Source: Ellwood City Ledger
The ceremony for the opening includes presenting the archbishop with bread and salt, the traditional gift to important and respected guests, and girls will present him with flowers. The archbishop will preside over the events of the weekend.
The official date of the anniversary is Feb. 1, but the anniversary is being celebrated now because the feast day of St. Elias is celebrated annually on July 20.
The Rev. John Schmidt, who has been pastor at St. Elias for eight years, said the event is to give glory to God for 100 years of worship in the church.
Juliana Thetford, the parish council secretary and a cantor, and Docia Jinar Jacobs, president of the parish committee, are co-chairing the event. Jacobs is the granddaughter of George and Mary Vintile Jinar, founding members of the church.
“So many of the members were named George and Mary. I had aunt Marys, cousin Marys,” Jacobs said. “I love my church. I feel at home any time I walk in, whether there are a lot of people or just a few. I love my church.”
Today, the church has about 50 members. Some are descendants of the founders, some are new Romanian immigrants, and some are of Macedonian, Russian, Greek and Middle Eastern descent, as well as converts to the faith from western European backgrounds.
“We have evolved into a little melting pot, we are pan-ethnic,” Schmidt said. “When we do the responses to the liturgy “Lord, have mercy” at the Easter service, we do it in Russian, Greek, Romanian, Arabic and sometimes other languages including Italian. We stress inclusiveness.”
Jacobs said that until 20 years ago, the minutes of the church council meetings were in Romanian, and former secretary Adrian Draghiciu, who lives in Cranberry, translated them into English.
Draghiciu wrote a short history of the church for the anniversary.
“We cherish and cultivate our roots in Romanian Orthodox Christianity, but we see ourselves as indigenously American. We worship in American English seasoned with occasional words and phrases from the backgrounds of all Orthodox founding groups represented here and welcome all who practice the Orthodox faith,” Draghiciu wrote.
St. Elias Orthodox Church has strong ties with the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Wayne Township.
“When Mother Alexandria came to open the Monastery, St. Elias Church was there to help,” Schmidt said. “We have close ties, and the abbess, Mother Christophora, will be part of our celebration. Occasionally I officiate at their services.”
At the beginning of the 20th century, many Romanian immigrants settled in and around Ellwood City, most of them from Transylvania, which at that time was under Austro-Hungarian occupation. Seeking to uphold their Romanian traditions, in 1907, they established the Carol the First Cultural and Mutual Aid Society. (Carol the First was the reigning prince and king of Romania from 1866 to 1914.)
The same group of people set the foundation for St. Elias Orthodox Church. On Feb. 1, 1914, Gavril Costea officially launched the appeal to build a church in Ellwood City. Forty-one people signed the appeal. The Romanian American Orthodox Christian population was around 400 at the time.
At the end of 1915, this group bought three lots for the construction of the church, parish house and the society hall. The hall is now vacant, but it still owned by the church. The mutual aid society is defunct. Also in 1915, a group of Macedonians joined with the Romanians in supporting the building of the church. On March 25, 1917, the plans for the church, including its funding, were finalized. Construction started on Sept. 3, 1917, and the church was blessed on May 30, 1918.
In 1935, the Romanian Orthodox Church in the United States became a part of the diocese, and Bishop Policarp Morusca came to finalize the blessing of St. Elias Church.
In 1950, construction of the parish house began, and for many years, it was the rectory for the parish priest and family. Presently, it is used for an office for the parish priest, coffee hour after Sunday liturgy, adult and child religious education, a library, meetings, special events, and a room for the resident security and custodial person. It is now called The Parish Life Center.
The parish priest and his wife have their own home.
Twenty-one priests have served the church in the 100 years.
“God has provided us with many faithful priests over the years who have embraced our parish family. We are all most grateful to the founders for having this church today,” Draghiciu wrote.