Sunday, June 30, 2013

The LuLac Edition #2459, June 30th, 2013

Pastors John Bednarcik, Michael Krupar and Joseph Super. All three served from for a total of a combined 69 years. (Photo: LuLac archives).
St. John the Baptist Slovak Church in Pittston as it stood five years ago. On this day, the Church was closed (five years to the day) and a few years later it and the other buildings were torn down. (Photo: LuLac archives). 

JOHN, MIKE AND JOE REVISIT PITTSTON

A little known fact about the great beyond is this: once every fifty years you are allowed to take a road trip. It can be anywhere, a place you missed when you were walking the earth as a mortal or, if you prefer, a chance to revisit the place you left. Recently three guys, John, Mike and Joe checked with the big boss to see if they would be allowed to leave the premises and take a gander at the place each had left. Permission was granted and the journey began. 
“Hey” called out Roncalli, “Where are you guys going?” 
“Back for a visit to our old stomping grounds in Pittston, Pennsylvania. Want to come?” replied Joe, the last one of the three to depart Pittston. 
“No thanks, Montini over there was in America and gave me the lowdown. I’m good but you enjoy yourselves,” said the jovial, chubby gentleman in white. 
As the three made ready for their journey, the one thing they had in common was their memories of Pittston. 
Mike whispered to John motioning toward Joe, “He’s not going to make us stop at the cemetery to see his tombstone with his picture on it, is he?” 
“Not if I have anything to say about it” replied the eldest of the trio. You know” continued John, “I was the first to leave. It was my time but it was so sudden’. 
“Indeed it was” replied Joe. “I was there with you on that hot September Saturday afternoon in Doctor Horvath’s office when you got sick. I was saying something to you and then you just up and left. Never had a rude bone in your body and then boom, gone” 
“Sometimes it’s better to leave that way instead of lingering” said Mike dragging on a cigarette with great satisfaction. 
 “Hey” said Joe with both alarm and disgust, “you get permission to smoke those things again?” 
“I got my permission, don’t you worry, haven’t had one of these in nearly 50 years. They tell me they cost about 8 bucks a pack now!” 
“Hey guys,” said John snapping his fingers at the other two. “I’m the senior guy here, I left first. Let’s put the attention back here on me”. 
“Sorry” both replied. 
 “I left after thirty years. I saw the very best and worst times of Pittston. There was that awful depression. The good people I knew helped those in need with food, shoes, even medicine. And the ones that sometimes needed the most were always the first to help others. If anyone was rich, it certainly wasn’t revealed to me. And that school, those parents, some without formal schooling themselves poured money into it so that their kids had a better life. Then the war came and I remember praying to Our Lady for the safe return of those Pittston boys and girls fighting those devils. And they were devils I tell you. But then those young people came home, blessed be to God, got married and had kids. I’m so glad we refinished that basement so they could have their dances there, heavily chaperoned mind you to listen to that bebop music they played in the 50s” remembered John. 
 “Rock and Roll” said Joe. 
“Pardon?” replied John. 
“It was called Rock and Roll, not bebop” countered Joe. 
“Well whatever it was, I remember it being very loud,” said the oldest of the three. 
Mike looked thoughtfully and said, “Oh those children. I remember them well. When I took over for you, I’ll never forget the way I was welcomed. I came from a little town, Mocanaqua, and wasn’t prepared for the big ceremony. They put me in the front row and they had my family behind me. Then all 8 grades of the school came marching in singing a version of the Army “Caisson Song” that was tailored to St. Michael’s Day. They sang, “So it’s hi hi hum…St. Michael’s Day has come” in my honor. It was very moving I’ll tell you. I’d make visits to each classroom. The good sisters let me sit in but I fear I made the kids too jittery so I never stayed long. But my God those nuns drilled math and reading into those children like there was no tomorrow. And the kids were good kids. Exuberant. They knew what was happening. Once when I was lingering, I came back and said a Mass. As I walked out, thin and weak, I heard a couple of the older boys cheer and say out loud, “He’s back again”. They got slapped good and paid for it but I can’t tell you what that meant to me. Then I left on Christmas Day. I remember it raining all day, the temperature was an unusual 60 degrees in December and it was like the water was cleansing me from the pain. By the way Joe, thank you for that homily the next day. It was very nice, that part about how it was easy to say I was a good man. But I’m afraid I left you too soon and left you much to do. 
 “No problem,” said Joe, “It wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle”. 
 “He always was a cocky one” John said to Mike. “That’s why you got the job after I left, not him”. 
“But sometimes you need that in what we did as a vocation. Like only Joe could’ve pulled off that deal with the Pittston Electric building” said Mike. 
“Well thank you. It’s nice to be appreciated. I wanted our school to have everything to compete with the others. Pittston deserved that. The gym was something I never thought would happen but it did. Along with the other property annexations, we made our project something to behold. We had a thriving school, a good little church with loyal people and I made sure we tried to keep up the properties as well as we could. You know I had other opportunities to leave. They kept waving that Monsignor’s sash in front of me for years if I just left but I was blooming where I was planted. I took my leave in 1998, right in the middle of that nasty scandal with the President. I can’t wait to see how it all looks today” noted Joe. 
As the three approached Main Street, a little dog started running toward John. Scooping up the pup in his arms, he exclaimed, “My, my, you look like a little dog I had named Troubles” as the canine licked his face. 
 “The streets are in better condition and the buildings are a curious mix of old and new. But they are clean. And it looks like a lot of people seem to like to eat outside these days” observed Mike. 
As the trio turned onto William Street they looked to the right to see the majestic St. John the Evangelist Church. “Ahh, we should have asked Monsignors Langan and Knight to come along. The big church still stands so tall” said Joe. 
Turning to the left, the three halted in the middle of the street. John was so shaken he dropped the little black dog. The dog, wagging his tail, led the men onto the smoothly paved parking lot. “Where’s my church?” asked John. 
“Where’s my school?” inquired Mike. 
“Where’s my Athletic Center?” exclaimed Joe. 
“Where’s our house?” shouted all three together. 
Shaken, the three men walked the parking lot. 
 “Here’s where the altar was” said Mike. 
“And over here were those fire escapes that increased our insurance premiums” said Joe. 
“This is where we used to park our cars, why did we always have black cars?” asked Mike, “Who cares” said Joe in anguish as despair cascaded on the trio. 
An hour passed and the men wandered around in shocked silence until Joe spoke. 
“It’s all gone. It’s as if it never existed. Everything we worked for…..” continued Joe. 
John interrupted him and said, “It wasn’t about us, it was about the people and their faith”. “Yes I know” said Joe, “But we were the shepherds of that faith, and now the remnants of what that meant are gone. The ruins of Rome survived centuries but our little church and school couldn’t survive fifty years after the three of us left?"
By this time Mike had found his way to a parking space that used to be the small walkway between the church and the rectory where he used to sneak a smoke. Taking a long drag out of his cigarette he said, “Boys, maybe the lesson to be learned here is that in our time here, we as well as the people who came here had heaven on earth….but never realized it”. 
As John bid adieu to his canine friend, the three made their way back down William Street. Passing the solitary pizza joint on the street Joe asked, “You guys want to get a slice for the road? Hey wait, that’s Roncalli in there. He’s asking us to come in and he means business because he’s wearing ermine!” 
The three tentatively entered the little shop. The elderly man asked them to sit down. 
“Boys” he said, “I knew you’d be disappointed to see everything you worked for gone. But as I said in ‘62, the Church is a living body, things must change. But what you mourn is not really gone”. 
 “But your Holiness, there is no evidence of what our faith was!” said Mike. 
“You should know that the Church is where our faith is, where are heart is. The early Christians never needed a building to hear the word of God” continued the elderly priest. Reaching into his side pocket, he pulled out a device foreign to John, Mike and Joe. 
“What’s that thing?” muttered Mike to Joe, “It looks like a little TV”. 
“I think they call them tablets, you can view pictures on them” replied Joe. 
“You guys are crazy, tablets are those things from Hoban’s in Scranton we used to buy for the kids and they had lines in them” proclaimed John. 
 “Guys, focus. I don’t do this often but I’m going to make an exception” he said. 
“Can he do that”? asked John. “Hey” shot back Joe, “They’re making him a Saint, he can do pretty much anything he wants.” 
Roncalli instructed them to look at the small screen. Suddenly a huge 8 foot cross appeared along with two drawings depicting the Catholic School and Church of St. John the Baptist. “See, it’s a monument to what you and those good people of faith did through the years. You are fortunate to have served in a town that will honor that history” said the jovial old man beaming at his trusty device. 
The three welled up with emotion as they realized the good people of Pittston would never forget the work and faith of their parishioners. 
As the three headed home, led by the intrepid Roncalli, Joe reached out to the elderly prelate and exclaimed, “We are so sorry we doubted the goodwill of the people of Pittston and faith in God’s plan”. 
 “Don’t worry my friends” said Roncalli, “Both Pittston and the good Lord have been used to that for years!” 
Editor’s Note: For many in the greater Pittston Area, the buildings of St. John the Baptist might be gone but the faith that housed it lives on. Monsignor John Bendick has started an effort to place a memorial at the site of the former Church and School. For more information contact him at 570 654-0053. 
Also, in the story, there are two references to “Roncalli” and “Montini.” They are the surnames of Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI.

19 Comments:

At 6:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, My Grandfather was one of the men that build the St. John the Baptist Church back in the late 1800's and after work he help lay the brick to put up the Church. And now Bendick wants to start a memorial for the Church and School, after he was the guy that rip the Church and School. IS HE NUTS? He is just looking for money.

 
At 8:40 AM, Anonymous JUNCTION said...

Dave, you stated the last three to leave the Pittston SJB church.
I thought Fr Andrew Strish was one of the last ones. You should include him in that gang also.

Secondly with your deep concern on the history of SJB and their pastors I would have to say that they(pastors) must be turning over in their graves. If they ever read your comments and views on the latest decisions form the supreme court justices.
Be carful my friend, they are watching.

 
At 8:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good job on the history David. The only correction I would make is your reference to "Monsignors Langan and Knight." Knight was a Monsignor but Edmund Langan, PHD was never made a Monsignor. You may not know it but in his day, he was one tough guy. He never got along with the Bishop or the Scranton crowd but the people that he was great. He was a man's man and there is a story of him risking him life to go into a mine cave to bless those trapped inside. The final denial by Scranton was when he passed away, he had asked that he be buried in the basement of the church where there remains one crept that was never used. He was denied that privilege. His heart was in St John the Evangelist and I recall his words when the school burned in on Washington's birthday week in 1959. He said, out of these ruins will rise a grater and more glorious St John's. He really did think that St John's was his personal little kingdom on earth and he was there to see the new school built and occupied in 1962. I was a member of the class of 1961 and our classes were in the basement of the church with one class in the convent. My mother was the private duty nurse to fathers John Bednarcik, Michael Krupar and was with father Krupar when he passed.

 
At 8:53 AM, Blogger David Yonki said...

IN RESPONSE
Hi Dave, My Grandfather was one of the men that build the St. John the Baptist Church back in the late 1800's and after work he help lay the brick to put up the Church. And now Bendick wants to start a memorial for the Church and School, after he was the guy that rip the Church and School. IS HE NUTS? He is just looking for money.
I THINK BENDICK'S HEART IS IN THE RIGHT PLACE. WHEN THE CHURCH WAS TORN DOWN, HE DID SAY THERE WOULD BE A MARKER ON THE SITE OF WHERE THE CHURCH STOOD. AS A MATTER OF FACT, THE MEMORIAL IS A WORK IN PROGRESS AT THIS POINT. IF HE'S NUTS THAN I GUESS I AM TOO. MY SISTER AND I KICKED IN A CONTRIBUTION IN MEMORY OF OUR PARENTS. AND MARBLE AS YOU KNOW TAKES MONEY.

 
At 9:04 AM, Blogger David Yonki said...

IN RESPONSE
Good job on the history David. The only correction I would make is your reference to "Monsignors Langan and Knight." Knight was a Monsignor but Edmund Langan, PHD was never made a Monsignor.
THAT'S RIGHT. AS A YONG BOY, I REMEMBER LANGAN AS BEING VERY FORMIDABLE AS OPPOSED TO THE EASY GOING PERSONALITIES OF THE THREE FATHERS I MENTIONED. WHEN I WAS RESEARCHING THIS, I WAS TOLD BY TWO PEOPLE WHO ARE MY AGE, NOT YOURS, THAT HE GOT THE RED SASH BEFORE HE DIED.
I TOO REMEMBER THAT FIRE. IT HAPPENED ON MY BIRTHDAY AND I WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE A PARTY AT JEFFERSON SCHOOL ON N. MAIN. I WAS IN KINDERGARTEN. IT SNOWED LIKE HELL THAT DAY (AND OF COURSE SCHOOL WASN'T CANCELLED BACK THEN LIKE IT IS TODAY!) AND MY MOM THREW A LITTLE GET TOGETHER FOR ME WITH MY TWO CLASSMATES BRUCE PRANDY AND JOHNNY CHEDRICK. ABOUT 1PM, MY SISTER STORMS IN THE DOOR CRYING BECAUSE SHE LEFT HER COAT IN THE SCHOOL AS IT BURNED. MY MOM SAID, "FORGET THE COAT, AT LEAST YOUR SAFE". EVEN AS A KID, I REMEMBER IT WAS HUGE NEWS ACROSS THE REGION. MY SISTER WAS CLASS OF '63.

 
At 9:22 AM, Blogger David Yonki said...

IN RESPONSE
Dave, you stated the last three to leave the Pittston SJB church.
I thought Fr Andrew Strish was one of the last ones. You should include him in that gang also.
YOU ARE CORRECT. FATHER STRISH AND THEN MONSIGNOR BENDICK WERE THE LAST TWO PASTORS OF THE CHURCH. BUT FOR THE PURPOSES OF THE STORY, I USED THE THREE PRIESTS THAT SPANNED THE LONGEST TIME FRAME IN TERMS OF LONGEVITY IN LEADERSHIP AT THE HELM. FROM 1929 TO 1998, THOSE THREE MEN RAN THE PARISH. PLUS, AGAIN FOR STORY PURPOSES, I REMEMBER THEM IN THEIR PRIMES. I KNEW FATHER STRISH WHEN HE WAS AN ASSISTANT. I HAVE SOME GREAT ANECDOTES ABOUT HIM BUT IT WOULDN'T FIT IN WITH WHAT I WAS TRYING TO CONVEY.
Secondly with your deep concern on the history of SJB and their pastors I would have to say that they(pastors) must be turning over in their graves. If they ever read your comments and views on the latest decisions form the supreme court justices.
Be carful my friend, they are watching.
WELL, I KNOW THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO SAY YOU CAN'T SEPARATE CHURCH AND PUBLIC VIEWS BUT I THINK YOU CAN. I THINK IF THEY ARE WATCHING, THEY'LL NOT NECESSARILY AGREE WITH MY STANCE BUT UNDERSTAND THE RIGHT TO FORM AN OPINION. BECAUSE AS STRICT AS THEY WERE AT SJB, THEY NEVER CENSORED OUR OPINIONS ON THE ISSUES OF THE DAY. THEY WERE PRETTY PROGRESSIVE IN THAT WAY.
A QUICK STORY ABOUT FATHER STRISH. WAS AT A MEETING IN THE LATE 80s AT A HOTEL IN WILKES BARRE. FATHER STRISH WAS IN THE LOBBY SITTING WITH FATHER MARKOWSKI, FROM THE RECENTLY CLOSED ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST CHURCH IN EXETER. STRISH I THINK AT THAT POINT WAS NOT YET BACK AT SJB. I SAW HIM AND WENT UP TO HIM AND GREETED HIM. HE LOOKED DOWN, LOOKED AT ME AND IN A VERY LOW BUT LOUD VOICE JUST SAID, "YONKI!" I KNEW HE REMEMBERED ME BUT WASN'T EXACTLY SURE AT WHAT LEVEL.

 
At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lied the inclusion of Pope John in there. That kind of added an amusing but correct time line element since he was Pope for parts of the three's time at the Church. Although Father Super wasn't made pastor until a year after Krupar's death.

 
At 10:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow!!!
This only goes to show that you are one of the most creative literary minds this area has ever produced. Great story. Obviously you combined history with whimsy and blew it out of the earth orbit. Loved it.

 
At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew Fathers Super and Strish very well. This is an awesome tribute to the church and the priests we had in that little church. Great story.

 
At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"He really did think that St John's was his personal little kingdom on earth..."

We seem to be very selective in giving men and women their due: so many "took ownership" of visions and projects before we had a "label" for it.

Currently we like "ownership" when we agree but call it "control" when we don't.

Great piece Dave.

 
At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Marion said...

David, Msgr. Strish really stuck his neck out to save the school and he was publicly humiliated, with the permission of Bishop Martino, when Mr. Earley testified in court. I believe that humiliation, and lack of understanding of his very good intentions, killed him. As for Msgr. Bendik, and implication that he wanted the school and church closed - that is, in my estimation, simply NOT true. I was among those who fought tooth and nail to save SJB and let me tell you what we found out: the BISHOP is KING. Priests do what they are told - well, at least Diocesean priests. We even wrote to Rome and were told as much. Msgr. Bendik is a great man who is, I believe, not at all happy at the demise of either SJB or Seton.

 
At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice history of what are many of churches closed. I saw ou and Tarone talking about the closing of The Guild too. That's sad. But you made a good point, you can't have churches and schools without support.

 
At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also Nice article on our beloved SJB.

 
At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you have done is brought back memories of a different time not only in America, our area and even religion. Plus, you seem to have captured the personalities in such a kind and touching way. By far, this is the best blog in the area mainly because there is obvious effort and passion for the past. Like how many people care about three men who died decades ago? Great work.

 
At 10:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just hopped on LuLac. For five years I read your rants about closing that church. If your little story is an insight into these mens' personalities and kindness.....their priestliness if you will, then I can say now that I finally understand.

 
At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yonki,Yonki,Yonki!

 
At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always believed Father Langan to be laid to rest in the SJE crypt.

Who are the two who are?

 
At 7:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A note to 11:02 ..... "He really did think that St John's was his personal little kingdom on earth..."

Please dont think that I meant that in any derogitory way. I loved Father Langon and the point I was trying to make is that St John's was his entire being. Father Langon, Msgr Burns and now Mosg Bendik are the three most dedicated and strong leaders I have seen in all my 70 years. Msgr Benkik has not wasted the school facility, he has founded a free health clinic with Dr JOhn Callahan being one of the volunteers and there are almost 900 families being helped by the food pantry Msgr Bendik started. These were three great men and true examples of men of God.

 
At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From 11:02 > 7:17

I understood your point and was just trying to point out the targets that great men with core visions have become as they pursue their passion with a drive most of use can't understand.

At the very least we owe these men (and women) recognition.

 

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