Parish History

In 1906, a group of Russian-speaking immigrants in the vicinity of Mount Carmel, PA identified the need for a place to worship Our Lord. A brotherhood, dedicated to St. Michael, was organized and filed Articles of Incorporation on August 21, 1907 as the Russian Greek Catholic Orthodox of St. Michael Archistrategos Aid Society of Mt. Carmel, PA. This organization contacted the Chancery in New York about building a house of worship. In 1907, with the blessing of the hierarchs, construction of St. Michael’s Church began as part of the Russian Greek Orthodox Church of North America. The deed for the land on which the church and rectory were constructed was purchased from George W. Bedall and was recorded on November 18, 1907. On April 23, 1908, the church was incorporated as a Non-Profit Corporation, the Russian Greek Orthodox Church of St. Michael of Mount Carmel, PA. The construction of the church was completed in 1908. Sometime after construction was completed, Tsar Nicholas II gifted the parish with a large ornate cross for the Sanctuary.

The parishioners wanted to have a place to bury the members, so, in 1909, the church purchased land on Merriam Mountain from the Reading Coal and Iron Company. This location has served as St. Michael’s Cemetery ever since.

Photo of cross marking Father Dedick's grave site.

Cross marking Father Dedick's grave site.

With assistance from local businessmen and reassurance from the community, St Michael’s began a sound basis by forming numerous organizations, including: a church school, Russian school, programs to help immigrants learn the English language, groups to support veterans, and several choirs that often performed at various locations, including Bucknell University.

In 1917, during the tenure of the Very Reverend Peter Karel, the financial situation became critical. However, under the spiritual guidance of its pastors and with free-will contributions from the faithful and the support of the hierarchy, the parish soon overcame its difficulties. Sometime after this financial recovery, the parish constructed a rectory adjacent to the church for the pastor. In 1922, the church interior was remodeled, with icons on the ceilings and walls, by the iconographer V Rozedelski. The icons were subsequently restored by a local iconographer, George McFee, prior to the 50th Anniversary celebration in 1958.

One of the longest serving pastors of St. Michael’s was the Very Reverend Andrew P. Dedick, who became pastor in 1938 and remained at St. Michael’s until he fell ill in 1967. During that time, Father Andrew and Matushka Anna became truly the “Father and Mother” of the parish and were endeared not only to the congregation but to those of other denominations in the community. They cared about the parish and the people and were driven to educate the parish in Orthodoxy. Several parishioners remember the rectory as a second home, where families spent evenings visiting with Father and Matushka. Under his influence, the church property received many renovations, including modifications of the domes to place three stainless steel crosses. In addition, vestments, vessels, and new icons were acquired. A large granite cross was erected at the parish cemetery, the location where Father and Matushka were laid to rest in honor of their work. Father Andrew Dedick was well known for his writings and prepared many articles for the local newspaper. He also prepared and issued educational pamphlets in both Russian and English languages. Many years ago he translated the Gospel lessons into modern English. His yearbooks were very informative and received recognition from many sources. He was honored for his literary work with a Certificate of Acknowledgement from the U.S.A. Congressional Library, Washington, D.C. Father Andrew is the only clergyman buried at St. Michael’s Orthodox Parish Cemetery located on Merriam Mountain. Matushka Anna Dedick is also buried next to her husband, located directly below the foot of the cemetery cross. The parish continues to maintain the landscaped area around their graves to show appreciation for their spiritual leadership while at St. Michael’s.

Very Reverend Claude Vinyard became pastor of St. Michael’s in 1967 and remained with the parish until 1979. During this time, Sunday schools for children were started under the guidance of Matushka Frances Vinyard. Matushka Frances also annually organized Christmas caroling for the children to visit those in nursing homes and hospitals to emphasize the importance of giving back to the community. In addition, there were annual Christmas plays and activities throughout the year that involved not only the children, but the entire parish. Father Vinyard started educational classes for the Orthodox middle school children at the same time their Roman Catholic classmates attended Catechism on Tuesdays. Many major projects were undertaken during Father Vinyard’s time at St. Michael’s. The old deteriorated church doors were replaced with wood carved doors in 1971 by E.C. Snyder Mills in Millersburg at a cost of $1,325. The heating system for the church and rectory was updated and converted from oil to natural gas and the church hall was completely renovated, removing the old stage and constructing a better functioning kitchen. The electrical system was also upgraded.

Church construction photo

Renovation of the domes in 1951.

In 1970, the Orthodox Church of America was formed under a Proclamation of Autocephaly and separated from the Patriarch of Moscow. During this time, St. Michael’s parish became a part of the Orthodox Church of America. Following the autocephaly, there was an emphasis by the parish to start conducting services in English. In the early 1970’s, Liturgy was provided in English every other Sunday, which eventually went to all English in the 1980’s. In addition, after many votes had been taken since 1970 to adopt the revised Julian calendar and celebrate the Nativity on December 25th versus January 7th, a motion to change finally passed in January of 1974.

In 1971, priests from St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Mt. Carmel began serving Sts. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in Centralia, PA. The final Divine Liturgy was celebrated by the Diocesan Bishop Herman on March 16, 1986. The church was closed due to the Centralia Mine Fire while Father Thomas Kulp was rector. All parishioners from Sts. Peter and Paul joined St. Michael’s and have remained with the parish. Several items from Sts. Peter and Paul were provided to Holy Cross Mission parish in Williamsport.

During the 1980’s, St. Michael’s had several pastors including: V. Reverend Joseph Martin (Dean of the Frackville Deanery), V. Reverend Michael Lepa, Reverend Samuel Garula, and Reverend Thomas Kulp. In 1980, a new altar and Table of Oblation were donated to St. Michael’s. These were consecrated during a service led by His Grace, the Right Reverend Bishop Herman. Clergy around the area participated in this celebration. Also, during this time, significant renovations were made to the rectory: eliminating the porch, adding a family room and downstairs bathroom, and expanding the rector’s office. New furniture was purchased for the rectory. In addition, outreach to a mission parish in Williamsport (Holy Cross) was provided thru donations and a low interest loan that St. Michael’s provided to assist with the construction of the church.

In 1988, the V. Reverend Michael Evans became pastor and served, along with Matushka Sonya Evans, until October, 2013. Their son, Michael, was one of the altar servers until he graduated high school. During this time, Father and Matushka Sonya assisted and coordinated many fundraisers in the parish. Unfortunately, it was during this time that we saw many of our beloved parishioners fall asleep in the Lord, and the youth move from the economically depressed Anthracite coal region. The parish slowly declined in membership, creating many challenges for a healthy church life and financial stability.

In July, 1988, a contract was awarded to Michael Kurtz and Son Construction to refinish the entire church. The following year, a contract was awarded to Rudolph N. Rohn Liturgical Designers to write 44 icons in soft Byzantine style. An icon of Saints Peter and Paul was also dedicated in honor of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Centralia. The blessing of the new icons took place on September 28, 1991. His Grace, the Right Reverend Bishop Herman presided, together with area clergy. Several smaller icons were later added by Chris Mathias, a parishioner, and Mark Sassani.

Shortly after the new icons were blessed, Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church in Mt. Carmel, a short block away from St. Michael’s, was destroyed by fire. St. Michael’s parish donated the old iconostasis icons to the parish to use in their temporary location. Their new church has since been dedicated.

Photo of donations to the community

Donations for the community

In 1994, St. Michael’s domes were repainted for the first time since they were modified in 1951, prior to the parish’s Golden Anniversary in 1958. In 2006, prior to the 100th Anniversary in 2008, the domes were painted again along with the entire exterior of the church.

On October 1, 2012, St. Michael’s amended the Articles of Incorporation, and, as of this date, became known at St. Michael’s Orthodox Church.

Following the retirement of Archpriest Michael Evans in October, 2013; visiting clergy were supplied by the Diocese. Much appreciated services were provided by Fathers Claude Vinyard, Daniel Ressetar, James Chuta, James Mason, David Mezynski, Adam Sexton, John Nightingale, and Nicholas Harris during this time. Special appreciation goes to Father Daniel Ressetar for his inspiration and compassion in visiting our sick, and to Father John Nightingale who brought us hope and kindness. Father Nightingale provided the majority of the services during this time period and serviced two Holy Weeks and Pascha. In addition, Father John would come early on Saturdays to do visitations to our elders and sick which brought them great comfort. In addition to the priests noted above, Deacons Gabriel Bilas and Theodore Gregory also served during this time period. We held our first Christmas caroling fellowship in December, 2013, which has become an annual event.

Around January, 2014 the parish hit a critical point, recognizing that meeting financial obligations had become challenging and the parish census was continuing to decrease. At the annual meeting the parish’s resolve to succeed became apparent. There was support to increase more community outreach and parish activities. We started food collections for the local food bank and began donating pierogies when extras were made. When the need arose for a new dough roller to continue our pierogie projects, $4,200 was raised within months.

On July 13, 2014, Father Theophan Mackey was assigned as temporary pastor of St. Michael’s to serve until the end of December, 2014. The parish welcomed Father Theophan, Matushka Kristi, and daughters Maya, and Kyra to St. Michael’s along with their new arrival in August, 2014, daughter Ally Photini. Father Theophan promoted the education of Orthodoxy and provided short sessions during fellowship each Sunday. He had a goal to have 50 attend services and was close a couple of times. He also did significant outreach into the community and provided monthly articles for the local newspaper. During this time, the parish took on a project to restore several stained glass windows, including the Resurrection panel in the Altar. The work cost $33,000 and was paid for through donations. Father Theophan coordinated the first St. Michael’s Day celebration which the parish had in decades. There was a beautiful Divine Liturgy celebrated by His Eminence Bishop Mark followed by a lunch and a day filled with guest speakers. The parish also refocused efforts on honoring past and current Veterans, as the parish did when Father Dedick was rector. The parish began an annual tradition of creating a banner recognizing all living and deceased veterans and offering a free Veterans Day breakfast to the community.

In June, 2015, Father John Edward, Matushka Suja, and children, Sam, Sneha, and Sophia arrived at St. Michael’s and remained with the parish until July, 2017. They brought love and warmth into the parish and showed a great deal of kindness and outreach toward everyone. They showed great interest in our traditions and worked hard to grow the parish. Father John organized a St. Michael’s Day event which included the Miracle Icon of St. Anna. This service attracted a number of visitors and provided for great community fellowship. During Father John’s time at St. Michael’s, several families joined the parish and a number of visitors joined us for services and fellowship. The parish also started hosting an annual community soup day in January. To help service our parishioners staying in Serenity Gardens Senior Living Center, Father John coordinated Saturday Vespers once per month which was opened up to all residents to attend. The Parish also began a number of other outreach efforts to all the residents at Serenity Gardens, including: baking Christmas cookies, sending cards at Christmas and Valentine’s Day, providing flowers at Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and treating the residents to a cookout in early fall each year. Father John also saw the importance of educating our faithful on Orthodoxy and once a month provided brief discussions following Liturgy. As a parish, we significantly increased our charitable work and donations to the community.

During this time, as part of our church family activities, Stanley Zbicki taught parishioners how to bake Pascha bread. Each year, the Parish provides at least one Pascha to each church family during Lent, baking over 40 loaves. The men of the Parish also initiated the practice of providing a Women’s Appreciation Breakfast, sometime around Mother’s Day, as a way of thanking the women for all their support and efforts throughout the year.

Also, during this time, major work was completed at the rectory: replacing many old windows, replacing the floor covering through the majority of the residence, painting the paneling, and replacing several appliances. There were also many projects completed in the church. The beautiful wood carved church doors needed restoration and the parish raised $5,000 in donations to have them restored. In addition, the large cross in the altar from the Tsar of Russia required restoration as the plaster and gold leaf started deteriorating. This work was also completed. For many years, the parish could only ring two of the three bells due to the poor condition of the support beams in the bell tower. In the spring of 2017, the support beams were also repaired, which again allowed us to call the faithful for Sunday services with all three bells.

Photo of donations to the community

Iconostas.

On July 5th, 2017 Father Ignatius Hunter and Matushka Seraphima were assigned to St. Michael’s. In December of 2017, their first child, Daniel James, arrived. The Parish was able to share this joyous occasion with Daniel’s Baptism and Chrismation. Within the time period that Father and Matushka have been with the parish, the number of Liturgical services have increased and more bible study and education classes are being offered. Father Ignatius, Matushka Seraphima, and Daniel diligently visit the sick and those unable to attend services, bringing much consolation and happiness. Father Ignatius implemented a practice of providing Vespers at Geisinger Medical Center once a month on a Thursday, and continuously looks for other opportunities to expand the Orthodox faith to our surrounding communities. He has also expanded the Parish’s presence at the local Food pantry by volunteering his time and efforts throughout the month.

St. Michael’s strives to be an active part of the community and have supported numerous charitable causes for many years, including the victims of a devastating fire which left many people homeless in Mount Carmel. The Parish currently provides assistance to the Mt. Carmel Food Bank, Manna for the Many, God’s Chuck Wagon, the Susquehanna Valley United Way, and Mt. Carmel Area School District School Supply Program. In addition, the Parish has often taken special collections for the needs of others. We recognize the importance of working together to support Christianity with other churches in the area.

At one time, St. Michael’s had 300 parishioners and currently has around 50 parishioners. While the parish is small, we are determined to grow and increase our activity in the community once again. We are driven to spread Orthodoxy and provide education to the faithful.

We strive to be an active part of the community and we have supported numerous charitable causes for many years, including the victims of a Union National Bank fire which left many people homeless. We currently provide assistance to the local food bank and other charities. Often we share tables and other items with surrounding churches, recognizing the importance of working together to support Christianity.

We pray that we will be able to continue our efforts to proclaim the Holy Gospel of Our Lord in our surrounding area in this and future generations.

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Founders of St. Michael's Parish

First Church Committee:

Justin Homiak, President
Michael Rusin, Treasurer
John Buranich, Secretary
Luke Worobel, Collector
Adam Leschinsky, Collector

First Church Trustees:

Michael Bodack
Alexi Hrabsky
Jacob Yavorsky
Stephen Fedock
Jacob Broda
Michael Onuscanage

Pastors of St. Michael's:

Rev. Basil Rubinsky1907 - 1908
Rev. Elias Klopotowsky1908
Rev. Jacob Korchinsky1908
Rev. Joseph Dankevich1908 - 1909
Rev. John Olshewsky1909 - 1911
Rev. Nicholas Belozoroff1911 - 1912
Rev. Alexei Bodziuk1912
Rev. Joseph Stephanko1912 - 1913
Rev. Dzwonchik1913 - 1914
Rev. Niciphor Samoseyko1914
Rev. Paul Chervinsky1914
Rev. Joseph Dzwonchik1914 - 1915
Rev. John Soroka1915 - 1917
Rev. Anthony Repella1917
Rev. Peter Karel1917 - 1922
Rev. Basil Fekula1922 - 1936
V. Rev Joseph Fedoronko1936 - 1938
V. Rev Andrew P. Dedick1938 - 1967
V. Rev Claude Vinyard1967 - 1979
V. Rev Joseph Martin (Dean)1980
V. Rev Michael Lepa1980
Rev. Samuel Garula1981 - 1984
Rev. Thomas Kulp1984 - 1988
V. Rev. Joseph Martin (Dean)1988
V. Rev. V. Rev. Michael H. Evans1988 - October 2013
Visiting ClergyNovember 2013 - July 2014
Rev. Theophan MackeyJuly 2014 - December 2014
Visiting ClergyJanuary 2015 - May 2015
Rev. John EdwardJune 2015 - June 2017
Rev. Ignatius HunterJuly 2017 - Present

Spiritual Sons of the Parish

Very Rev. John Kivko

Fr. John Kivko, was born and raised in Mt. Carmel where he attended local schools after which he graduated from Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA and Russian Orthodox Seminary, Tenafly, NJ. He married Lubov Tutsky and had one daughter, Dorothy. He was ordained in 1937 in New York City. He served as pastor of the Holy Ghost Russian Orthodox Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut for decades and also served as a dean and on many Orthodox related committees. In addition, he chaired the Orthodox Military Chaplains Committee and was a Trustee of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.

Very Rev. Dimitri Ressetar

Fr. Ressetar was born in Mt. Carmel. He was educated in local and parochial schools and was a graduate of Russian Orthodox Seminary, Tenafly, NJ. He married Margaret Tomcho. He served as choir director at St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Edwardsville and later at All Saints Church in Olyphant. He served as pastor of St. Mary's Russian Orthodox Church, Coaldale from 1948- 61. Before retiring in 1972, he was pastor of a church in Meriden, Connecticut. He is the father of the Very Reverend Daniel Ressetar and well -known choir director, John Ressetar. Father Dimitri fell asleep in the Lord in September, 1984.

Very Rev. John Rusyn

Fr. Rusyn was born, raised and educated in the local parish and public schools in Mt. Carmel. He was a graduate of Russian Orthodox Seminary, Tenafly, NJ.

Mitered Archpriest Nicholas Gobora

Fr. Gobora was from Danville and was raised in St. Michael’s parish in Mt. Carmel. He was an altar server in his youth. He graduated from Bloomsburg Teachers College, and St. Tikhon’s Theological Seminary. He served at many different parishes and continues to serve in the Ohio area. He was recognized for promoting help to parishes in need.

Mitered Archpriest John Sorochka

Sorochka was born and raised in Mt. Carmel. He was an altar server at St. Michael’s. He attended St. Tikhon’s Theological Seminary. He is the rector at St. John’s Orthodox Cathedral (a parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia), in Mayfield, PA.

Mitered Archpriest Roman Star

Fr. Star was raised in Ranshaw, PA and was a graduate of Coal Township High School in 1955. He served in the Army as a medical laboratory technician. Father Roman attended Franklin Institute of Arts and Science, Phil Wagner College, and Iona College before entering St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary for a six year tour of study to certify him as a missionary priest. Father Roman and Matushka Rose Marie have served at St. Innocent Orthodox Church (a Moscow Patriarchal Parish), in Redford, Michigan since 1983. The have a son Gregory and daughter Elizabeth.

Everyone else

The Parishioners

The one constant in St. Michael’s is the will of the parishioners to come together for worship, help each other, and help the community. There are volumes of individuals who gave selflessly of themselves for the church and instilled the importance of our church family. As part of the 50th Anniversary Book in 1958, John J. Horoschak wrote, “The organizers, many of whom have passed to their eternal reward, and the parishioners have always been a pride to their communities by becoming American citizens, owning properties and contributing to local and national endeavors. Education for their children was of paramount importance. The Russian Orthodox Parish of Mount Carmel, PA., can very well be proud of their contribution of citizens for the promotion of the welfare of mankind of all nationalities and faiths. May the future of the parish surpass the past to help bring our nation and our faith to greater heights.”

Parish Council

We are grateful for the individuals who have served our parish, provided leadership, and always did what was best for the parish. We are grateful for the first council, which was led by Justin Homiak, and for the long tenure of Stanley Zbicki who served as Parish Council President from the 1960’s thru 2011, with only a short break in service.

Thank you to all who have served and continue to serve!

St. Michael’s Choir

The first choir was organized in 1907. The Parish was blessed to have many outstanding directors and choir members throughout the years. The choir that performed at Bucknell University was led by Professor Peter Donskoy, who served the parish for many years. Sometime after World War II, John (Jack) J. Horoschak served as director, until his passing in 1968. During Jack’s tenure, the choir performed at many community events and was well-known in the area for its beautiful music. Jack began to introduce English translations into the services. Jack and his family were very faithful members and were integral to the success of St. Michael’s.

Upon John J. Horoschak’s passing, Peter Yastishak became primary choir director, with assistance from Walter Bulka and Mary Kandrot, when he was out of the area. Peter worked tirelessly to complete translations of music from Slavonic to English. He also created many service books for feast days, Holy Week, funerals, weddings, and Hierarchical services to simplify the services for the choir and enable the choir to always be prepared to provide any of the services when needed.

Just before Father Evans’ retirement in 2013, Peter became ill and could no longer direct the choir. Sandy Tosca assumed the role to keep the choir together and continued until 2016. For a short period of time, John and Becky Hawranick joined the parish and directed the choir from 2016 to 2017. Shortly after Matushka Seraphima’s arrival, she assumed the role as choir director, with Larissa Holowaty serving as back-up.