Guide to the Records of the Greek Catholic Union, 1903-1993 (bulk 1931-1933)

Digital Research Library, University Library System

Summary Information

Repository
Detre Library & Archives, Heinz History Center
Title
Records of the Greek Catholic Union
Creator
Greek Catholic Union
Collection Number
MSS#264
Date [inclusive]
1903-1993
Date [inclusive]
1931-1933
Extent
1.5 cubic feet (3 boxes and 1 shelf volume)
Language of Materials
The material in this collection is in English.
Abstract
The Greek Catholic Union was founded on February 4, 1892, at Saint Mary's Greek Catholic Church in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. This event brought to fruition plans earlier formulated by three Greek Catholic priests, Fathers Eugene Volkay, Nicephor Chanat, and Alexander Sheregy, to consolidate a number of independent religious/fraternal lodges, or brotherhoods, already in existence in various towns which had a large population of Greek Catholic immigrants. Materials include annual reports, organizational materials, membership materials, publications and financial records.
Sponsor Note
This finding aid has been encoded as a part of the Historic Pittsburgh project a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Funding for this portion of the project has been donated by the Hillman Foundation.

Preferred Citation

Records of the Greek Catholic Union, 1903-1993 (bulk 1931-1933), MSS #264, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania

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History of the Greek Catholic Union (1892-1993)

The Greek Catholic Union was founded on February 4, 1892, at Saint Mary's Greek Catholic Church in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. This event brought to fruition plans earlier formulated by three Greek Catholic priests, Fathers Eugene Volkay, Nicephor Chanat, and Alexander Sheregy, to consolidate a number of independent religious/fraternal lodges, or brotherhoods, already in existence in various towns which had a large population of Greek Catholic immigrants. Members of the founding committee included, in addition to the three original planners, Fathers Jackovich, Laurisian, and Sztecovich, and representatives from 14 lodges, with a membership of slightly over 700. The committee chose the name Greek Catholic Union, invoked the patronage of Saint Nicholas, and established the following philanthropic/religious goals: 1) To spread love and friendship among the Rusin Greek Catholic people living in America, 2) To give material and financial aid to members and their heirs in the event of death, 3) To provide the ways and means necessary for the education of the people in national and religious requirements, and aid to churches and schools, and 4) To give aid to the injured and indigent members.

The group also agreed to publish a newspaper to provide vital information for members in their desperate struggle for assimilation into American culture. John Zincak Amith served as the first president of the Union; Simeon Federovsky, secretary; and Theodore Talpas, treasurer. Shortly after the organizational meeting, the officers, in executive session, agreed to pay $400 death benefits to members and to admit women into the Union, with rights and duties equal to those of their male counterparts. The Union members lost no time in pursuing their goals. On March 17, 1892, under the paternalistic editorship of Paul J. Zatkovich, the first printing of the official Union publication started. Named the Amerikansky Russky Viestnik ( American Rusin Messenger), printed in both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets, the paper provided a valuable service to its readers. Basic instructions on applying for citizenship, opening a bank account, and searching for employment and housing alleviated the immigrants' hardships. Zatkovich also encouraged the Union members to avail themselves of the educational opportunities for their children, to build more Greek Catholic churches, and to campaign to secure a Greek Catholic bishop for the eastern rite church in America.

Another publication, the Kalendar, an elegantly illustrated yearbook, also printed in two alphabets, not only dispensed spiritual guidance, but also featured the writings of Rusin teachers and patriots.

In the ten-year period following the organizational meeting, the Union enjoyed rapid growth. The original 39 lodges expanded to 235, with a membership of 10,661, an increase in part to the development of industry in the western states. Expansion occurred within the eastern area as well. In 1910, Andrew B. Lesko, an accomplished gymnast and wrestler, established the Gymnastic Branch of the Union in Homestead, Pennsylvania. While supporting the general goals of the Union, this lodge focused on the physical development of its young members by providing instruction in calisthenics and various sports and sponsoring gymnastic exhibitions. A newspaper, the Falcon, highlighted the activities of this group. A few years later, the Union members, with the establishment of the Saint Nicholas Orphanage at Elmhurst, Pennsylvania, reached a long-anticipated goal of providing a home and an education for the children of deceased members. Under the direction of the Sisters of Saint Basil the Great, the orphanage, in just two years, became home to 125 children and remained in operation for 28 years until a decline in work-related deaths of members eliminated the need for this service.

In its early history, the Union, with headquarters variously situated in Mahanoy City, Scranton, Oakland, and Munhall, encountered financial crises, internal strife, and various other problems. The members' dedication to the principles of "Unity, Protection, Education, and Assistance," prevailed, however, and, by the 1970s, a level of financial stability enabled the directors to invest in an ambitious building project on a $275,000, 544-acre site in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. When the Union, numbering approximately 50,000 members, observed its centennial anniversary at the Pittsburgh Hilton, the Beaver property had been developed into the Seven Oaks Country Club, the Saint Nicholas of Myra Chapel, the Greek Catholic Union Museum and Archives Collection, and the Union National Headquarters.

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Scope and Content Notes

In view of the long history and the many accomplishments of the Union, this collection is a limited one. One portion of the collection relates to membership record keeping. It includes correspondence with members, five ledger books from 1931 to 1934, and a number of completed membership applications and medical examination records dated 1918. Because of the deterioration of these records one photocopy of each type of form is included in the folder. Several copies of newspapers, six 1922-1923 Slav editions, three Russian editions of Amerikansky Russky Viestnik, and two copies of the 1923 Falcon, provide samples of Union publications.

The Union financial records consist only of copies of checks from the relief fund paid to members for injuries sustained from 1964 to 1969, the 1903 financial statements of Union president Michael Yuhasz, and the 1978 annual reports by Union officials. The collection contains several booklets, two of which, the 1913 By-laws of the Three Uhro-Rusyn Sokol Branch and the 1914  Constitution and By-laws of the Gymnastic Branch explain the structure of the Union. The  Novyj Bukvar presents a new alphabet for Greek Catholic children and  Zahraj Mini Cigane is a play written by a Union member. Among the miscellaneous items are a brief biographical sketch of Andrew B. Lesko, a cover page from the yearbook  Kalendar, a descriptive brochure of the Saint Nicholas of Myra Chapel in Beaver, Pennsylvania, and a news article about the chapel.

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Arrangement

The Greek Catholic Union Collection is housed in three archival boxes and is arranged alphabetically by folder title with the ledgers arranged to the rear of the collection.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Digital Research Library, University Library System  Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Summer, 2001

Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
library@hswp.org

Revision Description

 Converted from EAD Version 1.0 to EAD Version 2002 July 1, 2006

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

Restrictions on Use

Property rights reside with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or publish, please contact the curator of the Archives.

Acquisition Information

These materials were received in two accessions and were combined in one body of records in 1997.

Acc#1995.0251 Gift of Frederick M. Petro (Records.Communications Director of the Greek Catholic Union of the USA).

Acc#1995.0264 Gift of Gregory Colker (Records).

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Dorothy Kish and  Craig Moore on June 17, 1997.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided by Doug MacGregor on August 21, 2001.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Greek Catholic Union (Beaver, Pa.)
  • St. Nicholas of Myra Chapel (Beaver, Pa.)

Subject(s)

  • Carpatho-Rusyn Americans -- Societies, etc.
  • Gynmastics -- Pennsylvania -- Beaver County

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Collection Inventory

  boxfolder
Alphabet-Greek Catholic Rusyn Children  1921 11

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  folder
Annual Reports  1978 2

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  folder
Booklet-  1922 3

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  folder
By-Laws of the Uhro-Rusyn Sokol Branch  1913 4

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  folder
Compensation Checks  1964-1969 5

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  folder
Constitution and By-Laws Gymnastic Branch  1914 6

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  folder
Correspondence  1931-1934 7

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  folder
Financial Records  1903 8

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  folder
Membership Applications  1918 9

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  folder
Miscellaneous  1942-1993 10

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Newspapers 
 
  folder
Russian edition  1922-1923 11
  folder
Slav edition 1922-1923 12
 
  folder
  13

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Ledgers 
  boxvolume
 1931-1932 2
  boxvolume
 1931-1933 3

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