Most of the original parishioners of SS. Peter & Paul Orthodox Church in Windber can trace their roots back to the back to the Carpathian Mountain region of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, with the original parishioners having emigrated to the Windber area to work in the coal mines and steel mills of Western Pennsylvania. Although the original religion of their homeland was Eastern Orthodox through the evangelization of Saints Cyril and Methodius in the ninth century, the Unions of Brest in 1596 and Uzhorod in 1646 forced their union with Rome. They remained within the confines of the Byzantine Catholic Church in union with Rome for the next three centuries.
With their arrival in the United States, the immigrants found that the local Roman Catholic hierarchs were hostile to many of their Eastern traditions, which included married priests. In order to preserve these traditions, the original founders of SS. Peter & Paul Church joined with other parishes whose members came from the Carpathian Mountains under the leadership of the then Father Orestes Chornock and sought to rejoin the Eastern Orthodox Church. After the untimely death of his wife, Father Orestes was elected the first Bishop of the new diocese at the first Diocesan Council meeting in 1937. He then traveled to Constantinople, where the diocese was accepted back into Orthodoxy in 1938 by the Patriarch of Constantinople. Benjamin I, and where the bishop-elect was consecrated by three Metropolitans from the Holy Synod. Eventually Bishop Orestes was designated a Metropolitan and served until his death in 1977. Since that time, the Carpatho-Russian Diocese has been served by two additional bishops: Bishop John Martin, who died in 1984, and the present bishop, Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko.
In Windber, the members of the fledging parish bought property and began work on a church at the corner of Ninth Street and Somerset Avenue in 1938, and the work continued until December 19, 1945 when Bishop Orestes consecrated the new church. The faithful continued to grow and add to the new church.
On March 23, 1967, the church building was destroyed by a tragic fire. Undaunted, the parishioners began immediately to plan for a new church and pruchased land at the present site. The Sunday School wing was completed first and dedicated a year later in 1968. On July 9, 1972 the new church was consecrated and after nine more years of sacrifice, the mortgage was finally burned in 1981. The original icons on the iconastasis, the screen seperating the altar from the nave of the Church, were written by iconographer Claire Fried, and those icons on the ceiling, which were donated by parishioners and church organizations, were written by iconographer Nicholas Papas.
Saints Peter & Paul Orthodox Church continues to grow in love and membership under the direction of Almighty God, our Metropolitan Nicholas, and our current pastor, The Very Reverend Miles Paul Zdinak. Again, "come and see" and be a part of our history in the future.Fellowship...
We invite all to join us at our coffee hour after Sunday Divine Liturgy. This is an intergral part of our fellowship and allows parishioners to meet and know each other. Also the many fundraisers such as the bakes sales, parish picnic, basket parties and so forth, give parishioners a chance for fellowship as they work to help the church.Outreach...
SS. Peter & Paul Church provides an active ministry to the sick and shut-ins of our parish. Our pastor, Father David, an active member of the Windber Clergy Association, visits the sick both at home and in the hospitals. In addition, the Sunday School children bake little Paska Easter Breads for our shut-ins and remember them with cards on the Holy Days and Holidays.
Another important outreach and caring project of our church is Project H.O.P.E.
, which stands for Helping Other People Everywhere. With the names kept in strict confidence, referrals are accepted from parishioners or any other person at any time during the year. The committee of H.O.P.E. is headed by Father Miles and Roger Zankey.
SS. Peter & Paul Church is also a very active member of the United Churches of Windber.
The Church Van
is also helpful in all of our outreach programs. With seven steady drivers, we provide Sunday transportation for those who are unable to come to Divine Liturgy any other way. And any other organization in the church may use the van at any time for it's activities with Church Board approval.
Our Picnic Pavilion,
which seats 300 people, is given at a nominal donation to parishioners in good standing. For a small charge, non-parishioners may also rent the pavilion for family picnics, showers, reunions and small parties. In the Winter our pavilion is used for storage of vehicles and boats. For fees and storage information and for pavilion rentals, please call our pavilion managers: John Reckner at (814) 467-5752.
Our Junior Youth Group,
consisting of youngsters age 8 through 18, organizes and plans family-oriented activities for the young people of our parish. All their social and fund-raising activities promote good fellowship among these young Christians.
Our Women's Club
strives to support the church financially through their monthly Pirohi making; Bake Sales and other such fund-raisers throughout the year. And, for a small fee, they organize funeral repast dinners for the parish, which are very helpful to families who have a loved one who has passed on. These hard-working and dedicated women facilitate all other food-related functions of our church.
Our Sunday Church School
was established in 1952 and has an active yearly program which begins after Labor Day and continues throught May. We currently have approximately 55 students in six different classes. Our P.T.O.
(Parents-Teachers Organization) is the helping hand of our Religious Instruct Program with this group providing support and financial assistance for our Sunday School. Many of our youngsters also attend a week of Religious Instruction Class and fellowship at our Christ the Saviour Cathedral every summer and all our children have the opportunity to attend a week of camping at our beautiful 200 acre Diocesan Camp Nazareth in Mercer, PA . The camping fees are paid for each child by our parish and PTO and free bus transportation is provided our Johnstown Deanery.
Our Church Choir,
with approximately thirty-five members sings the responses to the Sunday Divine Liturgy twice a month and for special Holy Days and it also participates in diocesan and community affairs. The choir, under the very capable leadership of Director Mr. Michael P. Kokus, and which sings a cappella, also sings for all weddings which take place in our church.
Our Altar Society
is responsible for the up-keep of the Altar and Sanctuary of our church. These dedicated women meet regularly to change the altar linens and thoroughly clean the Altar section of our church with their "labors of love."
Our Knights of the Altar
are our Altar Boys who serve God, their church and the clergy in a special way at every service of the church. Any young man who has received his First Holy Confession can become an Altar Boy and we currently have twelve devoted young men serving at our altar.