|The Episcopacy of Bishop Daniel Ivancho|
The immediate years following the end of the Second World War witnessed a transition in the leadership of the Greek Catholic Exarchate of Pittsburgh. Bishop Takach, who had guided the Exarchate since its founding in 1924, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. With Bishop Takach in failing health and increasingly unable to discharge his official duties, a request was made to the Holy See to appoint an auxiliary bishop to assist in the administration of the Exarchate.
The prevailing speculation at the time identified Monsignor George Michaylo and Father Stephen Gulovich, as the leading candidates to be named as the new auxiliary bishop of the Pittsburgh Greek Catholic Exarchate. The Holy See, however, confounded the conventional wisdom and announced the appointment of a relative dark horse, Father Daniel Ivancho, as the new bishop.
Daniel Ivancho was born in the village of Yasinia, Maramorosh County, on March 30, 1908. At the age of eight, he emigrated to the United States and settled in Cleveland with his widowed mother. After graduating from St. Procopius College, Ivancho was sent to Rome to pursue his seminary training. Due to ill health, Ivancho was forced to transfer to the Eparchial Seminary in Užhorod where he completed his theological studies. On September 30, 1934, Bishop Takach ordained Ivancho to the priesthood. At the time of the announcement of his selection as the second bishop of the Greek Catholic Exarchate of Pittsburgh, Father Ivancho was serving as the pastor of St. Mary's Greek Catholic Church in Cleveland, Ohio.
In announcing the appointment, the Holy See's official decree specifically noted that Father Ivancho was being appointed to the status of a “coadjutor bishop." This appointment meant that Father Ivancho would automatically become Bishop Takach’s successor.
On November 5, 1946, Father Ivancho was consecrated as the new Coadjutor Bishop of the Greek Catholic Exarchate of Pittsburgh. The four hour long episcopal consecration ceremony was not held at St. John's Cathedral, but at St. Paul's Cathedral in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, the cathedral church of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese. This was done to accommodate the large number of people who wished to witness this historic event. Father Ivancho's elevation to the episcopate was highlighted not only by the attendance of a large number of Byzantine and Latin Rite bishops and clergy, but also by the presence of the Empress Zita and other members of the royal Hapsburg family of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. The homilist at the consecration was the renowned preacher, the then Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen.
Bishop Ivancho's status as coadjutor bishop did not last for long. On May 13, 1948, Bishop Basil Takach lost his long and painful battle with cancer and died at Pittsburgh’s St. Francis Hospital. Upon the death of Bishop Takach, Bishop Ivancho took full, if not, official control over the administration and affairs of the Exarchate. As he assumed the reins as the second Bishop of the Pittsburgh Greek Catholic Exarchate, Bishop Ivancho was confronted with a momentous decision which would have important consequences for the future well-being of the Exarchate.
On the one hand, the Exarchate faced a vexing problem: providing for the proper education of men for the priesthood. Until the 1920's, most of the Greek Catholic clergy was foreign born and educated. As more and more American born youth wished to become priests, obtaining a proper theological education for these candidates became increasingly problematical. One temporary solution to this problem was to have Greek Catholic men "split" their theological training into two parts: pursuing the majority of their studies at Latin Rite seminaries such as St. Vincent's in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, St. Mary's in Baltimore, Maryland or St. Bonaventure's in Olean, New York and supplementing it with two years of schooling at the Greek Catholic seminaries in Prešov or Užhorod. When the advent of World War II closed this avenue, an alternative which required prospective candidates to attend the college and seminary operated by the Benedictine Fathers at St. Procopius in Lisle, Illinois was established. Ultimately, neither of these avenues of educating young men for service as priests was deemed efficient or satisfactory. Thus, the construction and staffing of a seminary dedicated to the education and training of men who aspired to be the priesthood was viewed as a necessity for the continued growth of the Greek Catholic Church in America.
On the other hand, many advisors to Bishop Ivancho argued that the construction of a new cathedral church should be the top priority of the Exarchate. According to these advocates, the construction of a new cathedral with more seating capacity and with a more central location in the City of Pittsburgh would better serve the needs of the Exarchate both for attendance at religious ceremonies and as a way of showcasing the identity and splendor of the Eastern rite in the United States.
Lacking the financial resources to undertake both ambitious projects, Bishop Ivancho was forced to make a choice: a seminary or a new cathedral. Despite the unanimous recommendation of his board of consultors in favor of a new cathedral, Bishop Ivancho instead opted for the construction of a seminary. Thus, in a special Pastoral letter dated June 14, 1950 to the clergy and faithful of the Exarchate, the bishop announced plans for the construction and operation of the first Eastern rite Catholic seminary in the United States.
Shortly after Bishop Ivancho’s announcement, a tract of land for the projected Seminary was acquired at the corner of Perrysville and Riverview Avenues on Pittsburgh’s North Side. An architect and contractor were hired to design and build the new building and the grounds were solemnly blessed on July 5, 1950.
With the beginning of the 1950-51 academic year rapidly approaching and with St. Procopius Seminary no longer available to accommodate any of the Exarchate’s seminarians, contingency plans were made to open the new seminary at the Mt. St. Macrina Academy in Uniontown. At the last minute, two buildings on land adjacent to the proposed site for the seminary became available for use as temporary accommodations. After hurried preparations and renovations to these two buildings were made, the new Seminary, dedicated to the Apostles of the Slavs, Saints Cyril and Methodius, was opened on October 16, 1950 with a student body of forty seminarians and five priests serving as the initial faculty.
A little more than one year later, on the morning of October 18, 1951, a beautiful, new seminary building, featuring a golden onion shaped dome and beautiful mosaics, was officially dedicated. Bishop Ivancho presided at the blessing ceremonies. Bishop John F. Dearden, the bishop of the Pittsburgh Roman Catholic Diocese, preached one of the sermons. This most memorable event in the growth and progress of the American Greek Catholic Church was witnessed by some twenty bishops, four hundred clergy and religious and an estimated 5,000 laity. A civic program was held on the afternoon of the dedication ceremonies and featured a number of notable figures, including David L. Lawrence, the Mayor of Pittsburgh, John S. Fine, the Governor of Pennsylvania, Father Vernon L. Gallagher, the President of Duquesne University, and Stephen Tkach, the President of the Greek Catholic Union, one of the chief financial supporters of the Seminary.
In addition to the establishment of Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, another notable achievement during the episcopate of Bishop Ivancho included the beginning of new religious orders in the Exarchate. An order of Greek Catholic monks following the Rule of St. Benedict was established in the late 1940's. These Greek Catholic Benedictine monks located their first independent friary initially in St. Nicholas Church in McKeesport, Pennsylvania and later in suburban Monroeville, Pennsylvania. In 1954, the Benedictine Sisters from Lisle, Illinois established a Greek Catholic foundation of sisters at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Warren, Ohio. Finally, an order of Greek Catholic Franciscan monks was organized in Sybertsville, Pennsylvania.
Bishop Ivancho’s stewardship of the Greek Catholic Exarchate of Pittsburgh came to a sudden end when he resigned for personal reasons in December 1954. Bishop Ivancho died in retirement in Florida in 1972. Though his tenure was short, Bishop Ivancho faithfully carried on the work of his predecessor and, through the founding of the Seminary, secured the continued growth and progress of the American Greek Catholic Church for years to come.