St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church

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History  (About Us)

At the turn of the Century, life in the Carpathian Mountains area of Europe was very impoverished.  When word came that America was a land of freedom and opportunity, many migrated here, to the Youngstown, area where a new steel mill was in operation and jobs were plentiful.

Those who settled here joined together to form the "St George Society".  This group of people, in search for a place to worship, petitioned the State of Ohio for a charter to form the "St John's Congregation of East Youngstown", which was granted on April 20, 1917.  A drive for funds was started immediately making possible the acquisition of three lots on the corner of Gordon Ave and 14th St.  In September of 1917, the construction of a parish house was begun.  On March 3, 1918, the parish house was completed and the newly assigned priest Rev. Kulchinsky celebrated the first "Divine Liturgy" in the basement of the parish house.  With a roster of about 80 organizers, these quarters soon proved inadequate.  With the accumulation of funds through donations, pledges, and loans, the construction of a new hall was started to serve as a temporary church and on September 19, 1918, His Eminence Bishop Alexander dedicated this hall as a temporary Church.

The following year in 1919, lots were purchased to be used as a cemetery and Fr. Joseph Kreshko was assigned as Priest.  In 1925, Fr. Isadore Salko assumed pastorate and a "Russian School" was organized.  The parish soon outgrew its facilities and classrooms for educating the youth were built.

In 1926, East Youngstown was renamed Campbell and Fr. Honchok became the new priest.  He and Matushka (his wife) formed the Ladies Altar Society, Church Choir, and the Campbell "R" Club (Chapter 27 of the Federated Russian Orthodox Clubs).  Ten years later, Fr. Michael Kostyk was assigned as the new priest and reorganized the choir, through training choir directors, supplying music for choral response and the use of English in both worship and instructions started.  The young mothers of the parish organized the Mother's Club and "Russian School" gradually evolved into a Sunday School program.

In 1947, a Building Fund was established and a special collection was taken once a month.  This money was put in escrow to be used only for the building of a new church.  On January 16, 1947, Fr. Nicholas Vansuch, the first native son of the parish, was ordained a Priest.  In 1952, the new cemetery chapel was dedicated by Archpriest Joseph Stephanko and three years later in 1955, Gregory Matveychuk was assigned as interim pastor.  Later that same year, a new priest, Fr. Yuschak, joined the community.

Eventually, a five acre tract of land on the corner of Struthers-Liberty Rd and Tenney St. was purchased as the site for the new church and in 1959 ground was broken to begin building.  The building Committee, with George Libertin as Chairman, oversaw with expert care, the entangled stages of the construction period.  Fr. John Voytilla, the second native son of the parish, was ordained a Priest.  In 1960, the new church building was completed and Fr. Nicholas was assigned pastor.  Archbishop John of Chicago consecrated the new and lovely dwelling place.  The Iconostasis was built by parishioner John Novak and designed by Fr Nicholas.  The Icons were written by Andrew Bicenko.

During the 1960's, the cemetery chapel was renovated and the cemetery grounds were completely redone.  Landscaping around the church was installed with the financial assistance of the Mother's club and the Campbell "O" Club.  In 1967, Fr. Eugene Vansuch, the third native son to enter the Priesthood, served his first "Divine Liturgy" here at his home parish.  In 1972, Fr. Philip Koufas completed the Iconography behind the Altar, on the wall, and the arch over the Iconostasis.

In 1969, Fr. John Psinka was assigned as pastor and progress continued.  Fr. John instituted a Reader and Sub-Deacon program.  The following have been tonsured and serving as Sub-Deacons: Maurice Garman, George Gresko, William Livosky, and Walter Rusnak.  Tonsured and serving as Readers are: George Horodnic Jr, Harrison Krenitsky, Dr. Nicola Nicoloff, John Zastany, and John Zelina.  In 1973, our fourth native son to enter the Priesthood was Fr. Dimitri Voytilla.  Barbara (Zelina) Matusiak, a native daughter, became a Matushka in 1975 when her husband, John Matusiak, was ordained a Priest.

In 1996, Fr John Psinka fell asleep in the Lord and on December 1, 1996, Fr. John Steffaro was assigned as pastor.  After 14 years of faithfully serving and ministering to St. John the Baptist Church, Fr. John retired in June of 2010.  On September 1, 2010, Fr. Andrew D. Nelko, a retired Navy Chaplain was assigned to St. John's as rector.

Love is the key; love for Christ and His Church and love for one another as His children.  In the early church the Christians in Antioch were identified because of their love for one another.  If we, as the “Body of Christ” accomplish nothing else this coming year it is our prayer that we indeed grow in love: love for Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and in love for one another.  We continue to be a vital parish with many activities and ministries and hope that you please join us for worship and Christian fellowship.

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