Our History (Continued) 4
History of St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Just as Fr. John Bobyock and his new Christian Family were moving into high gear, Our Heavenly Father, decided that He needed Fr. John more than the Bethlehem Community. The entire parish was grief stricken when in July of 1958, Fr. John Bobyock received the Fullness of the Light of Jesus and passed to eternal rest with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the saints. But the grief and sorrow that the parishioners were experiencing only served to strengthen their resolve and determination to continue preparing for a new church. Fr. Bobyock would have wanted it this way. Despite his passing, his Bethlehem Christian Family continued to nurture the “seed” that he had planted.
Following the death of Fr. Bobyock, the Archdiocese sent Fr. John Malaschuk followed by Fr. Raymond Kostiuk. Both priests served briefly as pastor, but were soon given other assignments by the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese was taking its time finding a permanent replacement for Fr. Bobyock, but the parishioners went ahead with increased vitality in the spirit of Christian love, patience, and prayer.
In the early part of 1959, the prayers of the parishioners were answered when the Archdiocese sent Reverend Vladimir Karmazyn as the new pastor of St. Josaphat Church, Bethlehem. Fr. Karmazyn had immigrated from Europe with his family in the latter half of the 1940’s. He held various assignments in the United States including a pastorate in North Dakota. Fr. Karmazyn was a learned scholar with an extremely well rounded European education. Upon his arrival he plunged right into the activities that the parish had been engaged in since the time of Fr. Bobyock. He increased the popularity of many of the various church activities and instilled in the people a love for the rich heritage that was theirs. Fr. Karmazyn delegated greater responsibility to the Ladies Auxiliary and Holy Name Society, making them responsible for different activities aimed at the purchase of property and construction of a new church. As the Catholic Church throughout the world began to prepare for a new phase in its existence with the start of the Second Vatican Council, St. Josaphat Church began to prepare to move into a new phase of parish life.
CHANGE IN GEOGRAPHY NO CHANGE IN SPIRIT
The south side of Bethlehem was beginning to change. The children of the early immigrants were moving to the northern, eastern, or western parts of the city. It was also noted that a small number of families from the Allentown area were attending St. Josaphat’s. Realizing the American spirit the new immigrants of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s had mastered the English language, settled into good paying jobs, and soon began to look for homes outside of south Bethlehem. The “Ukrainian hub” at Third and Carbon Streets was slowly being abandoned for other more affluent areas of the city. Would the community dissolve? Would that spirit, so strong for so many years be lost because of relocation of the parishioners?
The answer came very soon. God sent a blessing in the form of an expansion project that was about to be undertaken by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The conversion to gas furnaces made it necessary for the company to purchase the area known as “The Heights” which included Third and Carbon Streets.
Fr. Karmazyn, the church trustees, together with some interested parish members purchased property at Union Blvd. and Kenmore Ave. in 1961 The cost was $16,500.00. When the steel company declared its intention to purchase St. Josaphat Church and the property, plans for a new church building started to become finalized. The building fund consisted of individual donations, the selling of the Carbon Street property and a loan of $130,000.00 from the Providence Association. All legal aspects and transactions were accomplished by attorneys and parish members +William and +Peter Rybak.
The years 1963 and 1964 were years of intense prayer and preparation for the construction of a new church building at the Union and Kenmore site. Under the leadership of Fr. Karmazyn the church building committee appointed the architect Julian K. Jastremsky to design the new church in authentic Byzantine/Greek style. When Fr. Karmazyn and the committee approved the plans, they were submitted to the Archbishop of Philadelphia for Ukrainians and the Liturgical Commission of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for recommendations, and improvements. The Archbishop gave his permission to construct a new building and the contract was awarded to Raymond B. Bracy of Allentown. Beginning in 1965, Mr. Bracy and his workers constructed the church while the parishioners watched and prayed. The entire cost of the rectory and church came to $330,311.30.
On April 7, 1966, Fr. Karmazyn and the members of St. Josaphat Church celebrated the Holy and Divine Liturgy in the new church structure for the first time. Five weeks later, Metropolitan Ambrose Senyshn, Archbishop of Philadelphia and Metropolitan of all Ukrainian Catholics in America came to Bethlehem and blessed the beautiful new structure.
The new Church and parish house stood out as a jewel in the Archdiocese and was the place of visitation for many artists and students. Of particular interest to the artists were the stained glass windows that adorn the walls of the nave. These are unique not only to the Lehigh Valley, but also to the eastern part of the United States. The windows depict in iconographic form, St. Vladimir (the prince who brought Christianity to Ukraine), St. Olba (the grandmother of St. Vladimir), St. Nicholas (Patron of Eastern Christians throughout the world), Sts. John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, and Gregory the Theologian (all very important Greek fathers of the Eastern Church), and finally Sts. Cyril and Methodius, (Greek monks who brought Christianity and the Cyrillic alphabet to the Slavic peoples). As the joyous celebrations were taking place, Fr. Karmazyn and the committee realized that their work was not over. There was a large outstanding mortgage which had to be considered. The church members, as they had done at the old location, responded with generosity that was enormous, not only financially for such a small parish, but also with their time and energy. Once again they sponsored promotions aimed at the reduction of the mortgage. The bingo parties continued in the new hall located below the church. Big in the sixties were wine tasting parties and fashion shows. These activities among others generated revenue aimed at the final burning of the mortgage on the new church building and parish house.
ST JOSAPHAT’S IS DEBT FREE
Finally the joyous day arrived. On May 1, 1977, the church hall was the scene of the ceremonial “Burning of the Mortgage.” Now all could breath easier. They had trusted in God and now their parish home was tree and clear of all financial encumbrances.
RETIREMENT OF FATHER KARMAZYN
The years of hard work had resulted in many spiritual and physical fruits. But the work had taken its toll on many of the parishioners. Some were now reaching retirement age. Fr. Karmazyn was aging and many of the children and grandchildren had moved from the area with the decline in the economy. The parish membership began to decline beginning in the early 1980's Both Fr. Karmazyn and Mr. Balaziuk, the Parish cantor, realized that some quick changes were needed in the parish. Fr. Karmazyn announced his intention to retire in 1985. Because of the shortage of clergy, the Archdiocese did not act on his request.
Finally, in 1986, Archbishop Metropolitan Stephen Sulyk granted Fr. Karmyzan’s request to retire and in November of 1986, assigned Reverend Daniel Gurovich, a young energetic priest, knowledgeable in the traditions of the Eastern Church and culture.
After twenty seven years of service to St. Josaphat’s Church, Fr. Karmyzan retired to Florida. He reposed in the Lord in January of 1993
Three days after Fr. Daniel’s arrival at St. Josaphat, Mr. Balaziuk asked him for permission to retire as cantor. Mr. Balaziuk fully realized that a change was in order and recommended a young woman who had shown an inclination to learn the Church Typicon (i.e. services of the Church). With her beautiful voice, Mr. Balaziuk felt as though she would make a very valuable contribution to the prayer life of the parish community. With Mr. Balaziuk’s blessing, Carol Hanych assumed the roll of cantor for the community of St. Josaphat. The members of St. Josaphat’s held a retirement dinner for Mr. Balaziuk in 1987. In 1993, Mr. Balaziuk reposed in the Lord.