St. Mary’s Parish History – 1894 – 1994

At the turn of the century, the bituminous coal fields of Pennsylvania attracted thousand of immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In this land of opportunity they came to seek freedom from want and the pursuit of happiness. With them, they also brought their strong religious commitment.

The primary motivating factor in making plans for a church of their own Greek (Byzantine) Catholic Rite was their great desire to show their love and loyalty to God and to preserve their heritage by continuing to adhere to their beautiful customs and traditions. It was their devout love that caused them to believe that no sacrifice was too great in order to establish a church of their own.

St. Mary’s was founded in January 1894 under the leadership of Reverend Stephen Dzubay. The church was for the faithful of the Byzantine Rite who lived in the coal and coke regions around the Trauger area of western Pennsylvania. A hall in Calumet served as a place of worship prior to the construction of the church.

Reverend John Hrabor came to St. Mary’s as pastor in July 1895. In October of that year he was replaced by Reverend Valentine Balog.

The commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted a charter to the Byzantine Church in Trauger on April 8, 1986. On May 4, 1896 a half acre of land was purchased from Mr. Joseph Bohla at the price of on hundred twenty-five dollars.

The actual construction of the first church was started in May 1987 and was completed in a few months. The structure was a neat wooden building containing the church and a small hall. In the all the priest and cantor taught the traditions of the faith and the chants to the young parishioners. During the 1900’s St. Mary’s had a full time school.

Once the church and hall were completed, the land for a parish cemetery was purchased. This purchase took place August 2, 1900. The land for the cemetery was located at the top of the hill behind the new church.

As the number of faithful parishioners increased, it was necessary to purchase additional land in order that a larger church might be built. A half acre was purchased in October 1912. Construction began on our present church shortly after the land was acquired. The conerstone of the present church was blessed August 16, 1914.

In the early 1920’s the parishioners noticed that the church was sinking due to the removal of coal from under the church. The H.C. Frick Company agreed to make all the necessary repairs and to assume all responsibility. The church was then blessed by The Most Reverend Bishop Basil Tkatch on September 9, 1928. The basement of the church was used for Divine Liturgy until the upper structure was completed.

Reverend Demetrius Yackanich assumed the pastorate of St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church in 1934. Father Yackanich and the parishioners worked very hard to pay back the monies that were borrowed from Peoples National Bank fro the construction of the present church.

In September 1941 Reverend Gabriel Kossey replaced Father Yackanich. Father Kossey passed away in 1944. The Franciscan Fathers of the Latin Rite, who were bi-ritual, took over the administration of the parish at this time. Reverend Matinian Krajeir and Reverend Francis Duchala saw to the spiritual needs of the parishioners as well as overseeing the necessary maintenance and repairs of the church and its properties from 1944 to 1959. During their administration, our first vocation was realized. On June 2, 1957 Reverend Andrew Kofile celebrated his first Divine Liturgy at St. Mary’s.

On May 6, 1959 His Excellency, Bishop Nicholas T. Elko, appointed Reverend Lawrence J. Slavik as St. Mary’s administrator. There were many new goals to be accomplished. In September 1959 the rectory took on a new look with the energy of Father Slavik and the help of many parishioners.

Due to severe winter weather, the high steps leading to the entrance of the church began to deteriorate. Because of this, permission was sought to renovate the exterior of the church. In 1960 the renovation began. A new retaining wall was constructed and steps were installed on both sides. A tunnel was built as an entrance to the basement of the church. Renovations of the interior of the church were also done. They were completed in January 1961.

As the parish grew and community facilities were few, we were given permission to build an educational and recreational center. The groundbreaking ceremony for this facility was held Sunday, August 5, 1962. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issued all the necessary approvals and permits. Construction began in 1962 and the center was finished in September of 1963. Dedication of the center was held April 12, 1964. The center server was a hub for parish and community activities. The religious education of the children was done in the classrooms found in the center.

Father Slavik brought the parishioners together as a large family unit both spiritually and as a group to work together through various fund-raising efforts such as card parties and calendar parties. He began our annual festival, which for years was one of the most popular in the area.

Father Slavik was transferred to Ohio in 1965. At that time Reverend Andrew D. Bachkovsky joined our parochial family as administrator of the parish.

Two of our parishioners followed their strong religious inclinations and accepted their religious voes. Reverend Regis John Dusecina was ordained to the Holy Priesthood on May 20, 1973. His first Solemn Divine Liturgy was celebrated at St. Mary’s on Sunday, May 27, 1973. A dinner in his honor followed the Divine Liturgy. Sister Elizabeth Jane Tepley entered the religious life September 30, 1962 and professed her final vows at Mount St. Macrina August 15, 1970.

During Father Bachkovsky’s administration, many things were accomplished. Under his leadership, the parishioners worked hard to raise money for needed repairs and maintenance. Fund-raising activities included bingos, dinners, hall rental/catering, and selling tickets. The fruits of their labors could be seen during this time a new roof was put on the church, the interior of the church was repainted, a large granite cross was placed on the cemetery, and the mortgage for the hall was paid in full.

Father Bachkovsky instituted our annual Christmas paly and dinner. The dinner is held yearly on Sunday closest to the Feast of St. Nicholas. Every year the parishioners gather together to enjoy a fine dinner and be entertained by the children of the parish who present a play which tells the story of the Nativity of our Lord. All the children receive a gift from a special visitor – Santa Claus in early years and for the past six years, St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas is portrayed each year by one of our older altar servers.

In November of 1987 Father Bachkovsky became ill and was unable to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Reverend Frank A. Firko, Spiritual Director of our Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, was sent to St. Mary’s to see the spiritual needs of our parish. During Father Bachkovsky’s extended illness, Father Firko celebrated liturgies on Sundays and holydays, had Lenten services, celebrated Royal Hours, and visited the sick, in addition to tending to all his duties at the seminary. He inspired us to develop a greater love for Our Blessed Mother by having a special Moleben every month to honor Her. His love for the church and his devotion also inspired us to become involved in the Cause for Canonization. Each year since 1988 parishioners have traveled by car or chartered bus to participate in the Prayer Celebration for the Cause for Canonization of Our Four Saintly Bishops.

In September 1988 it was realized that Father Bachkovsky would no longer be able to return to St. Mary’s. His Excellency, The Most Reverend Stephen J. Kocisko, Metropolitan Archbishop, assigned Reverend Edward J. Pyo as our administrator. At this time St. Mary’s became a mission parish with no pastor in residence. Father Pyo celebrated Divine Liturgies on Sundays and holydays of Obligation as well as celebrating Lenten services. Not long after Father Pyo arrived, Father Bachkovsky was called to his eternal reward. He passed from this earth on October 24, 1988. Services for him were held at St. Mary’s.

Father Pyo encouraged the parishioners to continue working on projects to add to the monies already raised when Father Firko was here. Fund-raising efforts continued with dinners, periodic super bingos, and tickets. Through the hard work of the parishioners at these fund-raisers and generous donations, we were able to put a new roof on the center and purchase new icons and a processional cross for the church. With the help of some dedicated parishioners, we were able to reinstate our parish festival. The festival is held in July and each year it becomes more successful.

We remained a mission parish for several years. Father Pyo was then assigned as the full time pastor at Leisinring. Reverend Christopher R. Burke was appointed by The Most Reverend Thomas V. Dolinay, Metropolitan Archbishop, in January 1991 to serve as our full time administrator. Father Burke’s new duties as St. Mary’s administrator required a person with not only spiritual concerns but also the ability to undertake the supervision of the many renovations needed on the properties. In just a few short years, the tireless and enthusiastic efforts of Father Burke working along with the parishioners on projects such as bingos, dinners, tickets, craft shows, card parties, bake sales, and the annual festival have produced some noticeable changes. Our rectory has been remodeled and redecorated, the hall as been air-conditioned and the all carpeted, and the church has been air-conditioned. The most recent endeavor in the beautification of our church has been the repainting of the domes and crosses which adorn our church steeples and the refurbishing of the baldacchino. Another addition to the church are the stained glass doors which were made by Father Alan Kapron, a friend of Father Burke’s.

We continue to keep the youth of our parish involved. In addition to the ECF classes and participation in the in the Easter, Christmas, Dormition, and First Holy communion processions, we have also taken the youth to a hockey game. This year, Father Burke and several local clergy got the youth of the parishes together for the ecumenical youth rally which provided some recreation and blearing. Father Burke’s future plans for our youth continue to promote youth activities, which will provide both spiritual and secular growth for the youth – the future of our parish.

Parishioners at St. Mary’s range in age from several months old to over 100 years old. The majority of the parishioners keep active in the parish, including Anna Ritz, our oldest active parishioner. Anna celebrated her 100th birthday las year with a Diving Liturgy and dinner given in her honor by Father Burke and the parishioners. However, Anna is not our oldest parishioner. Mrs. Susan Artime, a resident of Mount Macrina Manor, is a year older than Anna. Susan and her family have served the church for many years.

Even though we are celebrating one hundred years of devotion to Our Lord and His Heavenly Mother, our task is not finished. We still have some material as well as spiritual work to do at St. Mary’s. Under the caring and dedicated leadership of Father Burke, we hope to continue into our next hundred years with a renewed spiritual fervor and an ever increasing love for our Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and our Beloved St. Mary’s Church.

St. Mary’s Parish History

At the turn of the century, the bituminous coal fields of Pennsylvania attracted thousand of immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In this land of opportunity they came to seek freedom from want and the pursuit of happiness. With them, they also brought their strong religious commitment.

The primary motivating factor in making plans for a church of their own Greek (Byzantine) Catholic Rite was their great desire to show their love and loyalty to God and to preserve their heritage by continuing to adhere to their beautiful customs and traditions. It was their devout love that caused them to believe that no sacrifice was too great in order to establish a church of their own.

St. Mary’s was founded in January 1894 under the leadership of Reverend Stephen Dzubay. The church was for the faithful of the Byzantine Rite who lived in the coal and coke regions around the Trauger area of western Pennsylvania. A hall in Calumet served as a place of worship prior to the construction of the church.

Reverend John Hrabor came to St. Mary’s as pastor in July 1895. In October of that year he was replaced by Reverend Valentine Balog.

The commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted a charter to the Byzantine Church in Trauger on April 8, 1986. On May 4, 1896 a half acre of land was purchased from Mr. Joseph Bohla at the price of on hundred twenty-five dollars.

The actual construction of the first church was started in May 1987 and was completed in a few months. The structure was a neat wooden building containing the church and a small hall. In the all the priest and cantor taught the traditions of the faith and the chants to the young parishioners. During the 1900’s St. Mary’s had a full time school.

Once the church and hall were completed, the land for a parish cemetery was purchased. This purchase took place August 2, 1900. The land for the cemetery was located at the top of the hill behind the new church.

As the number of faithful parishioners increased, it was necessary to purchase additional land in order that a larger church might be built. A half acre was purchased in October 1912. Construction began on our present church shortly after the land was acquired. The conerstone of the present church was blessed August 16, 1914.

In the early 1920’s the parishioners noticed that the church was sinking due to the removal of coal from under the church. The H.C. Frick Company agreed to make all the necessary repairs and to assume all responsibility. The church was then blessed by The Most Reverend Bishop Basil Tkatch on September 9, 1928. The basement of the church was used for Divine Liturgy until the upper structure was completed.

Reverend Demetrius Yackanich assumed the pastorate of St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church in 1934. Father Yackanich and the parishioners worked very hard to pay back the monies that were borrowed from Peoples National Bank fro the construction of the present church.

In September 1941 Reverend Gabriel Kossey replaced Father Yackanich. Father Kossey passed away in 1944. The Franciscan Fathers of the Latin Rite, who were bi-ritual, took over the administration of the parish at this time. Reverend Matinian Krajeir and Reverend Francis Duchala saw to the spiritual needs of the parishioners as well as overseeing the necessary maintenance and repairs of the church and its properties from 1944 to 1959. During their administration, our first vocation was realized. On June 2, 1957 Reverend Andrew Kofile celebrated his first Divine Liturgy at St. Mary’s.

On May 6, 1959 His Excellency, Bishop Nicholas T. Elko, appointed Reverend Lawrence J. Slavik as St. Mary’s administrator. There were many new goals to be accomplished. In September 1959 the rectory took on a new look with the energy of Father Slavik and the help of many parishioners.

Due to severe winter weather, the high steps leading to the entrance of the church began to deteriorate. Because of this, permission was sought to renovate the exterior of the church. In 1960 the renovation began. A new retaining wall was constructed and steps were installed on both sides. A tunnel was built as an entrance to the basement of the church. Renovations of the interior of the church were also done. They were completed in January 1961.

As the parish grew and community facilities were few, we were given permission to build an educational and recreational center. The groundbreaking ceremony for this facility was held Sunday, August 5, 1962. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issued all the necessary approvals and permits. Construction began in 1962 and the center was finished in September of 1963. Dedication of the center was held April 12, 1964. The center server was a hub for parish and community activities. The religious education of the children was done in the classrooms found in the center.

Father Slavik brought the parishioners together as a large family unit both spiritually and as a group to work together through various fund-raising efforts such as card parties and calendar parties. He began our annual festival, which for years was one of the most popular in the area.

Father Slavik was transferred to Ohio in 1965. At that time Reverend Andrew D. Bachkovsky joined our parochial family as administrator of the parish.

Two of our parishioners followed their strong religious inclinations and accepted their religious voes. Reverend Regis John Dusecina was ordained to the Holy Priesthood on May 20, 1973. His first Solemn Divine Liturgy was celebrated at St. Mary’s on Sunday, May 27, 1973. A dinner in his honor followed the Divine Liturgy. Sister Elizabeth Jane Tepley entered the religious life September 30, 1962 and professed her final vows at Mount St. Macrina August 15, 1970.

During Father Bachkovsky’s administration, many things were accomplished. Under his leadership, the parishioners worked hard to raise money for needed repairs and maintenance. Fund-raising activities included bingos, dinners, hall rental/catering, and selling tickets. The fruits of their labors could be seen during this time a new roof was put on the church, the interior of the church was repainted, a large granite cross was placed on the cemetery, and the mortgage for the hall was paid in full.

Father Bachkovsky instituted our annual Christmas paly and dinner. The dinner is held yearly on Sunday closest to the Feast of St. Nicholas. Every year the parishioners gather together to enjoy a fine dinner and be entertained by the children of the parish who present a play which tells the story of the Nativity of our Lord. All the children receive a gift from a special visitor – Santa Claus in early years and for the past six years, St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas is portrayed each year by one of our older altar servers.

In November of 1987 Father Bachkovsky became ill and was unable to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Reverend Frank A. Firko, Spiritual Director of our Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, was sent to St. Mary’s to see the spiritual needs of our parish. During Father Bachkovsky’s extended illness, Father Firko celebrated liturgies on Sundays and holydays, had Lenten services, celebrated Royal Hours, and visited the sick, in addition to tending to all his duties at the seminary. He inspired us to develop a greater love for Our Blessed Mother by having a special Moleben every month to honor Her. His love for the church and his devotion also inspired us to become involved in the Cause for Canonization. Each year since 1988 parishioners have traveled by car or chartered bus to participate in the Prayer Celebration for the Cause for Canonization of Our Four Saintly Bishops.

In September 1988 it was realized that Father Bachkovsky would no longer be able to return to St. Mary’s. His Excellency, The Most Reverend Stephen J. Kocisko, Metropolitan Archbishop, assigned Reverend Edward J. Pyo as our administrator. At this time St. Mary’s became a mission parish with no pastor in residence. Father Pyo celebrated Divine Liturgies on Sundays and holydays of Obligation as well as celebrating Lenten services. Not long after Father Pyo arrived, Father Bachkovsky was called to his eternal reward. He passed from this earth on October 24, 1988. Services for him were held at St. Mary’s.

Father Pyo encouraged the parishioners to continue working on projects to add to the monies already raised when Father Firko was here. Fund-raising efforts continued with dinners, periodic super bingos, and tickets. Through the hard work of the parishioners at these fund-raisers and generous donations, we were able to put a new roof on the center and purchase new icons and a processional cross for the church. With the help of some dedicated parishioners, we were able to reinstate our parish festival. The festival is held in July and each year it becomes more successful.

We remained a mission parish for several years. Father Pyo was then assigned as the full time pastor at Leisinring. Reverend Christopher R. Burke was appointed by The Most Reverend Thomas V. Dolinay, Metropolitan Archbishop, in January 1991 to serve as our full time administrator. Father Burke’s new duties as St. Mary’s administrator required a person with not only spiritual concerns but also the ability to undertake the supervision of the many renovations needed on the properties. In just a few short years, the tireless and enthusiastic efforts of Father Burke working along with the parishioners on projects such as bingos, dinners, tickets, craft shows, card parties, bake sales, and the annual festival have produced some noticeable changes. Our rectory has been remodeled and redecorated, the hall as been air-conditioned and the all carpeted, and the church has been air-conditioned. The most recent endeavor in the beautification of our church has been the repainting of the domes and crosses which adorn our church steeples and the refurbishing of the baldacchino. Another addition to the church are the stained glass doors which were made by Father Alan Kapron, a friend of Father Burke’s.

We continue to keep the youth of our parish involved. In addition to the ECF classes and participation in the in the Easter, Christmas, Dormition, and First Holy communion processions, we have also taken the youth to a hockey game. This year, Father Burke and several local clergy got the youth of the parishes together for the ecumenical youth rally which provided some recreation and blearing. Father Burke’s future plans for our youth continue to promote youth activities, which will provide both spiritual and secular growth for the youth – the future of our parish.

Parishioners at St. Mary’s range in age from several months old to over 100 years old. The majority of the parishioners keep active in the parish, including Anna Ritz, our oldest active parishioner. Anna celebrated her 100th birthday las year with a Diving Liturgy and dinner given in her honor by Father Burke and the parishioners. However, Anna is not our oldest parishioner. Mrs. Susan Artime, a resident of Mount Macrina Manor, is a year older than Anna. Susan and her family have served the church for many years.

Even though we are celebrating one hundred years of devotion to Our Lord and His Heavenly Mother, our task is not finished. We still have some material as well as spiritual work to do at St. Mary’s. Under the caring and dedicated leadership of Father Burke, we hope to continue into our next hundred years with a renewed spiritual fervor and an ever increasing love for our Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and our Beloved St. Mary’s Church.

By | 2011-09-27T21:05:50+00:00 September 27th, 2011|100th Anniversary History|0 Comments

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