St. Michael the Archangel Byzantine Catholic Church is hosting a historical program on Saturday, October 3, 2015, no registration fee to attend. Three guest speakers, members of the Eastern Pa. Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society will be featured.
They are: Rich Custer, Dr. Michele Parvensky, and Dr. Peter Yasenchak. See their biographies and topics listed below. The Carpatho-Rusyn Society is an organization headquartered in Munhall, near Pittsburgh; it has chapters throughout the United States and Europe.
St. Michael’s is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year. Most of the early parishioners were immigrants from the Carpathian region. Looking at a present day map, the region stretches from eastern Slovakia through Western Ukraine.
People often mistakenly refer to St. Michael’s as “the Russian Church”. However that is very misguided because St. Michaels is actually a Catholic church with a Rusyn or Ruthenian heritage.
The confusion arises because Rusyn and Russian sound similar. St Michaels also shares liturgical forms and many other traditions that can often be seen in Russian Orthodox churches. There are historical reasons for the similarities. Finally, many individuals may have great grandparents or grandparents who were Rusyn and these descendants may not be familiar with their own ancestry.
The goal of the program is informational. If you are interested in learning about this group of immigrants, their journey to America, and their lives in Wyoming Valley 100 years ago, remember to mark the date on your calendar. The speakers will discuss each area of their expertise.
Topics will cover everything from the immigrants’ journey from their homeland to America, the land they left behind, the traditions they brought with them to their new home, the wooden churches of the Carpathian region, and the inter-relatedness of their church, work, and home life.
Speakers of Interest to Genealogists
The entire program will be of special interest to people doing genealogy research and exploring local history.
This is a “not-to-miss” event for at least several reasons. First, the program is free of charge. We request that you register as a courtesy, but it is not required. Registration directions are listed below. Secondly, the line-up of knowledgeable speakers is certain to interest many. And additionally, St. Michael’s is providing participants an opportunity to tour the church and learn more about its beautiful Byzantine features. All the icons in the church were created by Father Theodore Koufos and his associates from Toronto, Canada.
The program starts at 9 am; opening remarks at 915 a.m., followed by the first two presentations (Dr. Parvensky and Rich Custer). Following a short lunch break (available in the church hall), participants will be invited on a tour of St. Michaels.
Afterwards, the final presentation (Dr. Yasenchak) and time for discussion will be held, with the program close at approximately 3 pm.
Courtesy Registration Requested
Pre-registration is suggested as mentioned earlier. Registration is for planning and set-up purposes to better accommodate all who wish to attend.
A variety of information handouts will be available along with items that can be purchased. There is ample parking. The church is located at 205 N. Main Street, Pittston, Pa.
About Our Speakers
Dr. Michele Parvensky
Dr. Parvensky will be talking about “the old country” with a focus on its people, land, and the unique churches of the Carpathian region. Dr. Parvensky has been visiting the Rusyn homeland since 1997. She has done extensive study on the style of churches in Slovakia simply known as “wooden churches” with their stylized domes and hard carved embellishments. Her focus has been on photographing the wooden churches. Her interest in them was piqued by an article in a GCU (Greek Catholic Union) magazine. Although the GCU article stated that there were only 150 churches, this figure was proven to be incorrect. She is familiar with her Rusyn heritage due to it being ingrained by her father and relatives. Her father was the cantor and choir director of St. John’s Church in Pottstown.
Rich Custer will focus on a presentation entitled: “The Greater Pittston Area and St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church: A Carpatho-Rusyn Immigrant Hub of the Wyoming Valley”. Richard Custer is a founder of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society (C-RS) and has served as editor of its newsletter, The New Rusyn Times, since 1994. Also for the C-RS he compiled and edited the Rusyn-American Almanac of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society 2004-2005. His articles on Rusyn genealogy, history, culture, and language have appeared in numerous publications and he has presented on the topic of Rusyn American history at more than a dozen regional genealogical and Carpatho-Rusyn conferences.
Since the late 1980s, he has been engaged in research, photography, and collecting historical written and photographic materials for what is now planned as a lavishly illustrated book of the history of the Carpatho-Rusyn immigrant communities in Pennsylvania. Follow the progress of the project on his blog, “The Carpatho-Rusyns of Pennsylvania,” rusynsofpa.blogspot.com.
Rich will talk about the first local immigrants, the villages they came from, and where they settled around the Greater Pittston area. Carpatho-Rusyns left behind their homes in small villages in the Carpathian Mountains of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Like other fellow central European immigrants, they were drawn to employment opportunities in the anthracite coal industry. Rich will discuss how the immigrants needed ample spiritual and material support of fellow Rusyns, thereby founding churches, fraternal societies and businesses.
Rich Custer’s website/blogsite is: http://rusynsofpa.blogspot.com
Dr. Peter Yansenchak
Dr. Yasenchak will discuss “The richness of our coalfields and our ancestors who toiled in them.” Dr. Peter Yasenchak, a longtime resident of Pottsville, hailing from the coal regions of Kingston, PA has promoted the Rusyn culture throughout his life. He has been well known in the Pottsville area as the Executive Director of the Historical Society of Schuylkill County. Dr. Peter Yasenchak was a contributor to the book, “Images of America; The Anthracite Coal Regions Slavic Community”. He served as the first President of the newly formed Eastern PA Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society. He remains active in the chapter as First Vice President.
Additional Information Available:
Research blog site by Rich Custer Carpatho-Rusyns of Pennsylvania
Carpatho-Rusyn Society website: www.c-rs.org
St. Michael’s 100th Anniversary Facebook page: www.facebook.com/stmichaels100/timeline (viewable by non-Facebook users)