More of Duquesne’s Houses of Worship

After I became an altar boy at Holy Name, I looked forward to being scheduled for Stations of the Cross duty. Since we attended Holy Name School, we would always attend Stations of the Cross services each friday during Lent. I prefered to be the one serving which meant I didn’t have to sit still in the pews for the entire service. Being assigned to carry the cross during the event was the pinnacle of success as an altar boy, much like becoming an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts! I still remember the huge Stations of the Cross icons that hung in the church prior to their modification during a later renovation. They were glorious, elaborate, and reflected the ornate detail of the altar at the time. In retrospect, they must have been a real challange to keep clean since they were riddled with curlicues! I can still picture little old ladies in their work babushkas trying to clean them while perched on a ladder. “Sveta Marija!”

Thanks to Frank Mullen for sharing this picture of the Holy Name altar boys with Fr. Shaughnessy. Frank is the fourth from the left in the top row of altar boys. Its rather hard to imagine this large of an amount of servers today! 

I wanted to continue on with the information about Duquesne’s spiritual communities as they existed 110 years ago in 1902. The following is a word for word transcript of information contained in the 1902 supplement to the Duquesne Observer. As you will see in the reprint, an error was made when headling the ethnicities of Holy Trinity and St. Hedwig’s Churches.

St. Joseph’s

In the fall of 1895 prominent German Catholics of the town decided to establish a church here. M. Wolf, Peter Stinner, Sr., Peter Zewe, Sr., and Joseph Meyer got together and purchased from the Duquesne school district the old Dutchtown school property, at the corner of West Grant avenue and Aurilles street, paying therefor $3,500. A canvass developed the fact that the proposed parish numbered 40 families, and an application was immediately made to the Bishop for an organization. The request was granted before the close of 1895 and the congregation organized with Rev. Father Ehrhart as priest. In November, 1897, Father Ehrhart was succeeded by Rev. Father Joseph Linder. The latter died on July 24, 1899, and on August 13, of the same year, Rev. Father Charles Dewell assumed the duties of priest. The parish now numbers 100 families, and the present trustees are N. Schauming, John Meter, Peter Stinner, Sr., Nich. Bach. August Stinner, Peter Stein, and John Ohler. The church is known as St. Joseph’s German Catholic church. The building has been considerably enlarged and is well adapted for the purpose. A rectory has also been erected on West Grant avenue, and the congregation has had plans prepared for a $20,000 church edifice, to be built during the coming year.

 St. Dominick’s

St. Dominick’s Catholic chapel is the oldest house of public worship in the town. It is situated near the western limits of the borough and was erected in 1872. The ground was donated by Jordan S. Neel for church and school purposes. Services have been conducted in the chapel now just often enough to fulfill the obligation imposed by the donor of the property. 

Greek Catholic 

One of the few Greek Catholic churches in this country has a home in Duquesne. It is known as the “Greek Catholic Church of St. Nicholas” and was organized in May, 1891, with a parish of nearly 100 families. Immediately after the organization the congregation erected a neat frame building on Oak street, Third ward, and in July of the same year occupied it for the first time as a place of worship. From the time of organization to November, 1898, Rev. Father Stephen Jackovich was the priest, but during that month he was succeeded by Rev. Father Antony Mhley. About a year ago Rev. Julius Stankanetz took charge of the congregation and remained at its head until May 17, 1901. ON June 23, 1901, Rev. Father J. Polivka was placed in charge. The parish as present numbers 200 families, its members coming not only from Duquesne, but also from McKeesport and other surrounding towns. After some repairs to the building, the church was rededicated on August 5, 1894.

 First Baptist

 In Collin’s hall, March 17, 1889, was formed the First Baptist church, the organization being effected by Rev. T. H. Chapman of Pittsburg. Ten members were enrolled, among them John R. Davies, Chas. Beddow, Fred. Rawlings and wife and Mrs. Robert Snowden. The first deacons were, Jas. McGilchrist, Jon. R. Davies and Chas. Beddow. On January 11, 1891, Wm. Oliver donated two lots for a church building at the corner of Hamilton avenue and North Second street, and during the same year the present building was erected at the cost of $3,000. Pastors who have served the congregation were called on the following dates:

Aug. 3, 1890, Rev. A. Turner; Jan. 17, 1892, Rev. W. S. Wood; May 21, 1893, Rev. G. F. Wainwaring; about Feb 28, 1895, Rev. C. A. Wilson; Dec. 14, 1895, Rev. J. K. Cramer, who served until Feb. 12, 1901, when he resigned on account of failing health. He had been engaged in active ministry 49 years. On July 7, 1901, a call was extended to and accepted by Rev. R. A. McFall, the present pastor. Present membership, 100. Present board of deacons, Chas. Beddow, John R. Davies, Joshua Davies and Wm. Clement.

Epicopal Church – Holy Trinity – A.M.E. Church and St. Hedwig’s Church write-up from The Duquesne Observer Supplement of 1902.

                                             Holy Trinity on South First Street

                                        Holy Trinity Church Interior – Late 1960’s

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19 Responses to More of Duquesne’s Houses of Worship

  1. Bob Dougherty Class of '50 St. Joe's; Class of '54 DHS says:

    Jack,
    Wow, all the memories. I am trying to remember the names of all the guys who were in our class of altar boys. In addition to you, Bob Svirbul (I had forgotten him until you mentioned his name) and myself there was, Bob Alexander, Lawrence Geyer and Ken Schulte (not sure about Ken). It seems like there were more but if there were, I can’t remember their names. Was your cousin Bob Vislay an altar boy before he and his family moved away? What about Paul Oates (who also moved away)? I know that Paul’s brother (Eugene) was an altar boy because he was in my older brother’s class. I also remember that when they announced the members of our class how Paul Jugan cried and cried when he was not selected to serve.
    Bob

    • Jack Schalk says:

      Hi Bob,
      Bob Vislay was an altar boy. I have a pix of he and I and Bob Svirbul dressed for serving Easter mass so many years ago.
      I believe that Ken Schulte was also and possibly Paul Oates, Jerome Summerly, and Jim and Ron Drotar but unfortunately I can’t bring any more names up either.
      There certainly were some older guys that got us started but I can’t think of them either.

    • Ken Denne says:

      Larry Curran and I were altar boys and we had one thing in common…..Father Bernarding whacked both of us across the face!!!!Today…we would be millionaires!!!

  2. Jan Horvatt says:

    I attended Holy Trinity School and Church. It definitely was not Polish as mentioned in the heading.
    It was strictly Slovak. The First Catholic Slovak Union Lodge-Jednota-was held in the basement and I still remember the reek of the spitoons and cigar smoke that pervaded the air in the basement when I accompanied my father as he made his life insurance payments to the lodge,on Sunday afternoons.
    The priest when I attended was Father Kiertnak and he was a very strict authoritarian Pastor. I went to mass daily with my Grandmother, from the time that I was 3 until age 5, and still can recall the widows who attended mass daily , dressed in all black with the black shoes. They would pray the rosary in Slovak before mass started out loud in a chant with a leader who would say one part and the masses add the response.
    Also I have been a member of the Friends of Slovakia and this is the way Holy Trinity is presented at the meetings through the University of Pittsburgh. I also was an altar boy there from 1955-1960 and remember all of the services for stations of the cross, Lent, the blessing of the Easter baskets on Holy Saturday and all of the lost traditions. It seems like a hundred years ago in another country

    • Jim says:

      Jan,
      Can you imagine all the grief the Polish and Slovak population of Duquesne gave the Duquesne Observer newspaper for that headline error!! It probably caused the Great Kilbasa Riot of 1902!! (LOL – Just kidding!)

  3. Bob Dougherty Class of '50 St. Joe's; Class of '54 DHS says:

    Jack,

    Don’t you remember hanging around after serving at a wedding waiting for the best man to “tip” the altar boys. When no tip was forth coming we were not a happy bunch but most of the time we did receive a tip and then came the moment of truth when we divvied up the spoils. I think Sr. Anthony or whichever sister made the serving assignments always selected the eighth grade altar boys to serve at the weddings. And, yes, knowing that there would be a “payoff” at the end of the wedding Mass, you served in a spectacular fashion whether you served in position 1, 2, 3 or 4. Positions 1 & 2 performed most of the duties, position 3 rang the bells and position 4 was there to provide balance – 2 servers on each side of the altar.

    Bob

    • Jack Schalk says:

      Bob,
      I forgot about the numbering system (along with a lot of other things) .
      I liked the bells or position 3. It gave us an opportunity to be creative.
      But I remember one time when Fr. P.J. Bernarding stared us into the dungeons of purgatory when we all broke up at the altar after a very staid Bob Svirbul did a ringing that sounded like the street cars of San Fransisco..
      You never forget Fr. Bernarding.

  4. Bob Nelis says:

    I’m not from Duquesne as I’ve mentioned before on Jim’s blog, but enjoy every single issue. Growing up in Swissvale until 2nd grade, then living in Wilmerding until I left for college, I relate to so much of what Jim shares from a bygone era in most of our lives. A big deal in my early years was spending a few days vacation in the summer with Uncle Tom and Aunt Katie Lynch on South 2nd Street.

  5. Bob Dougherty Class of '50 St. Joe's; Class of '54 DHS says:

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, my mother played the organ for many years at St. Hedwigs – well into her 70’s. Over the years I would often attend Sunday Mass at St. Hedwigs. I sat in the choir loft where I would look down on the congregation and the sanctuary. Also, I was an altar boy at St. Joseph’s Church and on many occassions my mother would recruit me to serve Mass at St. Hedwig’s on Holy Days of Obligation (and I, in turn, would recruit other St. Joseph altar boys – Jack Schalk for example – to serve with me) because on those days the Catholic schools did not have school whereas St. Hedwig’s regular servers, who attended the public schools, could not get the time off to serve Mass on those days. I welcomed the opportunity to serve at St. Hedwig’s because 1) the pastor – Fr. Kupiec (sp?) would give me $.25 (cents) for serving and 2) at the consecration I would play the chimes. At St. Joe’s we rang a bell. The chimes were very different and I enjoyed creating different chords. I mention all this as background because between sitting in the choir and looking at the sanctuary from above while my mother played the organ and actually serving in the sanctuary I remember quite well the main altar and the side altars and in particular the ambo (pulpit) The ambo in St. Hedwig’s stood above the congregation and was made of either wood painted white to look like marble or was indeed marble. Look at the picture above and you will see that the ambo is nether white nor raised above the congregation. I also question that the picture was taken in the late ’60s because by that time the altar of sacrifice had been placed in front of the main altar and the priest faced the congregation. The main altar was used as a repository for the Blessed Sacrament. There is no altar of sacrifice in the photo. Bottom line, the church in the picture is not St. Hedwig’s

  6. Rome Sikora says:

    Regarding the photo labeled “Holy Trinity Church – Late 1960s”, it looks exactly as I remember the interior of St Hedwigs. Could it possibly be St Hedwings? I would like some of your other readers to weigh in on this. It has been over 50 years since I’ve been inside St Hedwigs, but it certainly has the look that was imprinted into my memory after many years of attending mass there. To me the two white side altars and the position of the crucifix and the position of the priest chair is a dead give away. Wasn’t Holy Trinity darker inside?

    Rome Sikora

    • Jim says:

      http://christthelightoftheworld.squarespace.com/041209-easter-sunday/

      Rome, I believe many of the churches built in that era were very similar. Check out the link for a view of St. Hedwig’s altar. Although the photo was sent to me and identified as Holy Trinity, I can see the similarities. The link will take you to the 2009 celebration of Easter Sunday, but in the first photo you will see the altar. I hope this helps.
      Jim

      • Larry Adams says:

        The photo above, labeled “Holy Trinity”, is definitely not St Hedwig’s. The main altar is too wide & shaped differently at the top, and the statues are all wrong. St Hedwig’s always had a large statue of St Hedwig (Jadwiga) in the center. Also, back in the 60’s (if my memories of family wedding photos are correct), the ceiling in the sanctuary was painted blue with (gold?) stars, like the night sky. (In the 70’s, it was painted white, IIRC).

        I served enough Masses as a child growing up in St Hedwig’s parish in the 70’s and 80’s to know that the picture above isn’t St Hedwig’s sanctuary!

        (Deacon) Larry Adams

    • Bob Nelis says:

      Rome,
      Are you by any chance related to Dave Sikora from West Mifflin?. He was a fraternity brother of mine at Indiana State College, now IUP.

    • John (Jack) Berta says:

      Rome,
      Having only been in St Hedwig Church a couple times I don’t remember it very well but
      I’m sure the church and picture in question are that of Holy Trinity. I’ve seen it before and may have one. However, I would disagree with the time being the late 1960’s. Changes to the interior were made in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s, most likely the former,I don’t recall exactly but I do remember them happening while I was a parishioner there until after I graduated in ’62. Those changes included the downsizing of the main altar, previously the background where the statues stand was quite larger. The interior of the church and previously unpainted altar were painted. This could be why you and I remember Holy Trinity being darker inside. I agree with Bob Doughtery (see above) about the large ambo not present. Most churches back in the day had them. It was large, having several steps to ascend, not painted but wood finished (like the altar) with a darker stain and varnish. It’s location was to the left of the main altar about where the small podium (that replaced it) is in the picture. Two cameras were placed on either side of the altar one on the wall by the priest’s chair and the other opposite it by the altar boy’s chairs because security became an issue. The picture was taken sometime after those renovations were completed. This was all done prior to the Second Vatican Council which brought about many more changes one being the altar of sacrifice placement in front of the main altar and the priest celebrating the mass facing the people. The new Holy Trinity Church was built on the cemetery properity at Polish Hill and opened sometime around 1970.

      Jack Berta

  7. Tina Hull says:

    Thanks for mentioning the book by Daniel Burns. I have one and it is wonderful and educational.
    Thank you, Jim, for more memories.

  8. Bob Dougherty Class of '50 St. Joe's; Class of '54 DHS says:

    My connection to St. Joseph’s Church goes all the way back to its beginnings. My grandfather, Joseph Meyer, was one of St. Joe’s founding members.. My grandfather owned and operated Meyer’s Grocery Store located at 622 Grant Avenue and as a wee small lad my Mom (PaulineMeyer) and Dad, my 5 siblings and myself lived in the house (624 Grant Street) which my grandfather built next to his business. My mother played the organ at St. Joe’s and then later at St. Hedwigs. It still amazes me how she managed to learn all the words to the Polish hymns that were sung at St. Hedwigs. I can remember walking across the Nick Lee Hollow bridge on my way to and from Kennywood or football games played at the athletic field in “Duquesne Place” (why was it called “Duquesne Place”) and seeing the bell towers of St. Joe’s standing proud and strong and dominating the skyline because the church was built at the top of Grant Avenue. My sisters, brothers and I all attended St. Joseph’s School which, alas, has been torn down.

    I would recommend to all who want to see a pictorial history of Duquesne from the time that it was incorporated first as a borough and later as one of the three 3rd class cities (the other two being McKeesport and Clairton) in Allegheny County until the early 60’s the paper back book, “Images of America, Duquesne” ((128 pages) by Daniel J. Burns, published by Arcadia Publishing. There are companion books about Kennywood and McKeesport. The books are available through Amazon.com and sell for approximately $14.50. There are pictures of the old Carnegie Free Library, schools, churches, businesses, homes, events, the war memorial, etc.,etc. Enjoy.

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