St. George's is a member of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), which is the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui juris. We are a Church of the Byzantine rite in full ecclesial communion with the Pope of Rome and acknowledge his spiritual and jurisdictional authority.
Parish History: Emigrants from Western Ukraine came to the United Sates of
America in the later half of the nineteenth century, and began settling on
the North Side of Pittsburgh during the late 1880’s. At first they worshiped
with the congregation of Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Church, now located
on Superior Avenue. But these early immigrants wanted to worship God in
their new homeland according to the ancient traditions of their own
ancestors. This ardent desire, and the wish to preserve a spiritual and
cultural heritage for their children, prompted them to organize a Ukrainian
Catholic Church of their own.
With the great help of the fraternal lodges – the Ukrainian Knights of St. George, a branch of the Providence Association, and the Taras Shevchenko Branch of the National Aid Association – St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church was founded in 1918 as a mission. Divine Services were conducted in a rented hall by visiting priests from neighboring parishes.
On April 14, 1918, with the appointment of Rev. Wolodymyr Ulianytsky as pastor and 18,000 dollars in the treasury, a decision was made to purchase property at 60 Doerr Street for the building of a church and school. Construction began that year and was completed the next. The church was dedicated on April 27, 1919, by the Apostolic Administrator for Ukrainian Catholics in the United States, the Right Reverend Peter Poniatishyn, who would himself become the pastor twenty-four years later, in 1943. This was an admirable achievement by the founders of St. George’s parish that were, for the most part, people with little, if any, financial resources!
The church became the center of community life for North Side Ukrainians. An early cantor and choir director, Mr. Wasyl Lozynsky, conducted daily Ukrainian school classes and organized the first church choir. In 1921, Professor John Korbecky assumed the post and held it until his death in 1969. Under his leadership the religious and cultural life of the parish soared to new heights. Over 150 students were enrolled annually in the school. The parish choir achieved great prominence in the Western Pennsylvania Ukrainian community and a drama group under his direction presented stage performances, providing parishioners with some welcome relaxation from their daily cares and woes.
Although the parish and its members endured extreme economic hardships during the Great Depression, by the grace of God and their firm faith, the parish survived under the leadership of Rev. Wolodymyr Kozoriz. With the improving economic conditions of the late 1930’s, and the arrival of Rev. Peter Oleksiw as pastor in 1938, the parish devoted its efforts to improving the church structure. The entrance was remodeled; stained glass windows and an iconostasis were installed. Many religious and cultural activities were given new impetus. The enrollment in the school increased and the Sisters of St. Basil came to help with catechetical instructions. The church choir grew to a membership of sixty-five voices and reached new heights of prominence. The drama group also continued to stage productions.
While the era of the Second World War saw a decline in parish life from what it had been, it leveled out and returned to normal in the post-war period of the late ‘40’s. In the year 1951, Rev. Eustace Weselowsky became pastor and the Rev. Henry Sagan became the first of a series of parochial vicars assigned to St. George’s parish.
At that time it became clear that the City of Pittsburgh’s plans for redevelopment would necessitate the eventual relocation of the church. By 1962 serious planning for the design and construction of a new building became imperative. In that year, at an age when most people are preparing to retire, Rev. Wasyl Dzydzora was assigned as pastor to lead the congregation through the crucial phase. His unfailing good humor and patience inspired everyone and contributed greatly to the success of the building project. For their part, the parishioners rose to the challenge and gave of their time, talent and financial resources whole-heartedly.
Ground-breaking ceremonies took place on July 2, 1967. Construction of the church and rectory began in August and continued through the following year. The first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the new building on January 19, 1969, and the move to the new location was complete.
Due to Professor Korbecky’s failing health, Mr. Michael Bilyk took over the position of cantor at that time and held it until his death in 1994.
Metropolitan Ambrose (Senyshyn), Archbishop of Philadelphia, dedicated the new church on June 22, 1969, signaling the end of a uniquely successful building program: all building loans had been repaid and the parish was debt-free, due to the generosity of the parishioners and the never seizing hard work of the pyrohy workers.
One of the most memorable events in the history of the parish was the visit of His Beatitude Patriarch Josyf (Slipyj), Cardinal and Confessor of Faith, on May 19, 1973. It was a poignant reunion between Rev. Wasyl Dzydzora the Patriarch, who had been rector of Holy Spirit Seminary in Lviv during the 1920’s when Rev. Wasyl Dzydzora was a seminarian. During his visit Patriarch Josyf made Fr. Wasyl one of the honorary canons of St. George Archcathedral in Lviv.
The construction completed, the congregation continued its intense efforts to furnish and decorate the church in a traditional Byzantine style. On a pay-as-you-go basis, the stained glass windows, icon mosaics, an iconostasis, was well as an artful decoration of the interior, were all added to make St. George’s one of the most beautiful examples of a Ukrainian Catholic Church in typical Greco-Byzantine style. The completely redecorated church was rededicated by our Eparchial Bishop His Grace Bishop Robert (Moskal) on May 19, 1985. Nor was this the only program of revitalization and expansion undertaken by the parish. Rev. Wasyl Dzydzora and members of the parish were early supporters of the establishment of the Selfreliance Federal Credit Union. Properties adjacent to the church were purchased for possible future use. A plan for a senior citizens’ hi-rise at the church was mapped out by the parish, and negotiations with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development initiated.
Due to the scarcity of priests, Very Rev. Canon Wasyl Dzydzora continued to serve as pastor well beyond the normal term. In 1983, Rev. George Appleyard began assisting Fr. Wasyl as a visiting priest from the neighboring parish of St. John the Baptist in McKees Rocks. At Rev. Wasyl Dzydzora’s retirement in 1984 at the age of 88, His Grace Bishop Robert conferred on him the rank and dignity of Archpriest, and Rev. George Appleyard succeeded him as pastor.
Rev. George Appleyard began his pastoral ministry at St. George’s just after the creation of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Josaphat by His Holiness Pope John Paul II (December 3, 1983). It was under his direction that the senior citizens’ hi-rise was completed and dedicated in 1986 and a five story apartment complex dedicated to the memory of the Servant of God Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky now stands behind the church. During his years at St. George’s Rev. George Appleyard was very much involved in the catechetical program of the parish and ran a very successful “Teen Talk” for the young people of the parish. Besides his parochial ministry Fr. George is well known for his education and retreat ministry. He has published many articles explaining the Byzantine spiritual legacy. On June 17, 1990, Patriarch’s Josyf’s successor Patriarch and Cardinal Myroslav Ivan (Lubachivsky), visited St. George’s and blessed a site in the front of the church complex for a granite monument to mark the millennium of Christianity in Ukraine and the approaching diamond jubilee of the parish. In the year 1994 Rev. George Appleyard was named Monsignor, Papal Chaplain by Pope John Paul II. Being always very much involved in the ecumenical dialogue and activity of churches, through him St. George’s became a member of the Northside Common Ministries. In recognition of his priestly ministry and through the initiative of the parishioners, Msgr. George Appleyard was awarded in 1995 by the Serra Club of Pittsburgh the Good Shepherd Award. A second housing project for the elderly called St. George’s Close was also initiated by Msgr. George Appleyard. These 18 all-brick apartments adjoining the church were dedicated on April 21, 2002, by His Grace Bishop Robert.
After the transfer of Msgr. George Appleyard in 1999, the following priests served the parish family of St. George’s: Rev. Roman Harwas, Rev. Andrew Marko and Rev. Steven Paliwoda.
On August 1, 2001, the present pastor Fr. Valerian M. Michlik began his priestly ministry serving our parish family. Throughout the history of St. George’s the faithful, together with their priests, have accomplished great achievements for the greater glory of God and His Holy Church. As we come closer to the celebration of the 90th anniversary of St. George’s we ask Almighty God to bless and to preserve our parish family for many happy and blessed years.