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History of Freeland, Pa.
Ss. Peter & Paul's Eastern Greek Catholic Church
[Images from C. Tancin unless otherwise credited.]

What's on this page:
  • Overview of history
On related pages:
  • Photos from the time of Rev. Basil Macknik
  • Photos from the time of Msgr. Wroblewski (coming later)

Ss. Peter & Paul
                Orthodox Church cornerstone The building that became Ss. Peter & Paul's Eastern Greek Catholic Church at 921 Walnut Street was formerly a school for girls called the Girls Loyalty Club, run by Mrs. Sophia Coxe, where girls and women of the local area attended classses and were taught cooking, sewing and crafts. Sophia Coxe died in 1926, and in the 1930s the building was donated in her honor to be used as Ss. Peter & Paul's Church. At top left and at right are the Girls Loyalty Club, before it was modified for use as a church by enlarging the building. The cornerstone at left was added during that modification.

Ss. Peter
                & Paul Orthodox Church Ss. Peter & Paul's Eastern Greek Catholic Church was dedicated July 12, 1936 and was opened in May 1937. Its founders adhered to the tenets and rites of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Orthodox Church of America. It was one of two churches formed following a split at St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church, the other being St. Michael's Orthodox Greek Catholic Church.

The first priest to serve the parish was Rev. Basil Macknik, followed by Rev. Eugene Kashuba, and then by Right Rev. Mitred Hilary Wroblewsky in 1950, who served until his retirement in 1992. He died in October 1994 at age 95. The first officers of the church were: President, John Segan; Vice President, John Tomko; Recording Sec'y, John Potulicki; Financial Secretary, John Perkoski; Treasurer, Michael Mistiszyn. Directors of the church in 1937 were: John Segon, John Tomko, John Potulicki, John Perkoski, Michael Mistiszyn, Nicholas Mischissin, Michael Guzak, John Spock, Wassil Bobbey, John Hotyko, Andrew Moraz, Sebastian Sowa.

Ss. Peter
                & Paul Orthodox Church In the 1940s, the church acquired land along Rte. 940 (the Freeland-White Haven highway) which they called Victory Grove as a tribute to World War II.  Dances were held every Sunday, with Stegana's Orchestra and Emil Kitlan's Orchestra.  In 1947 and 1948 the church sponsored a carnival at Nocchi Field on N. Ridge Street.

At a 1957 church synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America in Allentown, the Very Rev. Basil Macknik was elevated to Archpriest and was decorated with the Epigonation, the Spiritual Sword. At the same ceremony, Rev. Hilary Wroblewski received the title of Very Reverend Monsignor and Right Rev. Mitred, and was given a Miter.

Rt. Rev. Wroblewsky was the longest serving pastor of this church. As noted in an obituary in The Morning Call, October 28, 1994: "He was ordained to the Orthodox Greek Catholic priesthood in New York City in 1932 by the late Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Anthenagoras I. His first assignment was in Coatesville, Chester County, and, in 1950, he was reassigned as pastor to Ss. Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Catholic Church in Freeland. He retired from there in 1992." Further notes come from the Hazleton Standard-Speaker, April 17, 1992. The same year that he was assigned to the Freeland parish he was also elevated to Archpresbiter and decorated with Epigonatian (spiritual sword) and gold cross, awarded the title Rt. Rev. Mitred, and invested with the miter in St. Mary's Church, Allentown, in the presence of Most Rev. Bishop Germanos as representatative of Ecumenical Patriarch Anthenagoras I of Constantinople and Most Rev. Metropolitan Andreas of the Bulgarian Church.

The newspaper article also gave a few surprising details of his earlier life. At around age 17 he joined the Austrian army where he was wounded and left to die. Instead, he survived and spent seven years as a Russian prisoner. Following his release he began to prepare for the priesthood. He and his parents came to the U.S. in 1931.

Girls Loyalty Club On another topic, here's a note on the architecture of the building. I received email some years ago from Bill Rhoads, a professor in the Art History Department at SUNY New Paltz. In his first message he wrote:
"I am an architectural historian at SUNY New Paltz and am writing a lecture on the use of colonial revival architecture to assist in Americanizing immigrants. I have a postcard sent in 1928 showing the Girls' Loyalty Club in Freeland, a colonial revival-style building that, I suspect, may have been used to make good citizens of the children of immigrants. I have seen your web page listing this club, and I wonder whether you have any suggestions about how I might get more information about the building and the club.
Thank you so much. Your list of the churches in Freeland in 1928 was already useful."

I wrote back, and and later heard from him again:

Ss. Peter
                & Paul Church Ss. Peter
                & Paul Church "I want to report that two weeks ago my wife and I visited Freeland briefly. I was glad to see the Girls' Loyalty Club retains much of its original appearance. Actually the major change, the addition of the onion dome for SS. Peter & Paul church, is a nice example of how a building in the Colonial Revival style (perhaps to encourage Americanization) could be altered and given a "foreign" appearance, perhaps indicative of the new arrivals' rejection of at least some aspects of Americanization efforts. I was also interested to see that the Mining and Mechanical Institute (c. 1925?) is Georgian or Colonial Revival in style."

Sts. Peter & Paul's Eastern Greek Catholic
                Church WWII memorial

Aside from architectural concerns, the church erected a memorial to parishioners who died in World War II. It stands on the site of the church today.

Four names are listed: Nicholas Miscishin, Thomas Horwath, John Kapushynsky, Stephen Kapushynsky.

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