History of Saint John the Baptist
SAINT JOHN the BAPTIST
Established 1892 to serve the Slovak people of Mt. Carmel.
First officially appointed pastor: Rev. Victor Zarek (1897)
Last pastor: Rev. C. Anthony Miller
Noteworthy events. . .
* Originally worshipping at St. Joseph’s Church, the Slovaks of Mount Carmel, assisted and encouraged by Rev. Frantisek Vlossak, established their own parish in 1892. They purchased lots for a church and Bishop McGovern blessed the cornerstone on Labor Day, 1892.
* Some of the founding members of the parish were Alexander Jabrocky, John Tomtiscin, John Panko, and John Sosh.
* Father Skulik, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Shamokin, served St. John’s as a mission until it was more formally organized as a parish.
* St. John’s ceased to be a mission and became an official parish with the appointment of its first pastor, Rev. Victor Zarek, in 1897.
* St. John’s second pastor, Rev. Ignatius Jaskovic, lived out of the National Hotel and began construction on a 5-room house to serve as rectory. (The National Hotel, a Mount Carmel landmark but vacant for many years, was only recently demolished.)
* Students in St. John’s School were first taught in the church basement by the church organist, Professor John Nedorostek. A school was erected in 1914, and the Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius took charge of the education program.
* In 1917, newly-ordained Irish-American Father John Lawley was assigned as pastor, and would remain for 13 years. Knowing no Slovak, he bought himself a Slovak grammar and dictionary and begged parishioners to help him learn their language. In a short time, he could hear confessions in Slovak, read sermons in Slovak, and even speak it a little. The parish flourished under Father Lawley; the debt was paid off within eight years, and many improvements were made in the church buildings.
* St. John the Baptist Parish devoted the entire month of November 1942 to the celebration of its Golden Jubilee. Rev. Charles J. Petrasek was pastor at the time of the Jubilee. Most Reverend George L. Leech, Bishop of Harrisburg, presided at the Solemn Jubilee Mass.
* February 1954 saw the completion of extensive renovations and improvements to both the exterior and interior of the church.
* Highlights of parish life included bake sales, card parties, summer festivals, Christmas bazaars, annual mother-daughter and father-son breakfasts, and a parish celebration to commemorate the feast of St. John the Baptist.
* Thanks to the efforts of Anthony Nojack, Vince Nojack, and Edward Sulick, and other members of the Holy Name Society, the church basement was converted into a beautiful social hall. It was blessed and dedicated on May 30, 1964.
* In 1964 the school consolidated with the other parish schools in town to form Holy Spirit School. In January 1965, St. John’s school building was offered as an annex and was used for grades 3 and 4.
* When SS. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church was destroyed by fire on June 10, 1991, St. John the Baptist Church opened its doors to Father Troyan and his congregation. They held the Divine Liturgy at St. John’s until reconstruction of SS. Peter and Paul was completed in 1994.
* St. John the Baptist Parish celebrated its 100th Anniversary on October 4, 1992.
Did you know that the statue of the Infant of Prague, which graces one of the confessional niches in Divine Redeemer Church, came from St. John the Baptist Church?
(Sources: St. John the Baptist Church 100th Anniversary book, 1992; Mount Carmel Borough Sesquicentennial book, 2012; Divine Redeemer Church Dedication book, February 1998)