HISTORY OF ST. NICHOLAS SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF STEELTON, PA (1903-1978)
By: SAMUEL BOJANIC
Today our Church Congregation will culminate 75 years of its existence and the occasion marks another historical day in our spiritual family life made possible by the great sacrifices of our early settlers and pioneers. An attempt is being made to consolidate pertinent data in this history to preclude the necessity to refer to previous published facts and data and excerpts from the official documents available in the church archives. The task of compiling this history involves research of records written in the Cyrillic, Croatian, and English alphabets from some very legible accounts while others are difficult to translate due to the handwriting or the impact of time upon the ink and pencil minutes. It may be evident that some previous historical data will be refuted only because there are new sources which are available to correct or supplement the histories published in the past. However, if you have any available material to assist in updating the archives of your church, please make them available to the church for which we will be eternally grateful. We are indebted to the committees and individuals who prepared historical data for our previous anniversary celebrations and fully appreciate the many hours expended in their research.
The year 1969, marked the 750th Anniversary of the Serbian Orthodox Church, “founded” in 1219. For it was at that time, the most significant event in our church history occurred – the independence of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Largely through the creative spirit and inspired efforts of Saint Sava was independence achieved for the church and its people during that tumultuous age in the politically and socially troubled Balkan provinces. To commemorate “The Serbian Orthodox Church through 750 Years (1219-1969),” our Eastern American and Canadian Diocese prepared an elaborate souvenir booklet with a comprehensive article “Immigration of the Serbs in America” written by the late Dr Milan G. Popovich, Archpriest. The treatise is most informative and points out the trials, tribulations and successes of our church on this continent. In addition to the booklet, commemorative stamps and beautifully decorated souvenir plates were sold and many of you purchased them.
During the long centuries that separate us from that time, many periods in the Serbian national and church history have taken place. Not the least of these changes was the transplanting of the Serbian Orthodox faith to North America. And here is where our own chapter in the church history begins—the story of the St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church of Steelton, Pennsylvania.
The St. Nicholas Church was founded in 1902, and bears a rare historical distinction of being one of the three oldest Serbian churches in the United States, along with the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church of Jackson, California (1893), and the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church of McKeesport, PA (1900). An example of contradicting historical data is found in the recordings of our early churches as some sources state that at the time our church was organized there were three other churches: Jackson, California; McKeesport, PA; and Juneau, Alaska. Another source records Jackson, McKeesport and Galveston, Texas. The latter was established originally as a mission by the Russian Orthodox Church and served our Serbian people of Galveston. Along with the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church of McKeesport, PA, the Steelton church played a prominent role in the development of Serbian religious, cultural and social life in America at the turn of the century.
The Pennsylvania Serbs were instrumental in organizing the first fraternal lodges which were named after their patron saints. The first federation of lodges was the Serbian Orthodox Federation “Srbobran.” Later the additional groups were united into the present Serb National Federation. The lodges and churches were almost synonymous, just like Serbianism and Orthodoxy in the Old County.
This is one of many examples of a recurrent sociological phenomenon characteristic of the pioneer Serbian-American: the Serbian national character (i.e., the customs, traditions brought over from the Old Country) and the Eastern Orthodox religious practices and faith were so intertwined, that even the Serbians became Americanized, the Serbian Orthodox “way of life” lived on in the new World and enriched the American culture. In this manner, the religious spirit and ideals of Saint Sava and our church forefathers were transmitted down through the centuries as a legacy to our people.
There is no way of knowing who the first Serbian settlers were or when they came to Central Pennsylvania. An approximate date of their arrival is associated with a certain season, holy day, some family happening, or a historical event which took place at that particular time. Peter Kosovan settled in Steelton in 1892; Marko Radanovich came at the age of seventeen in 1897; and Djuro Dragavich about the time of the Spanish-American War of 1898. The turn of the century has generally been accepted as the date of the Serbian Group immigration, a result of the American Industrial Revolution. “Immigration which began as a trickle gradually swelled into a tide.”
In those days the Serbian community of Steelton, often referred to as the Serbian colony, served as a receiving station of sorts where the new arrivals from the Old Country would come and, at a later date, move on to other parts of the United States. We cannot help but wonder what those first Serbians were like. What made them leave their Motherland and loved ones behind and cross the Atlantic to arrive on the shores of a strange land with an unknown language and way of life? Records show that the first immigrants were unversed in English and thought of themselves as temporary residents. They were mostly teenagers or young people in their early twenties who had mortgaged their family property in the Old Country in order to come to America. Our Parish Chronicles (Letopis) states that there were 500 or more Serbian people at that time living in the proximity of our church. There were those who came to seek their fortune, to improve their material wealth. In order to build and maintain the church demanded a great deal of self-sacrifice and continuous effort on the part of each individual, family and each organization within the parish. The church was not only a place of worship, but also a strong unifying factor which affected the religious, family and social life. And of course, there were those refugees who sought political and religious freedom, like Stevo Koncar and Archpriest Dushan S. Trbuhovich, who had been falsely accused and imprisoned for high treason by the Austrian government in Zagreb in 1909. Due to the absence of official documents in the early years, nothing more is known about the identity of the pioneers.
In those days the St. Nicholas Church was the only Serbian church east of McKeesport and was patronized by the people residing in the entire area. These included Orthodox worshippers of Greek, Macedonian, Romanian and Russian extraction. During the presidency of the late Eli Klipa there was an occasion whereupon a band of Orthodox gypsies who had set up camp on the outskirts of Middletown approached him to have one of their infants baptized. Permission was granted and Eli as “kum” was presented with a gift of hand-made copper. With several parishioners, including this writer, we attended the christening party amid tents and campfires. There were several identical instances prior to this one of which no record was made.
A more detailed account of the names, events and dates that formed the pattern of Serbian church life in Steelton can be found among the records gather together in the Church Archives. The Records of Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths (Protokol or Matice) date back to 1906. Fortunately the Minute Books also commencing for the year 1906 through 1973 are available with the exception of 1914 and 1915. The minute books are still missing for the years 1902 through November 1905. The oldest minutes in our possession are dated November 5, 1905, and contain the minutes of a church assembly convened by Rev. Sava Vojvodich to discuss church matters and to select a church committee. The elected board consisted of Voja Jovanovich, President; Jandro Bukota, Vice-President; Toma Uroshevich, Secretary; Djoko Krjnichanin, First Tutor and Financial Secretary; Mladen Kojcich, Second Tutor; and Djuro Erar, Pero Letich, Ljubo Palamida, Stojan Padjan, Illija Madjarac, Urosh Boshnjak, Stevo Drljacha and Dmitar Kajganich as board members. There is no written evidence of any church officers for the years 1903, 1904 and up to November 1905, during the first assignment of Father Philip Sredanovich. It is obvious, however, that Rev. Sava Vojvodich had come to reorganize the church life as an official representative of the Serbian Orthodox Church Mission in America, a special desk created for Serbian Church affairs here by the Russian Orthodox Church in America, whose assistance in those days was immeasurable indeed. Father Sevastian Dabovich, who had come to Steelton in February of 1906 to assist in some local church matters, was the head of this Serbian Orthodox Church Mission from 1905 to 1912, followed by Father Sava Vojvodich from 1913 to 1917. Each were in charge of the Serbian Protopresbytarite or Consistory.
The first Minute Book of 1905 to 1907 contains data relating to church income and states that members employed by the Pennsylvania Steel Co. had their church dues deducted from their paychecks amounting to at least 25 cents per month for sustaining type of membership. When Bethlehem Steel Co. took over in 1920, this system was discontinued. The church also had its collectors, usually sextons or chanters, who went from house to house collecting the monthly dues, or at picnics and church socials.
The records that do exit establish the fact that the Steelton congregation was organized by 1902. In the State of Pennsylvania, Dauphin County Deed Book G. 11, page 572, dated November 11, 1902, the names of the following persons are recorded as the trustees of the “First Saint Nicholas Servia Orthodox Church of Steelton”: Adam Skomac, Lazo Smajlovic and Mirko Drzajic. The land for the first church on South Second Street was bought and paid for by the local St. Nicholas Serb National Federation Lodge (presently American Serb) for the sum of $560. The lodge was organized on July 1, 1902.
The site was purchased from Balthaser and Elizabeth Harlaker and construction of the church began in early 1903 and was completed in November 1903. The church, a lovely frame structure, was built in the form of a ship. Adorned with holy icons, an iconostas was installed at the time it was built. The construction cost totaled $3,500 and included free manual labor contributed by the future parishioners, donations and gifts from residents of Steelton and friends made the erection of the Church possible. The cornerstone was dedicated by Father Ilija Komadina of McKeesport, PA. Quoting from the souvenir program of the 45th Anniversary, “The Steelton congregation numbered approximately 500 members. Of this group there were only three families, while the rest of the member were unmarried men and women.” Further quoting from the 50th Anniversary pamphlet, “By this time there were approximately 2,000 souls in Steelton.” This is another example of contradicting historical facts. Acting as godfather or Kum at the dedication was Mile Gledich, then a Steelton resident and a former native of Bovic, Yugoslavia. Bishop Tikhon Belavin, head of the Russian Orthodox Church in America, came from New York in 1904 to consecrate the new church. Bishop Tikhon later returned to Russia and became one of the most esteemed patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, the first church divine ever to be confronted with an organized atheistic state and the bloody Bolshevik Revolution.
There were three different sized bells in the old belfry. Generous donations from Serbian people of Steelton enabled the purchase of two of these bells and the third or medium-sized bell was donated by Lubomir Rakovski, a Steelton merchant, who served as godfather at the consecration of the bells according to the custom of the Serbs. Where are these bells now? One bell was broken during the removal from the old belfry, another was stolen by persons unknown and after many futile attempts by members and the police, the bell was not recovered. All three bells were cast with the traditional four “C’s” in Cyrillic, often referred to as the four “S’s” translated to “Samo Sloga Srbina Spasava” or the English “Only Unity Saves the Serbians.”
The monument in front of the new church complex consisting of two of the three original bells and the cross from the old church which was located at 743 South Second Street, Steelton. In addition, two new flagpoles were erected. This monument is dedicated to the memory of our pioneers, who established this church congregation and maintained it in the Serbian Orthodox spirit for us to inherit. The new flagpoles were donated specifically in memory of Milos and Mila Bojanic, who were among the many pioneers remembered. The refurbishing, repairing and installation of this momento is the donation of Charles, Olga and Miles Bojanic.
The first Serbian church choir in the United States was organized in Steelton in 1905, largely through the endeavors of Dmitar Kajganich and Dusan Kojicich. Formal organization of the choir in July of 1906 was the result of the efforts spearheaded by Djuro Milosavljevic, Vojin Kutjevac and Peter Kosovan. Djuro Milosavljevic was the church chanter and also assumed the duties of choir director. He later entered the priesthood, was ordained and attained the rank of Archpriest. The choir assumed the name of “Branko Radichevich” in honor of the immortal Serbian poet. The choir ceased to exist as a formal organization in 1912, but the church community continued to preserve our spiritual and national folk music.
By the year 1907, the property interests of the Serbian congregation expanded with the purchase of two lots north of the church at a cost of $320. This transaction was made during the presidency of Voja Jovanovich. It was planned to construct a Serbian Hall on these lots.
To avoid the expense of leasing a rectory, the church in 1909 purchased the two homes at 744 and 746 South Second Street from a Mr. Flynn. One of these served as the rectory until 1911 when the three properties at 765 and 767 South Second Street and 766 South Third Street were purchased from Marko Mavretic for the sum of $6,500. In 1914, 744 and 746 South Second Street were sold to Frank Cunjak. The rectory was then relocated to 767 South Second Street and served the pastors until April 1968. The purchase of these homes was financed by the venerable Father Teofilo Stefanovic, who was rector of the church at the time. He very generously insisted on no interest.
One of the major projects of the parish was the daily parochial school, which was established in 1915 at 766 South Third Street. The first and only full-time teacher was Miss Katherine (Tinka) Bakic (later Mrs. Sunajko). English was taught by a Rev. Robinson, a Methodist minister from Harrisburg. Students studied both church and ethnic history, about their Patron Saint (Krsna Slava) and all Serbian traditions. That is why holidays, weddings and various anniversaries are celebrated in Steelton in the traditional manner. The school existed for two years, but through lack of an adequate building and an insufficient student body, among other reasons, the school was permanently closed in 1917 and no effort was made to revive it. This same building was used for many years for Serbian School and also for meetings of the board, lodges, etc. Many of us matriculated at the Serbian School and were taught to read, write and speak the Serbian language. It is well to note here that the closing of our parochial school resulted in the attendance of some of our students at the St. Mary’s parochial school.
As is noted in our minutes of those early years, the Slovenian Hall or the Croatian Hall were rented for general assemblies, lodge meetings, social events, etc., while the committee meetings were held either at the priest’s home or at the Voja Jovanovich Bookstore, which was the first Serbian bookstore in America.
The St. Nicholas Club was organized in 1925 for the promotion of sports and other cultural activities and was dissolved in 1933 when its activities were taken over by other groups.
St. Nicholas Parish felt the need for a Hall or a Serbian Home, as it was later designated, but was postponed for lack of funds or because some felt the need was not great enough to warrant the expense. However, as the first generation grew up, the necessity for a cultural and recreational center could not be argued any longer. There was considerable debate as to where this hall was to be built, since the parishioners were justly proud of the lawn and flower beds surrounding the church. If you have access to some of the old pictures taken on this lawn, you can appreciate their concern. Nevertheless, due to the desire to have all their properties in close proximity to each other, it was finally decided to build the hall on the lots north of and adjacent to the church. With only $5,000 in the treasury at the time, it can easily be visualized that the financing would be a problem. It was decided to assess all members, family heads the sum of $60, single $30 and the response was gratifying. In July 1927, under the guiding hand of the Church President Djuro Vorkapich, the actual construction of the Serbian Home was begun. Improvements were also made on the church when it was raised 36 inches from its original level and moved back to align it with the hall and faced with brick. Members of the building committee were: Very Rev. Danilo Kozomara, Nicholas Klipa, Stanko Vujasin, Rade Yanich, Tomo Urosevich, Simo Ivosevich, Djuro Vorkapich and Vitko Jovanovich. The imposing two-story brick structure and improvements to the church were completed at a total cost of $35,000 and erected by Wilsbach Brothers of Harrisburg. The newly-built hall was blessed on November 27, 1927 by the American-Canadian Bishop, His Grace Mardarija Uskokovich. The gala affair was attended by friends from Baltimore, Lebanon, Pittsburgh, Johnstown and Philadelphia, among others. We were particularly honored with the St. Nicholas Church Choir of Johnstown, which sang the responses at the Pontifical Liturgy. The godfather or Kum was Mirko Perich.
The Kolo Srpskih Sestara of St. Nicholas Church was organized on October 13, 1929; the realization of a dream of Marica Brkovich, who together with Ruzica Trbovich, Katherine Sunajko, Smilja Akimovich and Helen Borota dedicated themselves to their dream becoming a reality. There were initially 94 women of the congregation enrolled, who met and accepted as their Patron Saint, Pokrov Bogorodice (Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God). Katherine Sunajko was elected President; Marica Brkovich, Vice-President; Ruzica Trbovich, Secretary; Helen Borota, Treasurer; Advisory Committee consisted of Smilja Akimovich and Milka Linta. By the year 1933, the Kolo was considered one of the best and largest Circles in America, in relation to the Serbian population of Steelton at that time. Here were joined together in sisterly love all our dedicated women working for the welfare of their church and their people. Their efforts were most meaningful for they instilled new life in our Serbian community and became its strongest support in bleak years as well as the more prosperous ones. To enumerate the contributions of the Kolo is an insurmountable task and cannot be accomplished within the pages of this book. They have equipped the old church, the hall, the parish home and currently have adorned the new church with the marble and mosaic Iconostas, the Curtain for the Holy Doors, and the Litija (Church Banner) just to touch on several items. The monetary donations through the years and the support of the church via food preparation, refurbishing of the kitchens and equipment is confining because the spiritual and the moral support far exceeds our description or recognition.
The reorganization of the church choir in 1933 was accomplished with the sponsorship of the Serbian Civic and Educational Club and the dedicated individual efforts of Steve Bakic, Steve Suzic, and Svetozar Nenadovich. In the same year, the choir joined the Serbian Singing Federation and assumed the name of “Djuro Yaksich” which was subsequently changed to “Marinkovich,” in memory of the late Serbian composer. The first choir director was Vlado Konstantinovich of New York City and in 1935, Steven Cordas, a member of the St. Nicholas parish, became the choral director and continues to serve in this capacity. Our church community is justly proud of the accomplishments of the choir, whose inspiring recitations of the Eastern Orthodox Liturgy and stirring interpretations of Slavic music are recognized both locally and nationally. Once again, it is difficult to elaborate on the contributions of the choir to our church or their accomplishments of the past 45 years. Reflect for a moment what it is like to attend Divine Liturgy without our choir when they are out of town and you immediately are reminded of what you take for granted. In addition to our choir’s musical contributions, they have also supported the church in singing at our affairs, serving at banquets, caroling at Christmas, representing the congregation while traveling to other colonies, and last, but not least, their financial support throughout the years with special appreciation for the donations in the old church and their contributions of the church bells and the stained-glass, circular window located at the top front of the new church.
Also in 1933 during the presidency of Meter Dragovich, three additional homes at 760-762-764 South Third Street, costing $3,500, were purchased. Because of their location in the midst of our properties, specifically between the old church and the parish homes, it was imperative that they be acquired. Now the properties consisted of all real estate between the Rectory and the Hall. It must be stated here that all of the above mentioned were sold to the Redevelopment Authority of Dauphin County and presently the Washington Square Development occupies the former land owned by the church.
The Serbian-American Civic and Educational Club was also organized in 1933 and continued the activities formerly initiated by the St. Nicholas Club which was dissolved. Additionally, the club was the social aspect of our community and catered to the needs of other organizations and in 1935 when Prohibition was repealed, legally applied for a license to permit sale of alcoholic beverages and to become the mecca for all activities to this day. All proceeds are regularly donated to the church treasury and continues to support the church at the present time.
In Steelton, at one time or another, there were a total of six separate lodges. The number dwindled and the remaining three lodges in 1934 united into one lodge “Yugoslavia.” At the annual meeting held in December 1962 a motion was effected and later approved by the SNF March 1963 whereby the name was changed to the present designation of “American Serb Lodge.” The Lodge adoped “Vidovdan” as its Patron Saint, commemorating the day that brought to light a clear day of spiritual vision, a day of truth, when the Serbs in Steelton followed the ancestral charge—“You keep your Slava while you live and no matter where you live.” The significance of Vidovdan recounts the spiritual victory and tragic defeat for our ancestors in 1289 for the ideals of “Za Krst Casni I Slobodu Zlatnu (For the Venerable Cross and for Golden Freedom)” and bears out the fact that we Serbians are unique and have no parallel being the only people in world history that celebrates and accepts its military defeat as a moral triumph that was “right before Heaven and before men.” It is not to be forgotten that it still took the Turks 100 years before they conquered, bit by bit, all Serbian lands. In 1939, the pews in our old church were purchased and installed for the sum of $1200. The average hourly wage in the steel mills was approximately 6 cents per hour when the Lodge purchased the land for our old church and something like 42 cents per hour in 1939, to afford our second generation a comparison of the monetary value in those days versus our inflated wages of today. The Lodge donated a large stained glass window for our new church in memory of all deceased members, in addition to the American, Serbian and Pennsylvania State flags to adorn our church. Though not a church-affiliated organization, throughout the years monetary contributions by the Lodge are also made at Christmas, Easter, and at all church slavas, celebrations, etc.
During the period of the establishment of the old church until 1938, only minor repairs were made to the church, and at the regular meeting held in January of that year, it was recommended that the interior of the church be renovated to overcome the ravages of time and nature. This motion was approved at the quarterly meeting in April of the same year, and the finances after the Great Depression were of major concern. Originally, it was estimated that the sum of $5,000 would be sufficient, however, the project exceeded $9,000, in spite of the fact that much of the labor was done voluntarily and without compensation by the parishioners. The committee to survey the needs and to determine the necessary changes was composed of the following members: Ilija Cuckovich, Sam Krnjaich, Eli Klipa, Stanko Ivkovich, Milan Bazdar, Milutin Mrgich, Vujo Vorkapich and Djuro Obradovich. The original bank loan of $5,000 being insufficient, it was decided at a congregational meeting to assess the members in order to obtain the necessary funds and once more the success of this plan exceeded all expectations. It was decided that each Serbian family in Steelton and vicinity contribute $15, while single persons who were of age and employed $10. The members of the committee charged with the collection of the assessments were as follows: Stanley Dragovich, Steve Yanich, Steve Klipa, Stanko Vujasin and Luka Cvijich. Plans and specifications were drawn up and presented to the church without cost by our Serbian benefactor Veles Janus, City Engineer of Elizabeth, New Jersey, who also supervised the project, making numerous trips to Steelton. Construction work was accomplished by Henry Martz, a local contractor. Interior decorating and painting was done by Andor Petrovitz of Elizabeth, New Jersey. The design for the Iconostas, which was constructed by Gilbert and Sons of York, PA, and paid for by the Kolo Srpskih Sestara, was obtained through the efforts of another Serb, Dragoljub Perisich (Donald R. Perry) at no cost to the church. The reconsecration of the newly-renovated church was performed November 27, 1938, by His Grace Bishop Dr. Damaskin Grandanicki.
A testimonial banquet in 1946, sponsored by a United Committee of all Serbian organizations in Steelton, was held to honor all parishioners who served in the Armed Forces in World War II. A hardbound book was published containing pictures or names of the 143 men and women who served their country.
The 45th Anniversary of the St. Nicholas Church was celebrated on November 14, 1948. The parish was particularly honored by the presence of His Grace Bishop Dr. Nikolai Velemirovich, Serbian exiled bishop of Zichka and Ochrid, and was a well-known philosopher, theologian, and writer. He was assisted by several visiting clergymen. It is worth noting here that the then Royal Consul General from Yugoslavia, Dr. Bozidar Stojanovich, selected Steelton as his home parish. He appeared many times in Church as a simple worshipper and on formal occasions as a representative of the Royal Yugoslavian Government. He was elected honorary life president of this congregation at the annual meeting held on January 12, 1939.
Major changes costing $20,000 were made to the entrance of the old church in 1951. In addition to the redesigning of the entrance, a new iron fence was erected around the entire property, and new concrete paving was placed around the Church itself. The committee in charge of this project were George Filepas, John Linta, Stanley Dragovich and Peter Barber.
The 50th Anniversary of the St. Nicholas Church was observed on Sunday, May 24, 1953, and the Pontifical Liturgy was concelebrated by His Grace Bishop Dionisije, Very Rev. Archpriest Petar Hajdukovich and visiting clergymen. A souvenir program was published and contributed immensely in compiling the historical data in this history.
In 1955 the Church Building Fund was established to commence the planning for the construction of our new St. Nicholas Church center which incidentally preceded any indications that the Borough of Steelton would be redeveloped. The old church and properties were outdated and inadequate to serve the needs of a prosperous congregation. A system of pledges on a voluntary basis was established and funds were earmarked for the specific purpose of the Building Fund and were prudently invested throughout the country to obtain the greatest yield on the capital. The following members were elected to the committee in 1955: Charles Bojanic, Chairman; John A. Cico, Treasurer; George Filepas, Secretary; and Nicholas Klipa, Member.
On August 2, 1956, 40 women gathered together in the church auditorium and under the guidance of Rev. Dr. Krstivoj Kotur, organized the Mothers’ Club of the St. Nicholas Church. The following were elected to serve the club: Anna Linta, President; Mildred Belic, Vice President; Julia Dragovich, Secretary; Mary Filepas, Treasurer; and Kathryn Koncar, Financial Secretary. Early in 1957, they adopted as their Patron Saint the Blessed Mother of God and celebrate on the holy day known as “Assumption of the Blessed Mother of God” which falls on August 28. As a lasting memorial, the Mothers’ Club commissioned the Rev. Antim Vulchev, pastor of the Holy Annunciation Orthodox Church of Steelton, to paint a picture of our old church as a lasting gift and visual remembrance of our first church. The picture is mounted in the vestibule of the church beside the architects’ drawing of our new church. Adorning the walls of the five classrooms are five Icons also purchased by the club.
The organization of the original Kolo Group under the direction of Miss Mira Gojkovich, was established for the interpretation and the performance of the folk songs and dances of our Serbian ancestors. To enhance the performances, instruments were purchased by the group following the fund-raising campaign instituted by George Medrick, an enthusiastic benefactor of the young musicians. The Kolo Group presented its first performance for St. Sava’s Day in 1958; and, in addition to the presentations in our church auditorium, the group performed locally and nationally. Unfortunately, the group was dissolved and was reorganized in September 1966 under the sponsorship of the Mothers’ Club. The new Kolo group made its debut on the occasion of the Consecration of our new church on Sunday, April 28, 1968.
The first church collection envelopes replacing the plate collection or “tasich” for members was effected on January 1, 1957. The envelopes carry an “Orthodox Message” and coincide with an envelope for each holiday and Sunday according to our Orthodox church calendar and have been used continuously to this day.
The 60th Anniversary of our church was celebrated on May 26, 1963 and the Divine Liturgy was concelebrated by our Rector Rev. Dr. Krstivoj Kotur and Rev. Dr. Michael G. Kovach, the principal speaker for our Slava and his topic was “The Shifting Frontier of American Orthodoxy.” A souvenir program was published for the occasion.
Our Serbian history is replete with prosperous times and also sufferings at the hands of the Turks, the unheard of persecution and suffering of the Serbian Orthodox Church during and after World War II. On this continent, we were again to be involved in controversy resulting in a schism in our Diocese. The Steelton parish reaffirmed our position to remain with the Mother Church. In view of enormity and spaciousness of the American-Canadian Diocese, the Holy Hierarchical Council created from this Diocese in 1963, three Dioceses: The Eastern American and Canadian, the Mid-Western and the Western American. In 1964, the late Bishop Stefan Lastavica, Bishop of the Eastern American and Canadian Diocese of which we are members, visited our parish and concelebrated a Pontifical liturgy in our old church.
The Architect and Design Committee was established in December 1965 for the purpose of planning the new church center. Members of the committee are as follows: James Matich, Chairman; Ex-Officio member Charles Bojanic; Very Rev. Archpriest Mladen D. Trbuhovich; members George Lubic, George Filepas, LeRoy Teptsich, Dorothy Cico, Olga Klipa, Robert Mrgich, Sandra Belic and Daniel Radanovich. The first meeting was held on December 29, 1965 and the Committee proceeded to contact architects. After a lengthy and thorough evaluation, on March 1, 1966, George Voinovich was chosen as the architect and patterned the church in the Serbian Orthodox form or Byzantine style. The church school and auditorium were planned to blend with the church.
The appointed Design and Structure Committee performed the task of selecting all the colors, fixtures, carpet, pews, drapes, folding doors, stained glass windows, Iconostas, Holy Table, and equipment for the hall. The main objective was to maintain the beauty of the décor of our church center. This committee functioned until the entire center was completed, and our congregation is very grateful to them for a magnificent job. In order to continue the proper décor of our church center and the development of our land area including the park, a congregational meeting gave a vote of thanks to this committee and released them. Also, at a meeting of the congregation, a motion was passed that any building, purchases or donations of memorials, gifts or other items needed must have prior approval of the Church Board.
A tract of land known as the Bush Mill Farm warranted on April 11, 1753 and a parcel thereof consisting of 48 acres located west of Eisenhower Boulevard, lately known as Bishop’s Farm was purchased in April 1966 for $42,000. Once again, through the insight of the planners for our church, the purchase price represented great savings and the site was ideal for future expansion. The old farm house and barn are the nucleus of our Serbian Park or recreational area comprising 12 acres. The history of the site or Bush Mill Farm is furnished in the 1973 souvenir booklet and contains the detailed information of the entire property.
The consecration and groundbreaking of the land for our new church was concelebrated on October 23, 1966 by His Grace Bishop Dr. Firmilijan Ocokoljich, of the Mid-Western American Diocese and Administrator of the Eastern American and Canadian Diocese, due to the death in 1964 of our late Bishop Stefan Lastavica.
The plans and specifications were finalized by the architect and accepted by the Design Committee and sent to the contractors for bidding. The bids were opened on March 31, 1967 and reviewed prior to submission to the Church Board on April 11, 1967 who concurred with the Design Committee’s recommendation that Lambert and Intrieri be selected to construct the new church center. The congregational meeting held on April 16, 1967 accepted the recommendations of the Church Board and the Architect and Design Committee to award the contract to the local firm of Lambert and Intrieri of Harrisburg, PA. At the same congregational meeting, May 1967 was selected as the date to commence our five-year program to finance the complex by assessing each head of the household and employed individuals the sum of $600, exempting our parishioners at attainment of age 65. Another facet of the financing called for a review, subsequent to the five-year expiration date whether or not additional assessments would be required. Fortunately this was not necessary.
The construction of the new Church Center began on the Feast of the Transferring of the Holy Relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderdoer, May 22, 1967. Bishop Dr. Sava Vukovich, Bishop of the Eastern American and Canadian Diocese blessed the foundation stone and laid the new cornerstone on September 10, 1967. The “kum” on this occasion was Dmitar Radanovich.
Our new cornerstone contains the following items that were placed there and sealed: A scroll of the Cornerstone Ceremony, a copy of the service, “The Office Used at the Founding of Church,” roll of microfilm with items of interest, 1967 mint set of U. S. Coins donated by Edward Marijan, new $1.00 bill, letter from the Commissioners of Swatara Township, pictures of the bishop and clergy, anniversary booklets of the 45th and 50th Anniversaries, December 1967 Church Messenger, newspaper clipping of the land purchase and the sale of the old church, pictures of the Cornerstone Laying, Ground Breaking and Blessing Ceremony, 1966 and 1967 church school pupils, Serbian Little League Baseball Eastern Champs, list of officers for all church-affiliated organizations, 1961 Bowling Tournament booklet, October 1967 Messenger wherein all the names are listed, and October 11, 1967 issue of the American Srbobran. These contents were verified by the Very Rev. Mladen Trbuhovich, Joseph Dmitrovich, Trustee and Charles Bojanic, President.
The old church property in Steelton was sold on November 8, 1967 to the Redevelopment Authority of Dauphin County, for the sum of $192,500. The original offer for the property was $125,000 and considered unreasonable in view of the value as compared to replacement costs. The entire church community owes a debt of gratitude to our Serbian brethren attorney John Mamula of Clairton, PA, and Nick Musulin, appraiser of Pittsburgh, PA, along with our committee composed of the following: Meter Dragovich, Steve Yanich, Joseph Dmitrovic, John Cico, Charles Bojanic and Zarko Mrkona, for their untiring efforts to obtain the additional $67,500 plus the contents of our properties in lieu of the original offer. Perhaps it should not be indulged, not even for history’s sake, in making known that our friends John and Nick refused compensation for their time, energies and monies expended in our behalf. They made many trips on the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Pittsburgh and Steelton to obtain the final settlement.
The Farewell Divine Liturgy at the old St. Nicholas Church in Steelton was conducted on Saturday morning, April 27, 1968 and brought mixed emotions and recalled memories of events in the parishioners’ lives, some of whom were baptized and married in the old church. Others were reminiscent of the legacy of our forefathers whose remains made their final departure from the edifice. The Borough of Steelton has promised to erect a historical marker on the site of our old church.
The consecration of our new St. Nicholas Church on Sunday morning, April 28, 1968 was concelebrated by our three Diocesan Bishops: Dr. Sava Vukovich of Cleveland, Ohio; Dr. Firmilijan Ocokoljich of Chicago, Illinois; and Dr. Gregory Udicki of Los Angeles, California; and Archpriest Mladen D. Trbuhovich, Pastor, and scores of visiting Serbian clergymen from all sections of the United States along with neighboring Orthodox clergy. The Kum and Kuma (godparents) of the new church were Charles and Olga Bojanic and to quote from the consecration booklet, “the selection was not in the traditional vein, that is with a view toward a monetary gift in return. Rather, it has been and, hopefully, will continue to be our motive to honor those who serve the church, tirelessly, with profound devotion and unceasing effort” and further “was chosen not only because of his past performance but particularly for his activity on the present project. His boundless energy so freely expended in the cause of his church and community merited recognition in an important manner.” Charles served as President from 1966-1969 and as Chairman of the Church Building Fund since its inception. He is a Past President of the Serb National Federation, the Pennsylvania Fraternal Congress and the New York Fraternal Congress.
On Sunday, April 28, 1968 at the consecration of our new church, the Kolo Club gave their first public performance. It was made up of three groups; Group One – high school students, under the direction of Miss Sandy Belic; Group Two – intermediate; and Group Three – beginners, under the direction of Olga Klipa, Betty Bojanic and Catherine Dmitrovic.
The consecration of our new imported Italian marble mosaic Iconostas donated by the Kolo Srpskih Sestara and the blessing of our stained glass windows donated by individuals and organizations and the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the Kolo was celebrated on October 12, 1969.
The Pontifical Liturgy was concelebrated by our Bishop Dr. Sava Vukovich and many Orthodox clergymen from the immediate vicinity and our Serbian clergy from congregations throughout the United States. It was with regret, that our Pastor, the Very Rev. Peter Paunovich was hospitalized in Joliet, Illinois and could not be with us to participate in this joyous occasion. The stained-glass windows were designed and installed by Baut Studios of Swoyersville, PA, and the Iconostas by the Hudak Brothers of Punxsutawney, PA. The church bells donated by the S.S.S. Marinkovich Choir were installed by the Schulmerich Carillons, Inc., of Sellersville PA.
The construction of our new parish home was commenced in early spring of 1970 and the blessing of the home was performed by our pastor Rev. Alexander Micich on June 28, 1970. Open House was observed on weekend of December 12-13, 1970. The R. Dininni Construction Co., of Harrisburg, PA, built the two-story home containing four bedrooms, a study, two-car garage, central air conditioning and other conveniences. The home is adjacent to the church complex but affords our pastor and his family privacy and at the same time is convenient to the church. The cost of this project amounted to over $40,000, including all the furnishings and landscaping.
The 50th Anniversary of the renewal of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate was observed by our congregation on September 13, 1970. The Pontifical Liturgy was concelebrated by Bishop Dr. Sava Vukovich, Rev. Alexander Micich, Rector, and visiting clergymen.
Our five-year program to finance the new church expired in May 1972 and contributed immensely to our achievements and we wish to thank the congregation for responding magnanimously and generously.
The first Diocesan Day was celebrated on August 13, 1972 in Steelton and all proceeds donated to our Eastern American and Canadian Diocese. Since that time many affairs have been held to benefit the Diocese.
The church center was affected by a fire on March 18, 1973 (Sunday of Orthodoxy), and all necessary repairs and refurbishings were accomplished through the cooperation of all church-affiliated organizations. The estimated damages amounted to approximately $30,000, and fortunately the entire loss was covered by our insurance.
The Burning of the Mortgage on Sunday, September 16, 1973 highlighted the 70th Anniversary celebration of our St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church. The Pontifical Liturgy was concelebrated by Bishop Dr. Sava Vukovich, our Pastor Rev. Alexander Micich, Rev. Frank Mesaros, Rev. Deacon Michael J. Semenko, Secretary to the Bishop, and Rev. Milan Zobenica of St. Luke Serbian Orthodox Church of Washington, D. C. The banquet followed the services; and at exactly 2:32 p.m., Bishop Dr. Sava placed a flame to a replica of the mortgage. The over 400 attendees stood and cheered as the paper was reduced to memorable ashes and the congregation saw history being made. Assisting in the ceremony were Anniversary Chairman, Charles Bojanic; Anniversary Co-Chairman and Vice President James Matich; and President George Lubic who recalled that 25 years earlier – in 1948, he was also President at the old church’s mortgage burning. Our Church Board nominated and Bishop Dr. Sava approved and at this time presented a Gramata to our attorney Brother John W. Mamula of Clairton, PA, who was also a member of our congregation, for his services recounted earlier, to the Diocese, Serbian Orthodoxy in general and particularly our churches in Steelton, Wilmerding and Johnstown. Coincidentally, all three were named St. Nicholas. It was planned by the Church Board to submit his name to a congregational meeting of the entire membership to honor him as a “Life Honorary Member” of our church. This was precluded by his untimely death on November 10, 1973 shortly after our 70th Anniversary celebration. Entertainment after the banquet was provided by the local St. Nicholas Tammies and the Kolo Groups sponsored by the Mothers’ Club.
The “Mile Macut Altar Boy Memorial Fund” was established in 1973 by the Macut Family to show appreciation to our boys who assist our pastor during services on all occasions. The activities are not limited to Altar Boy summer camp and the fund can be used to defray expenses incurred and is administered by our priest and members of the family.
A plaque was presented to our church which reads “Our sincerest appreciation and thanks for all your kind and generous support and assistance in establishing a Serbian Orthodox Church in our Nation’s Capital. Presented 19 May 1974 by the St. Luke Serbian Orthodox Church of Washington, D.C.” The plaque has been placed in the church lobby flanked to the left by the artist’s drawing of our old church and on the right by the architect’s drawing of the new church.
Our congregation attended the blessing of the newly acquired Episcopal Headquarters in Edgeworth, PA, on November 23, 1974; organized Steelton committee of the Diocesan 5000/$25.00 Club on January 23, 1975 for the purchase of the new Episcopal Headquarters; attended the Dedication November 22, 1975 of the Chapel of St. Nikodim and the Iconostas at the Diocesan Center; and on September 10, 1977 attended the blessing of the three stained-glass windows at the St. Nikodim Chapel donated by Mr. And Mrs. Dushan Stepanovich, Dr. and Mrs. Michael Cordas and by our Steelton congregation.
The St. Nicholas Athletic Club was organized July 27, 1975 “to encourage and promote athletics and other social activities and to help its members become better members of the Church Community.”
The Bicentennial year of 1976 found our congregation participating in events as follows: Pan-Orthodoxy Program with members of our choir in attendance on June 20, 1976 at the William Penn Museum in Harrisburg; the “Salute to America” held on July 18, 1976 at the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Pittsburgh with a picnic at their Castle Shannon picnic grounds; the Bicentennial Serbian Day Weekend July 24-25, 1976 in Pittsburgh sponsored by the SNF; and the “Bicentennial Picnic” held August 1, 1976 at our Picnic Grounds as part of the Steelton Community Bicentennial, sponsored by our church and featured Serbian ethnic food, including roast lamb, shish-ka-bob, and baked goods. Tours were conducted for those of our former neighbors that have not had the privilege of visiting our new church.
The Church Items Committee on May 12, 1977 recommended new items required to complete the church interior. The list of the large items consisting of the Bishop’s Throne, two Icon Stands, two Cantor Stands, Lecturn and Tetrapod were approved for purchase from the Hudak Bros. of Punxsutawney, PA, designers of our Iconostas. The list also contained numerous other articles utilized during services, etc., and was mailed to the members of the congregation in February 1978 to obtain donors for these items, both large and small. Same are to be installed prior to this our 75th Anniversary, and donors names and descriptions of the items appear elsewhere in this booklet. The committee is composed of William Slade, Chairman, Rev. Srboljub Jockovich and Mrs. Mildred Petrovich, members.
Bishop Dr. Sava was elected Bishop of Sumadija and was appointed administrator of our Diocese at the annual session May 10-21, 1977 of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church. He was enthroned on September 18, 1977 and his successor, the new Bishop of our Diocese will be elected at this year’s annual session commencing May 24, 1978 in Belgrade.
American Serb Lodge No. 37, SNF observed their 75th Anniversary on November 6, 1977 with a banquet honoring as guests all 50 year members. SNF National Officers from Pittsburgh attended the banquet and festivities. Appearing elsewhere is a history of the Lodges and their contributions to our church.
Today, our St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church of Steelton, PA. is celebrating its 75th Anniversary and the occasion marks another historical day in the history of our church. The Divine Liturgy will be concelebrated by Rev. Dr. Nedeljko Grgurevich and Rev. Deacon Rastko Trbuhovich representing our Diocese (as our bishops are attending the annual session of the Holy Synod in Belgrade) along with our Pastor Rev. Srboljub Jockovich, Rev. Dr. Michael G. Kovach, Rev. Frank Mesaros and visiting clergymen. This weekend commenced with a “Night of Reminiscing” on Friday; the “Sumadija Serbian Folk Dance Ensemble – St. Sava Tamburitzans and Avala Musicians” from Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the Steelton Elementary Auditorium on Saturday followed by “Tillie Klaich & the Balkan Serenaders of Lackawanna, N.Y.” in our Social Hall; on Sunday, the Divine Liturgy at 9:30 a.m. and the banquet at the Host Inn at 2:00 p.m. Following the banquet, our S.S.S. Marinkovich Choir and the Sumadija Serbian Folk Dance Ensemble entertained. The speaker at the banquet was Mr. Dmitar L. Rakich, of Chicago, Illinois, who is very active in the Serbian Orthodox Church in America, the Midwest Diocese and our National Church Council. “Tillie” Klaich played for the dance held Sunday evening. All three nights our local “Jorgovan Tamburitza Orchestra” participated.
Our Pioneers, members of the church, 70 years old and over, are being honored on this the 75th Anniversary weekend. Included are: Steve & Sarah Belic, Helen Borota, Lena Brkich, Meter Dragovich, Stanley Dragovich, Anna M. Ivkovic, Marija Jajich, Milka Kekich, Steve Kekich, Veronica Krnjaich, Stana Malobovich, Anna Miscevich, Dushan Miscevich, Charles Mraovich, Nikola Mraovich, Danica Mrgich, Andrew Padjen, Milka Perich, Michan Petrovich, Simo & Indjia Rodich, Steve Suzic, Milan Vukelich, Stanica Vukelich, Joseph Vulich, Milan & Milka Vulich, Milka Zarkovich, Stanica Zimonja, and Rade Yanich.
In retrospect, we should never forget the men, women and youth who in the past 75 years have combined zeal, sacrifices and generosity to make possible our St. Nicholas Church for the spiritual well-being of all parishioners. In Steelton for the past seven and one-half decades the spiritual strength of our Church has sustained us. In good times it pointed the right way and in bad times it has strengthened our faith in God and in victory of justice and truth. Let us remind ourselves of the immeasurable accomplishments under trying conditions, sacrifices, toil and oppression to reach today’s pinnacle. The future will also have its challenges but let us be ever mindful of our legacy from the first Serbian immigrants with special gratitude to all endowers, benefactors, founders and above all the doers and leaders for the success of our church.
HISTORY OF THE ST. NICHOLAS SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF STEELTON, PA. (1978-1983)
By SAMUEL BOJANIC
Today our church congregation will culminate 80 years of its existence and the occasion marks another historical day in our spiritual life made possible by the great sacrifices of our early settlers and pioneers and perpetuated by each succeeding generation. We celebrated our 75th Anniversary (Diamond Jubilee) May 26-28, 1978 and are updating the history since that time. The history and donations contained in the souvenir book will not be repeated. Period to be covered is 1978-1983, our last five years; however, a resume of the 75th celebration will be presented to recall the successful celebration and the events that transpired.
The 75TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION commenced on Friday, May 26, 1978 – “Night of Reminiscing” with a display of old photographs and memorabilia courtesy of members and friends. Along with the free Wine and Cheese Night dancing to the music of “JORGOVAN.” The spark that ignited the weekend came early in the evening, as the original Serbian Kolo Club from Steelton made its first appearance on stage in 17 years. Most of the performers were in their thirties and showed their talent once more to the extreme delight of the overflow crowd, which included their own children. The performance prompted Bob Milkovich, Director of Sumadija to invite the group to perform in Saturday night’s program.
Saturday, May 26, 1978, a Vesper Service was held at 4:30 p.m. and then on to the Steelton-Highspire High School Auditorium featuring “Sumadija” Serbian Folk Dance Ensemble accompanied by the “Avala Orchestra” and the St. Sava Tamburitzans from the St. Sava Serbian orthodox Cathedral, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The program contained 32 numbers. Bob Milkovich was the “Sumadija” Director and Choreographer; Sumadija Accordionist – Lako Djilas; and the St. Sava Tamburitzans Director was Steve Subotich. The “Avala” Orchestra featured Ljupce Rankovich – Accordionist; Misa Ninkovich – Guitarist; Miso Dukich – Drummer; and Sound by Joseph Richards. The program was printed with the compliments of Bob Milkovich and family of Milwaukee. The auditorium was filled to capacity, a crowd of 700, the largest ever for a community event. The audience was overwhelmed by the talent in this extraordinary group of youngsters whose average age was fifteen. Following the highly successful concert and program, it was back to the Social Hall for a night of dancing to Tillie Klaich and the Balkan Serenaders from Lackawanna, N.Y. An extra attraction provided the crowd with another stirring performance by the great “Avala” Orchestra. Also providing music was our own “JORGOVAN” Orchestra.
Sunday, May 28, 1978 our Patron Saint – Transfer of the Relics of St. Nicholas commenced with Divine Liturgy. Concelebrating with our host priest, Father Srboljub Jockovich were the Very Rev. Archpriest Dr. Nedeljko Grgurevic, from Johnstown, PA., Dean of Washington Deanery; Very Rev. Dr. Michael Kovach, Millersville State College; Rev. Alexander Micich, St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, New York; and Rev. Milan Zobenica, St. Luke Serbian Orthodox Church, Washington, D.C.
Another capacity crowd gathered in the Host Inn for our annual banquet. The Steelton Serbian pioneers, members of our church, 70 years of age or older were honored. The crowd of 500 heard inspiring speeches from congregation President George Filepas; our pastor, Father Srboljub Jockovich; James Matich, Master of Ceremonies and Chairman of our 75th Anniversary Committee; SNF President Robert R. Stone; Very Rev. Archpriest Dr. Nedeljko Grgurevic, the Diocesan representative, as our bishops were attending the annual sessions of the Holy Synod in Belgrade, Yugoslavia; and our guest speaker, Dmitar L. Rakich, Vice President of the Midwestern Diocesan Council who spoke on pertinent information concerning our church and our Serbian people. Our special guest was Desanka Mamula of Clairton, PA., wife of the late attorney John Mamula who played an important role in the Redevelopment Settlement of our old church properties. The banquet concluded with another special performance by our guests from Milwaukee and a concert by our own S.S.S. Marinkovich Choir.
Another diocesan picnic held Aug. 20, 1978 benefit of our Eastern American and Canadian Diocese and is sponsored by all church organizations. Each year the proceeds along with special donations throughout the year represent our financial support for the diocese.
Annual Diocesan Assembly convened Oct. 28, 1978 at the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, and representing our church were Father Srboljub Jockovich, Charles Bojanic, Council member, and our duly elected delegate Samuel Bojanic; Oct. 20, 1979 – Monroeville, PA attended by President George Filepas, Father Srboljub and our duly elected delegate Vice Pres. LeRoy Tepsich; Sept. 15-19, 1980 – in lieu of the Assembly, a church SABOR was convened at the St. Sava Monastery, Libertyville, Ill., with representatives from all three Dioceses. Father Srboljub, President George Filepas and our duly elected delegate Fin. Secy., Steve Yanich represented our church; special meeting of SABOR delegates convened Mar. 5-6, 1981 to complete the remaining items; Nov. 20, 1982 – Lackawanna, N.Y., Father Srboljub and President George Filepas represented our church.
Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and Blessing of the Church Items on Nov. 12, 1978 by His Grace Rt. Rev. Bishop Christopher assisted by Father Srboljub Jockovich; Father Deacon Rastko Trbuhovich, Secy. of our Diocesan Council; and two seminarians. The church items blessed were the Bishop’s Throne, two Cantor Stands, Lecturn, two Icon Stands and the Tetrapod. Also blessed were the Cross and Bells from the old church plus two Flag Poles. The banquet honoring Bishop Christopher on his first official visit to Steelton was attended by 175 people. A check in the amount of $750.00 representing the proceeds of our Diocesan Picnic was presented to the Bishop.
The dedication of the Hilandar Room at Ohio State University took place on Dec. 2, 1978. The room contains microfilmed copies of the complete collection of manuscripts, dating back nearly 1,000 years, from the Hilandar Monastery, a Serbian Orthodox monastery on Mt. Athos, Greece. We presented our monetary donations to help finance the project.
Church Patron Saint – St. Nicholas. Vesper services with the blessing of the five loaves and annointing of the worshippers on St. Nicholas eve Dec. 18, 1978; and Divine Liturgy on St. Nicholas day, Dec. 19, 1978 including the blessing of the Festal Bread and Wheat. The Slava is celebrated in this manner annually.
Father Srboljub Jockovich and local Orthodox clergy have conducted chapel services throughout the years with assistance of parishioners during Lent, Advent, Holy Days, etc. for our Orthodox shut-ins at the Dauphin County Home and Hospital and at the VA Hospital in Lebanon, PA. They received communion and were also served meals and given gifts, most of which were provided by the Circle of Serbian Sisters. During 1978, two visits were made to Dauphin Manor and four to the VA Hospital… “I was sick and ye visited me...” (Matthew 25, 36).
Orthodox Sunday Vespers were held on Mar. 11, 1979 at SS Constantine and Helen Orthodox Church, Reading, PA. Guest speaker, Prof. Veselin Kesich, St. Vladimir’s Seminary; Feb. 24, 1980 – St. Matthew’s Greek Orthodox Church, Reading, PA. Guest Speaker: Rev. Dr. Stanley Harakas, Dean, Greek Orthodox Seminary, Brookline, Massachusetts; March 15, 1981 – Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Camp Hill, PA. Guest speaker: Rev. Thomas Hopko, St. Vladimir’s Seminary; Mar. 7, 1982 – Holy Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, York, PA. Guest speaker: Very Rev. Archpriest Paul Lazor, Dean of Students, St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Steven Macut awarded $100 scholarship; and March 27, 1983 – Holy Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Lancaster, PA. Guest speaker: Very Rev. A. Collivas, Dean Holy Cross Seminary, Brookline, Massachusetts. Miss Nadine Klipa awarded $100 scholarship.
The Liturgy of Presantified Gifts celebrated March 21, 1979 deserves special recognition inasmuch as the singing and responses were by Very Rev. Vukasin Stepanovich, Prof. Dusan Glumac and Cantor Slavko Klajic, all from Philadelphia. Lenten refreshments were served in the church school area after the services. A lecture “Sermon of the Great Name” was delivered by Scientist and Biologist Prof. Glumac of the West Chester State College of PA., followed by a discussion period.
Three Mile Island (TMI). World’s worst nuclear accident on March 28, 1979 disrupted many lives in ways never imagined or expected at a commercial nuclear power plant. The disabled reactor prompted many to leave their homes, fearing a catastrophic meltdown of the reactor core. Most of our parishioners are located within the 25-mile radius of TMI. It is four years since the accident and both units are still shut down and the cleanup of Unit 2 affected by the accident is far from completion.
Great Lenten Vesper Service held April 1, 1979 in our Church. Guest Speaker: Rev. Milan Zobenica, St. Luke Serbian Orthodox Church, Washington, D.C.; March 16, 1980 – guest speaker: Very Rev. Michael Rachko, Macedonian-Bulgarian Church, Steelton, PA.; March 29, 1981 – guest speaker: Rev. Svetislav Mirolovich, St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church, Philadelphia, PA.; 1982 – no services; April 17, 1983 – Guest speaker: Rev. Ljubomir Josimovich, St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church, Philadelphia, PA.
“The Orthodox Challenge” a 70 minute, 16mm color film was shown on Sunday, May 6, 1979 in our church school area following Divine Liturgy. The film depicts the liturgical and academic life of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary including glimpses of the Feast of Epiphany, Lent and the celebration of Pascha – Christ’s Resurrection. The film was shown by Mr. Zoran Milkovich, an active Orthodox layman of Serbian extraction, who is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Seminary, a Founder and President of St Vladimir’s Theological Foundation and 2nd Vice President of Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City.
Church School Staff attended a seminar May 20, 1979 conducted by Mrs. Victoria Trbuhovich, Head of Department of Christian Education for our Diocese. Her talk was very inspiring; Parent/Teacher/Student meeting conducted Aug. 15, 1979 by Mrs. Victoria Trbuhovich and Mark Zivkovich, graduate of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, representing our Diocese. TOPIC: “Crisis in the Class Room;” May 10, 1981, Very Rev. Archpriest, Stavrofor Radovan Milkovich, Director of Religious Education for our Diocese, visited our church school; Nov. 7, 1981, First Diocesan Youth Leadership Conference in Aliquippa, PA, attended by Father Srboljub Jockovich and delegates Leann Tepsich and Cheryl Klipa, both of whom were appointed to serve on the Eastern Diocese College Campus and Youth Ministry Board.
Church Slava and 76th Anniversary celebrated on May 27, 1979 with a memorial service and the blessing of the Festal Bread and Wheat. Responses during Divine Liturgy by St. Luke Choir of Washington, D. C. Guest Speaker: Prof. Dusan Glumac, West Chester State College of PA.; June 1, 1980, Church Slava and 77th Anniversary celebrated with Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and Banquet. During services the Bishop tonsured Readers Nicholas Govelovich, Jr. and Richard Hathaway. The Bishop was the banquet speaker; May 31, 1981, Church Slava and 78th Anniversary celebrated with Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and banquet. The blessing of the new crystal chandelier in the Holy Altar donated by the Yanich family in loving memory of the late beloved Father Rade Yanich by Bishop Christopher. Bishop Christopher was the banquet speaker; May 31, 1982, Church Slava and 79th anniversary celebrated with Divine Liturgy and banquet. Guest Speaker: Donald Ernakovich, Assistant to the President of Shippensburg State College; May 22, 1983, Church Slava and 80th Anniversary will be celebrated with Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and banquet. Bishop Christopher will be the speaker.
Our altar boys left for Camp Stefaneum, Doylestown, Ohio on July 8, 1979. Mrs. Sylvia Stefan and Mrs. Annie Krnjaich attend each session of camp, helping with the cooking, etc. Mr. and Mrs. Sam Radanovich and their sons also attend each session; commencing with 1980, Camp Shadeland became the site for the camp; June 8, 1980, Father Srboljub Jockovich and the altar boys visited Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA.; June 6, 1982, Camp Shadeland summer program unveiled at luncheon prepared by our Circle of Serbian Sisters. The Federation of Serbian Sisters adopted the recommendation of Bishop Christopher to use this method of disseminating the camp’s program. The altar boys and our church are fortunate that in 1973 the “Mile Macut Altar Boy Memorial Fund” was established by the Macut family to advance interest in altar boy activities and to defray expenses of the boys whether going to camp, ahtletic events, etc. This fund is still in existence and is being funded by the family as required, for which we are grateful.
Donation of $100 on July 26, 1979 was made to aid the victims of an earthquake in Montenegro and the coastline of Yugoslavia.
First annual pilgrimage to Shadeland was held Sep. 3, 1979 as a Day of Prayer, Fellowship and Thanksgiving designated by an Act of Bishop Christopher and this event marked the takeover of Shadeland by our Diocese. This pilgrimage to Shadeland has been observed each year and our congregation has been represented and helped to support these annual celebrations.
“Pilot Program” in our Diocese commenced in our church on Oct. 20-21, 1979 when Seminarian (Now Rev.) George Yatsko, St. Vladimir’s Seminary and his wife, Marija, had agreed to come to Steelton twice a month for the purpose of organizing and administering a religious education program. Adult classes were held Sunday mornings from 9:00 – 10:00 A.M. prior to church services. Bishop Christopher said that this is the first time in recent times that a parish has agreed to employ a person solely for the purpose of christian education and that it is a sign of maturity on the part of the parish. The classes were conducted for approximately 6 months.
Christmas Eve Jan. 6, 1980 was celebrated with a program and the burning of the Yule Log (Badnjak) for the first time in Steelton. The program with our church school students was prepared by Seminarian George and Marija Yatsko and was well received and the attendance of approximately 250 people appreciated the efforts put forth. A fellowship hour followed the program after which The Office of Great Compline – Christmas Matins were served at 8:00 P.M. in lieu of our customary midnight schedule.
First Annual Lenten Retreat in our Church March 15, 1980 conducted by Deacon George Yatsko and the seminarians from St. Vladimir’s Seminary; April 4, 1981, Guest Speaker: Prof. Veselin Kesich, St. Vladimir’s Seminary and visiting seminarians; Mar. 27, 1982, Guest Speaker: Very Rev. Archpriest Paul Lazor, Dean of Students, St. Vladimir’s Seminary and 10 seminarians; Apr. 2, 1983, guest speaker: Very Rev. Thomas Hopko, St. Vladimir’s Seminary and 10 Seminarians.
An old custom in our church, well remembered by the old timers, was revived in our present church on Good Friday, Apr. 4, 1980 by the guarding of the Grave. The participants read from the Bible; and each year, since 1980, the custom has been preserved.
The first annual Memorial Day Service was held May 26, 1980 sponsored by the Baldwin-Midland Cemetery Assn. Inc., a newly formed organization constituted to improve the poor conditions due to neglect and the lack of perpetual care at the Baldwin Cemetery. The newly donated marker was dedicated to all Veterans and the deceased interred in the cemetery. Father Srboljub Jockovich participated in the program and also stated that according to our church records—over 500 pioneer parishioners were interred in the Baldwin Cemetery. A five-week club was held through our church and the proceeds donated to the Cemetery Association to help to defray the expenses of cleaning up and maintaining the cemetery.
Church School Superintendent Mildred Petrovich was appointed Aug. 28, 1980 to serve as Superintendent filling the vacancy created by the resignation of Daniel Radanovic, who served for many years. Catherine Dmitrovic became the new Assistant Superintendent succeeding Mrs. Petrovich.
Governor Dick Thornburgh proclaimed Sept. 28, 1980 as “Gold Star Mothers’ Day.” Pomen was offered for the following members from our church who lost their lives during two conflicts: World War II: Samuel Malobovich, Michael Rusnov, David Semic, Mark and Paul Paich, Jovan Obradovich and Jack Kosutic. Korean War: Stevan Radanovich. May their Souls rest in Eternal Peace! Vjecnaja Pamjat! Memory Eternal.
Our church is in the process of obtaining names of Vietnam and Korean War Veterans for the purpose of preparing a memorial plaque. We have a plaque with the names of WWII veterans. The “Welcome Home Book” published Dec. 1, 1946 contains the picture of each veteran and also the names of his parents, and the dates they entered and were discharged from the service. Please assist the Board in obtaining the names for the memorial plaque.
Church property lines were surveyed for the third time and concrete markers were installed as of Nov. 25, 1980 to negate problems with boundaries. There were two encroachments. Additionally, an entrance marker for the picnic grounds was placed.
The first annual Christmas..“An Ethnic Experience” opened Dec. 7, 1980 in the William Penn Memorial Museum sponsored by the Governor’s Heritage Affairs Commission. We are honored in having Charles Bojanic as the Serbian Commissioner representing all the Serbians in PA. He is serving his second term as Chairman of the Commissioners representing all the Ethnic groups. Under the guidance of Cheryl Klipa, the church school of our church has participated in all three of the annual Christmas programs.
Our former pastor, Rev. Alexander Micich, passed away on Jan. 15, 1981 in New York and was buried at the St. Sava Monastery Cemetery, Libertyville, Ill. His family was presented a donation from our church and additionally, our parishioners also responded.
Our Reader, Java Dragovich, passed away Jan. 16, 1981 and he is missed for his invaluable assistance to Father Srboljub throughout the years.
Rev. Dr. Krstivoj Kotur passed away Feb. 12, 1981 in Fresno, Calif. Father Kotur was our parish priest for a number of years and the founder of the Mothers’ Club. A donation in his memory was made to the St. Vladimir’s Seminary Memorial Chapel.
Church Library Project, Mar. 26, 1981. Terry Govelovich volunteered her services to organize our Library with Father Srboljub taking an active role.
Children’s Day Camp, July 9-11, 1981, with Nadine Klipa as Director was held on the Picnic Grounds with eleven children attending. She was assisted by Nicholas and Terry Govelovich, Arlene Barber and Michelle Kingsbury; Aug. 25-28, 1982 another retreat under the direction of Nadine Klipa.
Serbian Day weekend in Steelton, July 11-12, 1981 comprised of a dance and a picnic with music by Echoes of Sumadija to benefit our church with participation by all organizations. Divine Liturgy was held on the picnic grounds.
Church School and Divine Liturgy starting time changed on Sept. 27, 1981. Church School commenced at 9:45 a.m.; Divine Liturgy – 10:30 a.m. adult classes from 9:45 – 10:30; June 20, 1982 – the starting time reverted to the original schedule. Adult classes taught by Father Srboljub and Reader, Nicholas Govelovich, Jr.
Our former pastor, Very Rev. Proto-Stavrofor Mladen Trbuhovich passed away Nov. 28, 1981 in Glendale, Missouri. He was pastor of the St. John the Theologian Serbian Orthodox Church and his funeral was held at the St. Sava Monastery, Libertyville, Ill. He was buried in the Monastery cemetery.
Instituted the practice of parishioners donating Altar flowers for every Sunday commencing Jan. 17, 1982. After services, flowers will be taken by Father Srboljub to our shut-ins or may be taken home by the donors if they so desire.
Congratulations to our past President George Filepas on his election to our Diocesan Council and also to the Central Church Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada. He attended the sessions of the Central Church Council in Chicago, Mar. 19-20, 1982.
A Sonitrol Security System installed June 24, 1982 to cover the entire church complex in order to preclude illegal entry and prevent vandalism and theft.
Bingo discontinued June 25, 1982 after many years having been started in Steelton and continued in our new location. The proceeds sustained many projects, improvements and expenditures during its existence.
Mrs. Olga Klipa was the Chairperson of the 37th SNF Bowling Tournament held in Steelton the weekend of Oct. 15-17, 1982. Catherine Dmitrovic served as the Co-Chairperson. There were a total of 53 teams participating. On Friday, a Get-Together Dance was held. Saturday was comprised of bowling, getting acquainted at the Hospitality Room, dinner and dancing. On Sunday following church services, bowling continued, followed by a banquet at the Marriott. The tournament commenced with a dance at the Church Social Hall. Because of the leadership and cooperation of all the church parishioners, the tournament was a success.
Initial planning meeting for the 80th Anniversary celebration of our church was held Feb. 14, 1983 with all parishioners participating under the newly established “Standing Committee.”
Today, our St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church of Steelton, PA is celebrating its 80th Anniversary and the occasion marks another historical day in the history of our church. The hierarchical Divine Liturgy will be concelebrated by His Grace Rt. Rev. Bishop Christopher, assisted by our host pastor, Father Srboljub Jockovich and visiting Orthodox clergy. Bishop Christopher will be our speaker. At last night’s dance, May 21, 1982, and after today’s banquet, the music is by the Kumovi Orchestra of Lackawanna, N. Y. Master of Ceremonies, Sam Petrovich, President of the St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church.
ST. NICHOLAS SERBIAN EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH (1983-2003)
By Nicholas Govelovich
The year 2003 marks a milestone in the history of our church congregation of St. Nicholas. It is our long-awaited centennial celebration. Through God’s great grace and mercy, we have been fortunate to complete 100 years of existence and continue to be a spiritually active parish.
The organizational meeting to establish a committee for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the St. Nicholas Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church of Oberlin-Steelton, PA, convened in the church school complex on Monday, June 8, 2002. Under the co-chairperson leadership of Sandy Book and Cheryl Klipa, committees were formed and the work began.
Rather than rewrite the history of the St. Nicholas Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church, the History Committee decided to build on the existing work of the late Sam Bojanic, who did an excellent job on this subject.
In order for a church to be a church, it should be active in a number of areas. We are, and act, in total agreement with this statement. A church should be active in the community in which it is located. Since 1985, the church-school congregation has actively contributed to the Central Pennsylvania Food Pantry which provides food for needy families in our area. Some of our parishioners volunteer one day a month to bag food at the pantry. Volunteers from our church have also been involved in the “Meals on Wheels Program” of the Dauphin County Area Agency on Aging since 1985. This program provides hot meals for the elderly people who live in our area. Our church also took part in the now defunct Steelton Ministerium. In this program, members of the local churches would meet together for prayer services on holidays, during times of trouble, and to give thanks to God for His blessings.
A church must also be active within itself to provide for the spiritual enlightenment and well-being of its parishioners and to provide the necessary maintenance and beautification of the physical property. The Very Reverend Father Srboljub Jockovich, who celebrated his Silver Jubilee with us on April 20, 2001, along with Nadine Klipa, our very able Choir Directress, have provided for the spiritual needs for our parishioners. Under their direction and leadership, Orthodox education classes are held for all who are interested in learning more about their faith. A Bible study class was also established to assist our parishioners to better understand the scriptures. The purchase of Orthodox Study Bibles to be placed in the pews allowed parishioners to sponsor the donation of the Bibles as a memorial to a departed loved one. Parishioners follow the Epistle and Gospel readings for the day and use them for personal fulfillment. St. Nicholas has sponsored religious retreats primarily during the Lenten season for further spiritual enrichment. To assist us in our presentation of these retreats, we have requested the assistance of seminarians from St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary. Our Church School, which provides religious instruction for our youth, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2004.
Our Church Board and individual parishioners have also provided for the beautification of our St. Nicholas Church. Upon entering the church, you will notice the icon of the Platitera above the Holy Altar. With her arms outspread, she welcomes us and intercedes with her Son and our Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf. Upon leaving the church, we see the icon of He Who Never Sleeps, keeping watch over our church congregation, not only during the Divine Liturgy, but always, day and night. These, along with the painting of icons for the Twelve Feast Days of the Church and icons of various saints and other holy days, have been sponsored by families in memory of their deceased loved ones. The hanging votive light and the tall votive lights in front of the Iconostas have also been donated by families in memory of a deceased loved one. A new Holy Grave was donated to replace the old one which had seen many years of use. New votive light stands and candle boxes for the narthex were donated to accommodate the increase in the number of votive lights and candles lit for various reasons. Wooden lecterns were purchased for Father and the Choir Directress to use for services along with stands and tables to assist the Tutors in their duties. A small Tetrapod was donated to support an icon that the children could more easily venerate upon entering the church. Church vestments are being updated as needed when they wear out. Walkway lights were purchased to light the outside rear of the church to make walking safer for night processions during Lent. A wooden locomotive and train set was donated and placed outside the rear of the social hall to provide a play area for children after church and during other events.
Aside from our Church Choir Marinkovich, which enhances the service of the Divine Liturgy with its lovely responses, we are indeed fortunate to have parishioners who comprise Weekday, Vesperal, and Lenten choirs to sing the responses for these Divine Services. I believe we are one of the few churches who can make such a claim.
Our Serb Park has been for many years a place for us to celebrate our Serbian heritage and Culture through picnics and other occasions. We have made many improvements to the picnic grounds and have been able to provide a fine place for outside organizations to use for recreational purposes. The old farmhouse has been dismantled and replaced by a new structure with a new kitchen, storage room, and lavatories. The pavilion roof, which collapsed in the early 90’s due to snow, has been replaced and the driveway widened and paved. A small playground was added to accommodate the toddlers and youngsters and the basketball and volleyball courts have been redone. Many thanks to our Park Manager Chris Radanovic and our Park Caretaker Milan Starcevich for their dedication.
The Board introduced the idea of starting a church pictorial directory in 1988. We have updated this directory every five years and are currently on our fourth edition. The directory serves as an informational guide, providing addresses and phone numbers of parishioners as well as a historical document allowing us to see families grow and also allowing us to look back with fond memories upon those of our loved ones who have gone to be with the Lord.
In 2002, the church finally realized the fruition of a long-awaited project, the purchase of a van. With four volunteers, Phil Gruich, John Semic, Pete Barber, Jr., and Nick Govelovich, the van provides the opportunity to attend Divine Liturgy for those who have no way to get there. It also provides transportation to St. Sava Shadeland Camp for those parish children who wish to attend in the summer and to Pan-Orthodox functions.
A computer was purchased for the church office to aid in record keeping. The Board has seen fit to institute a policy of reserving a percentage of our investments for emergencies that might arise rather than borrow from other funds or financial institutions.
A church must also be active within its own faith. St. Nicholas is active in the Orthodox Council of Churches of South Central Pennsylvania (OCCSCP). Together with our sister churches, we strive to promote Orthodox unity through the sponsorship of Pan-Orthodox Divine Services and events. Our Parish actively supports the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and the Orthodox Christian Missionary Center (OCMC) through regular financial donations. We also support St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary Education Day by providing a Serbian booth and selling ethnic foods with the proceeds going to the seminary.
The church and its organizations and affiliated organizations have continued to promote our Orthodox Faith and our Serbian heritage and culture. The newly formed St. Sava Youth Choir provides us with religious and secular music, as does the St. Nicholas Junior Tamburitzans Group. The Youth Group provides opportunities for the youth of the parish to meet for various activities and have sponsored a brunch after church. The Circle of Serbian Sisters (K.S.S.) sponsored support of St. Sava Shadeland Camp where our children could meet and interact with other children of Serbian background. The Mothers’ Club continues to support the religious education of our youth by supporting the Church Sunday School. The Serbian-American Civic and Educational Club continues to provide a location for Serbs to take part in their culture by sponsoring dances and picnics and support of Orthodox Christian charities. Aside from its beautiful responses to Divine Liturgies, the S. S. S. Marinkovich Choir has contributed to our cultural heritage through its anniversaries by inviting guest choirs to respond to the Liturgy and present a concert. The Serb National Federation (SNF) Lodge #37 has sponsored bowling tournaments, the last being in 2001. It was very successful and attracted people from as far as California. The affiliated organization of SerbNet has provided charitable assistance to refugees in the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
This small compilation of events from 1983 to the present added to the previous history has completed our first 100 years of existence. We hope that it has given you some idea of our parish life and the contributions we have made within our community, our parish and our Orthodox Christian Faith. If we neglected anything that you think is important, we assure you that it was not intentional. Please inform us of anything that you feel would be important for future reference.