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St. Florian History

A timeline of St. Florian Church

At the turn of the 19th century, thousands of immigrants from central European countries came to work in the coal fields of western Pennsylvania. These immigrants brought with them their traditions, customs and their Catholic faith.

1890s: Catholic immigrants build faith in America

With no established churches, the late Father Neil McNellis, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Mount Pleasant came into the township to say Mass in a large house in Mammoth. A wooden church was constructed in 1894, in Mammoth, but without a priest, the building began to collapse.

1894s: First Catholic church established in Trauger

St. Mary’s Greek Catholic Church, founded January 1, 1894, in Trauger, was the first Catholic church established in the area to serve this new community of Catholic immigrants. The first place of worship was in a hall in Calumet. The actual construction of a church building did not begin until 1897 and a small frame building was built. The cornerstone for the present brick church building was laid August 16, 1914.

Meanwhile, Slovak Catholics traveled to Saint Vincent Monastery in Latrobe or churches in Mount Pleasant or Whitney.

1895-98: St. Stanislaus Church established in Mammoth 

Ground was acquired to build St. Stanislaus Church in 1895. The church was dedicated Sept. 18, 1898. When the Polish people built St. Stanislaus Church in Mammoth, (Calumet) the Slovaks attended and paid their fraternal lodge dues there. In 1903 a school for the Sisters of the Holy Ghost was added at St. Stanislaus.

1909:  Committee forms to build St. Florian Church

The Slovaks sought assistance from the priest at St. Stanislaus to form a Slovak church. When they were refused assistance, they decided to approach the late Bishop Regis Cannevin of the Pittsburgh Diocese directly.

In July 1909, a meeting was held in the home of Adam Lazor for the purpose of starting a Slovak parish in United. With a $350 loan from the First Catholic Slovak Union, the dream of a church became a reality.

On November 27, 1909, a group of founders including Stefan Nemetz, Frank Majernik, Adam S. Lazor, John Feledik, Michael Repko, John Ulica, John Kozup, Michael Hlavac and John Holosnevic authorized the collection of funds to establish the new church in United.

The committee visited the H. C. Frick Coal & Coke Company to obtain property for the church. The first site selected was the comer lot later owned by Enoch Laick. When the bishop found out that a saloon was located across the street, he rejected the plan. Later the present site was chosen.  Thomas Lynch, president of the company, promised and agreed to grant this property at no cost provided they obtained permission for building the church.

1910: St. Florian Church dedicated

On May 20, 1910, the first priest for the parish, the late Father John Matejcsik, arrived from Slovakia. He served the first Mass in Lengyel’s Hall in Trauger and then at the public school in lower United until the new church was finished.

On May 24, 1910, the first recorded baptism was Anna Yanok, daughter of George Yanok and Anna Dzurikanin of Mammoth.

On May 31, 1910, the H. C. Frick Coal Company gave them a three-acre lot of ground. Bishop Cannevin then permitted them to build the church and establish a new parish for $12,000. V.B. Snively, a contractor from Greensburg, was the lowest bidder, and began building the church. Construction began in June 1910.

With an average daily wage of $1, nearly 300 families struggled to build the church treasury up to $5,500. On June 14, 1910, the first recorded death was Stephanus Kover.

On August 10, 1910, the first recorded marriage was Andrew Jusko and Dorothea Semancik.

On September 4, 1910, the cornerstone was placed by the Father C. Gasparik and the late Bishop Joseph M. Koudelka blessed the new church.

The committee decided to name the church St. Florian because it was the name of Stefan Nemetz’s church in his home village in Slovakia.

Other initial members listed in the records were Michael Puskar, John Bator, John Ferek, Joseph Polcha, Paul Murin, John Stepanik, Joseph Petruska, Andrew Kochis, Valent Bemat, Paul Dosljak, Michael Kostelnik, Martin Glova, Michael Kapusta, John Komar, John Polcha, John Plachko and John Sedlak.

1912: St. Florian cemetery established

In April 1912, the parish purchased five and three-quarter acres of ground in Trauger for a cemetery at a cost of $600.

1913: Church bell purchased

In 1913, a large church bell was purchased at the request of Father Matejcsik by the United-Mammoth branch of the Jednota (First Catholic Slovak Union).

1914: Building continues

In 1914, a six-room home was built for the catechism instructor and organist at a price of $1,342.46. The bishop also recognized the first confirmation class at St. Florian this year.

1916: First priest, Father Matejcsik dies

On December 30, 1916, the church lost its founder and builder, Father Matejcsik. His burial took place in St. Florian Cemetery in Trauger, January 2, 1917.

In 1923, a monument was erected over his grave in memory of his dedication.

The church continued to grow adding various church services including a choir and administration. Meanwhile, the Hungarian members sought permission to organize a church. At first they were a mission of St. Emory Church in Connellsville. They celebrated Mass at St. Mary’s Church until land was donated by H.C. Frick in 1917.

1917: New priests arrive at St. Florian

By 1917, additional priests proficient in other languages were added to hear confessions. Temporary pastors the late Father Joseph Ademek, the late Father Edward Kitz and the late Father Stephen Morawetz and priests from Saint Vincent Monastery stepped in to help.

In summer 1917, the late Father Emil Sloupsky became pastor and served until Fall 1918 when the late Father Joseph Straka assumed duties as pastor.

1918: Forty Martyrs Church established

Forty Martyrs Church on the United-Trauger Road was dedicated in 1918.

1919: First Confirmation celebrated

On September 29, 1919, St. Florian held the first confirmation, 276 were confirmed.

1920 -St. Florian marks 10th anniversary

A Mass and modest celebration was held at St. Florian to recognize the 10 year parish anniversary.

1923 – First convent and school built

Under Father Straka’s leadership, the first move toward a school developed. Construction of a convent and school began in 1923. 

The two-story, four-room wooden structure included a large auditorium. A convent was also built a short distance from the school building.

Prior to the building of a convent, an organist teacher was employed to assist the pastors in religious education. The Vincentian Sisters of Charity provided an education to nearly 100 children who lived along the nearby trolley line. 

In Spring 1923, Father Stratka was transferred and replaced by the late Father Envin Emericus Gelhof. However, Father Gelhof died in the fall and was then replaced by the late Father Paul J. Odelga.

On July 8, 1923, the cornerstone was blessed at the school.

1924 : Societies formed

The Sodality and Rosary Society, a carry over from churches in the old country were established in 1924. Father Odelga also established a Holy Name Society for the men and boys of the parish.

On June 22, 1924, the new school was dedicated. In 1927, Forty Martyrs was named a mission of St. Vincent Vincent Basilica Parish.

1930s: Congregation struggles through Depression

During the 1930s and into the mid 1940s, St. Florian suffered through the Depression. The religious sisters and church personnel struggled to maintain the parish.

In Summer 1935, a serious automobile accident incapacitated Father Odelga. The late Father Louis P. Hohos then became the first appointed assistant in the parish, aiding the ailing Fadier Odelga until he could resume his duties.

1935: St. Florian marks Silver Jubilee

A Silver Jubilee Mass, a milestone in the history of the church, was held in 1935.

1938:  New generations replace old traditions

In Spring 1938, when Fadier Odelga was appointed pastor to St. Rita Parish in Whitaker, Father Hohos became the next pastor. He ministered the congregation through World War II.

As new generations grew, old traditions were soon replaced. The language of America, replaced the Slovak language of the first founders.

Under Father Hohos’ guidance, improvements and repairs neglected by the Depression were made. The parish buildings were covered with inselbrick and living quarters were improved.

Father Hohos raised $43,000 to expand the school facilities with more classrooms so all the children of the parish could benefit from a Catholic education.

During his service, St. Florian grew into a parish that other parishes looked up to.

1948: Father Joseph Kovalik comes to St. Florian

In January 1948, the late Father Joseph Kovalik was named pastor.

A series of bingos, called The Big Four Bingos, were held beginning in Summer 1948 to raise funds for school repairs, to pave the parking lot and the cemetery road. New roofs were put on all the parish buildings and the church was re-decorated.

lt was necessary to establish a bus service to bring the children to the school when the trolley line was discontinued.

1951: Greensburg diocese forms

On March 10, 1951, the Diocese of Greensburg was formed. The late Bishop Hugh L. Lamb was appointed the first bishop, and St. Florian Church became a parish of the Diocese of Greensburg.

1954: New wing built at school

Ground was broken June 27, 1954, and a new brick wing of the school was nearly ready for use by Easter of 1955 to accommodate an increase in enrollment.

1955-56: New convent/chapel and school addition added

A convent building for facilities and living quarters, and a chapel were added in Fall 1955. On April 22, 1956, the chapel was dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. A statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe was acquired from Mexico City. A fragment of stone from the sacred hill on which the Blessed Lady appeared to Juan Diego was embedded in the base of the statue.

During the building of the new wing, it was discovered that the parish property was not held in clear deed due to a reversion clause which made it possible to revert to original owners if and when the property ceased to be used for the purpose for which it had first been secured. No loan could be made against the property. 

Bishop Lamb underwrote the mortgage and progress on the building resumed. An increase in contributions made it possible to repay the $45,000 borrowed in October 1954. The last payment was made in July 1959.

On May 22, 1955, Bishop Hugh L. Lamb dedicated the new school addition, and on June 4, 1955, the first Mass of the first ordained priest from the parish, the late Father Thomas Holoman, was celebrated. An active Altar Society was also formed to serve the needs of the sanctuary and altar.

1958: CCD classes initiated

The first CCD classes were held in 1958 with 350 students attending.

1959 : St. Florian makes ready for Golden Jubilee

A year prior to the 50th anniversary, the church was redecorated. A new oak floor was laid; the seats were renovated and walls were painted. Oil portraits were repainted. The gothic type altars, damaged by years of cleaning and accidental breakage were divested. A new baldachino was erected over the main altar.

Some time in the late 1950s the first summer festival was held, organized by Harry Kalp, to help raise funds for the church.

1960: Church pays mortgage

On February 14, 1960, 300 parishioners gathered in a raging blizzard to “Burn die Mortgage.” O

On February 23, 1960, the late Bishop William G. Connare was appointed the second bishop of the Greensburg diocese after Bishop Lamb dies.

On September 5, 1960, the St. Florian Parish Golden Jubilee was celebrated at a solemn pontifical Mass with Bishop William Connare assisted by the late Father Joseph Kovalik.

1962: Father Fabian Oris named pastor 

The late Father Fabian Oris was named pastor March 22, 1962.

Possible jointure with Forty Martyrs and St. Stanislaus was considered, but each parish decided to stay independent. Plans were then formulated to build a new convent and rectory.

1967: New rectory is dedicated

Bishop Connare dedicated the new rectory and convent as part of the renovations of St. Florian in 1967. Father Oris also celebrated his 25th anniversary as a priest.

Forty Martyrs Parish celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1968.

1971: Father Robert Feeney named pastor

In 1971, Father Oris was transferred to Holy Rosary Parish in Republic. The late Father Robert E. Feeney was then appointed pastor. He was the first non-Slavic priest at the parish. 

On Nov. 21, 1971, St. Florian Choir established with women included in the choir for the first time.

1973: Bishop makes pastoral visit

On December 2, 1973, Bishop Connare made a pastoral visit to St. Florian. A Mass coincided with the 50th anniversary of the parish school.

On Aug. 12, 1973, St. Stanislaus celebrated its 75th anniversary.

1975: Choir produces first record album

On Sept. 14, 1975, the St. Florian choir produced the first long-playing record album, “Vesele Viance.”

1978: New church petition introduced

On June 30, 1978, a petition to build a new church was initiated.

1979: Choir produces second record album

On Feb. 4, 1979, the St. Florian Choir released second album, “Christmas at St. Florian.”

In September 1979, a building fund drive began. General chairman was John T. Mizikar, co-chair was Leo J. Sopko. Other committee members included Frank Pipak, Amos Pfeifer, Eva Kobistek, Ethel Tracey, Joe Ferlin, Bob Huffman, Paul Bitner, Ron Dlugos, John Krivoniak, Steve Mizak, Margaret Bankovich, Bernard Denis, John Mattey, Steve Whisdosh, Ed Bankovich, John Frena, Ray Olmer, Rose Hollis, Joe Kulha, Bill Kuhar, George Sprock, Elizabeth Shay, Andy Smail, Bob Stevens, John Sofranko, John Pravlik, Jean Murphy and Jerry Yasher.

The drive raised more than $350,000, surpassing the goal by $100,000. The cost of the new church was $800,000. Frank Church and his son, George, were acquired as architects for the new church.

1980: New church is built

On September 7, 1980, a groundbreaking was held for a new church.

Two of the bells (on the left and center) in the bell tower came from the old church, they were cast in 1912 and 1913. The third bell was cast in 1923.

More than 31,000 bricks were used to build the church. The floor is Pennsylvania slate. The marble altar top was hand-carved in Northen Italy.

The 12 Articles of the Apostles’ Creed were incorporated into the design of the stained-glass windows, designed by Milcho Silianoff made from glass from around the world, as a tribute to the strong faith of the people who make up the parish.

1981: New church is dedicated

On August 9, 1981, the new St. Florian Church was dedicated with Father Feeney and Bishop Connare celebrating the first Mass of thanksgiving at the new church.

1985: St. Florian celebrates 75th anniversary

On September 15, 1985, parishioners celebrated the 75th anniversary with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Connare.

A 75th anniversary flag was raised while St. Florian school students released balloons commemorating the anniversary. A dinner dance was held at St. Mary Center, Trauger, with entertainment by the Trel-Tones for the Diamond Jubilee.

1987: Bishop resigns

On January 28, 1987, Bishop Connare resigned, and June 30, 1987, the late Bishop Anthony G. Bosco was named as the third bishop of the diocese.

1988: St. Stanislaus Grotto dedicated

On April 10, 1988, the Grotto of The Mercy of God was dedicated at St. Stanislaus Church by Bishop Bosco. Built in the style of a Polish mountaineer church (Goral), the grotto is the center of a devotion to the Mercy of God.

1990: St. Florian marks celebrations

On October 14, 1990,the late Father Jerome Weiksner celebrated his final Mass at St. Florian, after spending 15 years assisting at the parish.

1991: Priests mark milestones

On May 26, 1991, the late Father Robert Feeney marked his 35th anniversary of his ordination, and on June 30, 1991, the Father Thomas Holoman was elevated to monsignor.

St. Stanislaus Parish also partnered with St. Florian Parish.

1996: New pastor joins St. Florian

On June 2, 1996, the congregation celebrates Father Feeney’s 40th anniversary and 25 years as pastor of St. Florian.

On June 25, 1996, St. Florian welcomed new pastor Father John M. Foriska, as Father Feeney assumed new duties as pastor of the former Holy Trinity Parish, Ford City.

2000: Altar Society marks 45th

On October 15, 2000, the parish celebrated the 45th anniversary of the St. Florian Altar Society.

A group of St. Florian members organized a kolache sale for fundraising during Christmas and Easter 2001. To date 12,805 rolls had been baked by the Kolache Bakers.

2002: St. Florian welcomes Father McGuirk

In February 2002, Father Foriska announced that due to reduced enrollment in kindergarten through sixth grade classes at St. Florian School would dose that June. With an enrollment of 72 students, the school experienced a shortfall of $30,000.

On July 23, 2002, the church then welcomed new pastor Father William McGuirk, and Father Foriska assumed his new duties at Ascension Parish in Jeannette.

2004: New bishop installed, Father Feeney dies

On February 19, 2004, the St. Florian Cook Book, “A Taste of St. Florian’ fundraiser got under way as part of the “Honoring Our Past … Shaping Our Future” Capital Funds Campaign. Initiated and promoted by Ed Ungvarsky, sales surpass 1,000 cookbooks sold in six months. 

A Slovak Cooking School, providing instructions to prepare pagach, haluski, pirohy, cirak md paska, were also a great success as they promoted many of the ethnic recipes contributed by more than 100 parishioners in the cook book.

On March 4, 2004, the Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt was installed as the fourth bishop of the diocese.

On August 28, 2004, Father Feeney passed away. Bishop Brandt and 60 priests concelebrated at a Mass of Christian Burial Sept. 1, 2004.

2005: Msgr. Holoman celebrates 50th anniversary

On June 26, 2005, Msgr. Holoman celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood at a celebration Mass at St. Florian Church.

On November 5, 2005, the parish welcomed Bishop Brandt during his first pastoral visit to St. Florian.

2006: St. Florian debt is retired

On September 17, 2006, Father McGuirk celebrated the elimination of a debt of $315,000 with a special Mass and outdoor reception. Father McGuirk and the parishioners of St. Florian accomplished the task through the “Honoring Our Past … Shaping Our Future” Capital Funds Campaign, nut roll sales and other fundraising events.

2007: Father McGuirk celebrates 25th year

On June 24, 2007, Father McGuirk celebrated his 25th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood.

On August 28 2007, a new Mass schedule was approved for St. Florian Parish, St. Stanislaus Parish and Forty Martyrs Parish by Bishop Brandt, due to a decrease in the number of assigned priests in Westmoreland County. At that time, Father McGuirk was then appointed administrator to Forty Martyrs Parish in addition to St. Stanislaus parish. They were the only three-partnered parishes in the diocese at that time.

2008: Three area churches unite as one

On October 30, 2008, St. Florian was named a canonical successor parish as part of the diocesan restructuring. Forty Martyrs and St. Stanislaus parishes became part of the St. Florian Parish.

On November 23, 2008, Bishop Brandt celebrated a Mass of Welcome and Remembrance at St. Florian Parish. Father McGuirk conducted final Masses at Forty Martyrs and St. Stanislaus parishes. Sacramental records from the former parishes were presented to Bishop Brandt at the Remembrance Mass.

2010: St. Florian begins year long 100th anniversary celebration 

On June 6, 2010, St. Florian Church kicked off a year-long 100th anniversary celebration with a Mass.

On July 18, 2010, a summer picnic and Mass was held at St. Stanislaus pavilion in honor of the 100th anniversary year.

On August 15, 2010, the Assumption of Mary and summer festival was held on the church grounds. A balloon launch in honor of the 100th anniversary was conducted.

On August 18, 2010, Father Richard Karenbauer was named pastor of St. Florian Parish and Father McGuirk took up his new assignment as pastor of the former Holy Rosary Parish, Republic, and administrator of the former Madonna of Czestochowa, Cardale. 

On Sept. 19, 2010, Bishop Brandt celebrated the 100th anniversary Mass. The bishop greeted parishioners in the social hall after Mass. Father Karenbauer was also installed as new pastor during the anniversary Mass.

On October 9, 2010, a performance by the Duquesne University Tamburitzans was held at Westmoreland County Community College as part of the ongoing 100th anniversary celebration. The performance captured the spirit of the congregation’s Eastern European heritage.

2011: 100th Anniversary celebration comes to a dose

On March 17, 2011, Dr. Stephen J. Whisdosh, St. Florian Parish choir director and organist, died.

On March 19, 2011, Calumet native, Msgr. Thomas L. Holoman died, at the age of 83. A funeral Mass in the presence of Bishop Brandt was held March 23.

Msgr. Holoman’s body was then transported to the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., for viewing and Mass before returning to be buried in the St. Florian Cemetery beside the parish’s first priest, Father John Matejcsik. Msgr. Holoman was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Lincoln, June 4, 1955. He served as a priest in Lincoln for 55 years. He was named a prelate of his holiness with the title of monsignor by Pope John Paul II in 1991. He retired from active ministry in 2003 and moved to Greensburg in 2005 to live with faniily members. He assisted at St. Florian after his retirement.

On April 10, 2011, Father Richard Karenbauer held a meeting to re-form the Holy Name Society for the purpose of giving honor to the most sacred names of God and Jesus and to assist members to grow in holiness. 

On May 15, 2011, the closing event of the 100th anniversary celebration was a dinner at Roosevelt Hall in Norvelt with music by Lil John’s Band.

2012: Father Karenbauer Retires

On December 31, 2012, Father Richard Karenbauer retired from active ministry. 

2013: Father John Sedlak join St. Florian as Pastor

On June 25, 2013, Father John Sedlak was appointed pastor of St. Florian Parish by Bishop Brandt.