Monday, December 21, 2009

The LuLac Edition #1046, Dec. 21st, 2009



St. John the Baptist Slovak Roman Catholic Church is now gone. . Leveled. Decimated. Among the many church steeples in the Pittston City Skyline, the Baptist's is in a heap on a cold winter street. A few questions about this rush to judgement for a facility that nourished a Catholic immigrant faith for generations.
Why now?
Where did the money come from to tear it down?
Why the rush?
Who gave the order?
Is there a buyer in a rush to develop that property?
In my lifetime I've seen many houses and edifices that were populated by teenagers, criminals and homeless people because they were abandoned and condemned. Was this church broken into by drinkers or people trying to stay warm? To my knowledge there have been no police reports on this.
And here's a question I'd like an answer to, how can a former parishioner of the Baptist now having joined St. John the Evangelist in good faith walk to Mass on Christmas Day, carefully stepping around the refuse and the rubble without feeling like they've been stabbed in the heart?
A good childhood friend of mine Drew Wasko sent me this communication on the Church developments recently. Here's his thoughts:
It is very heartbreaking to see the dismantling of St John the Baptist church. Now living in Binghamton NY, moving from Dupont in the late 60s, I only make a yearly visit to the Slovak cemetery to pay my respect to our families. For this year’s trip when I head on down William St. there be an empty lot to look at. It will not however, eradicate the trunk load of memories we have of this "Little Corner of Heaven". Our Family knew Monsignor Super, Father Matty, Father Krupar and Father Bednarcik from St John the Baptist Church in Pittston. My Grandparents, parents, my brother and sisters were all part of the SJB fabric. It truly was a family experience to be part of SJB. With my cousins, Aunts, Uncles our social activities all revolved around the Church. I still recall the fun at Fathers Farm, and those potato pancakes from any number of “Outings” we had. Of course we were all students of the adjoining school. Not only did it teach us academia but the student became part of SJB Church. Each day started with 7:30 mass, where everyone was in chorus and as an altar boy, you served when asked. I have a very fond memory of serving mass one Christmas morning. There was a surprise snowfall on Christmas Eve which made everything look like a Norman Rockwell painting. I recall walking up the back steps leading to the rear entrance of the church, stopping at the landing to take it all in. Being all of 13 at the time, I thought to myself it doesn’t get any better than this. And the mischievous side of me asked who would be the recipient of that 1st snowball. Today I have a very good idea who that would be…
Class of ’67 and SJB Proud,
Drew Wasko
Drew is way too kind in what he'd do with that snowball. The church is gone. Crushed into rocks. Apparently when the Wasko Brothers and my ancestors gave money to put up the church, to build a church from the rock that Peter built, they should've got a guarantee in writing. But those people had faith, the parishioners of St. John the Baptist, through many generations had faith. Tey backed that up with tangible donations to a church community. It was the right thing to do. The faithful thing to do. After all my questions about this church demolition, here's my final one. In the end what good did faith do them?


At 9:58 PM, Blogger JimboBillyBob said...


On that final question: "In the end what good did faith do them?"

Faith made them better people.

Faith taught them to give back ...not just to their church but to their community and beyond.

The true church is not a thing of stone and glass. It is the flesh and blood of its people. The building may disappear, but the faith that sustained those who went there has already been loosed in the world.

That faith changes lives for the better.

That faith passes from one person to another, spreading out like a ripple in a vast pond. It is eternal, far outliving anything man might build to honor his God.

And that, David... that is what faith did for them.

God Bless, and Merry Christmas my friend...

James O'Meara, Sr.

At 11:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few Answers.....
Why now?
-SJB Church & Gym needed major repairs to physical plant to survive through the winter, even at a mothball state.
Where did the money come from to tear it down?
Why the rush?
-See the answer to Why Now?
Who gave the order?
-The pastor of SJE ultimately, but was approved by the parish finance comittee.
Is there a buyer in a rush to develop that property?
-Property will be developed under a plan by the parish once the land has stablized.
And here's a question I'd like an answer to, how can a former parishioner of the Baptist now having joined St. John the Evangelist in good faith walk to Mass on Christmas Day, carefully stepping around the refuse and the rubble without feeling like they've been stabbed in the heart?
-If you were still around in the parish, you would have seen that there was no way to support the parish with the ever-shrinking participation and high costs of sustainment. SJB people were no happier than St Joes or Casimir people when their churches closed. St. Joes found a buyer- St Casimir may face the same fate as SJB, although it's in better shape and presumeably more marketable.

No excuses for the catholic church- Attendance is down, donations are down, past priest problems still fresh on the minds of many, Clergy ranks are dwindling. Not at the top of their game. SJE is saddled with real estate that they can't maintain with the limited dollars they have, that in all likelyhood they may never use again. Sadly, the Catholic Church that we knew as children is gone. The majority of catholics now are unwilling, or just can't be bothered, to put the time and effort in that it takes to be a true catholic follower of Christ.

At 12:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a comment I just heard. Msgr Bendik recognizing the reality of the preset sees St John the Evangelist as being the regional church. As such, it actually will require additional parking and I think he is probably right. I don't think anyone wanted to see the old church knocked down but the reality is what it is. SJB grade school served my family well but I recognize that it's over. The roff was in terrible condition and wold have been a huge expense. How do you justify spending tens of thousands on a building that is not used? Mrsg Bendik the right thing, even if it hurts.

At 12:15 AM, Anonymous Chuck Simalchik said...

Dave, though SJB was not my home parish, my family had a long history there, before and through the times that you speak of so fondly. All the years my Grandfather spent as Sexton were done out of love of the Lord and his deep faith. There was certainly more money to be made elsewhere for him, yet his faith led him to a vocation to care for the buildings and grounds of "The Slovak Church".

That faith and sense of obligation to serve God in thanksgiving for His blessings was transferred to my father and my aunts and uncles, all of whom spent years donating their time and energy to help my Grandfather with his job and to help the church go on and thrive during those years. I know that your family, your parents and grandparents had done much the same. They knew that donating money wasn't the only thing to do. They donated their time, their sweat, their effort to keep the church going.

My father still speaks often of the times he went down to the church on cold winter nights to stoke the furnaces, to open the church early on holidays and his staying late after the last mass to close it. He and many others throughout the parish would gladly help with all the different tasks that kept the church going, from shoveling snow in winter to different projects like building the flagpole that now sits under a pile of rubble.

There is no doubt that our ancestors would be heartbroken to see the buildings gone. I know it hurts my Dad to see these buildings where he grew up disappear, and it saddens me too, even though SJB was not my church or school. However, I can be sure of one thing about our ancestors, based on what they taught me growing up. They would not be questioning their faith or asking "what good did our faith do us" just because the buildings are now gone. They would not have demanded a "guarantee" for earthly things like buildings in return for their work and devotion. Buildings are only vehicles that help us along the way to our eternal reward.

They knew, as the Bible tells us in Matthew 6:19-21:

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

I believe our ancestors knew the treasures in heaven were the reward and that we are not to focus on the things of this world but on the promised rewards of the next.

Chuck Simalchik

At 6:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The church I attended in another state was one of the most beautiful
you could ever imagine. It still sits on a commanding corner of a
prosperous suburb in a major city.
Its empty now and serves no purpose. Unimaginable, but thats the way it is.
The Catholic religion is badly broken and the destruction came from within, but its the faithful who suffer. Empty churches and vacant lots are the monument to greed, arrogance and having no regard for the people who believed.
Get over it, Dave.

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are all to break it down to pure monetary elements; our parents and grandparents made less and gave more than we do. They also attended church more regularly than we do. Our generations apathy is to blame for the decline; yet there is still hope. The beautiful and eloquent sentiments and heartfelt anguish in this discussion thread underscore what Mr. O'Meara stated at the top. Our faith made us better people. If church attendance could return to what it was forty years ago, no more churches would have to close, and as a side benefit, maybe we'd have less sin and corruption than what we currently see.

At 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see a metaphor here.

Our religion has become a disposable commodity much like arenas and stadiums.

We did it to ourselves by ignoring and/or changing our foundations.

My church has become too mall-like where parishioners feel they must be entertained and those who sincerely want to spend some quality time with God must endure vibrating cellphones and kids with toys.

I get more out of a prayer in Boulder field.

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous your friend and political sparing partner said...

chucrh is a community. it is the heart. the building is gone, the faith remains.

At 1:53 PM, Anonymous Joe leonardi said...

Hi Dave,

The demise of St. John's the Baptist seems to really have hit a chord with you. I wrote a column for the Sunday Dispatch a while back. I hope it helps put things in a different perspective.

Merry Christmas


At 3:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get over it already! It's done, it's over and it's gone. You can't bring it back or probably find the real answer as to why everything transpired down the fast lane to this end. Does it really make that much of a difference anyway? I don't recall if you ever said if you were a standing member of that congregation, if you were, my condolences, if not, well it's now just a fond(?) memory (I guess). Either way, you can't do anything about it, and there certainly are more important life situations to be concerned about. I just can't see how dwelling on something that gets to you, and obviously can't be changed can do any good. Your opinions were demonstrated NOW how about letting it go.

At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, David, David, David, David!!!!

At 6:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blind faith 50 years ago helped cause the problem. Our generations apathy was in part brought on by
the lies and corruption thats come to light over the years. My uncle was a priest. Priests were always around our house often drinking
booze in coffee cups. One took a special shine to my Mother and was eventually pitched out on his ass by my Dad! At least, looking back, he didnt go after my brothers or I.
The Catholic Church alone is responsible for the decline of the Catholc Church. Faith is a two way street.

At 8:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yonki ... You're turning into a miserable ol Bastard! Get off the soap box and get on with life. Yes, it's not always good, but it's the only one we have. Take some time for yourself and pull yourself up by the boot straps. Jeeze, quit being so goddamn down on everything. Others have problems too.

At 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sooner or later everything gets reduced to a pile of rocks, even us. Business is business. Point of it all may be can we live with the outcome or will it consume us? That church isn't the first nor will it be the last. Shame, I guess, but none the less, the way of the world.

At 11:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that DeMuro's pizza, the only thing standing in that block on William Street should pay tribute to the church by offering pizza toppings named after the Parish priests and pastors. Bednarcik's Bacon, Krupar's Kilbossi, Super's Supersatta, Strish's Sausage, Mattey's Meatballs.

At 12:11 AM, Blogger David Yonki said...

I think that DeMuro's pizza, the only thing standing in that block on William Street should pay tribute to the church by offering pizza toppings named after the Parish priests and pastors. Bednarcik's Bacon, Krupar's Kilbossi, Super's Supersatta, Strish's Sausage, Mattey's Meatballs.

At 8:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas, a TRUBUTE to all the Slovak people in the Pittston Area just in time for Christmas. By Bendik, THE DEVIL MADE HIM DO IT OR HE MAY BE THE DEVIL HIS SELF. He's a great man.!!!!!!!!!

At 7:32 AM, Anonymous Pope George Ringo said...

One of the reasons Msgr. Bendik provided for the SJB demolition was that in ten years there will likely only be 1 mass at SJE and the SJB land will provide for a needed parking area. Wow! Even the Msgr. is aware of the demise of the Catholic church. The problem with the church is that it remains stubborn to allowing priests to marry (or nuns for that matter). If the next Pope does not (as I believe or hope that he does) change some of the church doctrine then Msgr. Bendik's prophecy will ring true. All is not lost if the church realizes that the idea of a priest who has a wife and family or is a single man who is on the dating scene is not an evil thing. If it weren't for these practices there would be no parishoners at all.


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