The First Churches

The earliest Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants settled initially in northeastern Pennsylvania and took jobs as miners in the anthracite coal fields of the region. The émigrés, however, soon began to realize that what had identified, preserved and sustained them in the “Old Country” and in the long journey to America was painfully missing in their strange, new and difficult surroundings. They had no spiritual home, no place of worship that they could call their own, and no church where they could practice their distinctive Greek Catholic faith. Thus, they began to organize parishes, build churches and petition for priests to be sent from Europe.

In 1884, the Reverend Father Ivan Voljanskyj, a priest from the Eparchy of L’viv in Galicia, answered the call to minister to the newly arrived faithful in the United States. In the same year, he organized the first Greek Catholic parish in the United States in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Within a short period of time, his pastoral work led to the establishment of additional parishes in Pennsylvania: Freeland (1886),  Hazleton (1887), Kingston (1888), Wilkes-Barre (1888), Olyphant (1888); and in Jersey City, New Jersey (1889), Minneapolis, Minnesota (1889), Whiting, Indiana (1889) and Passaic, New Jersey (1890). By 1894, with the arrival of additional clergy primarily from the Prešov and Mukachevo Eparchies, there were 30 Greek Catholic parishes serving more than 100,000 faithful.
In time, more and more Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants would arrive in America. Steadily, they would move ever westward to Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio for employment in the region’s steel mills and coal mines. This movement led to the establishment of new parishes in Pennsylvania: Duquesne (1890), Leisenring (1892), Punxsutawney (1893), Trauger (now Latrobe, 1894), Johnstown (1895), Braddock (1896), Munhall (1897), Barnesboro (now Northern Cambria, 1898), Charleroi (1899), Pittsburgh-South Side (1900), Windber (1900), and in Ohio: Cleveland (1893), Marblehead (1897), Pleasant City (1898), and Youngstown (1900).