803 Somerset AvenueWindber, PA. 15963 Get Directions
In the late 1890s as the pioneers of this parish moved into the community of Windber, the first need in their new land was to build a church. Until this was possible, the pastor of St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Johnstown would travel 11 miles southeast to Windber to celebrate liturgical services and to administer to the spiritual needs of the faithful who met in each others’ homes. By 1900 a sufficient number of Rusyn people had settled in Windber, and Fathers Cyril Gulovich and Damascene Polivka were able to establish a parish. Both were Basilian monks, Father Gulovich was the first Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic priest to come to America from SubCarpathia.
Property to build a new church was acquired from the Berwind-White Coal Mining Company for the sum of $250 in 1900. On July 25, 1901 a contract was awarded to build a church 40 by 80 feet, with an 80-foot steeple for $10,000. The cornerstone was set on August 19, 1901. Also during this time the Diocese of Altoona was established, and the parish came under the jurisdiction of Bishop Eugene Garvey. Plans were made to finish the church and to construct a rectory. Bishop Garvey consecrated the church on May 30, 1903 with over 1,000 in attendance.
In May 1914 the congregation realized the need for a new and larger church. They decided to move the existing church and to construct a new church on the old site. This decision was postponed, however, because of the outbreak of World War I and the flu epidemic of the 1920s. In 1926 construction finally began for the present church. It was designed to be 144 feet long with mottled tapestry brick and Indiana stone trim. The towers were roofed in copper. The church was consecrated by Bishop Basil Takach on June 5, 1927, and again blessed in August 1942, after the interior decoration was completed.
In 1956-57 a major renovation of the church interior was undertaken — an altar with a baldacchino supported by marble pillars, two mosaic shrine altars, stained glass windows, lighting and other decoration. The church was rededicated in November 1958. In the 1970s the church was repainted and in 1986 an icon screen was installed, restoring another dimension of Byzantine tradition to St. Mary’s. An elevator with a street level entrance was provided in 1990. As the year 2000 marked the centennial anniversary of the parish, further renovations were completed for a worthy entrance into the new millennium.