Priest: Reverend John J. Mihalco
- Website: http://www.eriecountybyzantines.org
1022 Tilden AvenueGirard, PA. 16417 Get Directions
The founding of SS. Cyril & Methodius Parish dates back to the years immediately following World War I. During that time, many of the industrial areas were experiencing labor unrest and economic instability. Many of the immigrants from Austria-Hungary who worked in the steel mills disliked the bitterness of the strikes and layoffs associated with the period. This only added to their difficulty in adjusting to the hustle of an average work day in the smoke and dirt of the industrial cities. It made them long for the type of farm and village life which they had left behind in their native land. As a result, in the early 1920s some of these people left the mills and mines of western Pennsylvania and moved to farms in the Girard area.
Their new farming community consisted of about 35 Byzantine Catholic families living over a widely scattered area. It was extremely difficult for them to build their own church. The nearest church of their tradition was SS. Peter & Paul in Erie, 25 miles away. In these horse and buggy days, this was an all-day journey. Consequently, the pastor would come to the parishioners instead. The first of these pioneers was Father Eugene Volkay, who made trips to the Girard area to hear confessions, distribute Holy Communion and bless homes. Whenever possible, the children would be gathered together in one of the homes so the pastor could instruct them in the fundamental truths of the religion.
During the pastorate of Father Andrew Kaminsky (1925-28), an effort was made to establish a parish church in the present Community Hall in Plateau. It soon failed because a non-Catholic sect also wanted to use the hall for services. During the depression years of the 1930s, the people gave up the idea of having their own parish and worshiped in the nearby Latin Rite or Orthodox churches.
In 1938 a Roman Catholic priest from McKean, Pa. acquired the Francis Corners church, which had been used for many years as an Orthodox church. This priest, Father Dearing, invited Father John Pipik to celebrate the Divine Liturgy on Sundays for the Byzantine Catholic families. From 1938 to 1954, Father Pipik, Father Andrew Dzmura and Father Paul Dano continued the difficult assignment of administering SS. Peter & Paul in Erie and the mission church at Francis Corners.
In 1952 the parishioners made a decision to build a church in Girard. With only $450 in the treasury, the attitudes of the people ranged from skepticism to zeal. Joseph Felege, a prominent Erie home builder and former member of the Francis Corners church, graciously contributed his experience. Without his help, the church could not have become a reality. Next, the parish acquired a seven-acre tract of land adjacent to the Sacred Heart Mission House on U.S. Route 20. The purchase was an outright gift of SS. Peter & Paul Church in Erie, which for the past 30 years had been the parish church of the Girard people. Ground was broken on August 12, 1952. Mortgage loans were obtained from the Greek Catholic Union and SS. Peter & Paul parish.
All of the work was done gratis by the pastor and parishioners, working mostly under lights in the evenings and on Saturdays. All of the stonework was laid by one mason and his son, assisted by the pastor (who worked as the stonecutter) and two retired parishioners who mixed mortar. The first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the completed basement on January 12, 1954. In October the congregation moved into the unfinished church proper.
The 56′ x 89′ structure is constructed of cement block and Ohio sandstone. The interior is highlighted by the main altar, which is made of the same stone as the exterior. The side altar and two shrines contain three mosaics created in the traditional Byzantine style. This church represents the work of people of undying faith who wanted, needed, and then eventually found a way to build a church.
Then-Father Judson M. Procyk, who later served as Metropolitan Archbishop from 1995 to 2001, was the first resident pastor of SS. Cyril & Methodius Church. The church’s current administrator is Father John Mihalco, pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Church in Erie.