|Restoring the Faith: The Michaylo Years|
The long and difficult battle for control over the spiritual and temporal affairs of St. John's Cathedral Parish had left the Parish both materially and psychologically exhausted. One obvious sign of the exhaustion of the Parish was the tremendous loss in the number of parishioners. Many parishioners, outraged at Bishop Takach’s victory in the courts, simply left St. John's Cathedral and followed Father Peter Molchany who established a new church in Homestead - St. Nicholas Greek Catholic Rusin Eastern Rite Church. Still others, embarrassed by the scandalous schism, left to join the stable environment of the Latin Rite Catholic churches in the area.
Clearly, with a diminished roll of active parishioners and the nation in the middle of the “Great Depression,” St. John’s Cathedral Parish had hit its lowest point ever. Nevertheless, even in the face of this seemingly insurmountable test of their faith, the small band of remaining parishioners would come together and begin the slow and pain-staking process of rebuilding the Parish from the terrible devastation wrought by the Takach/Molchany conflict. In doing so, they would find their faith renewed and strengthened by the arrival of a dynamic, new young leader - Father George Michaylo.
George Michaylo was born on March 28, 1906 in the small, coal mining town of Taylor located in northeastern Pennsylvania. Following his graduation from the local public school system, young George attended college in Scranton, Pennsylvania at the then St. Thomas College, later known as the University of Scranton. Answering a call to live a religious vocation, George Michaylo left St. Thomas College after two years of study and presented himself to the newly appointed Greek Catholic bishop in America, Basil Takach, as a possible candidate for the priesthood.
Bishop Takach was obviously impressed with the intelligence and other God-given talents of the nineteen year old Michaylo. Not only did the bishop immediately accept him as a candidate for the priesthood, but he also designated young George for special academic and theological training. Thus, in September 1925, Bishop Takach sent Seminarian Michaylo to the Eternal City, Rome, for study and spiritual formation.
Living at the Collegio Ruteno (the so-called Ruthenian College) in Rome, George Michaylo attended two of the Catholic Church’s most prestigious institutions for theological studies - the Angelicum and the Propaganda Fide. After years of study, Seminarian Michaylo eventually was awarded a doctorate in philosophy in 1929.
On October 1, 1930, the Feast of the Patronage of the Mother of God, George Michaylo achieved his lifelong ambition and was ordained as a priest at the age of twenty-four by Archbishop Isaias Papodopulos, an official in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Oriental Church. Upon completion of his final course work for his second doctorate, a degree in sacred theology, the newly ordained Father Michaylo returned to the United States in the summer of 1931. Immediately, he was assigned by Bishop Takach to serve on the Diocesan Chancery staff.
While a member of the Chancery staff, the young Father Michaylo served in a number of important capacities. Father Michaylo frequently acted as Bishop Takach’s personal interpreter. In addition, he traveled extensively throughout the far-flung reaches of the Greek Catholic Exarchate of Pittsburgh as the bishop’s personal representative at various church functions and ceremonies. Father Michaylo’s most important role, however, was as an advisor to Bishop Takach during the firestorm of protest that erupted throughout the Exarchate over the implementation of the now infamous Cum Data Fuerit decree.
At the insistence of the Latin Rite hierarchy, the Holy See issued an order on March 1, 1929 imposing celibacy upon the Eastern Rite Churches in the United States. Although he privately opposed the decree, Bishop Takach nevertheless directed that the Holy See’s edict be obeyed. When combined with the long simmering and unsettled issue of the control over church properties, the bishop’s insistence that Rome be obeyed and the Cum Data decree followed set off an explosion of protest from certain elements in the clergy and the laity, numerous sharp and very personal attacks upon Bishop Takach and ultimately legal challenges over the extent of the bishop’s authority to govern the Diocese.
As a close advisor to the bishop, young Father Michaylo actively monitored the various legal battles which were raging for control over many of the parishes in the Pittsburgh Exarchate, including the one for control over St. John’s Cathedral. Father Michaylo loyally and courageously undertook this most difficult and sensitive job of combating the various schisms that plagued the Diocese even though it exposed him to much personal pain and anguish. Father Michaylo could not even escape the animosity engulfing the Diocese even on a rare visit to his hometown of Taylor to see his mother, Mary Michaylo. As recounted by his nephew, George Dunay, young Father Michaylo was scorned by many of the parishioners in the Taylor parish and even spat upon by his godmother for his support and obedience to Bishop Takach.
With his control over the temporal and spiritual affairs of St. John’s Cathedral restored by the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Bishop Takach reappointed Father Alexius Holosnyay as pastor. Though restored to his title of pastor, Father Holosnyay clearly was not up to the monumental challenge of rebuilding the Parish to its former status. The years of turmoil in the Parish undoubtedly had taken a profound and irreparable toll upon Father Holosnyay. In physical decline even before the conflict with Father Molchany had begun, Father Holosnyay’s poor health would never permit him to undertake an active or vigorous role in administering the affairs of the Parish. Moreover, it is doubtful that Holosnyay emotionally would ever be up to the task of being a full-time pastor. Not only did Father Holosnyay have to endure the financial strain and the personal humiliation of being unceremoniously ousted as the pastor of the church which he had shepherded for over thirty years, he also had to face the uncertain future without his greatest support, his beloved wife, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Holosnyay unexpectedly died on April 14, 1933 after suffering a heart attack in the Rectory at 913 Dickson Street. At the time of her death, Mrs Holosnyay was sixty-two. In reporting the news of her sudden death, the Homestead Daily Messenger stated that Mrs. Holosnyay was "one of the most popular women in the district" and that her death "came as a great shock to her hundreds of friends."
Given that her death occurred during the height of the Parish schism, Mrs. Holosnyay was denied the final simple dignities of a requiem liturgy from the church of her husband's longstanding pastorate and burial in the Parish's cemetery. Instead, Mrs. Holosnyay was buried in St. Elias’s Cemetery. Thus even the sad occasion of the death of his wife served as a bitter reminder to Father Holosnyay of the controversy which raged within the Parish.
Faced with Father Holosnyany’s delicate personal situation, Bishop Takach turned once again to his trusted aide, Father Michaylo. In April, 1935, the bishop appointed Father Michaylo as the assistant pastor of the Parish. Upon Father Holosnyay’s retirement, Bishop Takach formally appointed Father George Michaylo, at the tender of thirty, as the fifth pastor of St. John’s Cathedral on August 4, 1936.
The first and foremost problem facing the young, new pastor of St. John’s Cathedral was to heal the deep and terrible divisions caused by the four year long legal battle for control of the Parish. To achieve this almost insurmountable objective, Father Michaylo would lovingly bring to bear all of his extraordinary personal charm, people skills and eloquence.
A man who truly loved to be among people, Father Michaylo’s caring, down-to-earth pastoral style was to go from family to family, visiting and meeting people from all sides in the Takach/Molchany dispute. On his visits to those who remained faithful to the bishop during the dark times of the conflict, Father Michaylo would encourage them to stand fast in their faith and to work with charity and kindness in rebuilding the Parish. And to those who were estranged by the conflict, Father Michaylo, in faithful imitation of the example of the “Good Shepherd,” would urge them to return to the Parish, their mother church where they had been baptized and confirmed, where they had made their first confession, received their First Communion, where they were married or from where they had buried their loved ones.
Slowly, but surely, Father Michaylo’s patient, friendly and caring manner began to win over the hearts of all those who came in touch with him. Through Father Michaylo’s personal intervention and efforts, many individuals and families were reconciled and once again brought back into fold of the Parish. With the Parish beginning to come together under the gentle guidance of its youthful pastor, Father Michaylo undertook a number of new and different initiatives to spiritually, socially and financially strengthen and invigorate the Parish.
As the religious leader of the Parish, Father Michaylo worked constantly to put the Parish on a sound and secure spiritual footing. A well-spoken and articulate man, Father Michaylo preached thoughtful and timely sermons which inspired the faithful. In addition, Michaylo frequently invited priests from various religious orders, especially during the Lenten season, to conduct “ missions,” a kind of in-church retreat lasting several days, for the spiritual renewal and inspiration of the Parish. Recognizing the importance of singing in the religious services of the Byzantine Church in accordance with the traditional Carpatho-Rusin “plain chant,” Father Michaylo also restored George Gulanich, the man who inaugurated choral singing to the Parish in 1916 with formation of the “Duchnovich” Choir, to the important position of Parish cantor.
Moreover, Father Michaylo started new religious organizations in the Parish. Under Father Michaylo’s direction, a Holy Name Society was formed. Mr. John Brugos was elected the first president of this organization. Father Michaylo also instilled new enthusiasm in previously established religious groups in the Parish such as the Sodality, Sacred Heart Society and the Rosary Society. The St. John’s Cathedral Sodality in particular experienced a dramatic resurgence under Father Michaylo’s leadership. Every May, the Sodality honored the Blessed Mother by conducting “May Crowning” ceremonies. Ms. Mary Bish was the first prefect of the St. John’s Sodality and was escorted by numerous attendants attired in long pastel gowns as she carried out her duties as the “May Queen.” In addition, the Parish Sodality frequently served as the host for other sodalists. In May 1942, St. John’s Cathedral was the scene of the first diocesan Sodality rally. More than three hundred sodalists, directors and administrators attended the rally which was held for the purpose of organizing a union of thirteen sodality groups in Western Pennsylvania.
In recognition of his exemplary service as the spiritual shepherd of St. John’s Cathedral Parish and as a priest of the Pittsburgh Greek Catholic Exarchate, Pope Pius XI honored Father Michaylo in 1938 by bestowing on him the dignity of becoming a Papal Chamberlain with the title of Very Reverend Monsignor. On June 2, 1940, the Parish held a banquet in honor of Father Michaylo’s elevation to the title of monsignor. The banquet was held in the Cathedral School Auditorium. Bishop Takach, all of the priests of the neighboring Catholic churches in the district and many of the prominent citizens of the Homestead area attended the affair to offer tribute to the new monsignor.
The social life of St. John’s Cathedral also saw a dramatic resurgence under the leadership of its youthful pastor. Monsignor Michaylo founded a new organization for the men of the Parish called the St. John’s Cathedral Club. The new Cathedral Club conducted a number of activities to bolster the social life of the Parish. One of the more popular activities of the Cathedral Club included the sponsorship of weekly dances in the school gym, an event which attracted scores of young people not only from the Parish but also from neighboring churches. In addition, the St. John Cathedral Club, under the direction of Parishioner Mike Simko, added bingo games, a longtime fund-raising staple of American Catholic churches, to the myriad of activities conducted by the Club on behalf of the Parish.
In conjunction with the Parish’s Holy Name Society, Monsignor Michaylo organized picnics for the Parish. These picnics proved to be so popular that they became a greatly anticipated annual event. The annual Parish picnics were held at a grove located on Homestead-Duquesne Road which was owned and graciously made available to the Parish by neighboring St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church.
Monsignor Michaylo also was a natural athlete. Standing over six feet tall with striking blond hair and an athletic build, Monsignor was as comfortable pitching and hitting a ball as he was in performing his priestly duties. A frequent spectator at Pirate and Steeler games, it was only natural that Michaylo’s unabashed love of sports and athletic competition would become an integral part of Parish life. Monsignor Michaylo started and supported a number of basketball and softball teams for the Parish. These sports teams, whose exploits were extensively chronicled in the sports pages of the Homestead Messenger, attracted the enthusiastic support and participation of the youth of the Parish.
Perhaps Monsignor Michaylo’s most significant achievement in his tenure as pastor was the realization of one of the original covenants made by the Parish when it was designated by Bishop Takach as the cathedral church of the Greek Catholic Exarchate : the conversion of the Parish’s “Rusin School” into a daily parochial school taught by sisters from the Order of St. Basil the Great. Realizing the importance of sound religious instruction as part of the academic and social development of the children of the Parish, Michaylo again went door-to-door visiting the families of the Parish, impressing upon them the significance of providing a Catholic education for their children and urging them to transfer their children from the local public schools, which they had previously attended, to the new St. John’s Cathedral parochial school. Assisting Monsignor Michaylo in his efforts to recruit students for the contemplated Parish parochial school was a close priestly friend: Father John Pipik.
Monsignor Michaylo’s diligent and persistent efforts finally paid off with the opening of the new Parish parochial school in the fall of 1936. The first Basilian nuns assigned to teach at the new St. John’s Cathedral School were Sister Joseph, who served as the School’s first principal, Sister Lucia, Sister Helen and Sister Dorothea.
In 1938, the Parish obtained use of a three-story house located at 425 Eleventh Avenue in Munhall. This house, which originally acquired and used as a residence by Bishop Takach for short period of time after the Greek Catholic Union foreclosed on the mortgage on the Chancery complex in the aftermath of the Diocesan-wide upheaval over the imposition of priestly celibacy and disputes over lay control of parishes, was made available to the Basilian sisters teaching at the Cathedral School for permanent use as a convent.
Though it never would have a large enrollment like some of the other Catholic elementary schools in the district, the newly opened elementary school was destined to leave a lasting impact for generations to come. Under Monsignor Michaylo’s gentle guidance and through the hard work of its dedicated and selfless corps of teaching nuns, the children who attended the Parish elementary school not only received a fundamentally sound education to carry them to their life’s endeavors but also a love of God and Church which they would pass along with pride in subsequent generations.
In June 1937, the fledgling School had its inaugural graduation ceremony. The four students who made up the first graduation class of the new St. John’s Cathedral School were John Hilla, Irene Orris, Margaret Pcsolar and Helen Kosko.
As the enrollment expanded during the initial years of the school’s existence, new extracurricular activities were added to supplement the student body’s academic and religious instruction. Some of the new activities included a band and violin orchestra. Musical performances by these groups as well as the Cathedral School Choral Club, with Miss Laura Sudimack as featured soloist, were the highlight of many Parish activities and events including the Parish banquet honoring Father Michaylo on his elevation to the rank of monsignor.
In addition to being an epoch of restoration and renewal, the Michaylo years were marked by a number of important milestones in the life of the Parish. These milestones occurred within a context of transition and change in both the Homestead District and the Greek Catholic Exarchate of Pittsburgh.
On November 4, 1937, the Parish was saddened to learn of the death of its former pastor, Father Alexius Holosnyay. Father Holosnyay, whose thirty-five year pastorate would prove to be the longest of any priest at St. John’s, died while living in retirement at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Suba, in Freeland, Pennsylvania. Father Holosnyay was seventy years old at the time of his death.
In recognition of his status as the longtime pastor of the most prominent church in the Greek Catholic Exarchate, Father Holosnyay’s body was returned to Homestead on November 8, 1937 to lie in state in the church to which he had given so much loving care and devotion during his lifetime. On November 9, 1937, a Requiem Divine Liturgy and priestly funeral services for Father Holosnyay was conducted at the Cathedral church. Leading the services for Father Holosnyay was Bishop Basil Takach, Father Holosnyay’s longtime friend and strong supporter. Assisting Bishop Takach at the services were Father Michaylo, Father Holosnyay’s successor, and other church dignitaries.
Ironically, the news of Father Holosnyay’s death came while the Parish was in preparation for one of its happiest events in many a year - the celebration of the first Divine Liturgy by its first priestly vocation. Daniel P. Maczkov, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Maczkov of 409 Eleventh Avenue in Munhall, was the Parish’s first vocation to the priesthood. “Danny” Maczkov attended the Homestead public schools and graduated from Munhall High School in 1927. After attending college at St. Procopius College in Lisle, Illinois and pursuing theological studies and training at the diocesan seminary in Užhorod, Maczkov was ordained by Bishop Takach in his home parish on Sunday, October 31, 1937.
One week later, on November 7, 1937, the newly ordained Father Maczkov celebrated his first Divine Liturgy. In addition to his parents and family members, many local and visiting priests and hundreds of parishioners attended the solemn, but joyous, event. Following the liturgy, the parishioners honored Father Daniel with a reception in his honor in the School auditorium.
Father Daniel Maczkov would only prove to be the first of a number of vocations from St .John’s Cathedral during the Michaylo era. Other vocations from the Parish during this time period included: Father Alexander P. Maczkov, the brother of Father Daniel, who was ordained on ______________, Father John Kurty, who was ordained on May 24, 1942, Fathers George B. Petro and Michael A. Kushner, who were both ordained on July 23, 1944, Father Paul Vasko, who was ordained on May 8, 1945 and Irene Martin, who became Sister Mary Gertrude upon entering the Sisters of St. Basil in Uniontown on March 3, 1943.
By the mid-1930's, the dark and sinister forces of fascism were on the march in Europe and Africa. Simultaneously, the war machine of imperial Japan was brutally expanding its stranglehold on the Asian continent. As other nations moved inexorably into open, world-wide warfare, the United States Government, although officially neutral in the various conflicts throughout the globe, began to make measures to preparations for possible military action. One of these preparatory measures would change forever the Homestead area.
In August, 1940, the federal government established the Defense Plant Corporation (DPC). This new agency was charged with the responsibility of financing and directing industrial expansion for possible war production. Because the Homestead Works had been noted ever since the days of Andrew Carnegie for its production of armor plate vital for shipbuilding and armaments like tanks, the DPC targeted Homestead for the location of five new steel facilities: an open hearth facility with eleven furnaces (Open Hearth 5 or simply O.H. 5); a forty-five inch plate mill; a one hundred-sixty inch plate mill; a forging and heat treating shop; and a machine shop. The targeted location for these new steel-making facilities was a six blocks long and six blocks wide area of Homestead below the railroad tracks that ran through the town. This area was known as “the Ward.”
In June 1941, what had been rumored for months finally became official: the Ward, an area making up almost one-fourth of the Borough of Homestead, would be torn down to make room for an expansion of the Homestead steel mill. The expansion of the Homestead Works forced more than eight thousand people to relocate from the Borough. However, more than homes and small businesses like confectionaries, grocery stores and saloons fell victim to the government’s wrecking ball in the Ward. An entire way of life, a close-knit culture that had evolved over a period of fifty years among the various ethnic groups and races who lived in the Ward, was extinguished in a little more than six months.
Unlike other churches, St. John’s Cathedral had moved out of the Ward with the construction of the second church building on Dickson Street in 1903. Nevertheless, the demolition of the Ward still had significant, though indirect, repercussions on Parish life. Many of the Parish’s members lived in the Ward. Thus, they were forced to quickly find new homes in a number of different locales. Some moved up the hill and closer to the church proper in Homestead and Munhall. Still others relocated to new single family homes or to the “Projects” located along West Run Road in Munhall. And still others moved into areas like Mifflin Township (later renamed West Mifflin Borough in 1944) or the City of Pittsburgh. The destruction of the Ward thus had the effect of dispersing the population of the Parish from its old, reliable and compact geographic base.
The loss of the Ward to the mill expansion also resulted in the loss of a number of venues where parishioners went to socialize or celebrate in a non-church setting. Of particular note in this regard was the famed "Rusin Hall." The Rusin Hall was a favorite place for numerous social events -meetings, christenings and wedding receptions. Although it was taken by the government for the mill expansion, the Rusin Hall was the only building in the Ward that was not demolished. Instead, it was converted into an office building.
The sudden and deliberate attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by the naval and air forces of the Japanese Empire suddenly thrust America into war on a global scale. Young men throughout the land from all walks and stations in life stepped forward to take arms in defense of liberty. Many young men from St. John's Cathedral Parish responded to the call to defend their country in this time of crisis. Several from the Parish maded the ultimate sacrifice. They included: Nicholas Andrew Ondo, Joseph Geczi, James N. Olen, Joseph Pristas, Joseph Pavucsko, Eddie Yatzcko and Andrew Imro.
With victory achieved in World War II, the nation quickly sought to put the hardships and the sacrifices of the total war effort behind it and to return to the normalcy of every day, ordinary life. On a smaller scale, St. John's Cathedral reflected this transition to a more normal peacetime setting with a noticeable upswing in the fervor and pace of Parish life. The inaurgural Parish event of the post-War era was the celebration of Monsignor Michaylo's ten-year anniversary of his association and pastorate of the Parish.
On Sunday, October 28, 1945, Monsignor Michaylo began the commemoration of this special occasion by celebrating a Divine Liturgy of Thanksgiving. Father Alvin W. Forney, the Director of the Holy Name Society for the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese, preached the sermon at this special liturgy.
Later that evening, Monsignor Michaylo was the guest of honor at a testimonial dinner at the Webster Hall Hotel in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. In addition to the more than three hundred parishioners in attendance, the dasis for this testimonial dinner featured many prominent dignitaries. They included such notables as Bishop Takach, Judge Hugh C. Boyle, the nephew of Bishop Hugh Boyle of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese, Father Andrew Pauley, Bishop Boyle's Secretary, Congressman Sammy Weiss, Allegheny County District Attorney Russell Adams and Attorney Thomas Garrahan, the attorney who represented Bishop Takach in the long legal battle for control of the Parish. Joseph Durkota presented Monsignor Michaylo with a gift on behalf of the Parish. Joseph Sudimack, the National Treasurer of the Greek Catholic Union, served as toastmaster for the affair. Cathedral's Duchnovich Choir provided entertainment for the evening.
The immediate post-War years also featured a flurry of many different events and activities in the Parish. The Homestead Division of the Catholic Youth Organization celebrated "St. John's Night" at one of its regularly sponsored dances. In addition, St. John's School could always be counted on for some interesting and innovative programs and extracurricular activities. An example of one of the more interesting St. John's School programs was reported in an article in the June 18, 1947-edition of the Homestead Daily Messenger. This article is reprinted below in its entirety:
St. John’s Cathedral Presents Operetta
The children of St. John’s Cathedral School presented an operetta as part of the graduation exercises last Sunday. The following program was presented:
Kindergarten group singing Nursery Rhymes - Georgiann Kolesar, Peggy Cartwright, Phyllis Scoletti, Alberta Bich, Edith Koval, Arline Hobbins, Patricia Kupec, Georgiann Aurentz, Barbara Hrapchak, Annette Petro, Francis Havrilla, Bobby Doyle, Tommy Finn, Billy Radgowski. Charles Molanick, Joseph Speifel, Ernest Kociban, Dennis Bogda, Tommy Brown, Raymond Kubelak, John Hoblack, Harry Wargo, Donald Sabo.
Operetta Cast: Sunny: Mildred Wassil; Billie: Emily Fuga; Leila: Theresa Pazey; Reddy: Emil Havrilla; Amos: Edward Borsh; Heck: Ronald Moyta; Phil: Edward Slomka; Pauline: Georgetta Granite; Betty: Sandra Slish; Rosa: Charlotte Evans; Theodora: Irene Lazo; Leonora: Dorothy Puchy; Nan: Marlene Pavasko; Paul: Eugene Lucas; Horace: Nicholas Pertick; Howard: Michael Granite; Harriet: Mercedes Opsitos; Jimmy: Charles Stefko; Eileen: Irene Petro; Tim: Joseph Bache; Slim: Donald Duda; Antonio: Nicholas Perenyi; and Jane: Lois Hvozdovich.
Orphan Girls: Agnes Opsitos, Rose Marie Simko, Jean Yackovich, Joan Jacob, Josephine Kostelnik, Rita Bobik, Dolores Ducar, and Joanne Simko.
Orphan Boys: Donald Opsitos, James Kritko, Wayne Lucas, Edward Petro, Billie Vasko, Joseph Lesko, Thomas Hilla, Thomas Chvasta and Raymond Kupec.
Circus: Banner Carriers: Alberta Bich and Patricia Kupec; Giraffe: Leonard Stagon and Edward Hvozdovich; Lion: Stephen Dobos; Lion Trainer: John Bobik; Clowns: Joseph Bache, Thomas Hilla, Joseph Lazo and Clair Pazey; Dog Trainer: Ronald Moyta; Strongest Man: Thomas Chvasta; Elephants: Donald Duda, Robert Lucas; Rope Walker: Agnes Opsitos; Carry Rope: Donald Madzin and Edward Petro; Bear: Edward Slomka; Fortune Teller: Charlotte Evans; Bareback Rider: Emily Guga; Snake Charmer: Lois Hvozdovich; Balloon Man: Nicholas Perenyi; Juggler: Robert Buday; Wand Twisters: Andrew Pristas , Leonard Fechke and Gerald Opsitos; Roller Skater: John Bich; Majorette: Georgetta Granite; Circus Band: Billie Vasko, Kenneth Kifer, ronald Fisher, Bernard Martin, Daniel Magnes, Joseph Petrick, John Wargo , John Lesko and Ronald Lebedda.
Dances performed were:
“If We Are Gentle And Kind”- by Catherine Petro, Paula Simko, Janet Lee Kifer, Joan Gress, Elizabeth Bich, Susan Ragan, Mary Lou Wassil and Marilyn Lutheran; “The Daisy and the Rose”- by Ethel Kosko, Elaine Petrick, Jeanette Sugar, Dolores Volinski, Rose Mary Chvasta, Irene Onrufer, Helen Sabol and Annette Kifer; and “One Little Word”-by Dorothy Pavucsko, Barbara Lesko, Cornelia Bobik, Dolores Mihalchik, Virginia Pavucsko, Bernadine Pavik, Shirley Bugos and Leona Wasik.
The chorus members were: Helen Sabo, Dolores Mihalchik, Bernadine Pavlik, Albert Yackovich, Robert Simko, Shirley Bugos, Edward Slava, Richard Sudina, Mary Ann Laczko, Cornelia Bobik, Rita Slava, Marlene Simlo, Ann Louise Kosko, Leona Wasik, Dolores Ganzy, Emily Banchansky, Mary Bobik, Stephen Guzy, Dorothy Pavucsko, Martha Ducar, Jeanette Sugar, Florence Hritz, Ethel Kosco, Irene Oneufer, Barbara Lesko, Mary Ann Chilli, Mary Ann Lucas, Patricia Toth, Marlene Bugos, Barbara Cherep, Daniel Suchy, Ronald Lucas, Joseph Ducas, Stephen Lucas, Agnes Durkota and Virginia Pavucsko.
Sports, in particular, enjoyed a resurgence in the Parish during the immediate post-War period. The Parish supported a basketball team in the early 1950's known as the “St. John’s Usher Club.” The Usher Club, which played teams throughout the Pittsburgh area such as the Rankin Croatian Club, the Pittsburgh Anchors and the Dixon Street All-Stars. Playing its games at the School auditorium, the Usher Club featured a number of fine players including Bob Ondo, Jack Ondo, Tom Stagon, Joe Mihalic, Sr., Bernie Lesko, Len Ducar, Mike Boytim, Albert Lesko, Gene Boytim and Al Goga.
“Fast pitch” softball, however, was one of the most popular local sports in the post-War era. The Parish’s softball team was widely heralded for its excellent play and attracted large crowds whenever the team played its games at the “Projects” field of the Munhall-Homestead Housing Association.
The shining moment for the St. John’s softball team occurred in 1949. During that year, St. John’s Cathedral fielded a team which competed in the Homestead Area Catholic League. Other local parishes who had teams in this league included St. Mary Magdalene, St. Michael’s, St. Ann’s, St. Rita’s, St. Therese, St. Agnes and Resurrection. Lead by their manager, Joe Mihalic, Sr., the St. John’s team captured the top honors in the first half of the league with a mark of twelve wins and only two losses. St. John’s clinched the first half title by defeating St. Rita’s by a score of 4 to 1 at the Projects field. George “Coach” Janocsko lead the St. John’s team to victory by pitching a one hitter and striking out twenty-four batters.
The church league ended play in late September with St. John’s, the winner of the first half title, playing St. Therese, the winner of the second half title, in a best of three game series for the overall championship. Staging a five run rally in the eighth inning, St. John’s won the opening game by a score of 6 to 5. However, the next two games in the series ended in ties, 3-3 and 2-2 when both games were called due to darkness.
Finally, St. John’s prevailed in the unanticipated fourth game of the series by a score of 1 to 0. Playing before a large crowd at the Projects field, the nine-inning game was played in a record time of fifty-eight minutes with the only run scored due to a throwing error. The starting players for the champion St. John’s squad included: Joe Jacko, first base, Jim Borgan, second base, Mike Fitz, shortshop, Joe Penzelik, third base, Gene Boytim, left field, Mike Boytim, center field, Andy Plichta, right field, Ed Bucko, catcher and George Janocsko, pitcher. Other members of the squad included: Bernie Lesko, Albert Lesko, Joe Volkay, Andy Krak, Al Simko, Ed Urban and Ed Szerbin. Mr. Michael Kuzma helped coach the victorious St. John’s team and Paul Plichta, Ed Borsh and Joe Mihalic, Jr. served as the team’s batboys/mascots.
Finally, the post-War years witnessed a transition in the leadership of the Greek Catholic Exarchate of Pittsburgh. Bishop Basil 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 Michaylo as one of 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, the pastor of St. Mary's Greek Catholic Church in Cleveland, Ohio, as the new bishop. In announcing the appointment, the Holy See's official decree noted that Father Ivancho was being appointed to the status of "Coadjutor bishop," a bishop who is appointed to assist the diocesean bishop and who usually becomes the diocesean bishop'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.
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 St. Francis Hospital. He was sixty-nine. At the direction of his successor, Bishop Takach's body was returned to his Cathedral, the church for which he had fought so tenaciously to keep and preserve under his control, to lie in state. For the next three days, the Cathedral church was filled to capacity as mourners from near and far came to pay their final respects to the deceased bishop.
On May 17, 1948, the Cathedral church was the scene for the pontifical requiem liturgy for Bishop Takach. The bishop's funeral would be one of the most impressive ceremonies ever conducted at St. John's Cathedral. More than one thousand people jammed into the Cathedral for the funeral services. So many people attempted to gain entry into the church for the funeral that hundreds of men and women were forced to stand on Dickson Street and Tenth Avenues and listen to the services by way of a public address system set up on the outside of the church. From time to time, the people on the streets joined in the somber hymns sung inside the church.
The solemn funeral services began with a procession from the School to the church. Seven bishops, three abbots and one hundred-eighty priests lead the procession, followed by civic, fraternal and cultural leaders. Bishop Ivancho celebrated he pontifical requiem liturgy and priestly funeral services . He was assisted by the senior priests of the Pittsburgh Greek Catholic Exarchate, including Monsignor Michaylo.
As the Cathedral's large brass bells tolled signaling the end of the three hour long service, the assembled mourners, one by one, marched past the gleaming mahogany casket to pay final homage to Bishop Takach. Thereupon, the coffin, borne by priest pallbearers, was taken from the Cathedral through the hushed throng outside the church to a waiting hearse for transportation to Mount St. Macrina in Uniontown for burial.
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 St. John's Cathedral Parish.
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 scheme 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 grandiose projects, Bishop Ivancho was forced to make a choice: a seminary or a new cathedral. Despite the unanimous recommendation of his board of consultors, Bishop Ivancho instead opted for the construction of a seminary. By virtue of this decision, St. John's Parish retained, albeit narrowly, the designation as the cathedral of the Greek Catholic Exarchate of Pittsburgh.
Besides retaining its title as a cathedral church, Bishop Ivancho's decision to build a seminary would affect the Parish in two significant ways. First, to build the new seminary, the Exarchate obtained land on Perrysville Avenue on the City of Pittsburgh's Northside. Morever, this decision to acquire land on Pittsburgh's Northside plus Bishop Ivancho's selection of himself to serve as the first rector of the new seminary resulted in the relocation of the Chancery and bishop's residence from their original site across the street from the Cathedral church to Pittsburgh's Northside. Thus, the Parish lost the close, personal contact with the bishop that it previously enjoyed and perhaps had taken for granted for so many years.
Second, Bishop Ivancho's decision to start a new seminary resulted in the transfer of Monsignor George Michaylo from the Parish after a pastorate of more than nineteen years. With the construction of the new SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Bishop Ivancho decided to give Monsignor Michaylo additional duties. Beginning in 1952, Monsignor Michaylo was given the added assignment of serving as vice rector of the new seminary. Finally, in August 1954, the bishop decided to give Mchaylo complete responsibility for the seminary’s operation by relieving him of his pastorate at St. John’s and assigning him to be the full-time rector of the seminary.
On the evening of Sunday,August 30, 1954, a capacity crowd of parishioners, clergy, friends and well-wishers filled the School auditorium to bid farewell to the priest who had worked so hard and had done so much to restore St. John’s Cathedral Parish to spiritual and social health following the tumult of the Parish’s schism in the early 1930's. The farewell to Monsignor Michaylo was especially poignant because many who attended that evening observed the clear signs that Monsignor’s health was rapidly deteriorating. Unfortunately, the worst fears and concerns of those attending that farewell on that Sunday evening in August about the health of their beloved pastor were soon realized. On March 18, 1956, less than two years after his transfer from St.John’s Cathedral Parish, Monsignor Michaylo died at St. Francis Hospital. At the time of his premature death, Monsignor Michaylo was ten days short of his fifty first birthday.
Like his predecessor, Father Alexius Holosnyay, Monsignor Michaylo’s body was returned to the church of his one and only pastorate to lie in state. On March 22, 1956, the Parish tearfully bid farewell for the final time to their former pastor as the solemn funeral services for a priest were conducted at the Cathedral. Burial followed at Calvary Cemetery at Mount St. Macrina in Uniontown.
In retrospect, the pastorate of Monsignor George Michaylo stands as one of the most remarkable in the entire history of St. John’s Cathedral Parish. Taking over the administration of the Parish at its most impoverished, troubled and dispirited time, Monsignor Michaylo, slowly, patiently and lovingly, succeeded in binding up the Parish’s deep spiritual and material wounds and putting the Parish’s journey of faith back on course. Looking back at this era, Monsignor Michaylo’s tenure as pastor can be fondly and aptly characterized by these words from St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith!”