Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tidbit: St. Mary of Czestochowa (Scranton, PA)

For Polish immigrants living in the predominantly Italian section of Minooka in Scranton, distance and cultural differences spurred the drive for the formation of St. Mary of Czestochowa parish.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tidbit: St. John the Baptist (Taylor, PA)

The plans to build St. John the Baptist church in Taylor, PA were interrupted by the devastating 1902 coal strike that kept 150,000 area miners out of work (and unpaid) for six months.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tidbit: Immaculate Conception (Taylor, PA)

Since September 8th is the date of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, Immaculate Conception church in Taylor, PA began its existence with Mary as Patroness in 1898.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tidbit: St. Joseph (Scranton, PA)

St. Joseph's parish (in Scranton, PA) was founded by a group of Lithuanian immigrants hoping to start a national parish in their neighborhood.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tidbit: Holy Family (Scranton, PA)

Following the course charted by the parishioners of Holy Ghost (in Olyphant, PA), a group of Slovak immigrants met on July 23, 1891, to discuss the creation of the Slovak parish - Holy Family in Scranton, PA.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tidbit: St. John the Evangelist (Scranton, PA)

St. John the Evangelist parish was founded in 1886 as a territorial parish for a geographical area, rather than a national parish for a specific ethnic group.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tidbit: St. Mary of the Assumption (Scranton, PA)

The history of the parish of St. Mary of the Assumption is one of the oldest stories in the Lackawanna Valley. The parish predates even the creation of the Diocese of Scranton.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Foreword by Richard J. Leonori, AIA, Lackawanna Historical Society trustee

The ever-changing landscape of Northeastern Pennsylvania reflects our history, values, economy and way of life. The rugged natural beauty of the Lackawanna Valley remained largely in its natural state until the 19th century. The Lenape tribes migrated through the area seasonally for hundreds of years yet barely left a trace. The Connecticut settlers cleared and farmed and the most entrepreneurial took advantage of the rich mineral resources of the land. The railroads regraded the valley slopes and opened the area to burgeoning East Coast markets. The iron industry failed, but hard coal transformed the valley into an urbanized center. The dark angular structures and culm banks of the mining industry scarred the region. The valley floor gave way to a string of commercial centers, with the city of Scranton emerging as the most prominent. Wood frame houses, ranging from shanties and shacks to great, pillared mansions covered the surrounding hillsides.

The industry and commerce brought people. Those people came from New England and New Jersey, or the surrounding countryside, but also from Ireland, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Russia, Lithuania, Italy, Sweden and virtually every corner of the European continent. Many came with very little other than a desire to work hard, for their children, if not for themselves, and to have a better life. They would give up their homeland, their language, much of their culture, but not their faith. In each neighborhood or settlement, prominent religious buildings were erected. Often, the beauty and grandeur of the religious structure would belie the hard-scrabble character of the surrounding houses. Each ethnic group would identify with a particular religious institution, and the pastor, rabbi or priest would play an important role in family life. The steeple, tower or dome became a prominent element of the landscape as religion was integral to life in the Lackawanna Valley.

Today, most of the rails are gone, turned to trails and one significant museum. The coal industry too is remembered in a tour and a museum. Virtually all of the structures are gone, and we will be cleaning up the wasteland for another century. Most of the shanties have been replaced with more substantial housing and many of the mansions are also gone. Still remaining, for the most part, are the religious structures.

The painful, but overdue, restructuring of the Scranton Diocese has now closed a significant number of unsustainable churches. Through photographs and historical background, Framing Faith documents 10 churches in Lackawanna County that have closed in recent months. This publication honors those structures and the history and lives that they touched.

Monday, March 21, 2011


“A well researched and outstandingly illustrated work by author Sarah Piccini and photographer Ivana Pavelka and her students. It is a must for anyone interested in the religious, cultural, and ethnic history of Northeastern Pennsylvania."

-Michael D. De Michele, Professor of History, The University of Scranton

“The Anthracite Heritage Museum extends congratulations on the book Framing Faith. The museum, as part of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, is participating in the 2011 History Theme: Penn’s Legacy: Religious and Spiritual Diversity. The theme recognizes Pennsylvania’s rich history of religious freedom and spiritual expression. As part of the theme goals we are happy to engage our partners, and historical organizations such as the Lackawanna Historical Society, by encouraging exhibits, book talks and program. Thank you for your good local history work on this important theme.”

-Chester Kulesa, Site Administrator, Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum

Framing Faith was an amazing project for the ARTS Engage! students to participate in. ARTS Engage! is a program whose mission is to build social skills through the arts by allowing students to create work and work with professional artists. This project allowed students to develop photography skills by working with a high caliber artist such as Ivana Pavelka and the documentation of ethnic churches offered a unique place-based learning experience about our cultural history.”

-Maureen McGuigan, Deputy Director of Arts and Culture, Lackawanna County

"Beauty and light converge on the pages within. The spectacular churches of Northeastern Pennsylvania reflect the importance that immigrants placed, and continue to place, on the worship of God. Framing Faith captures the profound emphasis of a people and their often intimate conversation with their environment in a new land.”

-Dan Perry, Chief Operating Officer, Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority

“As a native son and priest of the Diocese of Scranton, I know full well the centrality and vibrancy of the extraordinary faith of the Catholics whose courageous and dedicated stories are told and preserved in this timely and important commentary. The magnificent edifices they built over the course of the last one hundred years are but further testimony to the faith they lived so well, shared so fully and in which they anchored and launched their noteworthy lives. May we never forget them or their rock solid values of faith, hope and love."

-Msgr. Joseph G. Quinn, J.D., J.C.L., Vice President, Fordham University

Sarah Piccini

Sarah Piccini graduated from the University of Scranton with a degree in History and Communications. In 2010, she received a Master’s degree in History focusing on the ethnic and labor history of the Lackawanna Valley. She collaborates with the Lackawanna Historical Society on many projects and programs, and serves the Vice President of the board for the Anthracite Heritage Museum and Iron Furnaces Associates.

(from the book)

This work was possible because of several people who helped and contributed along the way, each of whom has my thanks.

First, Mary Ann Moran Savakinus, director of the Lackawanna Historical Society, who recognized the treasures being lost and started the Framing Faith project, for offering me the chance to tell the story. The staff and volunteers at the Lackawanna Historical Society, including Mary Ann Gavern, Ann Marie O’Hara and Bill Conlogue, who were incredibly helpful providing photos, books, and resources. I especially want to thank “Uncle Bob” Booth, for the vast store of local knowledge he has in his head, and Ivana Pavelka and students Brianna, Paola, and Sam for providing the beautiful images of each church.

Brian Fulton, library manager at the Scranton Times-Tribune, dug through his archives on several occasions to provide me with background materials. Chester Kulesa and John Fielding of the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum and Iron Furnaces provided me with assistance and images, as did Dan Perry of the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority. The “Called to Holiness and Mission” office of the Diocese of Scranton helped to clarify the consolidation process for me.

Jane Orlando, the champion of Sacred Heart, thank you for your stories.

The Most Reverend Anthony Mikovsky, Prime Bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church and his wife, Carol, provided assistance translating the Polish text found in St. Mary of Czestochowa and Sacred Heart churches. Father Philip Altavilla and Father Lubomir Strecok provided assistance translating the Slovak text found in Holy Family and St. John the Baptist churches.

Doug Forrer, who listened to the whole saga: emu.

Colleen Carter, friend and associate mom, thank you for the copyediting and lunches!

Finally, my mother, Juliana, for the stories and edits, and my father, Ed, for the spelling!

Ivana Pavelka

Ivana Pavelka is a co-founder and co-manager of the photographic gallery Camerawork in Scranton and is a professional photographer who has had many solo and group shows. Her professional career includes teaching in the art department at Keystone College (La Plume, PA), giving workshops and residencies as a rostered artist in schools, and working as a commercial photographer. She is also a professional bookbinder who was trained in European methods in Prague, where she grew up. When she came to the United States in 1980, she free-lanced as a bookbinder for such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has lived in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, since 1991.

PREFACE (from the book)
by Ivana Pavelka
edited by Dr. Philip Mirabelli

Churches are a prominent feature of the architectural and cultural landscape of Lackawanna County, but a good number are closing. Mary Ann Moran Savakinus, the director of the Lackawanna Historical Society, and I decided to create a photographic record of some of these churches in order to document and preserve this vanishing part of the county’s history. This project developed as I was working with four other photographers on postcards for the Lackawanna Historical Society. In reviewing my photographs for the postcards, I noticed that churches form quite an interesting part of the visual landscape of the county and that they also play a large role in its immigration history. This realization led to the idea for Framing Faith.

The history of a community has to be constructed. So Mary Ann and I thought–what better way than to have members of the community take part in the construction? Since I am a Pennsylvania-rostered artist who often works with students in residencies and workshops, we decided that I should give a workshop in photography to help document the soon-to-be-lost church structures, which have served as the focal points of their local communities, and then to turn our photographic results into a lasting testament–a book. We proposed this project to the ARTS Engage! program, Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit (NEIU 19) and the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority, who generously provided funding.

Student photographs and my own pictures became the basis of the visual record presented in this book. Through art, especially photography, one learns about the community in which one lives. Photography is, by its nature, partly a learning process and having students take part opened the community in a new way for my own personal exploration of Lackawanna County’s history.

Each community built its own church. Architecturally diverse, they added greatly to the rich visual landscape of each town. These churches served many functions in people’s lives. What may first come to mind is that a church is a house of worship for people of a certain religion, which may well extend across national and cultural borders. Religion, however, is also a deep expression of a community’s culture, and a particular church is often associated with a particular culture or ethnic group. It is built by or for the group to service the community’s needs, frequently in the style of the churches whence the group originated, and often to provide services in the native language of the group.

Lackawanna County is rich in ethnic diversity, to a great degree due to its coal-mining history, and it boasts a wide variety of types of churches. Churches are places of worship but also satisfy the need for a meeting place, a shelter and asylum, and provide a sense of belonging to a community. As Jeffrey Howe notes in Houses of Worship, one of the “main goals” of a church is “to provide a house of worship that would bring [people] together and remind them of their shared identity.” Here are places where languages are used that immigrants could understand and where they could be surrounded by the architecture within which they had lived in their countries of origin–in other words, a place in which they could feel at home in a foreign land. For successive waves of immigrants, such churches were places where one could seek advice and help, where one might find opportunities and contacts. The churches provided a starting point for a new life. For new generations, these churches continued to be places of aid, succor, advice and ritual. They also became part of their cultural tradition, their history, their memory, and a node around which new traditions were formed. A record was needed, we felt, especially since these closings affected families who were losing a part of their traditions.

Form and function, or beauty and use, are not separate entities, and the needs these churches served were expressed in interesting, and frequently, beautiful physical forms. The churches, often had spires by which one can navigate by, becoming landmarks in the rich architectural
landscape of the county.

In the workshops for the student photographers who participated in this project, Richard Leonori gave a lecture on the churches’ architectural background, which informed and inspired us as we set out to provide a photographic record of the soon-to-be-closed structures. Scranton Diocese Chancellor James Earley assisted us in selecting the churches to be photographed and provided contacts that enabled us to access the sites without which our project would not have been possible. Chancellor Earley also generously gave talks on the histories of the churches.

We photographed 10 churches, taking about 2,000 pictures, allowing students to learn a wide range of skills, techniques and approaches. Then I edited the student pictures, creating a 30 photograph traveling exhibit, which appeared in the Carbondale Public Library, the Albright Memorial Library (Scranton) and the Taylor Community Library. The approximately 2,000 pictures that the students and I took will become part of the permanent collection of the Lackawanna Historical Society. From this large set of photographs, I selected images for this book that I felt were not only evocative and technically proficient, but also served to document interesting features of the churches–whether the photos were my own or those of my students. At this point, Sarah Piccini became part of the project, to research the background of the churches and to write accompanying historical material.

I enjoyed working with students in exploring and recording this fascinating aspect of Lackawanna County. I hope that those for whom the churches documented were important parts of their lives, they will be able to revisit some of their memories through the photographs. And I hope the end product of the learning process and labor of love that my students and I undertook–this book–offers an enjoyable and informative experience for anyone who picks it up.

About the Book

Framing Faith tells the story of the faith of immigrants and their descendants, spotlighting ten Catholic churches in the Diocese of Scranton that were closed due to restructuring. The churches, SACRED HEART, MAYFIELD; ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA, SCRANTON; ST. JOSEPH, SCRANTON; HOLY FAMILY, SCRANTON; ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST, SCRANTON; ST. MARY OF THE ASSUMPTION, SCRANTON; ST. MARY CZESTOCHOWA, SCRANTON; ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, TAYLOR; IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, TAYLOR; AND ST. MICHAEL, OLD FORGE have rich ethnic heritages. They are Polish, Slovak, Italian, German, and Lithuanian parishes with long traditions and deep roots. Each church was founded by immigrant groups who came to the coal fields of the Lackawanna Valley with little more than their faith in God. Their churches served as the center of the community and touchstones of the Old Country. Framing Faith traces their histories from small beginnings through baptisms, weddings and funerals to their final celebrations. Throughout the text are images from each church, visual reminders of what was for many an important part of their lives.