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.