Our Lady of Consolation, Nemacolin

Our Lady of Consolation was founded in 1923. Its founding was the result of the growth of population in Nemacolin. The first Mass was held in the summer of that year in an old school building. For three years, Nemacolin was visited by priests from All Saints in Masontown and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Leckrone (both parishes are now part of the Diocese of Greensburg). In the fall of 1926 Bishop Hugh Boyle appointed a pastor to Our Lady of Consolation.

The former school building that was serving as a church at that point was considered only a temporary expedient. On November 30, 1928, land was purchased for a new church. Construction was begun immediately and the first Mass was celebrated in the unfinished church building on Christmas Day of 1928. The cornerstone for the new church was laid on February 22, 1929, and the completed building was dedicated on May 30, 1929.

On December 30, 1961, fire struck the church. However, the fire was extinguished quickly enough to save the church. Despite the damage, Mass was celebrated in the church the next day.

Over the years, several changes were made to the building, most notably the addition of a steeple. However, this church still stands and continues to serve the Catholic community of Nemacolin.

Our Lady of Consolation Roman Catholic Church, Nemacolin PA

I came across a

"Souvenir Album on the occasion of The Burning of the Mortgage of Our Lady of Consolation Church"

in Nemacolin from 1944. The following is a summary of the early history of the church taken from the album. There is no indication of the author.

THE BEGINNINGS
To the sincere Catholic mind a group of dwellings without a dwelling place for Christ, Emmanuel - God with us - is a most unsatisfactory arrangement and should be altered at the first opportunity. Thus has it been for nineteen centuries of Christian life. And not only shall God have His house in the midst of the home of His people, but His shall be the largest house, for His children are many, and the most imposing because of His infinite majesty.

In the Nemacolin of twenty-five years ago sincere Catholic minds regarded this situation- a town beginning and fast growing, homes dotting the hillsides of the peaceful valley, business places rising and flourishing near our village, new mines being opened, more and more people coming in to take their places in the ranks of a progressive community and with it all no House of God, no altar of the Most High God, no Table for the Supreme Sacrifice for the living and the dead.

Now in these days there lived in Masontown, some three miles away, Father Kolb, the pastor of All Saints Church, and Father Blazic, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Leckrone, some four miles away. They witnessed the growth of their own congregations in the recent years and foresaw for Nemacolin and its environs a prosperous future. Accordingly their ears were ready to receive the appeal of the Catholics of Nemacolin when they approached them with the suggestion that a Catholic Church be built in Nemacolin. They responded readily to their request, assumed the new responsibility and in the summer of 1923 began by offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass several times a month. Both of these zealot priests, took turns in coming to Nemacolin to administer to the needs of their people. They offered Mass in an old school building, on a hill, overlooking the village of Nemacolin what is now known as "Jew Hill."

Forthwith our Bishop, Hugh C. Boyle, added works to words, saw the need of a church in the community and sent Rev. F. C. Felicko, of happy memory, to provide a fitting House of God for his people. Thus in the fall of 1926 Father Felicko arrived and was granted living quarters by the Buckeye Coal Company in one of their homes. From here he traveled to the nearby hill daily to offer Mass and to administer the Sacraments. Encouraged by the zeal of the people and seeing their need of a church immediately selected the following Church Committee to assist him in this task; William J. Monoghan, August Bizub, M. J. Murphy, Joseph Morofsky, John J. Stiner, Thomas McMahon, Matthew Glad, O. L. Callaghan, John J. McCluskey, Anthony Rancich, E. P. Callaghan and Max Terlosky. Almost super-human difficulties had to be overcome. The plan to build moved with dispatch, not for the plentitude of money but by reason of the enthusiastic spirit of the people. As the great cathedrals of the past ages, so the humble church of Our Lady was the product and fruit of the love of God in the hearts of His children. No doubt these thoughts had place in the minds of Nemacolin's Catholics: The Christ child will come to Nemacolin at Christmas. Let Him find not indifference and inhospitality but a new and adequate house to shelter Him and those who come to pay him adoration.

This fond dream was realized. In February, the following year, 1928 - Rev. John E. Martin, took up the arduous task where Father Felicko left off. He was very definite. Two short months after his arrival, he had plans drawn up to build the church on the hill just outside the Village of Nemacolin. The officials of the Buckeye Coal Company, seeing that the church was going to be built outside of the community, immediately approached Father Martin and offered him a clear deed to the present site of the church. The building of the new church once started, shaped itself rapidly, so that on Christmas Day,1928 although the church was not entirely completed, the first Mass, with full ceremonial was celebrated in Our Lady of Consolation Church! Each Sunday thereafter Father Martin in the presence of a devout congregation preached the word of God, offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, administered the sacraments of Baptism, Penance and the Eucharist to his faithful flock. How his heart must have rejoiced in the realization of a work well done!

Finally, in May, 1929, our Bishop Hugh C. Boyle blessed the new church and dedicated it to Our Lady of Consolation. Now the community was complete, with its place of worship. ln his comparatively short stay in Nemacolin (he was pastor for five years) the Rev. John E. Martin gave much to the parish of Our Lady in permanent buildings, beautiful trees and spiritual uplift. Surely the day of his departure - August 29, 1933, was a sorrowful day for the people of Nemacolin as well as for him who spent himself in their behalf. From here he was sent to St. Barnabas Church, Rankin, Pa. His memory grows as the many trees that surround his one-time dwelling at Nemacolin.

Rev. Joseph S. Altany entered upon his pastorate on the very day that Father Martin took leave of his people, and here he remained for the period o[ three and a half years. From the results and the fruits of his many labors in and about the Village of Nemacolin, Father Altany left a deep impression on the people of his time. He was a forceful and energetic type of pastor, who always kept in mind the progress of the parish.

Records show that during his pastorate the parish was still gathering numerical strength and it was through his efforts that Nemacolin had its first taste of regular Catholic Cathetical Instructions by the Sisters. In 1934 a small convent was built by the parishioners to house three Sisters, who instructed the children of the parish after their attendance in the Public School. Their influence and good example was soon realized in the parish and likewise in the community. The better the Catholic, the better the citizen and that was the aim and purpose to make the people of Nemacolin better Catholics. Recounting the names of the Sisters who have through the years served as Superiors of the parish instruction courses will recall to many readers the happy thoughts of days long gone. The following Vincentian Sisters of Charity served as Superiors: 1936 Sr. M. Regina; 1938 Sr. M. Scholastica; 1940 Sr. M. Lucretia; 1941 Sr. M. Rupert and 1943 Sr. M. Elizabeth of the Order of St. Francis.

In October 1936 a Mission was added to Our Lady of Consolation Church, namely; St. Marcellus Church, Mather, Pa. This added charge necessitated vital changes. From then on only one Mass was offered at Nemacolin on Sunday and one at Mather. The Sisters were sent to Mather each Saturday and Sunday to instruct the children. In spite of this added work, Father Altany with the help of the Sisters made progress and imprinted a fond memory into the hearts of his people. This historical sketch would not be complete without a word of the depression cycle. In any realm of activity, there comes a falling away. It happens also in parish life. It happened to our Lady of Consolation Church in Nemacolin. The first Communion record is as good as any to indicate the numerical strength of a parish. In 1929 there were approximately from 60 to 70 children in the First Communion Class every year until 1934 when they fell as low as 12. Who can say what the causes were in this rapid disintegration of the parish? Was it hastened by the prolonged coal strike? Was it due to the lack of work? Whatever the causes, the results were plain and leave no room for argument . . . there are the figures. During the administration of Father Martin and Father Altany it was an up-hill struggle against tremendous odds, a struggle that became increasingly intense with the passing years. Their zeal and earnestness did not dwindle. Whilst the part of them that dealt with material things, the human part, gave way to discouragement, the part of them that dealt with souls, the priestly part, remained ever the kind and gently father, with mind and heart filled with the needs of their people.

THE PRESENT
In February 1937, Bishop Hugh C. Boyle, D. D. appointed to the pastorate of Nemacolin the Reverend Paul J. Simko, until that time Assistant at St. Gabriel's, in Pittsburgh. In the course of the past seven years, thanks to the increased contributions of loyal parishioners, the generous help of distant friends and especially the Church Committee and, above all the unfailing assistance of the Bishop of Pittsburgh Diocese whose constant desire is the welfare and progress of rural parishes, certain needed additions and improvements have been made which have rendered the church more comfortable, more liturgical and therefore more beautiful; the convent more homelike; the catechetical instructions more adequate to present day needs.

But it is to be noted with even greater satisfaction that during these years the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments have been better attended and received and the religious spirit of the people is gradually but surely deepening - all of which bodes well for

THE FUTURE
which is in the hands of God and in our own. May we labor shoulder to shoulder for its success. May God bless our efforts and bring them to happy fruition for time and for eternity.

In 1938, Our Lady of Consolation Church, with St. Marcellus, Mather, as its mission, two more missions were added, namely; Sacred Heart, Rices Landing, Pa., and St. Mary's, Crucible, Pa. Now, with the parish and three Missions, it was necessary that an Assistant be sent to take care of these added charges. So on April 28, 1938, the Reverend Adam Jurczyk was appointed as the first Assistant to serve in this county. An energetic young man, who worked hard towards the progress of these parishes, in the four years he was here. His many friends regretted to see him leave to take up his work as Assistant to St. Stanislaus, Ambridge, Pa. At the present time he is pastor of St. Stanislaus Church, Lyndora, Pa. His many loyal friends of these parishes wish him God's blessing in his pastoral work.

Rev. Francis A. Kozak, a newly ordained Priest was appointed to succeed Father Jurczyk. His zeal and warm friendliness was soon felt by all the parishioners and especially those who worked with him in promoting parish affairs. Then, on June 29th, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the parishioners, in whose behalf he spent himself, were shocked to hear that the dreaded disease of Tuberculosis struck and confined him to the Cresson State Sanitarium, where he is at the present writing. The prayers of his people and especially the children have followed him and will always follow him until he regains his health.

The Rev. George J. Goralka replaced Father Kozak, but due to his health gave way to the present Assistant, Reverend William J. Hutnik, a newly ordained Priest. Even with an Assistant, adequate service could not be given to this large territory and the four parishes. In order that a sufficient number of Masses might be offered on Sunday another Priest was necessary. Forthwith, the kindness and the generosity of the Franciscans was again exemplified. The Slovak Franciscan Fathers of Avalon, were only too glad to lend their assistance with our work in this territory. The Franciscans working in this territory was not new, for almost a hundred years ago a Franciscan, Father Patrick Lonergan said Mass at James Hughe's Residence, at what is now known as the Biddle property, about one mile below Carmichaels. At present the Fathers make this arduous journey of two and a half hours by bus every Saturday. The sacrifice is great but joyfully given as can be witnessed by the way they have truthfully endeared themselves to the people of our parishes. Unfailingly there goes forth a prayer for them that God may bless them in their present field of labor for souls.

The first young man to enter the priesthood from the parish was Father Clement Kovacsik of The Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, at Silver Springs, Maryland. He was ordained May 17, 1944 and offered his First Mass May 21, I944. Two young Ladies have entered the religious life, namely; Sr. M. Magdalene Jurik, Vincentian Sisters and Sr. M. Aquinas Cihon.


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