Carpatho-Rusyns are one of the major ethnic groups of Pennsylvania. From the time they settled the state’s small towns and cities in the late 1870s until the present time, Carpatho-Rusyns have left an indelible mark on the state, and their story should be told. This blog is about a project that will do just that. Read more

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The St. Nicholas Greek Catholic Russian Aid Society of Allentown

Original St. Michael Greek Catholic Church
at Green St. & Ridge Ave.
Carpatho-Rusyns settled in Allentown, Lehigh County, in the late 1890s, but were not present in large numbers until around 1905. Two Greek Catholic parishes were founded in the Sixth Ward, in 1907-08 (St. Michael the Archangel), at Green Street and Ridge Avenue, and a Galician offshoot founded by Lemkos and Ukrainians in 1909-10 (St. Mary's Immaculate Conception) on Front & Furnace Streets, shortly thereafter building a church on Fullerton Avenue. This was a neighborhood largely made up of Central European immigrants, not just Carpatho-Rusyns and Galician Ukrainians, but also Slovaks, Poles, and Hungarians.

In the years to follow, Carpatho-Rusyns would also be involved in founding a short-lived Russian Orthodox parish (also named for St. Michael), and later an independent Greek Catholic parish (St. John the Baptist, on N. 2nd Street). That church eventually left the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese and joined the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic as St. Andrew Byzantine Catholic Church (the story behind this is an unfortunate one, the details of which I'll leave for my book); a portion of its members founded Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Orthodox Greek Catholic Church which established itself in a former synagogue at the prominent corner of North 6th and Tilghman Streets. Meanwhile, St. Mary's Immaculate Conception (Galician) Greek Catholic Church would lead a movement to establish a Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the U.S. in the 1920s, and today the parish is known as St. Mary's, Protection of the Holy Theotokos Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Other than lodges of fraternal organizations like the Greek Catholic Union and the Russian Brotherhood Organization, the main Carpatho-Rusyn social organization in this community was the St. Nicholas Greek Catholic Russian Aid Society, founded in 1919. I knew about this group and its club building, but did not know its history. A few days ago I searched newspapers-dot-com to see what kind of articles there were about it. It yielded no less than 40 articles about the organization, many of which provide a very useful body of information on its history and activities. (I only wish the accompanying photos were better.)

For example, this article provides a few details of its founding.

The Morning Call, October 28, 1945