Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Holy Family Institute review

Holy Family Institute
May 30, 2011

Framing Faith
by Marlicia Fernandez

When I first decided to read FRAMING FAITH:A pictorial History of Communities of Faith, by: Sarah Piccini (Photos by: Ivan Pavelka and ARTS! Engage), I thought it would be a rather dry listing of a number of Catholic parishes in northeastern Pennsylvania that had been forced to close. While it is indeed a listing of parishes, it is anything but dry. Each parish has its own section and is described in such as wa as to have a distinct personality. The place of these parishes in the lives of those they served is clearly apparent. I’m always saddened when a Catholic Church is forced to close its doors. After reading about these parishes, I was even sadder.

This book will appeal not only to those interested in Catholicism and Catholic Churches in general, but also to those who love history, especially the history of the northeastern region of Pennsylvania. The author is not content to tick off parishes and give the bare facts, but delves into the reasons the parishes came into being, often at great personal sacrifice to the immigrant communities they served. She gives an informative and interesting overview of just how important the church, priests and sisters were to the community and how integrated the parish was in everyday life.

An added bonus for readers is the Catholic tidbits spread throughout the book. There are explanations of devotions, prayers and citations from Catholic documents and the Bible. Other, more secular tidbits include excerpts from local newspapers that really make the information come alive.

As if the well researched material (footnoted in the back of the book) were not enough to hold the reader’s interest, there are dozens of beautiful photographs taken by Ivan Pavelka and ARTS! Engage. These images really drive home how much love went into the building of the various parishes and what pride of place the church held in the hearts and minds of the people.

Framing Faith is historically and religiously accurate and well foot-noted. It held my interest from start to finish. The pictures and textual inserts put what is being read in context for even greater understanding and appreciation. I believe lovers of history in general, and of north-eastern Pennsylvania and Catholic history in particular will enjoy this book immensely. The forward alone, holds a wealth of information that whets the appetite for what is to follow. The book does not fail to deliver on that promise.

I learned so much from reading this Framing Faith, but feel sure I’ll have to revisit its pages if I am to absorb everything that I read the first time around. If you love history or have an interest in the role of Catholicism in the settling of northeastern Pennsylvania, this is a must read. In my humble opinion this book is definitely a keeper.

Buy link:


Friday, May 27, 2011

Tidbit: St. Joseph (Scranton, PA)

For his role in the formation of the Catherine McAuley House, a refuge for homeless women and children, St. Joseph's Father Ozalas was named a prelate of honor and elevated to Monsignor by Pope John Paul II.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Whimsically Plucky review

Whimsically Plucky
May 25, 2011

Framing Faith: a review
by Amanda Luckey

Tribute Books invited me to be a stop on their blog tour of the book Framing Faith: A Pictorial History of Communities of Faith. I am doing this without monetary compensation. I received a PDF copy of the book for my review.

Framing Faith: A Pictorial History of Communities of Faith is a collaboration of author Sarah Piccini, photographer Ivana Pavekla, and students of ARTS Engage.

As you know if you've read even one of my blog posts, I am not here to write reviews. However, when Tribute Books gave me the synopsis of this particular book, I couldn't say no. Having both Czech and Italian heritage, I was particularly interested in reading about the rich heritage of the churches built when European immigrants came to the area. It was humbling to read of the sacrifices they made: It may be hard to tithe sometimes, particularly when the economy is poor, but these families made so little and still gave so much in order to contribute to the building of these churches.

The book is short (the 96 page PDF included the index, acknowledgements, and title pages) but packed full of full-color photographs. My understanding is that the author recruited students to assist with the photography, which I think is a great concept - it's neat to see different photographers' idea of which pieces of the church should be immortalized.

Quite honestly, many of the architectural styles of the churches photographed didn't "do it" for me. In some cases, the statuary and grounds of the church were lovely, but the altar itself was very plain. This isn't the fault of the book, of course, but my preference is to see a beautiful church with an even more beautiful and ornate altar. Most of the churches, though, are beautiful, and the photographs highlight both the vast sanctuaries and the intricate details of the churches. I was particularly struck by Immaculate Conception, which has an unassuming exterior but gorgeous woodwork inside the sanctuary.

Photography is not my field of expertise by any stretch, but I did find that a few of the photos had awkward composition. Most of the photography is amazing; only a scant few photos had me turning my head and trying to figure out what, exactly, I was looking at.

My favorite highlighted church was St. Mary of Czestochowa in Scranton, Pennsylvania. How sad that the church literally rose from the ashes when the original building was destroyed by fire, only to be closed (presumably permanently) in 2009.

I loved reading the stories of how these churches were founded. I would have liked to know why they closed, but I'm assuming that the goal of the author was to bring these churches to light and focus on their heritage rather than to go into detail on their closing. I'd also love some more information on some of the more ambiguous photographs (why is there an old red phone booth outside Our Lady of Czestochowa?! Maybe it just ended up there somehow, but I imagine a fascinating background story!).

Overall, this book would be a welcome addition to my coffee table, if said table were not already occupied by a half-dozen My Little Pony toys and yesterday's forgotten sippy cup. It was both inspiring and sad to read about the churches that were built with so much love and sacrifice but have since closed. I appreciate the opportunity to review this book and thank Tribute Books for their consideration.

Day by Day in Our World review

Day by Day in Our World
May 25, 2011

Framing Faith, a review
by Laura O'Neill

Today I have a different type of book to share about with my readers. It isn’t fictional and it is not from the realm of homeschooling material, either.

coverNo, today I am sharing about a book titled Framing Faith by Sarah Piccini with photography by Ivana Pavelka & the ARTS engage students. My best description of this non-fiction work is that of a historical reference. The author and photographers have captured the stories and photos of ten parishes now closed in the Scranton Diocese located in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Their efforts have led to the preservation of this rich history where for many people the church was the hub of their community.

For someone who did not grow up in an older community with strong cultural delineations, I found the numerous Catholic churches in some areas around the Northeastern US to seem strange. Even after I discovered that you might find 2 Catholic churches on the same block because they represented 2 different cultural communities (say Irish and Italian!), I still found it boggled my mind. It is often those types of situations that ultimately end in the ethnic parishes being closed during restructurings from lack of financial or pastoral support (aka no priest to be assigned.)

Before even delving into the specific churches chronicled for this piece, there are introductions by both the photographer Ivana Pavelka who shares about bringing students into the project as well as some background on the church as the center point of immigrant communities as share by the author. She includes a bit about key features of all churches, so that one might see how even a building deemed shabby by one has the same underlying features of the most grandiose churches. This is then rounded out with a history of Scranton and how the community grew.

Then, the reader is treated to a chapter per parish being preserved in this text. Within each chapter is the story of how the specific church came into being along with other stories of its history. Interspersed throughout the text are gorgeous photos of the church itself, including images of the statues or stained glass windows gracing it.

I have to admit a bit of sadness welling up inside as I read through each chapter. Hearing the rich history of each parish and seeing the beauty of each structure made it challenging for me to accept that they are no more. However, it is some comfort to know that someone saw the need to document the history of the ten parishes so they may not be forgotten. And, I will admit it has me yearning to visit older churches again. Sadly, that is not something that can really happen up here in the Anchorage, Alaska area as most structures are not much older than I am. But, I can savor my memories of visiting similar churches while living in Maryland and visiting up in to Delaware.

While this book is preserving the history of the Diocese of Scranton, the stories told and images shared can resonate with any lover of history or architecture. Maybe other dioceses will be inspired to do similar works to preserve their history for future generations. The immigrants who built these churches did so with great sacrifice and deserve to have the fruit of their labor remembered.

Framing Faith retails for $24.95 in paperback and is published by Tribute Books. You can also purchase in different electronic formats for $2.99 to $4.99 depending upon the format.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sober Catholic review

Sober Catholic
May 25, 2011

Framing Faith
by Paul S.

Tribute Books has asked me to review another book they are publishing, this time it is “Framing Faith” written by Sarah Piccini with photography by Ivana Pavelka and “ARTS Engage!”

To quote from the synopsis:

“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 … 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.

I was originally going to post this review on Mother’s Day, as that was my personal tie-in to reviewing the book. I usually only review books that may have something to do with the scope of this blog. However, I was unable to meet the deadline due to some things going on in my “real life” away from blogging and other online activity. Why Mother’s Day? Because my Mom and Dad grew up in the Scranton, Pennsylvania area and although none of the churches I recall them ever mentioning are among those closing, this still hits home a bit.

The Catholic Church in the United States is restructuring. Churches are closing due to declining membership as people move away from the cities and out to other areas. The churches never recognized the need to evangelize the urban populations surrounding them, and as a result, Catholic parishes close and are boarded up, or are turned into non-Catholic churches. Anyway, the nature of the Church changes.

This is important in some manner to this blog as an authentic Catholic identity is critical one’s spiritual development. Membership in a parish is basic to the practice of the Faith, it provides a home and a framework for a person’s relationship to the greater Church as a whole.

The Introduction to “Framing Faith” provides an excellent glimpse into this idea, as it details the history of the Diocese of Scranton and the creation, growth, and development of the immigrant ethnic Catholic parishes. We see how important to the lives of Catholics these parishes were, how they were a means of social support in the decades before government charity. In addition, they were a means of maintaining a cultural identity in the times before “diversity” became an abused ideology.

Which makes it sad that certain parishes are closing. And why “Framing Faith” is an important book documenting by words and pictures the history and architectural styles of these parishes. Architecture is a means of creative expression, and how members of a Catholic parish or Christian denomination build their house of worship gives a very good indication of their concept of God and their own relationship to Him.

Generations of hard, faithful work by people long ago is now passing away. Who knows what will become of these closed churches. This is a shame, and makes us wonder at the survival of our our patrimony. Will our parishes be around 100 years from now. Will they be mourned? Will current parish members learn from the closure of churches and seek to instill an evangelical vitality so that in the event of demographic and geographic change, the parishes will survive and not be forgotten?

We must not fail in learning from the failures of the past. Get a copy of “Framing Faith”, marvel at the beauty of these churches and wonder just how could they be closing?

The book’s website: Framing Faith

Facebook: Framing Faith

To buy it: Shop Tribute Books Online

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tidbit: Holy Family (Scranton, PA)

In a letter to the parish marking Holy Family's centennial, Bishop James C. Timlin wrote: "From the dedication 10 decades ago to the present, its families have worshiped, received the sacraments and lived their baptismal promises in that parish."

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Garden Gate review

The Garden Gate
May 23, 2011

Book Review: Framing Faith
by Georgiann

Framing Faith is a wonderful book! This book is bittersweet but needed to be written and photos taken! As a Catholic it is sad to see an era of traditional style churches being torn down!
This book Framing Faith is a true treasure and did a awesome job to preserve forever, history of early Catholic immigrants with beautiful photos. This book is a must have for all Catholics and non Catholics alike! Well done!!!

Scorpion Stalking Duck review

Scorpion Stalking Duck
May 23, 2011

Framing Faith: A Pictorial History of Communities of Faith

by Stephen M. Donahue

Framing Faith: A Pictorial History of Communities of Faith is a tribute in pictures to the various Catholic ethnic groups which settled for a time in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania. From the mid-1800’s until the early 1900’s, immigrants from Europe moved into Northeast Pennsylvania to work in the coal mines and iron works which were the main industry of the region. Along with their distinct languages, the settlers brought their unique traditions and culture with them, especially those related to their Faith. This book showcases ten Catholic churches which were founded by different communities, and is a testimony to the devotion of the men and women who sought to retain their culture and faith in their new homeland.

This book originally started as a project to preserve some record of the many churches which were closing in Lackawanna County, which is part of the diocese of Scranton. Over time, the endeavor grew, with photographs provided for the book by art students as well as Ms. Pavelka. Ms. Piccini complimented the photo essay with a brief but relevant history of the founding, growth, and decline of each parish. Funding was provided by the ARTS Engage! Program, Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit (NEIU 19), and the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority. The artists and writer who contributed to this book have succeeded in achieving their stated goal: to preserve the history of these now empty churches in an informative and entertaining manner.

Briefly, the book consists of an introduction and ten chapters. The introduction gives important background information to the reader. In the next ten chapters, ten churches are presented, from their humble beginnings in the hearts and minds of the people, to their construction, growth, maturation, and sad but inevitable closure. Most of the churches were started either to provide for the needs of a new wave of immigrants arriving from a different country, or because travel to the closest existing church was too far or difficult to face every Sunday. Construction for most of these churches was funded by the parishioners, and much of the labor was done by the men after a long day in the mines or foundries. The author reports that the people contributed to make each of the churches a thing of beauty, with an emphasis on devotions which were specific to each particular ethnic group. Key events in the history of the churches - and the pastors who led the parish through them - were mentioned as well. The closure of each church, but not really any explanation for it, ends each chapter.

Every chapter includes photographs taken by Ms. Pavelka and her students. The pictures vary in each chapter, from external shots, close-ups of statues, to scenes in the sanctuary. These are an excellent collection of photographs of the churches at the time of closure. It is unfortunate that there are no pictures from the 1800’s or early 1900’s.

One thing which troubled me about this book was that there was no reason given for the closure of so many churches in one diocese. The most likely answer is that the coal and iron resources were depleted, and the jobs went away. As a result, the workers moved on. Another explanation is that the children of immigrants work hard to have a better life; usually this is done by pursuing an education and a professional career. Perhaps there is another explanation which I shall put forward: the closure of the churches is connected with the changes in the church which are reflected in the architecture.

In the introduction, a church is described as processing from the entrance - or narthex - where secular business takes place, to the baptismal font, or stoup of Holy Water. This is followed by a central aisle which leads the faithful up to the high altar. Upon this altar, we Catholics believe that the priest changes the bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It is where Heaven comes down to Earth, and the fine metals, cloth, and silk used on the altar should convey to the faithful a sense that something Holy is taking place on the altar. Before the 1960’s, the priest faced away from the congregation, toward the Tabernacle, which was the center of the altar and held the consecrated Hosts. For a Catholic, the Tabernacle is the most important part of the altar. A good example of this is a quote about Fr. George Schmidt, who was pastor of St. Mary’s starting in 1928:

Father Schmidt was a devout and pious man, for whom “everything accomplished started at the Tabernacle....they have noticed his daily visits to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament....” (p. 27)

Contrast this with what happened to every one of these churches. For six of the churches, Ms. Piccini specifically mentions that renovations were made in order to conform with changes made after Vatican II in the 1960’s. Some of the most common changes were the placement of the altar so the priest faces the congregation, and elimination of the Communion rail; I have no idea what was changed in any of these churches because there are no old pictures. But what I can see is that in at least half of the churches, the Tabernacle is no longer front and center on the altar; instead, a stately chair, more like a throne, is positioned in the place of honor.

One altar - the one where Fr. Schmidt spent so much time before the Blessed Sacrament - looks like something off the set of Star Trek - The Original Series:

(Photo: Ivana Pavelka - notes added by me)

I would argue that the changes in the church architecture represent an emphasis on Man over God. God has been relegated to the sidelines by placing the Tabernacle on a side altar, and Man is the center of one’s attention at the summit of the altar. The priest now faces the congregation, so that the people concentrate upon him rather than the devotions and intercessions he would offer to God for his people if he were facing the altar. It would follow that putting Man before God will result in a loss of the faithful, loss of vocations, loss of churches. I don’t mean to single out the Diocese of Scranton; this has happened all over the world.

This book was a good read; I recommend it to all history buffs. I found the historical vignette of each parish fascinating, and the pictures were an excellent representation of each church. I also enjoy any book which makes me think; in this case, thinking of a possible connection between architecture and our Faith.

Friday, May 20, 2011

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

Father Healey set the groundwork for reconstruction and restoration of the church facade after its fatal brush with a fire truck.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

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

The last pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption, Monsignor Dale R. Rupert, restored the stained glass windows that lined the sanctuary. The windows reflected the parish's devotion to Mary, depicting her variously as Mother, Intercessor, Comforter and Queen.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Frederation review

May 17, 2011

Book Review: Framing Faith by Sarah Piccini and Ivana Pavelka
by Fred Warren

The anthracite coal-mining towns of northeastern Pennsylvania in the 1800′s and early 1900′s were a portrait of immigrant America in microcosm. Refugees from Germany, Ireland, Italy, and eastern Europe fled poverty, war, and persecution in their native countries and dreamed of a better life in the United States. They found a reality of backbreaking, dangerous work in a land that was often less welcoming of newcomers than it aspired to be. The immigrants drew together in close-knit communities bonded by common culture and faith, and one of the first things these communities always did was build a church.

Framing Faith is a remarkable book that tells the story of Catholic immigrants to northeastern Pennsylvania in words and pictures, through their houses of worship. Sarah Piccini begins with a brisk history of Scranton and the greater Lackawanna Valley region, and then sets off on a tour of ten historical Catholic churches founded by immigrants, covering congregations from all the major ethnic groups and providing a brief but engaging outline of their founding and growth. Her narrative is accompanied by beautiful images from Ivana Pavelka and her photography students. The project was conducted with the cooperation and financial suppport of the ARTS Engage! program, Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit (NEIU 19) and the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority.

My religious upbringing was in plain, functional church buildings, so the sweeping murals, ornate statuary, and brilliant stained glass of these churches was a treat for my eyes. It was even more impressive to read how the immigrant congregations financed their buildings with sacrificial offerings and sweat equity, the coal miners digging out the basements with picks and shovels in the evening after a long day of labor in the mines. In addition to their primary role as a beacon of faith and a rally point for ethnic minorities, these churches provided important social services, often spreading out into campuses that provided additional ministries such as schools, hospitals, and orphanages.

There are many inspiring tales here of courageous, patient leadership in the face of adversity. The coal that fed their communities posed a unique hazard to these churches–most of the buildings in Framing Faith suffered damage at some time when one or more of the mining tunnels that honeycombed the ground beneath them collapsed. They were rebuilt, remodeled, and refurbished as time progressed and the fashions of local culture and religious practice changed, but to greater or lesser degrees they all maintained ties to their original founding with key elements of their original architecture, interior decorations, and congregational heirlooms passed down through the generations.

Each of these churches closed its doors in recent years, not from disuse, but as part of a series of consolidations into larger parishes in order to better manage costs and clerical manpower. Framing Faith performs a noble service in preserving the beauty and rich heritage of these sacred places for future generations.

For a taste of Ms. Pavelka’s beautiful photography, check out the video trailer for Framing Faith. You can also find more information about the book and its authors at the Framing Faith website, where there are links to purchase the book in paperback or a variety of electronic formats. Framing Faith is published by Tribute Books.

Indignant Conservative Mom review

Indignant Conservative Mom
May 12, 2011

Sarah Piccini's Framing Faith
by Danielle D. Hollars

Sarah Piccini's book, Framing Faith: A Pictorial History of Communities of Faith, is an enjoyable book that I found to be extremely rewarding to read. The book delves into the influence of faith in the lives of Catholic immigrants to the North Eastern part of Pennsylvania during the late 1800's and the early 1900's. It took me back to my high schools days, and visiting Pennsylvania Dutch Country, and feeling a sense of awe in how religion influences communities. This book goes into a brief history and overview of 10 Catholic churches with an amazing array of photos by photographer Ivana Pavelka. It also has a basic layout of how most Catholic Churches are arranged, and what different items are and what they mean to Catholics.

The beautiful work of photographer Ivana Pavelka, and her students from the ARTS Engage! program are simply breathtaking.

I sat and actually let my children look at the wonderful display of the history of these churches, and they recognized some of the items and statuary. This would be a great family book to snuggle up with!

I would recommend this book to someone who loves history, particularly if they like religious history. These memories will now live on in the hearts and minds of those in that part of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and in the hard work of Sarah Piccini, Ivana Pavelka, and the Lackawanna Historical Society, just to name a few.

Here are a couple of pictures from the book:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tidbit: St. Anthony of Padua (Scranton, PA)

At the final Mass at St. Anthony of Padua, Father Cyril Edwards said, "We'll move on. We're a strong, faith-filled people."

Tidbit: St. Michael (Old Forge, PA)

In 1997, Father Brozena donated new double stained glass doors to be hung at the entrance to St. Michael's church (Old Forge, PA) in memory of his parents.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Palace of Twelve Pillars review

Palace of Twelve Pillars
May 15, 2011

Book Review: Framing Faith
by Christina Weigand

When I saw the opportunity to read and write a review for Framing Faith I was very excited on a number of levels. Upon reading the book and looking at the many photographs I was not disappointed.

I was a member of the neighboring Diocese of Pittsburgh, which went through some very similar changes at the same time the Diocese of Scranton was experiencing their upheavals. However, I was on the other side of the coin, living in the suburbs and feeling the strong need for newer and bigger churches and although aware of what was happening to those small city parishes, I did not feel the pain and sorrow that accompanied these changes.

With Ms.’s Piccini and Pavelka, the rich history, splendor and struggle was brought to light. As with the Diocese of Scranton, the Diocese of Pittsburgh shared similar histories full of immigrants struggling to make a life for themselves in a new world. Framing Faith gives the reader a little peak into how those struggles were managed and the immigrants faith maintained and even strengthened.

The people who could barely speak english, and made very little money in the mines and mills of Pennsylvania through the sweat of their own brows and a unwavering faith in God were able to build faith communities that today’s contemporary churches have a hard time recreating.

To think that these poor people often built the churches themselves, raised the money themselves and even repaired sometimes insurmountable problems themselves is a testemant to them. For today we build a church millions of dollars are spent, workers are paid to build the structure, someone is paid to make needed repairs. This isn’t wrong, it’s just the way of the world. But this reader thinks a precious asset has been lost in our fast paced contemporary world.

Thanks to Ms.’s Piccini and Pavelka for reminding this reader of her roots and helping me to see that my way is not the only way or even the best way.

Maybe when all is said and done, we will all learn that God’s way is the best way.

I recommend this book for anyone who loves God, the church and history. This book is full of all of them. The authors did an excellent job of travelling through history and capturing the essence of those first immigrant parishes and their people, because in the end the church is the people that make it up.

Happy reading and God Bless,

Christina Weigand

IonaScribe's review

May 14, 2011

Book Review: Framing Faith
by Amanda R. Danziger

"Framing Faith: A Pictorial History of Communities of Faith" written by Sarah Piccini, photography by Ivana Pavelka & ARTS! Engage.

This book is a wonderful tribute to the faith and hard work of the Catholic immigrant communities in the Scranton, PA area. It highlights ten churches that have been closed recently due to restructuring. "They are Polish, Slovak, Italian, German, and Lithuanian parishes with long traditions and deep roots."

The beautiful photographs of the art and architecture in these parish churches are the next best thing to being able to visit in person. There are many artistic gems hidden in this diocese; stained glass, paintings, altarpieces, and more. I particularly enjoyed the different sculptures of Our Lady in each ethnic parish.

Visit the website: http://www.framingfaith.com

I'm sure this book would be of particular interest to Catholics of the Scranton area whose ancestors came to work in the coal mines, but the story of rapid industrialization followed by waves of European immigrants is a very familiar one to any American. The historical detail was very engaging, especially insights into the immigrants' financial circumstances, various parish organizations, and the odd tale of the suave thief. I'm impressed by the faith of these communities, and how their values were manifested so visibly through their hard work and generosity.

The only piece missing was an explanation of the spirituality of the Tridentine Mass and belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I feel that both of these elements are essential to understanding the faith the way it was practiced at the time these parishes were founded, and understanding what motivated these immigrants to sacrifice so much to honor the Lord.

It's sadly ironic that these once extraordinarily active parishes are now closed after renovations and reforms in the "spirit of Vatican II" which were supposed to help the lay faithful become more active participants. Regardless, these churches stand as a testimony to their great faith, and this book is a well-deserved tribute to them. I hope this project inspires others to document the rich spiritual, cultural, and artistic heritage of Catholic parishes all over the U.S.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Tidbit: Sacred Heart of Jesus (Mayfield, PA)

Each year, the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Mayfield, PA) Christmas decorations drew crowds from miles around. "It's a shame; the traditions never come back," said parishioner Jane Orlando.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

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

St. Mary of Czestochowa (Scranton, PA) prepared for weeks for an annual quilt bingo. Veronica Kraieski, one of the quilters, noted: "I used to say 'We're coming for our therapy.' We share recipes and have a social hour."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars book spotlight

A Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars
May 7, 2011

A Book Tour: Framing Faith
by Elizabeth Weidner

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.

How does this happen? What a loss, can this be turned around?

Faith on the High Wire review

Faith on the High Wire
May 9, 2011

Framing Faith - Book Review for Tribute Books
by Kathy Vastermark

Catholic Church architecture, stain glass windows and statuary have always inspired me, even before my reversion to Catholicism. When we take family vacations and visit new areas of the country, it is exciting to make a pilgrimage to a Catholic Church on our route. A few years ago we visited Jim Thorpe, PA and saw the most exquisite Church built with the blood, sweat, tears and hard earned funds of the German immigrants. It was among the highlights of our visit to the Poconos.

When the opportunity to review Framing Faith, written by Sarah Piccini, with photography by Ivanka Pavelka and Arts!Engage, landed in my email, I eagerly accepted. The history of these immigrant Catholic Churches of Lackawanna County, PA is awe inspiring. But, with the history comes a sad reality, the Churches featured in this book are being closed and merged with other parishes. The immigrant culture that they were founded to serve have long since died, and their families have become part of the American migratory culture that primarily no longer stays in the town of their birth.

The photography in the book is also stunning. The Churches, their body and soul, come to life in the images captured. To think that many of these pictures were taken by students is even more impressive. They have highlighted the beauty of these structures that were meant to facilitate and inspire prayer and worship.

While I loved the book and visiting the Churches vicariously through images, I do have to point out one prominent error in the introduction. The author quotest author, Richard Taylor, as an authority on Catholic images depicted in stained glass. He writes:
These patron saints, Mary or popular Bible stories were writ large in stained glass inside churches. Because of the Second Commandment, “Thou shalt not make thee any graven image,” the three-person God is not depicted directly but rather as established symbols: a triangle for the Trinity, the Hand of God or All-Seeing Eye for God the Father, the fish or lamb for God the Son, and a dove or flame for the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, his information in the above passage is not correct. The Second Commandment according to the Canon of Scripture is: Thou Shall Not Take the Lord's Name In Vain. This differs from the Protestant enumeration of the Commandments which lists "no graven image" as the Second Commandment and combines the Ninth and Tenth Commandments, "shall not covet neighbor's goods & wife", into one single Commandment. This should have been noted. Thus, this would not and never could have been the reason that the Trinity is not depicted but is shown in symbols. That may have been the rationale, of that I am not certain, but not based on the Second Commandment. As a book about Catholic Churches, that error should have been noted by the author.

Aside from that one piece of misinformation, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and its images.

Monday, May 9, 2011

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

A parishioner for 43 years, Linda Kavulich remembered how her grandmother's husband carved his name into one of St. John the Baptist's (Taylor, PA) wooden pews with his fingernail; "This is home, it's home," she said.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Apostolate of Hannah's Tears review

The Apostolate of Hannah's Tears
May 6, 2011

Book Tour - "Framing Faith: A Pictorial History of Communities of Faith"
by Therese Garcia

Take a look at this beautiful book that lifts the culture of our FAITH for generations.

written by Sarah Piccini - photography by Ivana Pavelka & ARTS Engage!

Framing Faith tells the story of the faith of immigrants and their descendants, spotlighting 10 Catholic churches in the Diocese of Scranton that were closed due to restructuring.

The churches are:


The churches 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.

Man with Black Hat review

Man with Black Hat
May 5, 2011

Framing Faith: A Book Review
by David L. Alexander

The building of the Church in the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries, was not only one of soul and spirit, but of bricks and mortar. It entailed the bending of the knee, and the shoulder to the wheel. Such small numbers of priests embarking on a life in this new land, could barely keep pace with an expanding westward frontier, and called upon the temporal assistance of the laity. Together, they worked hand in hand, laying one stone upon another, forming the schools, hospitals, and great centers of charity which flourished into the mid-20th century.

IMAGE: Panoramic map of Scranton, Pennsylvania, 1890

Most notable among these edifices was the parish church, the nerve center of Catholic life. A pastor was not only the healer of souls, but an arbiter of personal disputes, and a counselor on matters of the soul and of business. Each wave of immigration came to these shores. First it was the English and Welsh, then the German and Irish, later the Italians, Lithuanians, Poles, Rusins, Slovaks, and many others. For them, the parish priest was the educated, English-speaking advocate within the community at large. Different ethnic peoples, with the blessing of the local bishop, built parish churches where they worshipped in a universal language, and heard sermons each in their own tongue. A working-class neighborhood of a few city blocks could hold several parishes; one for the Germans, another for the Irish, still another for the Italians, another for the Poles, and so on.

IMAGE: Washington Avenue, Scranton, PA, 1907

So it was with the growth of the Catholic Church in the coal-and-iron epicenter that was Scranton, a proud and prosperous city in eastern Pennsylvania, nestled in and among the hills gracing the Lackawanna Valley. For each ethnic enclave, the parish church became the center of worship and reception of the Sacraments, of fraternal aid societies for those wary of the banks run by suspicious Protestants, of schools to assist them in raising their children in the Faith, and of fellowship with kindred in sharing the same language and customs from "the old country."

The years following the Second World War saw unprecedented prosperity for America, and the promise of a bucolic life in the suburbs. The working classes of Scranton were no exception, as many left the old enclaves in search of that promise. They would return to their places of worship for years after their exodus. But this new era of "the good life" was a double-edged sword. There were social and political upheavals in the 1960s, combined with intermarriage among the progeny of those from the Old World, not to mention the sweeping changes in parish life for which the Second Vatican Council was a catalyst. With the unraveling of the old neighborhoods, and the shortage of priests in the 1970s and 1980s, there was the hard choice of dwindling attendance at the old churches, and the Diocese of Scranton was faced with the hard choice, of which parishes would survive, be combined with others, or closed altogether.

This scenario caught the attention of Ivana Pavelka, a local artist and photographer. Together with Mary Ann Moran Savakinus, Director of the Lackawanna Historical Society, they endeavored to chronicle the history of ten local parish churches which were slated for closure. The result, which is beautifully narrated by author Sarah Piccini, is a work published by Tribute Books, entitled Framing Faith: A Pictoral History of Communities of Faith. Within its pages are the stories of ten parishes in Scranton and the surrounding Lackawanna County, their triumphs and tribulations, and the events that led to their eventual fate. It is here that something of their legacy may be preserved for years to come. The accounts are similar yet unique, under the shadow of heartbreak, and the knowledge that these beacons of Faith for hundreds, indeed thousands, of pilgrims toward Heaven, must bring their stories to an end.

Their sojourners must go ever onward, eyes on that Final Beacon, leading to that One True Home.

+ + +

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.

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.

We must acknowledge the cooperation of the Catholic Diocese of Scranton in securing historical information, as well as access to the properties themselves, most notably in the person of Diocesan Chancellor James Earley.

For more information on the book, and to order copies, go to www.framingfaith.com, or its Facebook page. Continuing information about the work can be tracked through its Twitter account.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tidbit: Immaculate Conception (Taylor, PA)

On Christmas morning 1950, while Mass was being held in Immaculate Conception (Taylor, Pa.), the rectory was robbed of more than $1,000 by a "smooth talking, well dressed thief."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On Our Way review

On Our Way
May 4, 2011

Framing Faith, book review
by Kimberly O'Connor

I jumped at the chance to review this book, "Framing Faith" by Sarah Piccini because it looked like such an awesome book.

Framing Faith is about the immigrants and their descendants of ten Catholic churches in the Diocese of Scranton that are now closed. The churches in this area often due to lack of parishioners have to merge and form new parishes. But at one time, these were vibrant communities of faith. The churches are: 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. They are Polish, Slovak, Italian, German, and Lithuanian parishes.

My family is from western Pennsylvania. My husband's family is from central Pennsylvania. I have traveled to many states and gone to many churches, but I feel that Pennsylvania has some of the most beautiful churches anywhere. This book is a pictorial of the ethnically diverse churches in the Scranton diocese area. Johnstown, Pa., where my husband grew up, is very similar to the Scranton area in that each nationality had their own church. Many years ago when immigrants were coming to Pennsylvania with the promise of jobs from mining, railroads, industry and farming etc...they all were ready to leave their country behind but not their faith. The Catholic faith per each country was a vital part of their identity. So individual churches were designed per country of origin despite the fact they might be close together. I have a love hate relationship with Johnstown, Pa. but the one thing I love is the churches there. They really are awesome and very intriguing. On one street corner, there would be the Lithuanian church, on the next corner...not 500 feet away would be the Polish church, etc. In this way the workers could go to their individual churches for mass during their lunch breaks from the factories. Each church, on the inside, has things that represent their own country and own stone workers and elements. Even if you are not Catholic, from a historical point of view, this is extremely interesting. In the other states I have been to, especially the western ones, this doesn't really exist. The churches elsewhere were developed with a much different state of mind and spread out. Here, in PA, it is clear that the immigrants were very proud of their identities and wanted to remain close to their heritage despite coming to a new land.

Although most of my husband's relatives lived in a little town called Patton, Pa. Some of my husband's family did move to the Scranton area. There are many cousins on his side that live there. So I found the book even more interesting. The churches on the inside and outside, all have very similar elements in them as the churches in the Johnstown Diocese. I think some of the same designers may have been at work or consulted in both areas. One church looks identical on the inside to the one I was married in. Our Mother of Sorrows in Johnstown. There is a church in the city of Pittsburgh that also looks identical, Sacred Heart in Oakland. It is the first church pictured in the beginning of the trailer below--this looks EXACTLY on the interior to Our Mother of Sorrows in Johnstown. The beautiful brown arches and hanging lamps, the same art work, same pews etc....

Even though I felt I had personal connections to the book, I think anyone interested in art, Catholicism, or history would love this book.

Not only was I impressed with the artistic pictures, but the historical research the author did was very impressive. You could tell it took a lot of time to put this book together and everything was researched extensively.

I really recommend reading this book.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The One True Faith review

The One True Faith
May 3, 2011

Framing Faith
by Faith Flaherty

My grandparents came from the “old country.” That’s how they referred to Lithuania. They left behind their family, country, friends, village, home, and everything else familiar--but not their faith. In this “new country,” they gravitated to their own kind. This Lithuanian community clustered around their parish church. Their parish priest became their interpreter, confidant, advisor…their Father. The Church building became a safe place of refuge. That Church spire, or cross, or bell, was visible proof that they were “OK.” This was home here in America. They gave a portion of their wages to build their Church. And they were proud of it. Yes, proud of their parish Church. There, their favorite saints were displayed, familiar hymns, stained glass, and of course, the exact same Mass that was celebrated in the “old country,” and everywhere else in the world where Catholicism exists. This was the type of parish, and world, I grew up in.

Looking at, and reading Framing Faith brought back so many memories and emotions. Even though Framing Faith is about ten churches that are closing in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and my remembrances are from Massachusetts, I can empathize. When I think of all the sacraments, prayers, funerals, as well as missions, processions, and…..life, I am thankful that the Lakawanna Historical Society, Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority, Ivana Pavelka, Sarah Piccini, and all the students, and others, understood. Churches are more than history, architecture, and places of worship. They are stories of human lives. This book, Framing Faith attempts to convey that story. They did quite a commendable work.

St. Mary of the Assumption, River Street, Scranton ----- Irish then German

St. John the Evangelist, Pittston Avenue, Scranton ----- Irish

Holy Family, N. Washington Ave. & E. Gibson Street, Scranton ----- Slovak, Multi-National

St. Joseph, North Main Avenue, Scranton ----- Lithuanian

Immaculate Conception, Church Street, Taylor ----- German/Irish

St. John The Baptist, North Main Avenue, Taylor ----- Slovak

St. Mary of Czestochowa, Greenwood Avenue, Scranton ----- Polish

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Hudson Street, Mayfield ----- Polish, Multi-National

St. Michael, Vine Street, Old Forge ----- Polish

St. Anthony of Padua, Wood Street, Scranton ----- Italian

I imagine the closing of these churches brought about a mixture of emotions. The parishioners somehow dealt with “letting go.” However, “sacrifice” is part of Catholicism. Many of them were brought up with “offering it up.” Not that that helps, but they knew the concept. These people, whose grandparents were so hard working, were also practical, by nature. They could see the obvious: declining parishioners, shortage of priests, and needs not being met.
These closed churches have Framing Faith as a memorial. That’s a blessing! Framing Faith by Sarah Piccini is a pictorial history of these 10 parishes. http://framingfaith.blogspot.com/search/label/About%20the%20Book It is a fine tribute to the hardworking parishioners. Ivana Pavelka is the photographer. The pictures are spectacular. This is a PICTORIAL history and the pictures are works of art.

I enjoyed the book because it brought back memories of my own grandparents. I would think that the people in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania would love and keep this book as a keepsake from history. It’s a history of life in these ethnic parishes in the twentieth century---their history---our history---universal Catholic history.

On the right is a picture of a Lithuanian Wayside Cross. This is from St. Joseph’s Church in Scranton, PA., but it is a typical Lithuanian Cross. You may say, where’s the cross? But the cross starts with a post that may be marking direction, where someone died, a battle, a memorial to an event, etc. On that post will be a cross covered with a small roof for protection. There will be other ornamental statues or symbolic decorations. You may consider the entire post a shrine, but this is typical of what is known as a Lithuanian Wayside Cross. You can see the cross is under the small roof on the top. Under the larger roof is a saint, probably Saint Joseph since this is the name of the church. This Lithuanian Wayside Cross is my favorite picture in Framing Faith.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Everyday Catholic Woman review

Everyday Catholic Woman
May 2, 2011

Framing Faith
by Joanna Bennett

As a Catholic and mother of an artist student with a speciality in photography, I looked forward to reading “Framing Faith” a book by author Sarah Piccini and photographer Ivana Pavelka. I was not disappointed. It tells the story of ten churches and the migrants and their communities that fame the history of the churches in. It is an absorbing and well written book which will not be out of place on any bookshelf for personal reading and reference or even your Catholic Book Club! There is such a rich history and architecture that you cannot help to become involved in the personal histories attached to the churches and an opportunity to look at the architecture in a fresh light. The book is also interspersed with quotes from scripture and makes an enjoyable read.

Framing Faith Synopsis:

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. . 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.

You might find the following links useful:

Book web site:

Book Facebook:

Tribute Books website:

Buy links:

Scranton Times-Tribune

Scranton Times-Tribune
May 1, 2011

New book celebrates local churches
by Josh McAuliffe

The region's rich religious heritage has gotten the full book treatment.

Eynon-based Tribute Books just released "Framing Faith: A Pictorial History of Communities of Faith," written by Sarah Piccini and featuring the photography of Ivana Pavelka and students involved in the ARTS Engage! program.

The book is a historical and artistic examination of 10 Diocese of Scranton churches that were recently closed due to restructuring: Sacred Heart, Mayfield; St. Anthony of Padua, St. Joseph's, Holy Family, St. John the Evangelist, St. Mary of the Assumption and St. Mary Czestochowa, all of Scranton; St. John the Baptist and Immaculate Conception, both of Taylor; and St. Michael's of Old Forge.

Each church was founded by various immigrant groups who settled in the coal fields of the Lackawanna Valley, and for many served as the focal point of the community.

The paperback version of the book is $24.95, while the eBook ranges from $2.99 to $4.99.

For more information, visit www.tribute-books.com, or www.framingfaith.com. "Framing Faith: A Pictorial History of Communities of Faith"

Author: Sarah Piccini

Photography: Ivana Pavelka and ARTS Engage!

Publisher: Tribute Books

Pages: 96

Price: $24.95 paperback; $2.99-$4.99 eBook

The Curt Jester review

The Curt Jester
May 1, 2011

Framing Faith
by Jeff Miller

Framing Faith: A Pictorial History of Communities of Faith is a new book that tells some of the history of the Diocese of Scranton via the stories of ten Catholic churches. This is history mixed with photos predominately of these ten parishes. It starts out by giving an overview of the Diocese of Scranton with the history of the area and the jobs such as coal mining that brought people there. The background of the prominent industries is given and then a history of all the bishops of this diocese up to the present day. I found some of this rather interesting especially the story of one bishop when many of these parishes started.

The history of this diocese is probably repeated in part across the country. Immigrants coming into the area is what drove creation of the diocese and of course the increase in parishes. Again like much of the country these immigrant parishes were often ethnically defined with the majority of people being of a specific ethnicity along with the pastor. These churches were funded by the poor immigrants who often lent a hand in their building assisting even after a full day of work mining. The parish was a central part of social and family life where besides the liturgy traditions from their home-countries were maintained.

A history of then churches is given from their very start and details such as first baptism, wedding, etc along with the line of pastors to the present day. The architecture of these parish churches was influenced by the architecture predominant in their home countries with variations. Most of these churches are quite beautiful and were mostly built somewhat prior to 1900 or sometime not that far after. Some of these churches have since been closed down in recent years and this book wants to give a remembrance of them. The histories of these parishes is often quite similar where a need from some community desires being able to attend a church closer to them and they appeal to the bishop for a new parish. Some of the histories are quite tumultuous do to various problems such as strains of the heresy of americanism in trying to own the property of the local parish along with decisions on parish priests. Quite similar to the problem that played out in Diocese of St. Louis where St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish went into schism over this issue. Another parish had problems involving the Polish schism. There were also other difficulties such as some of these churches being burned to the ground and having to be totally replaced. Another problem for the area was that many of these churches were built over coal tunnels that were not always stable leading to architecture flaws and cracks.

I rather enjoyed this book and I would like to see something similar done for all diocese in that this continuity with the past is certainly something within the Catholic faith. My own parish has a interesting history in that it was burned down during the Civil War and pieces of the organ taken away as souvenirs by the Union troops. I would certainly like to know more details of the priests and bishops who served. One caveat I had with the book was the repeated unquestioned assumption that the Second Vatican II Council mandated architectural changes when documents like Sacrosanctum Concilium did no such thing. I found some of the pictures sad in that really beautiful churches had been renovated with less than beautiful altars and plenty of Captain Kirk chairs. Though this is a familiar story, though some of these churches did maintain their marble high altars and communion rails. Interestingly one piece of history in the book was one pastor in the 1940s who took out the communion rails and replaced the marble high altar with a much plainer wooden one. The Spirit of Vatican II must have time-warped back to him.

May 2011 Blog Tour for Framing Faith

Blog Tour for
Framing Faith

May 1
The Curt Jester

May 2
Everyday Catholic Woman

May 3
The One True Faith

May 4
On Our Way

May 5
Camp Homeschool

Man with Black Hat

May 6
The Apostolate of Hannah's Tears

May 7
A Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars

May 8
Sober Catholic

May 9
Faith on the High Wire

May 12
Indignant Conservative Mom

May 15

Pallace of Twelve Pillars

May 16
The Rockin' Traddy

May 17

May 18
Spiritual Woman

May 23
The Garden Gate

Scorpion Stalking Duck

May 25
Day by Day in Our World

Quest for Beauty
Whimsically Plucky

May 30
Holy Family Institute

Raising (and Teaching) Little Saints