St. John the Baptist A.R. Orthodox Church in Nesquehoning celebrated its 75th anniversary last Sunday with the blessing of the iconostas and a divine liturgy, followed by dinner at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe.
The church had its beginning when a group of people held a meeting at the Sokol Citizens Club on Jan. 14, 1935 to decide how they could preserve the liturgical, spiritual, and administrative heritage that existed in the Greek Catholic Church.
The Western Church was trying to "Latinize" the Eastern Rite Church at that time. These were the people who met at the Sokol Club.
A meeting was then held at Ferko's Hall on West Catawissa Street, and the organization of St. John the Baptist Church was completed. At this meeting, Father Michael Sotak of Berwick was asked to take charge of the parish.
In March of 1935, the lots on West Railroad Street were purchased for the building of the church.
In the early 1940s, Sotak's health began to fail and he passed away on Feb. 16,1947.
The next pastor was the Very Rev. Protopresbyter John Zeleniak from 1943-1952. He was followed by Very Rev. Protopresbyter Michael Sopoliga from 1952-1994. The Very Rev. Father Ronald Kovac from 1994-1995, the Very Rev. Father Michael Psenchnuk from 1995-1999, Rev. Lev Holowaty from 1999-2001 up to the present day pastor Rev. Father Robert J. Teklinski.
St. John's sanctuary lacked one sacred structure, which is unique to all Orthodox Churches the iconostas (icon screen). In both 1948 and 1980 attempts were made to build an iconostas but both failed. But in November 2006, church members voted to establish a fund to finance the construction and installation of an iconostas.
Contributions, large and small, poured into the fund. Frank Cunius Woodworking was contacted to build it and iconographer Raymond Mastroberte of Lansford was commissioned to write the icons. In February 2009 a fire destroyed Cunius's shop, his apartment, and all of the contents of his shop, including the frame of the icon screen.
The church was reimbursed for its loss and in 2010 the board of trustees sought out a new wood carver. David Steigerwalt was hired and completed the maple wood frame.
During the anniversary banquet at Penn's Peak, a toast was given by Andrew Hudock and the introduction of the master of ceremonies was performed by J. Richard Hallahan. Musical entertainment followed the dinner by Fred Douglas.