Source: Holy Trinity Centennial Book 2001
Faith Builds A Parish
The terrain of Pennsylvania and the area surrounding Pittsburgh is very similar to the contours of Eastern Europe. Not only at the surface, but also the treasures buried below these regions were similar at the turn of the century. In both places, the hills were being mined for their mineral treasures. Coal and iron were nature’s contribution to the industrial growth, which required vast plants, railroads, great quantities of steel, and, most of all – people – skilled manpower. It is not surprising then that the Slovaks, the Czechs, the Poles, the Ukrainians, and the White Russians who migrated to the United States in the latter part of the 1800’s and the early part of the 1900’s, found the valley of the Monongahela River a familiar sight and a place of great opportunity.
The immigrants brought more than their native strengths, talent, and ruggedness to this country. They brought their skills, their language, their culture, but, most of all, they brought their faith. Some Slovaks had already settled in Duquesne before 1900. Since there was no Slovak Catholic congregation established in Duquesne, the people went to various Slovak churches along the valley in Braddock, Homestead, and McKeesport. The story of Holy Trinity Parish is the story of these pioneer Slovak people of the Monongahela Valley. The achievement, which the parish proudly celebrated in the dedication of a new and beautiful church, is really a continuation of the achievement of the first Slovak settlers in Duquesne. To recall those days past is to inspire a rededication of the people today. We deeply honor our past, which in turn gives us greater hope for the future.
About 1901, a group of our people, under the leadership of Mr. Minarchik, Mr. Pirhalla, Mr. Turocy, Mr. Obelander, and Mr. Suhar, with the help of Reverend Adalbert Kazincy from St. Michael’s Slovak Catholic Church in Braddock, Pennsylvania, began the first plans for a Slovak Catholic Church in Duquesne.
The first meeting was held at the Suhars’ home on South Second Street, Duquesne. Present at this meeting were forty-six people. Father Kazincy had the first Mass at the Suhars’ and supplied all the altar linens, and necessary things for the Mass. His altar boy was John Turlik. Father Kazincy heard confessions the evening before and distributed Holy Communion at the morning Mass the next day. The only means of travel at that time was the streetcar. Father Kazincy had to curtail his evening stays so that he could get the last streetcar out of Duquesne at 8:00 pm.
A delegation was appointed to petition the Bishop, Regis Canevin, for permission to begin building a church. Some suggested names were St. Elizabeth, and Holy Trinity Church. Holy Trinity was selected. The first frame church was built in 1901 and additions were added on as the congregation grew. The first pastor was Reverend Nicholas Hodobay. Father Hodobay lived with the Suhars since there was no rectory. In 1902, a home on South First Street, owned by the Reed family, was purchased as a rectory. Father Hodobay moved in after alterations and remodeling work done by Louis Obelander, a church member, and other men of the parish was completed. Father Hodobay remained pastor until 1904.
Reverend John Uhlyarik became pastor of Holy Trinity in 1904. It was he who began plans to build a brick church. Father Uhlyarik was transferred to another church in 1906. He was succeeded by Reverend Anthony Vrana, who retained the new brick church after many complications had arisen to threaten the congregation’s ownership of it.
Under Father Vrana’s leadership, the old church building was converted into a grade school for the education of our children. Father Vrana obtained the Sisters of the Incarnate Word from Victoria, Texas, to staff our school. He also brought the Keenan home, which was adjacent to the rectory for the nuns’ convent in 1906. Thus, our school, church, rectory, and convent were all situated on South First Street for the religious training of our people. Father Vrana also installed the Stations of the Cross, which came from France. He served in this pastorate until 1911.
From War to War
Reverend Anton Gracik became pastor in 1911, and remained until 1914. It was a period of uncertainty. The coming World War was sensed though not as yet declared. Nothing noteworthy happened during this time. The parish remained in great debt. A pall lay over the land. Before the inevitable explosion occurred, a new pastor – who was to serve the parish during two World Wars – was appointed. He was Reverend John Kerchnyak. The time was 1914. He inherited a debt of $35,000.00 on the church and parish buildings. Under his guidance, all debts were paid and he was the builder of the congregation. In 1924-25 he built a modern brick school with nine classrooms for our schoolchildren, on the corner of Third and Whitfield Streets, three blocks away from the church. In 1926, he built a brick convent adjacent to the school. The first Eighth Grade Graduating Class was in 1927. From there our Holy Trinity School children went out with honors to bring prestige to our parish.
Under Father Kerchnyak’s guidance and supervision the congregation flourished, paid off all of its debts and had a reserve fund for any emergency. During the flu epidemic of 1918, Father Kerchnyak bought 16 acres of land, which we use as our Parish Cemetery.
Under Father Kerchnyak’s guidance the church was remodeled and repaired several times. A Twenty-fifth Anniversary Jubilee for Father Kerchnyak was held at the Parish School in 1924 upon completion of the school and convent. It was a gala affair with the two auditoriums filled with the joyous parishioners and intimate clergy friends of our pastor.
Following World War I, the nation enjoyed a full decade of prosperity and industrial growth with the increasing need for coal and steel and transportation.
The stream of prosperity of the nation seemed to flow directly down the Monongahela River with Homestead, Munhall, Duquesne, and McKeesport contributing the steel to support the national growth. With the market crash of October 1929, however, the nation was hurled to the very brink of economic disaster and the stream of prosperity dwindled to a trickle and then dried up. Holy Trinity played a central role in maintaining the community life during those dark years when no other help was available. The parish helped to feed the needy children in our school. Father Kerchnyak kept a watchful eye for the welfare of his congregation. He used his own money to help the poverty-stricken and to feed the children of his parish. The people responded with mutual helpfulness to each other and with a constant and determined faith. With the gradual recovery of the 1930’s, men were here and there finding work, and mills one by one began lighting up the night sky with hope. The economic life of the valley was gradually enkindled anew. Father Kerchnyak had helped his people through its worst trial, that of poverty and want.
Undoubtedly Father Kerchnyak’s courage and leadership during such times as these inspired many of the vocations, which the parish has nurtured. Three young men – Reverend Albert H. Turlick, 1933, Reverend Michael E. Bodnar, 1946, Reverend Michael J. Adams, 1946 – were ordained to the priesthood in his pastorate.
Many daughters of the parish joined the religious order. Sister M. Jasek, Sister M. Bunda Anthony, Sister M. Olesik, Sister M. Grego, Sister M. Alzo, Sister M. Ribar, Sister M. Dobrancin, Sister M. Kovac, Sister M. Maguschak. The above were Incarnate Word Sisters of Victoria, Texas. Incarnate Word Sisters of Cleveland, Ohio: Sister M. Nenczib Ambrose. Vincentian Sisters of Charity, Perrysville, PA: Sister M. Soltis Maureen, Sister M. Balint Adrian, Sister M. Benedik Mildred, Sister M. Kracinovsky, Sister M. Benedik Rose of Lima, Sister M. Lisi, Sister M. Tirpak, Sister M. Fedor, Sister M. Moran. Franciscan Sisters, Bellevue, Pa.: Sister M. Palyo.
The Sisters and Holy Trinity School
The Incarnate Word Sisters taught in our school from 1906 until 1940, when they found it too hard to travel back and forth from Texas to Duquesne. In 1940, Father Kerchnyak asked the Vincentian Sister of Charity to come and teach at the school.
It was at this time also that the old convent and rectory were torn down and a new brick rectory built in their place.
Mobilization and defense-work found the older men busy in the plants and mills trying to catch up with the military machinery of the axis countries – Germany and Italy. It found the young men of the parish donning uniforms and taking up weapons in all parts of the world in defense of their home and the way of life their ancestors had embraced in coming to America. These were sad years for many parents. Their sadness was keenly felt by Father Kerchnyak as he watched the blue service flags – hung in the windows of the homes of parishioners – turn to gold. It was a happy day when the war was over and all of the service flags could be removed. In the years following the war, the young men who returned brought new life and new enthusiasm to their church, which helped it to prosper.
In 1949, the parishioners wanted to celebrate the fiftieth Jubilee of Father Kerchnyak’s ordination to the priesthood, but he frowned on the idea and the plans were dropped. In 1955, it was time to celebrate our church’s fiftieth Jubilee but all parish celebrations were discontinued in respectful mourning at the passing of Father Kerchnyak who died after a long illness. This remarkable pastor had completed forty-one years of service at our parish.
Reverend Michael J. Faidel became our pastor in June, 1955. Under his leadership the church was again remodeled and repainted. The two church spires were taken down, as they were considered unsafe. A new roof was also installed on the church, rectory, school, and convent. The school, too, was improved with other repairs, and much remodeling. Father Faidel became ill in the Fall of 1955. His lingering health problems forced repeated stays in the hospital for the next seven years. He died in February of 1962.
Reverend Michael Dravecky became our pastor in 1962. During his stay, he built a new garage and made repairs to the school. In 1962, another son of the parish, Reverend Cyril M. Repko, was ordained. In 1963, Father Dravecky was appointed to the pastorate of Holy Trinity Church in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.
The fortunes of the parish have always fluctuated with the fortunes of the area and the nation. Prosperity, wars, depressions, and recovery – all these have had a significant effect on Holy Trinity Parish and parishioners. The momentous happenings of the 1960’s have also left their mark. The tragic assassinations of the national leaders have brought sadness. The industrial growth of the nation has brought prosperity, social unrest has brought concern, but in all these vicissitudes, the vagaries, the faith of the people has been maintained in the same strength and courage as that of the founders of the parish.
A New Church
There were in the 1960’s also the changes in the church that were, and are, reflected in the life of the parish. The changes in the church, the death of Pope Pius XII, the papacy of Pope John XXIII, the momentous Vatican Council II – all of these were to have an effect in the renewal of the church throughout the world and specifically in the parish of Holy Trinity. The 1960’s marked a spirit of renewal throughout the church. It was at the very inception of the Second Vatican Council that Reverend George T. Margo was appointed the pastor of Holy Trinity Parish. Under his leadership, modern innovations had been added to the school. Among these was a library for the use of the parish children. It became apparent, however, that simply remodeling and repainting were not sufficient for the maintenance of the old church building. The renewal of the parish, the renewal of its life, demanded better and more substantial accommodations especially for the worship of the community. Under Father Margo’s leadership, a plan for building a new church was carefully laid out.
The architect for the new church was Joseph J. Balobeck and Associates of Pittsburgh. The General Contractors of Pittsburgh were awarded the building contract. The stained-glass windows and Stations of the Cross were designed and painted by Milcho Silianoff Studio of Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
It was fortunate that a new church had not been attempted before the Vatican Council, because of the liturgical renewal, and the recommendations of Vatican II, were physically incorporated in the design of the new church.
The ground-breaking ceremony for the new building was celebrated on Palm Sunday, April 7. 1968. The actual work was begun on May 7, 1968. In a very real sense, the church is a monument to the people who founded Holy Trinity back at the turn of the century. It is, however, even more a symbol of the dedication of its present members and their hope and gift to the future. The church is completely modern, and fully in keeping with the liturgical renewal of Vatican II. The sanctuary is the focal point of all the architectural lines of the church as the aisles and the pews fan out from the altar where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is renewed, and in which the parishioners participate.
The open sanctuary is an invitation to a more intimate participation in the liturgical rites, and the arrangement not only puts the congregation in proximity to the Main Altar, but in a manner with a feeling of a community among the participants. The triangular Baldacchinum above the Altar of Sacrifice is a reminder not only of Christ is dead, Christ is risen, as He said, but a symbol of the Holy Trinity to whom all members of the congregation are especially dedicated. The brilliant colored Stations of the Cross are vivid reminders of the cost of man’s redemption. They are painted with polymer emulsion, acrylic paints and gold leaf on birchwood. They are done in a style that is in keeping with the patterns of the beautiful stained glass. The description of the stained glass can best be offered in the words of the artist, Milcho Silianoff, in a message to Father Margo:
“The windows were designed to reflect my belief that the Holy Spirit is as vitally relevant in our materialistic age as on the day of Pentecost. This for me is a basic tenet in what we do at our studio.
“They were created to echo the architectural lines and forms, and they are predominantly blue in coloration to effect a harmony through contrast with the warm colors of the interior.
“Although the cool blues monopolize, the entire spectrum has been used throughout the stained-glass work.
“The openings for the glass have been positioned in such a way as to create an encirclement of color and symbols, hopefully to produce a feeling of “togetherness” among the worshippers. The glass used was imported from Western Germany, France, Austria, and England, and of course, the best American glass. Some of it was colored with pure gold, and most of it is blown antique, the same type used in the great cathedrals of the medieval period throughout Western Europe.
“All of the panels have been hand-crafted.
“The basic theme of the baptistery window is the evolvement of the Holy Trinity out of the darker areas, including the black accents – symbolizing man’s emergence from the pit of darkness to the light of the Holy Trinity by way of the Baptismal ritual. The Holy Trinity is depicted by the form of the traditional trefoil or three interlaced circles and transmits the most light, again relating to the lighted path the Christian has if he lives in the center of God’s will.
“The clerestory and sanctuary glass acts as a kind of visual chorale art in which symbols emerge at certain intervals. Cross forms are interwoven throughout the field of glass.
“The meaning of the emblems are A. The Book — The Faith; B. The Chalice — Represents the cup used at the Last Supper; C. Cross and Crown — The sovereignty of Christ the Lord and King; D. Anchor — The hope of the Christian and also Christ, the anchor of the soul; E. Alpha and Omega — The first and last letters of the Greek Alphabet symbolizing the everlasting nature of his Divinity; F. Chi-Rho — A Christogram – The abbreviation of Christos from the Greek; G. The Candle – Symbolic of Jesus as the light of the world; H. Lamb with banner – The triumphal Lamb of God; I. IHS – The first three letters of “Jesus” in Greek; J. Crown of Thorns – The suffering Saviour; K. Rose – Christ was called the rose of sharon; L. Love – The inner core of Christliness. In the stairwell windows are the messianic rose, symbolizing the promise of the coming Saviour, and the lilies symbolizing the purity of the Virgin Mary.”
The cornerstone-blessing-and-laying ceremony for this beautiful church was held on August 24, 1969. The greatest day for the priests, sisters, and laity of Holy Trinity Parish came on the day of dedication April 25, 1970, when the Most Reverend Vincent M. Leonard, D.D., Bishop of Pittsburgh, witnessed the achievement of the parishioners of this community, and dedicated their building to the worship of the Holy Trinity.
Father George T. Margo continued to zealously serve the parish until his death in February, 1990.
Father Edwin Kaczmarek followed as pastor until his death in 1992, at which time Father James Somma was appointed administrator. Father Somma successfully guided the parish through the Diocesan Reorganization Evaluation that saved the parish, and allowed it to continue as a separate entity.
The present pastor, Father Edward Bunchek, was appointed on February 5, 1994. During his tenure, Father Bunchek has expanded the cemetery, added features in the cemetery, conducted Bible studies, and has held various Slovak activities at the parish. He hopes to continue ministering to the Spiritual needs of the parishioners as they enter into their second hundred years.
Our present community is witness to the faith and courage of the generations that have passed this way before, so they too have constructed a witness to the faith that shall endure for generations to come.
“I have built a house to His name that He might dwell there forever.”