History of St.
Vincent dePaul Parish Girardville, PA
Istorija vento Vincento dePaul Parapijos Girardville, PA
Lithuanians began to immigrate to the United
States in the latter half of the 19th century. They came to the
United States seeking a better life and religious freedom. During
the 19th century in Lithuania, the country was under control
of Russia and the Czar. The Czars of Russia imposed the policy
known as Russification on the Lithuanian people.
They were forced to learn the Russian language and join the Russian
Orthodox Church. They were prohibited to read, write, or speak
Lithuanian. No one could practice the Catholic faith in Lithuania.
So, many left their homeland for Amerikoje or America.
May the Name of
Jesus Christ be praised forever.
Many Lithuanian immigrants in our area began working in the coal-mining
industry, so some began to settle in the coal-mining town of
Girardville. The Lithuanian population of the Girardville area
grew at a faster pace in the 1890s and early 1900s.
At first the Lithuanian people of Girardville had to attend St.
Joseph Church, in Girardville, the nearest territorial Catholic
church. Or travel to St. George Church in Shenandoah to attend
Mass with other Lithuanian Catholics. In 1904, the first Lithuanian
Catholic Masses in Girardville were held at the Girard Opera
House (27 E. Main St.). This site was later used as the Girard
Movie Theater, then roller skating rink. The building was then
empty for many years. It was demolished in 2010. Rev. Antanas
(Anthony) M. Milukas, from St. George Parish in Shenandoah, celebrated
Mass there from 1904-1907. In the fall of 1906 Father Milukas
started to organize a parish. This parish would be named St.
Vincent dePaul. Some of the founding parishioners were: Sylvester
Bielauskas, John Greblick, Walter Marcincavage, Frank Shimulaitis
and Mr. Chapley, an uncle of Father Milukas. The first person
baptized in the parish was George elvio on January 27,
1907. The first marriage in the parish was between John Bendokas
and Elizabeth Litwinavage on February 12, 1907.
Note: There is an error in the parishs 50th, 75th and 100th
anniversary books. The error is that Joseph Jurgaicio and Josephine
Sanavaitytes are listed as the first couple married in the new
parish. Actually, Joseph and Josephine were the witnesses for
the marriage of John and Elizabeth. (I give Ian Getzey credit
for discovering this error and I thank him for bringing it to
Some of the first altar servers were: Joseph Ackronias, Anthony
Bann, and John Bernotas. In October 1907, Father Milukas purchased
the former National Guard Armory and surrounding grounds at 2nd
and C Streets from the owner, the Girard Estate, for $8,000.The
Girard House Hotel was originally located on this site facing
Mahanoy Avenue. A house was purchased on 2nd Street to be used
as the parish rectory, previously the home of the Cepukaitis
family. The Armory was converted into a church. It was blessed
by the Most Reverend Patrick J. Ryan, Archbishop of Philadelphia,
on November 1, 1907. Enthusiasm was tremendous among the local
Lithuanian Catholics, since they now had their own church. Donations
amounted to $7,245.64 during the first year of the parishs
existence. However, these were still difficult financial times
for the newly formed parish.
On May23, 1908, Rev. Simnas (Simon) Pautienius succeeded Father
Milukas. He was pastor for about two years when, on May 10, 1910,
Rev. Jonas (John) Dumcius was appointed pastor. He was pastor
for about one year until Rev. V. Takunas was appointed
pastor on March 22, 1911. He remained pastor until October 1911
when Rev. M. Durickas became pastor. In 1913 Rev. F. Augustaitis
became the sixth pastor. During Father Augustaitiss time
a new rectory was built beside the church for $3,000. It was
a three-story wooden structure. In 1916, Rev. Jeronimas (Jerome)
Valaitis was appointed as the seventh pastor of our parish. He
was determined to reduce the debt of the parish and make repairs
to the church, which was starting to deteriorate. However his
efforts were vain, due to the hard times of World War I. Father
Valaitis became sickly and downhearted, so he returned to his
native country of Lithuania in 1920. Rev. Ignacas (Ignatius)
F. Valanciunas was assigned as pastor on June 15, 1920. Father
Valanciunas found the church in poor condition and in desperate
need of repairs. Discussion began as to whether to build a new
church or not. Some parishioners wanted a new church now, when
others did not want to put another financial burden on the parish.
Finally in 1923, it was decided to build a new church. Parishioners
and townspeople began to help demolish the church. During the
building of the new church, Mass was celebrated in the basement
of St. Joseph Church. The cornerstone of the new church was blessed
and laid by Dennis Cardinal Dougherty, Archbishop of Philadelphia,
in November 1925. Cardinal Dougherty himself was a former parishioner
of St. Joseph Parish, Girardville. The church is constructed
of brick and is of English Gothic style. It is 150 feet long
by 50 feet wide. Freeman of Reading was the Architect. There
are four bells in the steeple. They have diameters, in inches,
of 44, 34, 29, and 22. One was purchased by Father Valanciunas;
another was donated by parishioner Mr. Offshany, and the remaining
two purchased by the parishioners. Rev. Kaulakis of St. Casimir
Parish in Philadelphia blessed the bells. The overall expenses
were about $996,000. Many individuals and societies donated money
for the stained glass windows, Stations of the Cross, altar rails,
statues, and many other items, in addition to their parish pledges.
Many of these names can still be seen today on the stained glass
windows and the Stations of the Cross. Attached to the back of
the church is a three story school, with two classrooms on each
floor. The school is 40 feet long by 50 feet wide. Directly under
the church is the parish hall. Due to the lack of funds, the
school was not opened when it was completed. Instead, the school
was rented to the Girardville Public School System for a few
years. Construction was completed by May 30, 1926, when the church
was blessed by Cardinal Dougherty.
In November 1928, the Holy Name Society was organized and continues
to serve the parish today. On August 28, 1933, Rev. Michael F.
Daumantas was appointed as the ninth pastor of our parish. Father
Valanciunas was transferred to St. Casimir Parish in Philadelphia.
In Father Daumantass time, a new marble altar was imported
from Italy and was erected in 1935. This is the same altar that
is in the church today. In 1937, the parish celebrated its thirtieth
anniversary. A dinner was held in the parish hall and a thirtieth
anniversary souvenir book was published. It was written entirely
in Lithuanian, which was common in the earlier years of the parishs
existence. The interior of the church was repainted for the first
time in 1939. In September of 1939, St. Vincent dePaul School
was established. The Sisters of Jesus Crucified were invited
to teach at the school. They resided on the third floor of the
school. The first Superior was Sister M. Gabriel. The opening
enrollment of the school was 108. By 1957 there were 187 children
attending our parish school. In May 1940, Rev. Albin J. Neverauskas
(Nevers) was appointed as the first assistant pastor of our parish.
In 1945, through the efforts of the pastor and parishioners,
a convent was established for the sisters who resided on the
third floor of the parish school. Conditions at the school were
tight, with only one small bathroom and a classroom used as a
bedroom for the sisters. The Girard Mansion, across the street
at 104 E. Mahanoy Avenue, was given to the parish by the Girard
Estate. However, it cost more than $13,000 to renovate and furnish.
A chapel with a beautiful pink marble altar was constructed inside
the convent. Cardinal Dougherty blessed the convent on October
During the late 1940s the pastor, Father Daumantas, served
as treasurer of the Lithuanian Priest League in America, and
president of the local chapter. The parish had over 500 families
in the late 1940s. This is about as many families as are
enrolled today at St. Vincent dePaul Parish and St. Joseph Parish
combined. In 1947, Rev. Jerome J. Bagdonas succeeded Father Albin
Nevers as assistant pastor. Father Bagdonas was also a writer
for the local Lithuanian newspaper, Saules, Mahanoy City. In
1949 Rev. Jonas (John) Buikus, a refugee from Lithuania (then
part of the USSR), which had been ravished during the Second
World War, was given a home at St. Vincent dePaul Parish to assist
our parish. In 1949 a celebration was held to honor Father Daumantass
twenty-five years as a priest.
The church was repainted for the second time around 1950. In
1951 Father Bagdonas was replaced by Rev. Joseph A. Neverauskas
(Nevers). In 1952, the home at 100 East Mahanoy Avenue was purchased
by the parish to be used as a new rectory. Built in 1832, the
home is the first building ever built in Girardville. The rectory
that was built next to the church during Father Augustaitiss
time was deteriorating due to the lack of care. In 1953, a banquet
was held for Father Daumantas to celebrate his twenty years as
pastor. Shortly after, he returned to his original home diocese
in upstate New York. The assistant pastor, Father Joseph Nevers,
was promoted to pastor of our parish in 1953. On 11 May 1955,
Rev. Andrew J. Degutis was assigned as pastor. Father Joseph
Nevers was transferred to the now closed St. Louis (Our Lady
of Siluva) Parish, Maizeville. In 1957, the parish celebrated
its golden jubilee. Mass was celebrated and a banquet was held
in the parish hall on 01 September. Former pastor Rt. Rev. Msgr.
Valanciunas was the main celebrant.
On 30 May 1959, Father Degutis celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary
of his ordination to the priesthood. Father Degutis served as
pastor of our parish until he became ill. So, in 1967, Rev. Pascal
J. Sabas was appointed administrator of the parish. By 1967 there
were mixed nationalities in the parish and English had replaced
Lithuanian. Because of this, Lithuanian-born Father Buikas, who
had resided at our parish since 1949, left for another assignment.
The parish hall was remodeled in 1968. Also in 1968, St. Vincent
dePaul Parish School and St. Joseph Parish School formed an affiliation.
Even-number grades attended St. Vincents and odd-number
grades attended St. Josephs. In 1970, Father Sabas was
appointed pastor and Father Degutis went to the Archdiocesan
Home for Sick and Aged Priests in Newtown, PA. Father Sabas was
the first non-native-Lithuanian pastor of our parish. The convent
(the Girard Mansion) was sold in 1970 for $8,800. The pastor
moved his residence to the unused first floor school rooms, and
the rectory on Mahanoy Avenue became the new convent. In the
meantime, a new rectory was planned to be built next to the church.
The old rectory attached to the church was demolished. The ground-level
side entrance was added to the church during this time. Previously,
this spot had been the entrance to the old rectory. The stairs
next to the church and surrounding area were constructed along
with the new rectory. The new rectory was dedicated on 06 June
1971. This is the current and fourth rectory the parish has had.
In the forty years of the current rectorys existence, nine
different priests have lived here: five pastors and four residents.
St. Vincent dePaul School ceased to exist in 1972. The Sisters
of Jesus Crucified had taught at the school for all thirty-three
years of its existence. They left for different assignments.
The convent / former rectory on the corner of East Mahanoy Avenue
was sold to Michael Yesalavage on 07 August 1972. In September
1972, a new organ was installed. It replaced the old pipe organ
that had been used since the church was built. On 01 August 1977,
Rev. James J. Lofton became pastor. Father Sabas was transferred
to St. Ignatius of Loyola in Sinking Springs. In September 1978,
plans were finalized to completely remodel the inside of the
church. The work began on 01 October. This renovation cost about
New pews and carpet were installed. The church was rewired and
equipped with new lighting. The bathroom was added. A confession
room was added, which replaced the old confessionals, and the
inside of the church was completely redecorated and repainted.
These are just some of the many things that were done. The parishioners
pledged large amounts of money to make this renovation possible.
The Holy Rosary Society purchased the new bronze tabernacle for
$1,800.The newly remodeled church was blessed by the Most Reverend
Joseph M. McShea, founding bishop of Allentown, on April 20,
1980. In 1982, the Parish observed its diamond jubilee. Mass
was celebrated and a banquet was held on October 24. A jubilee
book was published.
In October 1985, Rev. David M. Liebner replaced Father Lofton
as pastor. Father Lofton was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish
in New Philadelphia. In January 1987, the parish hall was renovated
again, which included an enlarged kitchen. In April of that year
the Holy Rosary Society purchased the stained-glass windows in
the confession room, for $1,600. And in February 1991 the Holy
Rosary and Holy Name Societies began their annual now
famous! Chinese auction. In July 1992, the original slate
roof on the church began to leak and was replaced. Then in 1995,
the rectory roof required replacement. In September 1998, the
restrooms in the parish hall were remodeled and updated. In July
2000 the church stained-glass windows were repaired. In 2004,
the large stained-glass window which had been located directly
above the altar was relocated to the wall behind the altar, for
$6,686. In the spring, the church interior was repainted for
the fourth time for the cost of $33,289. The Holy Rosary and
Holy Name Societies provided $11,000 of the cost.
On 15 June 2004, Father Liebner retired and a banquet was held
in the parish hall in his honor. Father Liebner was named Pastor
Emeritus. The Most Reverend Edward P. Cullen, third Bishop of
Allentown, appointed Rev. Gregory R. Karpyn as pastor. Father
Karpyn had already been serving as pastor of St. Joseph Girardville
since 2002. Now that both parishes in Girardville had the same
pastor, the two parish offices combined into one in 2004 at St.
Vincent DePaul Rectory. Father Karpyn also moved his residence
here in November 2005. In 2007, the parish observed its centennial.
The celebration lasted from 27 to 30 September, with the closing
Mass celebrated and banquet in the parish hall on the last day.
A centennial book was published. On 15 July 2008, Rev. Edward
B. Connolly became pastor of both St. Vincent dePaul Parish and
St. Joseph Parish in Girardville, succeeding Father Karpyn. He
is the sixteenth and current pastor of St. Vincent dePaul Parish.
Since the closing of many churches in our diocese, our parish
has become the only parish in the Allentown Diocese to be named
St. Vincent dePaul. It is one of five Lithuanian parishes remaining
in the diocese. In the order of their founding, they are: St.
George, Shenandoah (still a parish, although a parish without
a church); St. Vincent dePaul, Girardville; SS. Peter and Paul,
Tamaqua; St. Michael, Easton; Annunciation BVM., Frackville.
Our parish is the second oldest Lithuanian parish in the diocese,
next to St. George. It is the thirty-eighth oldest parish in
the diocese and the sixteenth oldest in Schuylkill County. Prior
to the closing of churches in 2008, it had been the seventieth
oldest parish in the diocese.
Our parish has changed a lot since its founding by our Lithuanian
ancestors who worked hard for its establishment and longevity.
Very few members of our parish are conversant in Lithuanian at
the present time, whereas just about everyone was in years past.
The parish has become a mix of nationalities. Always will our
roots be in Lithuania but, along with St. Joseph Parish, we are
all one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church serving the people
of Girardville and vicinity.
Gegues Jezaus Kristaus Vardas buti giriamas aminai!