On Easter Sunday in 1889, a group of Ukrainian immigrants gathered for worship in a borrowed Roman Catholic Church. Tears of joy filled their eyes as they sang “Christos Voskrese!” (Christ is Risen!) – they were finally able to worship inside a church sanctuary, not a classroom or a rectory. For some that Easter morning, nearly a decade had passed since they had attended a service of their own Greek Catholic tradition inside a church proper.
By the time the service ended, those present decided they would have a church of their own. Within two years, they did. That church became St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church on Pittsburgh’s South Side. The church’s unique history and architecture has earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic places. For many Pittsburgh residents and visitors, the church is a symbol of the city’s rich cultural tradition as its distinctive golden dome rises in contrast to the buildings of downtown.
But not all may know the humble beginnings of this church. Leaving their homes in small rural villages, those Ukrainian immigrants could take little with them. Along with their baptismal certificate, some brought only a small feather bed or a single change of clothes. Some had sold all their worldly possessions to buy a one-way ticket for a long voyage across the ocean, exchanging certain hardship for unknown opportunity.
One can imagine what courage such a journey took, what sacrifice, what determination to dream for a better future. They not only left their possessions and land. They left family and friends, their language and an entire way of life. But what they did bring with them was a rich cultural heritage and, at the center of this heritage, their Eastern Catholic faith. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic immigrants who settled in Pittsburgh’s South Side counted this faith among their most treasured possessions, guarding it carefully and practicing it devotedly.
This church is a testament to the legacy of those first Ukrainian Greek Catholics who carried their faith with them to forge a new life among the industrial opportunities of Pittsburgh, thousands of miles from their homeland. For these devoted immigrants and their descendants, their faith was the most valuable treasure they could have brought with them. St. John the Baptist is the visible testament of that faith. The small congregation grew into a source of strength and inspiration for many, becoming the mother of all Eastern Rite Catholic churches in Western Pennsylvania. St. John the Baptist, for more than 100 years, has ensured that the faith tradition of its founders would be shared for the benefit of others.
As our church looks to the future, we turn to both our members and the general public for assistance. Our parish is starting a large-scale renovation and restoration project to address structural issues and repair age-related damage that threaten this significant landmark. It is essential to take action soon--and we are determined to do so in such a manner to maintain the historical integrity of our beloved church, which is not only a vital part of our lives, but an important part of the architectural and cultural heritage of all of Pittsburgh. Your generosity will help with efforts to preserve this landmark, rich in meaning for so many.
Help us to honor the legacy of those who have gone before us, continue to serve the greater community and preserve a part of Pittsburgh history for generations to come.
St. John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist Church
109 S 7th Street
It's probably the best written history text we have.
It's pretty much a compilation of Diamond Jubilee Book, 1967 text.
Another history passage found in St. Josaphat "millennium" directory book, published in 1988.