|History of Saint John's Cathedral|
"Go forth therefore and make all nations my disciples; baptize men everywhere in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. And be assured, I am with you always, to the end of time." (Mat thew 28:19-20) Our risen Lord commanded the apostles to spread the good news to all nations. Missionary activity in the early church spread rapidly, with centers of Christianity rising in Antioch and Alexandria, in Jerusalem, Rome and Constantinople.
From these centers emerged new currents of missionary activity, proclaiming the word of God to nations east and west, north and south. From Asia Minor the missionary brothers Cyril and Methodius set out to the Slavic lands with the belief and worship of the Christian East. A liturgical language, Old Slavonic, was adopted to assist then in converting the Slavs. Parishes were established, dioceses were formed, educational institutions were created and the faith life grew.
The economic plight of many Eastern Euro peans, among them the Carpatho-Ruthenians, was severe by the late 19th century. Thousands upon thousands emigrated to the United States, seeking freedom and opportunity. Their posses sions were few, but their faith was great. They settled in the industrial regions of the northeast, working in mines and mills and factories. Where they settled, they began to establish parishes and lodges, and where these were established, more people settled.
In 1896 about 75 Byzantine Catholic families in the Homestead-Munhall community began to organize a parish. They met in the home of George Ihnat, a grocer, and presented their hopes and aspirations to Rev. A. Jackovich of Duquesne, Pennsylvania. From this initial meeting a decision was made to construct the first church on Third Avenue in Homestead, under the patronage of St. John the Baptist.
On June 28, 1896 the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated at St. John's by Rev. Irineus Matyacko in the National Hall. On September 17 of the same year work was begun on the first church, which was completed at a total cost of $6,400. Rev. Nicholas Sheregely succeeded Father Matyacko on October 23, 1897, and the parish population continued to grow.
With the coming of Rev. Alexius Holosnay on March 25, 1900, the parish of St. John began to grow rapidly. Father Holosnay served St. John's for 35 years, the longest of any pastor, and the community learned to love and respect him as their spiritual leader. During his pastorate the first church became too small for the rapidly growing congregation. It was decided in September, 1902 to build a new and larger church, one that was to bear a striking resemblance to the Uzhorod (Carpatho- Ruthenia) Cathedral.
Construction began on April 1, 1903 and the solemn blessing took place December 27, 1903. Nearly every Greek Catholic priest of Western Pennsylvania and many Roman Catholic clergy were in attendance. Greek Catholic Union lodges from Braddock, Du quesne, Homestead and Rankin were well represented at the ceremony. Congratulatory letters were read from the Greek Catholic bishops of Munkach and Preshov in Carpatho- Ruthenia.
Under Father Holosnay's pastoral care, the parish grew to 700 families. When Bishop Basil Takach was appointed the first bishop of the newly created Greek Catholic Exarchate in America, he chose St. John's to be his Cathedral Church.
The Cathedral parish witnessed a very uncertain period in the early 30s when economic and spiritual depression prevailed. Notwithstanding the burdens of the times, the parish community regrouped itself with a new vigor. The leader ship responsibilities of this spiritual rebuilding fell upon the shoulders of the Very Rev. George Michaylo who was appointed by Bishop Takach as Cathedral Rector on August 4, 1936.
Father Michaylo, later named Monsignor, directed his energies to young and old, to every member of the Cathedral parish. In the fall of 1936 St. John's Cathedral School opened for the first time. Parish organizations were formed and social activity began to flourish. Msgr. Michaylo, after 18 years, left St. John's Cathedral to become rector of the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius.
Msgr. Nicholas T. Elko was the next rector, ar riving in 1954. He was followed by Rev. George Bonchonsky who served until 1956 when Rev. John Pipik was assigned to St. John's. Father Pipik began remodeling the Cathedral, a task completed by his successor, Msgr. John Gernat, who came to St. John's November 1, 1959 andserved until September 26, 1963.
Msgr. John Bilock succeeded Msgr. Gernat, continuing the spiritual leadership of his predecessors, and implementing directives of the Second Vatican Council. During his pastorate a radio boradcast Liturgy was instituted primarily for the benefit of elderly and confined faithful. The Cathedral church hall was renovated to its present lounge, ushers' room and meeting rooms, and a general refurbishing of all church properties and buildings took place.
To serve the complete religious educational needs of the Cathedral parish, Sunday catechetical classes were instituted. A youth group was formed for high school students, and the CAthedral MEn's Organization was organ ized under Msgr. Bilock's leadership. On March 8, 1973 Msgr. John Bilock was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh by His Holiness Pope Paul VI.
Msgr. Judson M. Procyk, the present rector, came to St. John's in July, I973, after serving as rector of the Byzantine Catholic Seminary. As spiritual leader of St. John's, Msgr. Procyk joins with the faithful in thanksgiving to God for the many, many gifts He has bestowed upon His people. Today, St. John's Cathedral is an active community of Christians, united in one faith, worshipping God in the Byzantine Catholic tradi tion.
Today, St. John's Cathedral is a center of activity, first of worship, then of educational and social programs. There are organizations and activities for young parishioners as well as the elderly.
And there are programs that bring the young, the old, and parishioners of all ages together under a common cause. Today, St. John's Cathedral is a church of people, the people of God together with their God, on the journey to the Kingdom.
St. John's Cathedral Center marks the first major construction in the parish in nearly 50 years. Only through the generosity of the Cathedral faithful, and only with long, long hours of voluntary work is this new Center possible. The Cathedral Center Dedication signals the beginning of the newest chapter in St. John's history. With prayers of appreciation and with trust in God's guidance of the Cathedral's future, we offer this day in thanksgiving to all who in the past 86 years have built St. John's Cathedral into the Body of Christ.