By John E. Usalis
Republican Herald (Pottsville, PA), August 15, 2015
SHENANDOAH — The first church used by Ukrainian Byzantine Catholics in the United States will soon be no more, but its loss will help secure the future of its successor church in the borough.
|ANDY MATSKO/STAFF PHOTO|
The original St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church is in the process of being demolished Friday on West Centre Street, Shenandoah.
The original St. Michael Ukrainian Catholic Church on West Centre Street is scheduled for demolition, with work started this week to prepare for the complete removal of the structure. It has not been used regularly as a worship site since 1908, with the exception of the early 1980s when Divine Liturgies were celebrated due to a massive fire that destroyed the second church building of the parish.
The 131-year-old structure, which had been modified over time, began to be used as a hall after the second church was built in 1908 in order to meet the needs of a growing congregation. The original church was also where the St. Michael’s Social Club met and held activities.
The employees from Kass Contracting were at the site Thursday and Friday removing interior fixtures. No specific day has been set for when the wooden church will come down...
[Albert] Breznik [Jr., a member of the parish building council] provided some history of the parish and explained how the first church became a religious lifeboat after the parish’s second church was destroyed in 1980.
“Let’s go back to the beginning. That was the first Ukrainian Greek Catholic church in America,” Breznik said. “In 1908, our forefathers in the church abandoned that building to move the parish to the building that burned down, which is right where we’re sitting. After they began using the second church, the original church building was used as a social hall and for parties up until probably the early 1960s. The building was then vacant up until we needed it when our second church burned down for religious services.”
The second church was destroyed in a fire in 1980 on Easter Monday morning. With the help of other Ukrainian Catholic churches, icons and other religious items were provided to the parish to add to the original church to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and other services. The first church was used until 1984, when the third and current church opened in time for the parish’s 100th anniversary.
Breznik said the first church reverted to a social hall, its purposes including the sale of the parish’s homemade pierogies. The social club dissolved in 2009 due to a lack of members and funds, but the leftover funds were used to add the large mosaics on the outside of the current church.
“That was the last time that building was used,” Breznik said...
The Very Rev. Archpriest John M. Fields, archeparchy director of communications, said there were very few choices for what needed to be done, especially in light of the needs and desire to make the repairs and improvements necessary at the church building used by the parishioners.
“The original church, which hasn’t been used for all these years, has deteriorated to the point that it has become a liability not only to the parish, but to the archdiocese,” Fields said. “The decision was made to put the resources into the current church to upgrade their church for the future. Also, in a town like Shenandoah that has a history of fires, the decision was made to bring the building down for safety and so it is not a hazard. There is no way for resources to be available to restore it or whatever you would do with it. It’s not really necessary for the existing needs of the parish.
This is very sad. In a better world, the original church would have been restored and perhaps turned into a museum. While St. Michael's can justifiably be called a landmark of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America, its history and people are thoroughly Carpatho-Rusyn.
Original material is © by the author, Richard D. Custer; all rights reserved.