part of the failed Carpatho-Russian 'Administration' ('Administratcyj' as the old-timers would call it...) within the Metropolia which in turn was lead by Bishop Adam and later under the 'Deanship' of the long time pastor of St. Michael's - Rev. Andrew S. Slepecky who served there from 1929 through his repose in the mid-1970's. At one time there were maybe a dozen parishes in that group, including St. John the Baptist in Bridgeport and I think, St. Michael's in Rankin, PA. By the mid-1970's those three parishes had been released into ACROD. I recall that there was also a parish in Dusquesne, PA and sympathizers within my home parish of St. Michael's in Binghamton. (At the time St. Michael's Center was built in the mid-1950's, Bishop Orestes was not invited to either the cornerstone blessing or the building's dedication....)

The history of that town is not unlike that of Clymer on the other side of the state, but less litigious. St.Clair is located in the 'shadow' of both Shenendoah,PA the home of the first Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in America and Freeland, PA, the home of the first Ruthenian/Rusyn Greek Catholic parish in the states.

The story of this town and area gives a great flavor to the entire history of the Carpatho Rusyn experience in America. My father was a priest on the other side of Hazleton, PA from the late 1940's until 1961 and was familiar with many of the 'players'. My mother in law's family was from the St. Clair/Frackville area. She grew up in the Metropolia parish of Frackville (not a part of the Bishop Adam grouping) but her mom (who as a child in Austro-Hungary was a 'ward' of the Greek Catholic pastor from Komlosa who married my grandparents, always referred to St. Michael's in St. Clair as 'my church' because it was not Russified, although she was a parishioner in her own town on the other side of the mountain....) My mother in law's cousin was a vocation from St. Mary's BCC in St. Clair and became a BCC Bishop, Bishop Michael Dudick. The Hanas family came from St. Michael's, one brother was a pioneer priest in ACROD, another was a cantor for six decades in Buffalo - the first four in the ACROD parish, the last two in the BCC parish and their great-nephew is the choir director of St. John's in Perth Amboy. The long term successor to Fr. Slepecky was Father David Moriak, now Bishop Matthias of the OCA's Chicago Diocese. What a well seasoned stew!

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For its size, (maybe 5,000 residents during its heyday) St. Clair PA has arguably the most complicated and fascinating ecclesial development of any coal or steel town in Pennsylvania. (The neigboring town of Minersville is a close second.) I believe that St. Michael's, founded in 1897, began it journey to Orthodoxy in 1926, when the then pastor. Fr. Stephen Petrick, confided to a parishioner in Hungarian that he intended to sign the parish property over to Bishop Takach in Pittsburgh. The coversation was overheard and major opposition developed. All of this occurred a good three years before the disastrous "Cum Data..." decree of 1929. Most of St. Michael's parishioners were Carpatho-Rusyn and about 90 percent opted to become independent. About 10 percent decided to remain fathful to the bishop and eventually founded St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church (several dates for it founding). The two older Galician Lemko parishes--St. Mary's Orthodox and St. Nicholas UGCC-- were founded in 1904 and 1906, respectively. Holy Trinity UGCC was founded in 1922, orginating in St. Nicholas, and was independent itself for several years. It was recently closed. I would love to do an oral history interview of anyone who can provide an objective (or even subjective!) account of how these parishes orginated. Welcome comments.

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I believe St. Clair PA (with a population of maybe 5,000 in its heyday)has had the most copmplicated and fascinating "Eastern ecclesial" development/evolution of any coal mining or steel town in Pennsylvania. (The neighboring town of Minersville might be a close second.) St. Michael's was founded in 1897 as a joint venture betwwen Galician Lemkos and Subcarpathian Rusyns. The Lemkos left to form St Mary's Orthodox and St. Nicholas UGCC in 1904 and 1905, respectively. The (by now) predominantly Rusyn parish of St. Michael's began to buid a new edifice in the 1920s. The then pastor, Fr. Stephen Petrick, confided to a parishioner in Hungarian that he intended to sign the parish over to Bishop Takach. The conversation was overheard and major opposition developed. Ultimately 90 percent of the parishioners opted for independence; about ten percent decided to remain faithful to the bishop and subsequently formed St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church in the early 1930s. In 1922, some members of St. Nicholas' separated to found St. John's (later Holy Trinity) UGCC. This is the church that was recently closed. I would love to do an in-person, oral history interview of anyone who can provide a comprehensive genealogy of those parishes.

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Don't forget Lyndora in Western PA. It has an Ukrainian Catholic, An Ukrainian Orthodox, a Ruthenian Byzantine and an OCA parish along with two RC churches in a town with a population of about 6000. These are all within a few blocks of each other. I do not think there is a Protestant Church within the town limits.

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Sorry for the unintended redundancy. I though my first version was vaporizd!

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Yes, and I believe there is an Antiochian parish nearby. One could also point to Ambridge PA, which has Ukrainian Orthodox, Ukrainian Catholic, OCA , Carpatho-Russian Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches, all of which descend from original band of Slav immigrants.


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