Fr. John Ortynsky

Very Rev. John Ortynsky, assigned in March 1935 by the Most Rev. Constantine Bohachevsky, Bishop of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States, became the second long term pastor of the four priests who served the parish and its last 68 years. Fr. Ortynsky was one of the more distinguished priests of his time, notwithstanding the fact that he was the nephew of the late first Ukrainian Bishop in the United States, the Most Rev. Soter Ortynsky, who passed away some 20 years earlier.

 Among his pastoral works, Fr. Ortynsky diligently promoted the cultural and educational activity of his predecessor. The four-year program of the evening Ukrainian school continued until 1947, when after Fr. Ortynsky’s death in 1948, his dream of an all day parochial school was finally realized.

 In 1938, the parish celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a week of festivities beginning the Sunday of Thanksgiving week; peeking on Thursday, Thanksgiving day, with a Solemn Divine Liturgy of Thanksgiving; and culminating on the following Sunday with a pageant presentation in the school auditorium recounting the parish’s growth and development in its first 50 years. The Jubilee Banquet on Thanksgiving Day attracted over 600 participants. The celebration program focused on choral and dramatic presentations under the direction of renowned choral director, Prof. Leo Sorochinsky, whom the parish acquired during this period.

 In the 1930’s, the parish had grown to around 700 families with reputedly 3,000 individual faithful. During World War II, the parish saw 730 of its fine youth serve in the Armed Forces of the country. 20 of these parishioners made the Supreme Sacrifice for God and Country. Untold others suffered battle injuries from which they later succumbed. A number of parish families had as many as four and five sons in the service of their country. And other ways the parish generously supported the war effort in defense of its adopted country. A parish Red Cross Surgical Dressing Unit made countless numbers of surgical dressings for use on the battle wounded. Letter writing campaigns and Christmas gift boxes were prepared by the hard-working ladies and youth of the parish, and the parish as a whole always oversubscribed in the various War Bond Campaigns that were held by the Federal Government to support the war effort. At war’s end in 1947, when the boys returned home, the parish appropriately recognized their valor and contribution to the winning of the war by honoring them at a large banquet in the school hall with 250 veterans in attendance.

 The choir, under Prof. Leo Sorochinsky, who studied under the renowned Ukrainian National Chorus director and composer, Alexander Koshetz, thrived and reached its peak of fame and acclaim during this period. Choir membership numbered around 100 voices. Choir activities included not only singing for which it earned national acclaim at the 1939 World’s Fair but also annual concerts and theatrical performances some of which were original creations.

 Youth activity in various parochial sponsored groups reach new heights despite the drain on the parish of the World War II years. A Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troop became affiliated with the parish and engaged in all kinds of parish and civic social activities. The Boy Scout Troop became especially noted for its excellence by the number of top rank Eagle Scouts it turned out and the average achievement rank of the Troop which was above the national average in scouting.

 Youth of the parish found communications expression for their concerns and aspirations in parish life by establishing a monthly newsletter, Uke-Views. The newsletter thrived for seven years from 1940 to 1947. Not only did this reporting medium chronicles significant parish events of that period but it also provided a source of reflection on past parish history.

 In 1947, the parish boasted 1,042 registered families and an estimated 3,000 or more individual faithful. It was in this year that misunderstandings on parish administration, governance and property ownership, which had been increasingly disturbing the parish for several years, came to a head. These misunderstandings ended in civil litigation which affirmed the precedence of the Church Canon Law over civil law and the Ukrainian Catholic Diocesan right of governance and property ownership. Parishioners (about 30 families), who differed with this legal judgment of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, left the parish and organized their own church, St. Andrew’s, and Blakely, PA. In the midst of this jurisdictional squabble, Fr. Ortynsky died on April 27, 1948.