History of Christ The Saviour Cathedral

Christ the Saviour Cathedral is the Mother Church of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese.  It was established as a parish in 1937.  The parish initially conducted services in St. Mark's Episcopal Church in downtown Johnstown.  After purchasing property in the West End of Johnstown, the parish worshipped in a converted building (a former bakery) on the corner of Sheridan Street and Butler Avenue which the men of the parish transformed into a church, classroom area and social hall.  Father Andrew Zapatocky was the founding pastor. The first parish officers were: Stephen Matolyak, John Hobor and Stephen Blaschak. Fr. Zapotocky was succeeded in 1938 by the Very Rev. Protopresbyter Joseph Mihaly who served the parish from 1938-1939.

On October 6-8 of 1939, the first Convention of the Diocesan Youth Organization, A.C.R.Y., was held in Johnstown and attended by hundreds of members.  In that same year Very Rev. Protopresbyter John Miller began his service as pastor.  In 1941, the parish acquired a cemetery on Benshoff Hill.  The plot of land on which the Cathedral is built was acquired in 1946.  This corner property was central to discussions that began in 1949 that quickly led to an agreement between Christ the Saviour Parish and the Diocese whereby the Cathedral and Seminary would be located in Johnstown.  The agreement stipulated that the parish would give to the Diocese a parcel of land, $65,000 in seed money and the use of the rectory. Officers promoting this proposal were Michael Radasky, George Volcsko, Charles Gost and Joseph W. Buchovesky.  The parish approved this agreement on September 17, 1950, and the Diocese executed the agreement on October 4, 1950.  Mr. Jesse J. Hamblin of Bridgeport, Connecticut was retained as architect to design the new Cathedral.

To complete the agreement, the stately Strayer Manor in the West End was purchased by the Diocese in September 1951 for use as a Seminary.  The first class of seminarians was enrolled on November 1 of that year.

When the Very Rev. John Yurcisin was appointed as pastor on June 17, 1952, the building of the Cathedral began in earnest.  Joseph W. Buchovesky was the building chairman.  On July 10, 1952, the construction contract was awarded to the Wilson Construction Company.  Groundbreaking took place on July 12, and construction began on July 14.  The cornerstone was blessed by Bishop Orestes on October 5, 1952, and the new Cathedral was completed within two years.  It was dedicated by Bishop Orestes on May 30, 1954 with thousands of people in attendance.  This truly was a turning point for the Diocese.  WJAC-TV captured the ceremonies on reel-to-reel tape.  Main celebrant was His Excellency, Bishop Orestes, assisted by the Rt. Rev. Peter E. Molchany, the Very Rev. John Yurcisin and scores of priests during the 4-hour long Dedication Liturgy.  Singing responses in addition to the Cathedral Choir directed by Prof. Andrew Panchisin were St. Nicholas Choir of Homestead under the direction of Prof. John Pazey, and St. George Choir of Taylor under the direction of Prof. William Fairchok.  There were 152 Cathedral parishioners who served on 18 different committees.  Two kitchens prepared and served banquet meals in 3 halls to accommodate the thousands of participants.  During the Service, Bishop Orestes bestowed the Order of Christ the Saviour on four laymen for meritorious service to the Diocese:  Stephen Conjelko of Windber, and Joseph W. Buchovesky, Michael Radasky and Michael Gost of Johnstown.

Growth in the Cathedral continued.  On February 5, 1956, 14 Boy Scouts and Explorer Scouts from the Cathedral received the newly-established, coveted Alpha-Omega Award for Scouting.  The local Scout troup initiated the award which became a standard for Orthodox scouting throughout the United States.  In August of 1957 the first of many Altar Boy Retreats was held at the Cathedral and Seminary.  The Cathedral was also the site for 28 annual Pilgrimages through the years, the first of which was on July 4, 1955.  Noting the need to improve the Seminary facility, a complete structural renovation that lasted for two years began in 1955.  To relieve the high cost of construction, 117 men from the Cathedral volunteered their labor to complete the extensive reconstruction.

The famous "American Carpatho-Russian Cookbook" was produced by our Mothers and Daughters Club in 1960 (cover design by Maryann Raslevich).  It was so popular with thousands of copies sold all over the Diocese that it was revised and enlarged in 1978 by the Cathedral Parents and Teachers Guild, and once again enlarged and reprinted in 2000, 2003 and 2006 through the efforts of Pani Constance Miloro, Stephanie Miloro Kobal, Kay Matolyak and Marion Sprincz.

     In 1963, Father Nicholas Smisko was assigned as the first assistant pastor. That year also marked the construction and dedication of a Bishop's Residence next to the Cathedral.

In 1967, the Cathedral A.C.R.Y. spearheaded a National A.C.R.Y. drive among all the A.C.R.Y. chapters to collect "trading stamps" in a special project for the Seminary.  The project resulted in accumulating 2,000 books of S & H green stamps.  In return, at the end of the drive, the Sperry-Hutchinson Company provided a new 1969 Ford station wagon for the Seminary.

The parish suffered an unexpected loss in 1970.  Prof. Andrew Panchisin, who had served the Parish as Cantor and Choir Director of junior and senior choirs for some 30 years, died suddenly on January 15, 1970.  He was buried from the Cathedral on January 19.  Interim directors were Father Michael S. Rosco and Prof. Michael Semanitzky who directed choir until Ms. Helen Spanovich accepted the position of choir director in 1972, a position which she still holds.

A beautiful outdoor mosaic cross was erected on the Cathedral grounds in 1970.

In 1977, Metropolitan Orestes P. Chornock, who had made Johnstown his second home and loved to be here, fell asleep in the Lord on February 17.  May the Lord rest his faithful servant.  Vicnaja pamjat!  In the same year, the people of the Cathedral Parish erected the beautiful Christ the Saviour Educational Center across from the Cathedral.  It was dedicated by the late Bishop John R. Martin.  The Center houses Sunday School classrooms, activity room and library.  The remainder of the Center is an expansive all-purpose hall that seats 800, complete with a modern commercial kitchen. 

Twenty bishops of the Orthodox Church gathered in Johnstown in 1978 for the first U.S. Bishops' Conference, and a Consultation of Orthodox and Catholic hierarchs convened here in 1990.  The 50th anniversary of the Diocese was celebrated here in 1988.  Our Cathedral has also been the site of seven Diocesan Councils - Sobors over the years.

The Cathedral has been visited by two Ecumenical Patriarchs - His All-Holiness Patriarch Dimitrios in 1990 and His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew in 1997 during which visit the Patriarch presided over ceremonies for the laying of the cornerstone of the new Chancery Office Building.   Our Cathedral was also visited by Patriarch Diodorus of the Jerusalem Patriarchate in 1982.  We have been hosts to bishops from the Carpathians, the Czech Republic and Serbia.  Two of our own hierarchs were consecrated as new bishops in our Cathedral - the late + Bishop Peter Shymansky of blessed memory on November 21, 1963, and the late + Bishop John R. Martin of blessed memory on October 6, 1966.  Bishop John served the Diocese energetically until 1984 when he died suddenly on September 30 in Christ the Saviour Educational Center during a banquet honoring Father John and Pani Ann Yurcisin on their 40th wedding anniversary and Father John's 40th anniversary of ordination.  The Bishop was buried on October 4 near the Cathedral.  Eternal Memory!  In November the diocesan clergy convened and chose a new Bishop in a historic election in the Cathedral.  The Diocese's fourth hierarch, Bishop Nicholas Smisko, was then confirmed by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.  Bishop Nicholas succeeded Bishop John Martin and was enthroned in the Cathedral on Friday of Bright Week, April 19, 1985.

In 1987, Pani Constance Miloro and Romayne Laichak spearheaded a movement to lead faithful to the "March for Life" on Washington, DC to protest abortion.  The effort met so much success that a Johnstown Deanery bus has traveled every year since then to Washington on January 22.

The 50th anniversary of the Diocese was celebrated in 1988 with colorful ceremonies in the Cathedral led by Bishop Nicholas.

On November 4, 1990 a dual celebration took place in the Cathedral.  Protopresbyter John Yurcisin was elevated to Diocesan Vicar and Protopresbyter Frank P. Miloro was installed as Diocesan Chancellor. 

Protopresbyter John Yurcisin, after serving the Cathedral Parish since 1952, officially entered into retirement December 31, 1996.  He was succeeded by the Associate Pastor, Protopresbyter Frank P. Miloro, on January 1, 1997.  Father Miloro has served the Cathedral since 1985 when he was assigned as Associate Pastor, serving in that capacity through 1996, and as Senior Pastor from 1997 to the present.

In 1997 the Cathedral cupolas were reguilded, a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Horbal Jr. in honor of the 50th wedding anniversary of Dorothy and Anthony Horbal Sr.  A new sound system was also installed.   Mr. George Nedelkov did extensive interior painting, including retouching murals, as he has done numerous times over the years.

 His Eminence, Archbishop Spyridon visited the Cathedral in 1997 and presided at groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Chancery Building.  Metropolitan Nicholas blessed the new building in 1998.

In 1999, a beautiful pictorial directory was published which featured photographs of parishioners and scenes from parish life.

The construction of a new $250,000 rectory was undertaken by the parish in 2000.  Christ the Saviour Educational Center provided $50,000 for this project, and additional funds were generated through an "Investing in Tomorrow" program inaugurated in July 2000 which raised an additional $126,000 through parishioners' generosity.  A new parking lot for guests of the Educational Center and worshippers at Sunday Liturgies was installed by the Educational Center which provided an additional 70 off-street parking spaces.  The cemetery road was repaved in 2001 which was a huge undertaking at the cost of $40,000.

September 11, 2001 marked the opening of the first Orthodox parochial school for the Greater Johnstown Area.  Instrumental in this monumental task was Cathedral parishioner, Mrs. Christina Sakmar who worked with others from the Cathedral and various Orthodox parishes to establish the St. Sophia Orthodox Christian Academy.

In order to secure the perpetual existence of the Cathedral, an "Eternal Memory Endowment Fund" was established in 2002.  Including a matching gift offer by an anonymous parishioner, the people have presently contributed over $550,000 to this ongoing fund.  Combined with a recent estate gift to the parish and an earlier endowment, the Eternal Memory Fund is valued at over a million dollars.

On August 4, 2002, the parish honored Ms. Helen Spanovich for teaching and directing the Cathedral Choir for 30 years, and for a total of 62 years of directing choirs in the Johnstown area. Helen continues to direct the Cathedral Choir. Among her many accomplishments was the publication of a Presanctified Liturgy Book of Prostopinije four-part singing for choirs, and a Liturgy book of Prostopinije four-part singing for choirs.  Cantor for the parish  is Dr. Donald Koval who is assisted by the Cathedral Cantorial Singers.

In September of 2002, after serving the Cathedral Church School for 44 years as teacher and superintendent, Mrs. Irene Popp retired.  Among her accomplishments was the establishment of the popular Summer Vacation Church School in 1988 along with Mrs. Joy Love.  Parishes of all Orthodox jurisdictions in the Johnstown area are invited to send their children each year.  Mrs. Popp was succeeded by Dr. Louise Brudnak as church school co-ordinator.  We have been blessed with excellent teachers, 10 of whom have received the National A.C.R.Y. Sunday Church School Teacher's Award over the years.

Realizing the need for refurbishing, the Cathedral was closed to public worship for two months late in 2002 for extensive interior renovation that included refurbishing and upholstering the pews, new carpet in the church, ceramic flooring in the sanctuary, a new bell system, a unisex bathroom in the vestibule,  new insulation,  refurbishing of the stained glass windows, and  new rear entrance doors.  All the building and renovation over the past several years has been accomplished through the generosity of the parishioners and organizations, and the Cathedral Parish is debt-free.

Pani Anna (Popovich) Yurcisin fell asleep in the Lord on April 3, 2003.  Not long after, the Very Rev. Protopresbyter John Yurcisin, after 44 years of untiring and unforgettable pastoral service to the Cathedral, Seminary and Diocese, and living in retirement as Pastor Emeritus, passed to eternity on June 20, 2003 and was buried from the Cathedral on June 23.  Eternal Memory!

  When His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas, in 2002 called on diocesan faithful to support the construction of the new Saints Cyril and Methodios Church at Camp Nazareth, 85 Cathedral parishioners stepped forward and offered their gifts which totaled more than $70,000.

It is to be noted that nine vocations of priest-sons of the parish have served the Orthodox Church over the years.  They are Protopresbyter John Duranko, Rev. Robert M. Radasky, + Very Rev. Charles W. Panchisin, Very Rev. Thomas Blaschak, + Very Rev. John E. Stefanik, + Rev. James Stropko, and Protopresbyter John R. Fedornock; two other vocations have served other Orthodox jurisdictions: + Rev. Basil Buchovesky and + Rev. George Timko. 

Also of memorable distinction are twenty-four daughters of the parish who are married to clergy.  They are: Pani Betty Jean (Koslin) Baranik;  Diaconissa Tamara (Evanisko) Benc; Pani Magdaline (Kuzmiak) Blaschak; Pani Marie (Kerestesy) Brancho; + Pani Deborah (Sandak) Dahulich; + Pani Helen (Stropko) Donovan; Pani Kerry (Gregory) Ganzy; + Pani Pauline (Kesselak) Gido;  Diaconissa Deborah (Laichak) Gulick; + Pani Dolores (Panchisin) Hazuda; Pani Eleanor (Blaschak) Herbert;  Pani Sharon (Maydak) Holowaty;  Pani Dorothy (Gost) Hutnyan;  Pani Andrea (Laichak) Kish; Pani Constance Ann (Evanisko) Miloro; Pani Patricia (Martich) Patrick; Pani Elizabeth (Fetsko) Radasky; Pani Magdaline (Laichak) Salley;  + Pani Mary (Kulback) Salley; Pani Anna Marie (Fetsko) Slovesko; Pani Dorothy (Matchik) Timko; Pani Michaelene (Fetsko) Tomko; Pani Joan (Kerestesy) Wine; and Pani Dolores (Rocha) Zuder.  There are also at present nine panis (some of them widows) who reside in Johnstown and make the Cathedral their parish church. 

A total of seven young women from the Cathedral A.C.R.Y. chapter #20 have been crowned "Miss A.C.R.Y." throughout the years.  They are: + Dolores Panchisin (1954); Constance Evanisko (1966); Lucy Kindya (1967); Barbara Hlivko (1968); Deborah Sapolich (1969); Tamara Evanisko (1984): Kelly Ryan (1994); and two others have been crowned Miss Junior A.C.R.Y.:  Andrea Laichak (1979) and Stephanie Miloro (1987). Also  numerous Cathedral chapter members have been elected to the National Board over the years, including Michael Gost (1954) and Nicholas timko (1969 who served as National Presidents.  Johnstown was the site of the A.C.R.Y. Nationalo Conventions in 1939, 1965, 1984 and 1997.  National Bowling Tournaments were also held here in 1953, 1978 and 2005.  The A.C.R.Y. National Archives have been housed in Johnstown since the early 1950's, and they have been administered by Donna Yarina who has served for many years as Custodian of Properties.

In 2004, the year of the Cathedral's 50th anniversary of Dedication, the original film of the dedication ceremonies of May 30, 1954 was reproduced with an introduction by Metropolitan Nicholas and concluding remarks by Father Miloro.  The film has been transformed to DVD and Video format.


    In April of 2004, Father Miloro was appointed by Metropolitan Nicholas as Dean of the Johnstown Deanery.  He serves in this capacity in addition to his other responsibilities as Cathedral Pastor, Diocesan Chancellor, Seminary Dean and Associate Editor of  The Church Messenger.  He also sits on the board of "Plan-It-For-Kids", an adoption/referral agency, the Greater Johnstown Orthodox Clergy Association, the National A.C.R.Y., and is a past board member of the Johnstown Day Care Center and St. Sophia Orthodox Christian Academy.

In 2006 an updated Cathedral Directory was published.

For the second time in six years, the Cathedral was closed to public worship from January through March 2008 for renovation.  Elias Painting Inc. was chosen for the work which included a complete painting/refinishing of the Cathedral, new artwork and stenciling, porcelain wainscot to match the floor, reguilding of candlebra and ecclesiastical appointments, and a new outdoor Cross Shrine.  The $100,000 renovation was completed in time for Palm Sunday 2008.

In November 2008, the Cathedral was featured in a hardbound edition of Domes and Spires, a publication of the Tribune Democrat which featured the most beautiful churches of the Johnstown area. The Cathedral faithful and officers are always co-operative with the programs and events sponsored by and for the Parish and the Diocese.  Great effort has been expended by the parishioners over all these years of parish existence to promote not only the daily work of a parish, but the many events that have taken place in Johnstown for the Diocese.  God bless them all - those present and those already passed on to their eternal reward!

On  March 13, 2011, on the 28th Anniversary of his consecration as Bishop, His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas  Reposed in the Lord.  Funeral services were held from the Cathedral with hundreds of faithful in attendance and nearly a thousand others viewed the services live on the internet.  His Eminence was buried on Monday March 21, 2011 at St. John the Baptist Parish Cemetery in Perth Amboy New Jersey.  Eternal Memory!  The Diocese was temporarily placed on the spiritual care of His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America who served as Locum Tenens  until a successor to Metropolitan could be found. 

In July of 2012 the diocesan clergy convened and nominated a new Bishop in a historic election in the Cathedral.  The Diocese's fifth hierarch, Bishop Gregory Tatsis, was then canonically elected  by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.  Bishop Gregory succeeded Metropolitan Nicholas and was consecrated as bishop and enthroned in the Cathedral on November 27, 2012. 

On Sunday October 27, 2013, after 28 years of service to the Cathedral Parish, first as Assistant to Protopresbyter John Yurchisin and then as Cathedral Dean, Very Rev. Protopresbyter Frank P. Miloro retired from active parish ministry, while continuing to serve as Diocesan Chancellor and Dean of Christ the Saviour Seminary. A festive banquet in honor of Fr. Frank and Pani Constance Miloro was held at the Cathedral Education Center.

Succeeding Fr. Miloro as Cathedral Dean is the Very Rev. Protopresbyter Robert Buczak, who served Christ the Saviour Cathedral for many years as Archdeacon to His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas of Thrice-Blessed-Memory.  Fr. Robert and Pani Kathleen were warmly welcomed to the parish community on Sunday November 3, 2013.    

With the consecration of Bishop Gregory as the fourth ruling diocesan hierarch, and the appointment of Fr. Robert Buzcak as Cathedral Dean, the Christ the Saviour Cathedral family looks forward to an exciting new chapter in the history of the parish and diocese.     

Prepared By The Very Rev. Protopresbyter Frank P. Miloro, May 2004 and updated October 2013.