KINGSTON – At a Divine Liturgy commemorating the 125th anniversary of St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church on Sunday, the Very Rev. Edward G. Cimbala passed out what appeared to be relay race batons during his homily.
Cimbala, administrator for the Eparch of Passaic, N.J., explained that the "batons" were actually scrolls imprinted with the creed that the congregation professes at each Divine Liturgy. He asked those handed a scroll to pass it to the person seated behind them.
"I want you to experience what I'm hoping you'll take home from our reflections today. … The faith that we possess doesn't stay in our hands. We need to take it and pass it," Cimbala said.
"Think about that: 125 years ago, our forefathers said, ‘Our faith is so important that we're going to commit ourselves to building a parish community and we are going to pass it on.' Your being here today is a testimony to their passing it on. But for there to be another 125 years, it's … everyone's responsibility … to take that baton of faith and pass it on," he said.
The history of St. Mary's traces back to 1887, when a group of Eastern Europeans made plans to erect a church in which they could worship according to their Eastern Catholic traditions, according to anniversary committee chairman Bill Dunsavage.
These Sub-Carpathian Ruthenians, or Carpatho-Rusyns, came from the northeastern part of the then-Austro-Hungarian Empire with a great devotion to their Byzantine (Greek) Catholic Church.
Other Slavic groups such as Slovaks and Polish, who had immigrated here earlier, had similar ethnic customs, but their Roman Catholic religious rites were quite different. It was this difference and a desire to worship in their own tradition that led to the formation of St. Mary's under the leadership of the Rev. John Wolanski.
Some of the tradition was seen in a blessing of salt and bread before a procession into the church on Sunday. Concelebrating with Cimbala were the Very Rev. Michael Salnicky; the Very Rev. Monsignor John T. Sekellick; the Rev. Mykaylo Prodanets, pastor; former pastors the Right Rev. Archimandrite Stephen J. Koster and the Rev. Dennis Grumsey; and Deacons Basil Soroka and Edward Frey.
An anniversary dinner at East Mountain Inn in Plains Township followed the liturgy. After dinner, the Wyoming Valley Barbershop Harmony Chorus performed and parish children presented a floral arrangement for placement in the church today in honor of the feast "Protection of the Theotokos."
Jason Marcin, of Shavertown, then led the other children in a cheer, "We're proud to be Byzantine Catholics!"
• St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church on Chestnut Avenue in Kingston was formed in 1887.
• The Rev. John Wolanski was the first pastor.
• Luzerne County Court granted articles of incorporation to the church on May 16, 1892.
• The original structure was a frame building now used as the parish hall. It served as the church until 1911.
• The present Byzantine style church of red brick had its cornerstone blessed on July 4, 1911.
• St. Mary's is the mother church of four other Eastern parishes on the West Side.
• St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church in Wilkes-Barre was founded and built soon after St. Mary's in Kingston. • The first baptism in the church was that of Anna Petrunya in 1887.
• The first wedding in the church was that of Alex Stetz and Julia Ondrakonski in 1887.
• The oldest living parishioner is Anna Stockage, 95, of Hunlock Creek.
• The latest marriage was that of Stacey Wilmoth and Russell Oelschlager in 2010.