Reflections at Easter

*NOTE – Please check out the addendum at the end of this post.

In most cases, growing up in Duquesne in its heyday meant a very strong emphasis on the essential parts of developing a strong character. Education, hard work, honesty, family, and staying healthy shared roles in the formation of our character along with an equally strong emphasis on our spiritual life and religious foundation. Testimony to our parent’s and grandparents strong religious and educational convictions was the fact that by 1902, Duquesne boasted 40 public schools, parochial schools and SIXTEEN churches. The city was a mere 10 years old at the time, but the population was already well over 10,000 residents.

In 1902, The Observer was Duquesne’s newspaper. That year, the newspaper published an Industrial – Historical Supplement to The Observer, Duquesne, Pa which provided some very interesting insight into some of the 16 churches in Duquesne. As we approach Easter Sunday and during this very special time of the Christian religious year, I thought it would be appropriate to learn more about the churches of our youth.

The sixteen churches that were part of Duquesne’s early history and were described in the Historical Supplement were as follows:

  • Church of the Holy Name (Irish Catholic Church)
  • St. Joseph’s Catholic (German Catholic Church
  • Holy Trinity Catholic Church (Polish Catholic Church)**
  • Greek Catholic Church of St. Nicholas (Greek Catholic Church)
  • Grace Reformed
  • First Presbyterian
  • The Swedish Lutheran
  • First Baptist
  • First Christian
  • First Methodist Episcopal (First M.E.)
  • English Lutheran (First English Evangelical Lutheran Church)
  • Church of Christ (Church of Our Redeemer)
  • Slavish Congregational
  • Jerusalem Baptist
  • Episcopal Church
  • A.M.E. Church (African Methodist Church)
  • St. Hedwigs (Slavish Catholic Church)**

**The 1902 Duquesne Observer Supplement INCORRECTLY identified Holy Trinity as the Polish Church when it was actually the Slavish Church AND INCORRECTLY identified St. Hedwigs as the Slavish Church when it was actually the Polish Church. 

 The church that is the nearest and dearest to my heart, of course, is Holy Name Church, my family’s church and my grade school alma mater. We, like most families, had the same area that we sat in each Sunday. Our family always sat on the right hand side of the church in a pew nearest the outside wall and about three-quarters of the way back in the church. My perspective and memory of the church’s interior was somewhat static since we always sat in the same place. It wasn’t until I became an Altar Boy that I got to see the church from different perspectives.

 The Observer’s 1902 Supplement described Holy Name as follows:

Rev. Father Jeremiah O’Callaghan organized the Church of the Holy Name during the summer of 1890, and in August of the same year was appointed resident priest. The first services were conducted in a room over the present store of Joseph C. Wolf on South Second street, near Camp Ave. In 1890 Charles Downey loaned a lot at West Grant avenue and S. Fourth street to the congregation and in 1890-1891 a comfortable frame building was erected on it. This was used as a place of worship until November 12, 1899, when the structure was destroyed by fire. Prior to this time, however, the late Byron Cochran and niece, Miss Zella Bovard had donated a site for a proposed new church and rectory at the corner of South First street and Kennedy avenue. The corner stone of the church edifice was laid, amid imposing ceremonies, on July 30, 1899. The building was completed in due time, and its occupancy dates from Christmas, 1900. Finished and furnished, the edifice cost about $58,000. It is the finest church in the town, is 74×135 feet, constructed of Pompeian vitrified brick, with Cleveland sandstone trimmings, and with a seating capacity of 800. A parochial residence adjoining the church, was finished July 22, 1899, at a cost of $7,000. It is occupied by Rev. Father David Shanahan, who succeeded Father O’Callaghan as priest in November, 1897. The congregation worshipped for some time following the fire in the First National Bank building. A magnificent pipe organ, the gift of Andrew Carnegie, was completed in the church on February 16, 1901, at a cost of about $6,000. The parish as present numbers 1,500 souls.


In 1990, Holy Name celebrated its 100th Anniversary with a celebration entitled “Jubilee of Generations.” In the Memory Book that was published in celebration of the event, additional information about Holy Name’s history was presented:

 The Reverend Jeremiah O’Callaghan organized a parish in Duquesne which was eventually to become known as Holy Name Church. The congregation, who’s Mother Church was Saint Agnes on Thompson Run in West Mifflin, first held services in Wolfe’s Hall. Wolfe’s Hall was a room above a store on South Second Street and Priscilla Streets near Camp Avenue.

 Later in 1890 a frame building was erected on a ploy of land located on South Fourth Street and West Grant Avenue. This land was loaned to the congregation by Charles Downey. The Church became known as St. Killian’s and Fr. O’Callaghan was appointed as resident priest.

In 1897, Fr. David Shanahan succeeded Fr. O’Callaghan as pastor of St. Killian’s. St. Killian’s continued to grow as a worship community until the building was destroyed by fire in 1899.

The Irish-Catholic community continued to hold services. The new temporary location was on West Grant and Duquesne Avenues, above the First National Bank Building……………………..

…………..The first Mass at Holy Name was celebrated on Christmas Day 1900. Formal dedication of the church was held on November 24, 1901.

…..………For the first 91 years, Holy Name Parish was under the Spiritual

Leadership of Irish priests in keeping with its ethnic determination. Fr. Jeremiah O’Callaghan was the first pastor. He served the community from 1890 till 1897. He was succeeded by Fr. David Shanahan. In his 24 years, Fr. Shanahan witnessed the destruction by fire of St. Killian’s and saw the birth of Holy Name. During the Depression era, Holy Name was ministered to by Fr. David Walsh. In 1936 and for the next sixteen years Fr. James J. Kelly was the pastor. 1952 marked the beginning of the eighteen years of spiritual leadership of Fr. William P. Shaughnessy. In 1970, following the death of Fr. Shaughnessy, the assistant pastor, Fr. Joseph R. Bryan was appointed pastor. Fr. Bryan ministered to the needs of the parish until ill health forced his retirement in 1894. It was then that a 91 year old tradition was broken and the first non-Irish pastor was appointed. Fr. Dennis Colamarino was appointed as the Spiritual Leader of the Holy Name worship community.

 I found these facts about Holy Name to be very interesting. As mentioned earlier, my recollections of the building were somewhat skewed by the fact that I always viewed it from the same vantage point. However, I was always awed by the immense leaded glass windows that lined the north and south sides of the church. Unfortunately, I don’t remember each individual window and promise to photograph them on my next trip to Duquesne, with Father Dennis’ permission. The windows I do remember were the north side windows. The center and largest window depicted Jesus teaching the children. I recall him sitting on a rock and the children and a lamb gathered around him. To the left of that window was one that illustrated Jesus teaching in the temple and my favorite to the right portrayed the nativity.

 There was a magnificent window behind the pipe organ as well as behind the altar. The huge white altar was in place when I became an altar boy. I was surprised to see yet another beautiful window that was behind the altar, although obscured by the mere size of the altar itself.

 Originally, the church had a soaring steeple on the front left hand side of the building that contained a clock. The steeple was apparently toppled during a weather related event and was never rebuilt. Its existence is verified however in the photograph of the worshippers approaching the church at the turn of the century. Interestingly, that photograph also shows a row of homes on the south side of the church as if there were another street or alley that ran parallel to Holy Name. I dug through some old maps, but could not find any evidence of the homes next to the church, but remain fascinated about them.

 I find it fascinating how much of an impression some of the smallest details made as I looked at many of the interior shots of Holy Name. For instance, I had totally forgotten about the speakers that hung down the main aisle, the iconic paintings that adorned the soaring side walls over the confessionals. I remember the paintings reminding me of the small religious cards we used to buy from the school’s religious article table. I “think” I recall the icon paintings being painted by artists on scaffoldings when the church interior was being updated as opposed to being applied in pre-printed forms. I tried to show as many photos as I could, however, if anyone had any photographs of Holy Name that you would like to share with all of us, please email them to!!

 In future postings, I would love to continue to share the information contained in the Observer’s 1902 Supplement with you. Attached to this posting is a survey that will indicate which churches you’d like to hear about. Choose your church from the list, or write in the house of worship. In the meantime, keep well and stay in touch!!



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11 Responses to Reflections at Easter

  1. bernard gergos says:

    what was the capacaity of st hedwig churh in duquene

  2. I’m surprised SS. Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church (Byzantine Catholic Church, currently) was not mentioned in your list above. SS. Peter and Paul was first formed in 1890 by Rusyn Catholic who came to work in the steel mills. This was the first Church formed in Western PA. There was a small building on Oak Street, (St. Nicholas) almost directly in line with the McKeesport Bridge. Because of many issues arose that affected these Rusyns, they wanted to have their Church closer to the city, separated from St. Nicholas, had purchased the property at the corner of S. First St. and Viola. It did have problems with the complex name given, and with the construction. But when settled the dust, was named SS. Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church in 1909. The first pastor was Fr. Hrabar. Then Fr. John Szabo was named pastor in March 1909. November 1916, the Church was dedicated with Divine Liturgy celebrated by V. Rev. Martyak with the presence of the Most Rev. John Bonzano, D.D. and the Church was blessed. The stunning ikonostasion was designed and placed with a procession through the streets of Duquesne, and many people throughout Mon Valley attended and processed with the parishioners. The Church’s cemetery was purchased in West Mifflin in 1918. Need for the Church was to purchase the property next to the Library, however, the Great Depression and other issues, made it impossible to expand. After WWII, Fr. S. Loya was made pastor, and the change from Gregorian Calendar was instituted in 1948 . Property on Foster was purchased for the site of the new Church, and plans were drawn up by Mr. George Balta. Groundbreaking took place on the Feastday of SS. Peter and Paul June 1958, and dedication of the new Church celebrated on November 1959. A large procession walked from FIrst Street to Foster Avenue, while Ft. Loya carried the Holy Eucharist. At completion of the Church, it was blessed in July 1964. Fr. Loya retired July 1973, and Fr. Robert Karl followed. There were 6 Priestly vocations, one Sister of Mercy, (Sr. Consuella Sudzina) and one Brother William Sudzina, S.J. Very Reverend Stephen Loya fell asleep in the Lord January 23, 1990. I was amazed at the full Church at his funeral. What a tremendous honor given to him.
    The Church celebrated its Centennial October 2004, attended by old and young.
    It was wonderful to be back for this celebration and to see all ‘old’ friends.

  3. Colleen Byrne Travis says:

    You are all correct. Holy Trinity was the Slovak church and school. My neighjbors growing up, the Dobranskys attend there and they called it “H.T. Hunky Tec”

  4. Colleen Byrne Travis says:

    Jim, My older brother, Patrick Byrne passed away last week. He was 67. He wanted to be buried from Holy Name where he received the sacraments, attended Holy Name School and served as an altar boy and then a choir boy.The Byrne Irish roots go back a long way at HN. Our dad attended Holy Name when it was a high school. If he were alive, he would be 99 years old. Father Dennis led a beautiful liturgy and Pat would have liked his funeral. I sat in that church and remembered that magnificent altar. Thank you for the pictures. I have often wondered why that altar had to be replaced Perhaps it looked good to us, but was in terrible condition. We always sat on the right about ten pews back and near the center aisle. It’s funny how we remember those little things. Unfortunately, the last few times I was in that church was for a funeral.

  5. harold West says:

    Google is great. Found my great great gramdfather’s obituary. His age is listed as 67 which would of put his birthdate in 1868 in Chechoslovakia. Thanks Jim for piquing my interest in my heritage.

  6. Tina Estochin Hull says:

    I attended Holy Trinity in the 50’s and 60’s both church and school. Those attending were Slovak but I knew the church as Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church. I remember being known as separate from The Greek Catholic Church. Beautiful architecture, etc. So sad to see it sitting as an empty, broken shell now. The parochial school is still standing and used by another church/religion. The sister house is still standing next to the school, too. Beautiful building in itself. I remember every morning walking from the school located on Third Street down to the church on First Street for mass. After mass we walked back up to the school. Since the girls wore dresses then, I remember those cold winter days when your boots froze and cut into your legs! Oh, the memories.

  7. Bernie says:

    Letters from Braddock

  8. Rome Sikora says:

    Dear Jim
    My recollections of Duquesne differ somewhat from those of the Historical Supplement. I thought Holy Trinity was known colloquially as the” Slovak Church”. It was located on 1st Street between Camp Ave and Viola. St Hedwig’s was known as the “Polish Church” and was located on the corner of 5th Street and Kennedy. Holy Trinity had a grade school, grade 1 through 8, which was located a few blocks away from the church, on the hill directly behind the Library overlooking the clay tennis courts (maintained by the Library). St Hedwig’s had no school although for a while they had Polish language classes on Saturday morning in the basement of the church for the school age children of the church. St Hedwig’s also owned property on Polish Hill which had one of those open air pavilions (think Kennywood dance hall) that were so predominant in our area. Every Sunday in the summer the beer and the polkas would rock from the afternoon into the evening.
    Tragically, the sound of those happy days have long faded. Just this past winter, in the home I was born and raised in, a gunman open fired and killed one and wounded seven. It’s a heart breaker.
    Rome Sikora DHS 1953, Seattle (for now, wintering in Rancho Mirage, CA)

  9. Diann M. Topley says:

    As I was reading your article about Holy Name Church I was in the midst of attempting to prepare “kolacki” cookie dough for the first time. Wish I could attend mass at Holy Name Church one more time. What I remember fondly was the altar that reminded me of a giant sugar cookie house!

  10. Don Madak says:

    Jim – A Correction ! Holy Trinity is the Slovak Catholic Church. I attended growing up . St Hedwig was the Polish Catholic Church. I think it was at the corner of 5th st and Kennedy ave. Again, keep up the great memories !
    Don Madak

    • Claudia Repko Misage says:

      You are sooooo correct Donald. Holy Trinity SLOVAK Church and School. Sure wish we were taught some slovak at that time.I know our families were even changing their last names just to be “more” American. Back then it also would have helped to know what the grown-ups were talking about. Don’t know about your parents but mine would talk Slovak when then did’t want the kids to know some juicy stories. Take care, Claudia Repko Misage

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