In 1889, a Serbian immigrant, Bozo Goisovich, came to Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He worked in the steel mills and encouraged many others from the Kordun region to follow him to the Johnstown valley.
By March of 1905, a nucleus of Serbians had settled in the area and had laid plans to build a church. Goisovich donated two lots on Broad Street in the Cambria City section of Johnstown in March 1906, and the plans were drawn for our first church. In May of 1906, the cornerstone was laid and St Nicholas, the first Orthodox Church in Johnstown, was established.
On Sunday, May 20, 2018, we celebrated our anniversary for the 112th time.
Our celebration began on Saturday evening with the arrival of His Grace Bishop, Irinej for Vespers. After Vespers, the council and several parishioners met with His Grace for a casual and informative discussion. His Grace was very pleased with our interest in and the progress of the Diocese. He responded to inquiries of the progress of St Sava Cathedral in New York City and in what direction He hoped to lead the Diocese.
Sunday morning commenced with the welcoming of Bishop Irinej by our Parish President, Eli Cvijanovich, our honored Kumovi, Anthony and Linda Freidhoff and their beautiful daughter Lydia, who presented His Grace with a bouquet of roses. The Bishop entered the church with our Fr. Milan Dragovic, deacon Milos Zdralic, diocesian secretary Milovan Jovanovic, and our altar boys as the choir sang the Irmos for the Ascension of Our Lord.
His Grace led our congregation in a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, including the four corner procession around the church, blessing the Slavski Kolac and zito.
Following Divine Liturgy he spoke of the Gospel Readings through Great Lent and how each one revealed something about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with the culmination on Pascha of His Resurrection and that each Sunday following Pascha reveals something about Humankind, culminating on the Feast Day of Ascension. The importance of the number forty, that we use in Orthodox teachings, meaning fullness, or the completion of something. We were created to be an extension of Our Lords Love, here on earth. As we are taught by John the Theologian, God is Love. Wherever God is present there is Love. As our Pantocrator shows, He is Divine Love.
His Grace concluded with the gracious presentation of the Holy Gospel to Fr. Milan, for him to spread the Lord’s Word and to serve Liturgy with His blessing.
Fr. Milan thanked His Grace for entrusting him with the wonderful people of the St. Nicholas Parish to lead them in sacrificial love on the way to the Heavenly Kingdom and he asked for His holy prayers.
We continued our celebration with a delicious banquet featuring, lamb and sarma, prepared by our Men`s Club and Kolo. Joining us in our celebration was Fr George Johnson and Matuska Faith from St. John Russian Orthodox Church in Conemaugh, our honored graduates, Nick Curcija and Seth Barrick, and our close friends from Christ the Saviour Cathedral.
Following the banquet, a short program was presented that included remarks from our president, Eli Cvijanovich, Kumovi Anthony and Linda Friedhoff, and a beautiful program presented by our Church School children, where they each shared their individual special talent with the Vladika and performing the song “Krst je sila”. The main speaker was His Grace, who spoke about the importance of the youth that were present this day and the fact that “If your youth is not your present, they will never be your future” and that we indeed have a blessing from God with our youth of St. Nicholas.
Pleasantly surprised by beautiful children's singing, His Grace gave blessing for the children’s choir and he named them “Bozuri” or “Beautiful Peonies”. He said that He hopes that they will be singing during the Liturgy when He returns to Johnstown.
A surprising highlight to our program was the presentation, by His Grace, of gramatica service awards to Sylvester “Peti “ Gjurich, Milan “Mitchie “ Saula, Danica Wess, and Petra Niel.
His Grace expressed His pleasure that He was able to share in our magnificent celebration, and that He looks forward to visiting us again very soon.
Ziveli! Na mnogaja ljeta! To St Nicholas of Johnstown, a small, but dedicated, determined and faithful congregation.
Article by Suzett Gardenhour