|Thirteen Bands were in Line|
A Great Rush Made to Gain Admission to the New Edifice
--Many Visiting Priests Assisted in the Exercises,
Which Lasted Nearly All Day--A Handsome Church
and Parsonage Erected in a Remarkably Short Time.
The cold biting wind which was blowing yesterday did not dampen the enthusiasm of the Greek Catholics who turned out by the hundreds and took part in the celebration in honor of the dedication of their handsome church at the corner of Tenth avenue and Dickson street. Visitors were present from several states, there being twelve brass bands, one drum corps and about 1500 men in the parade, which preceded the dedication ceremonies.
The parade formed in front of the old church on Third avenue near Dickson street at 10 a.m. and marched direct to the new edifice. In line were a number of little girls all dressed in white and wearing long white veils and wreathes of smilax. They had on no wraps of any kind and no hats, and while the spectators along the line of march stood and shivered with the cold, they did not seem to mind it in the least. If all are not sick today it is a wonder.
After the church was reached and the ceremonies on outside were gone through, there was a great rush to get inside, about 2,500 people trying to get in at one time, while the building will only seat about 500.
Coadjutor Bishop Canevin sprinkled holy water around the new church and formally opened it for service. Prayers were offered by Greek priests in attendance. High mass was celebrated by Bishop Canevin, assisted by these priests:
Rev. Mr. Dzubay, Leisenring; Rev. Mr. Medvecky, McKeesport; Rev. Mr. Stecovic, Bradenville; Rev. Mr. Satala, Duquesne; Rev. Mr. Szabo, Southside, Pittsburg; Rev. Mr. Obushkievic, Carnegie; Rev. Mr. Kazincy, Braddock; Rev. Mr. Hodobay, Duquesne; Rev. Mr. Homicsko, Charleroi; Rev. Mr. Jasparik, Homestead; Rev. Mr. Holosnyay.
Mass was celebrated again at 11:30 o’clock, the visiting priests assisting Father Dzubay of Leisenring. Bishop Canevin made an address first in Greek and then in English. Following the service the priests were entertained at luncheon in the newly completed parish house, where Father Holosnyay, pastor, and his wife acted as host and hostess.
St. John’s church has had a remarkable growth. Three years ago it was a poor parish. In the interim it laid enough money aside to purchase the site for and
build the new church. The church is at the corner of Tenth avenue and Dickson street. The two buildings, church and parish house, cost $65,000. The lot cost $10,000 more. Titus de Bobula, who has designed and finished, or has in course of construction, nearly a dozen churches in the vicinity of [sic] Pittsburg, is the architect, and in the present edifice he has deviated from all long laid down methods of construction.
Seating in the nave is for 500 people and in the choir loft for 450 persons. The exterior in the front is of Ohio sandstone, the sides white brick. Two steeples rising in the front make the greatest height, 125 feet. To the ceiling of the nave the height is 35 feet. The frontage of the church is 100 feet. The parish house has 40 feet frontage and is 75 feet in length.
Inside, the finish of the church is plain, the greatest effort at decoration being expended in a elaborate altar. In the middle of the ceiling is a frame 30x50 [sic] feet in which is to be placed an original painting of the Last Judgment. Between the nave and the altar is to be placed the [sic] ikonsalas, a feature of the Greek church, which is a wall of scroll work within the lattices of which are placed 48 scenes of the time of Christ. This alone will cost $6,000. In the sanctuary the altar table, which will be entirely of marble, lies underneath a canopy supported by four columns. The [sic] Bisop’s chair is of a raised platform, at either side of which there is an altar. In all there are four altars.
School rooms and a large meeting hall are in the basement. The parish house includes all conveniences. The whole is lighted by gas and electricity and heated by gas and steam.
Under the stewardship of Father Holosnyay, the Parish continued to grow both in membership and in physical facilities. On June 26, 1900, a large tract of land adjacent to St. Mary Magdalene Roman Catholic Cemetery was purchased from Christian F. Vondera and Caroline Vondera for the sum of $4,000. This tract, which was supplemented by purchases of additional nearby properties owned by the Monongahela Trust Company and the Greek and Roman Catholic Beneficial Association of St. John the Baptist of Homestead in 1912 and in 1918, would be developed into and used as the Parish’s cemetery.
Additional properties were also purchased near the church. On April 29, 1912, a lot adjoining the church structure on Tenth Avenue was purchased from Edward H. McKeown for $4,000.00. On December 1, 1917, the parish purchased a two-story frame dwelling directly across from the church on Dickson Street for $9,000.00. Both properties would eventually find use as residences for the Parish’s cantors.
The final property acquisition by the Parish occurred on May 21, 1924. One and one-half lots on Tenth Avenue were purchased from the Carnegie Land Company for $6,500.00. In 1928, the Parish would complete the construction of a three-story building on this property. This new building would be used as a meeting facility and as a “Rusin School” for the teaching of religion and the native Rusin language for the Parish’s children.
As St. John’s Parish continued to steadily grow, its pastor, Father Alexis Holosnyay also assumed a more prominent role both in the local community as well as in the social and religious affairs of the Carpatho-Rusin community in the United States. During the First World War, Father Holosnyay, who became a naturalized American citizen, served on several Liberty Loan Committee drives and welcomed soldiers departing for and arriving from the European battlefront. In addition, with the national headquarters of the Greek Catholic Union located just two blocks from the church, it was only natural that Father Holosnyay would become involved in fraternal affairs. Thus, Father Holosnyay held office in the Greek Catholic Union as a director for eight years. Finally, Father Holosnyay was selected as a consultor to the various apostolic administrators appointed by the Holy See to oversee the Greek Catholic Church in the United States.
In March 1921, the Parish had its first vocations to the religious life. Margaret and Mary Lillicotch were two sisters from a very large family in the Parish. The Lillicotch sisters decided to jointly enter the newly established Province of the Sisters of St. Basil the Great which was initially located in Cleveland, Ohio and finally in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Upon entering the religious life, Margaret, who was nineteen years old at the time, received the name of Sister Mary Benedicta. Mary, who was sixteen, received the name of Sister Mary Monica. These founding members of the Uniontown Province of Our Lady of Perpetual Help collectively would spend nearly one hundred-forty years in the religious life working in a variety of ministries, primarily as parochial school teachers.
By 1924, St. John the Baptist Greek Catholic Church was unquestionably one of the prominent religious communities of the Homestead-Munhall area. With a congregation numbering seven hundred families, with a striking church building and rectory now free of the encumbrance of its two mortgages and with a number of other significant property holdings, the Parish’s journey of faith had achieved a degree of success far beyond the simple hopes and aspirations of its founding members. Having secured a place of distinction locally, the Parish now set its sights on establishing itself as the leading Greek Catholic church in the United States. In 1924, the Parish would take action to become the cathedral church of the newly established Pittsburgh Exarchate for Greek Catholics in the United States.