St. Andrew Parish History

St. Andrew ChurchThe Parish of St. Andrew in North Catasauqua was founded on its patronal feast, November 30, 1902, by the Most Reverend Patrick John Ryan, Archbishop of Philadelphia.  The first event recorded at the new parish was the Baptism of Mary Benko on November 4 of that year.  She was the infant daughter of Martin and Susanna Benko, formerly of Cirocke Dlhe, Zemplin, in the present-day Slovak Republic.  The parish was established specifically for the needs of Slovak immigrants in upper Lehigh and Northampton Counties.  Here they could worship God using hymns and prayers in their language, and hear the Word of God proclaimed and preached in Slovak as well.

The establishment of the parish was largely due to the efforts of one remarkable man.  His name was Reverend William Heinen (who was later to be named a Monsignor).  He was pastor of St. Joseph Church in East Mauch Chunk (the present-day Jim Thorpe) from 1894 until his death in 1910.  Because of his energy and pastoral zeal, he has become known as the “Apostle to the Slovaks” in Eastern Pennsylvania.  Fr. Heinen came into contact with Slovaks among his parishioners in his ministry in the Jim Thorpe area.  Sensing a great need, Fr. Heinen took it upon himself to reach out to those early immigrants.  With a partial knowledge of the Slovak people, he took it upon himself to learn their language.  He was later to be assisted in this ministry by three men:  Fathers Paul Lisicky, Joseph Kasparek and Francis Vlossak.

Slovaks began arriving in the Lehigh Valley area in the 1880s and 1890s.  By the early part of the 20th Century, there were great numbers of these people throughout Eastern Pennsylvania in need of clergy who could speak their native tongue.  Sts Cyril and Methodius Parish had been founded in Bethlehem as the first Slovak Catholic Parish in the Lehigh Valley.  But the number of immigrants continued to grow, and more churches were needed for the growing number of Slovaks in what was then the Philadelphia Archdiocese.  The original members of St. Andrew Parish had begun to band together in Slovak Fraternal Associations.  At the time they were journeying all the way to Bethlehem to attend Mass.  The numbers were increasing and the need was great.

In this regard, Fr. Heinen took the initiative.  Sometime in 1902 he began to organize the people of St. Andrew’s.  As mentioned, many of these people were associated with Slovak Fraternalists.  Fr. Heinen and his assistant, Fr. Peter Schaaf, began celebrating the Sacraments with these people.  According to the 1955 publication, “Slovak Catholic Parishes in the United States and Canada”, 64 men were listed as the original members of the new St. Andrew’s.  It seems that they were members of the Slovak “Jednota” (the Union).  From those original members at the time of its foundation in November of 1902, the new parish experienced a remarkably rapid growth in population.

For the first five months of its existence, Frs. Heinen and Schaaf took care of the new St. Andrew’s personally.  These priests of present-day Jim Thorpe celebrated Sunday Mass, administered the Sacraments, and buried the dead.  We can only imagine what this entailed in those days before the automobile, as they traveled back and forth from Mauch Chunk, while caring for their parishioners as well.  Relief finally did come when Fr. Paul Lisicky arrived on the scene in March of 1903, shortly after his ordination to the priesthood.  It was then that he took his place as the first pastor of St. Andrew’s.

In those early months, Mass and the Sacraments were celebrated in a place other than the present church building.  The cornerstone for the church was laid in 1903, and work progressed rapidly.  Those early days were really boom times at St. Andrew’s.  There was a great wave of immigrants into the Lehigh Valley in the early part of the century.  There were men seeking jobs in the steel mills, factories and cement mills that have become such a part of the landscape.  Many people of the eastern Slovak area of Zemplin gravitated toward Catasauqua and Hokendauqua.  Those of the northern Slovak area of Spis tended to settle in Egypt, Northampton and Cementon.

The boundaries of St. Andrew’s extended to Slovaks and Slovak-Americans in a wide area encompassing Seigfried (now Northampton), Fullerton, Ormrod, Hokendauqua, Coplay, Cementon, Bath, Egypt and even Fogelsville!  Many original parishioners walked from those places.  Since there was no Polish parish, many immigrants from Poland also attended the new parish.  In the year 1903, the first full year of its existence, there were 71 Baptisms at the new St. Andrew’s.  This was only the beginning; the new parish continued to grow.

By the year 1911, there were 28 weddings, 52 funerals, and 144 Baptisms.  Fr. Lisicky was the only priest; he officiated at all of these.  Some of St. Andrew’s older parishioners used to tell about catechism classes in those early days.  With Confirmation and First Communion classes of one hundred or more children, religious education was a truly formidable task.  The facilities at St. Andrew’s were never larger than they are today.  We can only imagine how crowded it must have been.

On May 1, 1912, a change was to occur at St. Andrew’s.  Fr. Paul Lisicky was asked to assume the position of pastor at St. Michael’s in Lansford.  The newly appointed pastor at St. Andrew’s was an associate of Monsignor Heinen’s, Fr. Joseph Kasparek.  Fr. Kasparek was not himself a Slovak.  He was a native of the neighboring area of Moravia in the present-day Czech Republic.  Until that time, Father had been pastor at St. Michael’s in Lansford, and there was responsible for the construction of the present-day church.  (Frs. Kasparek and Lisicky exchanged roles.)  Fr. Lisicky remained at St. Michael’s until his death in 1955.  Fr. Kasparek remained at St. Andrew’s for the next nine years.  He retired due to poor heath in December of 1921, and spent his retirement years in Reading.

His replacement was Fr. Emeric Kucharic, who was to remain as the third pastor of St. Andrew’s for the next 27 years – until 1948.  In his day, Fr. Kucharic became known as a powerful orator, a preacher in the Slovak language.  He was often called upon to preach in various Slovak parishes.

In the early days of Fr. Kucharic’s pastorate, two events were to take place that dramatically reshaped the face of the parish.  The first occurred in 1922 with the foundation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish (Assumption BVM) in Northampton.  The other was the creation of Holy Trinity Parish in Egypt in the year 1928.  The creation of those two parishes helped to reduce the overcrowded condition at St. Andrew’s by drastically reducing the parish population.  It also changed the profile of the parish.  By the year 1931 there were only 22 Baptisms at St. Andrew’s. 

For his first 18 years as pastor, Fr. Kucharic was the only priest at St. Andrew’s.  In the year 1939 this was to change – a tradition that was to last twelve years was begun.  An assistant pastor was appointed by Cardinal Dougherty.  This first curate was none other than the Reverend Joseph Birosh, who was later to become pastor of the parish.  This was his first assignment as a newly-ordained priest.  Fr. Birosh was to remain at St. Andrew’s for seven years.  He was later succeeded by Reverend Paul Mihal (1946), and then by the Reverend John Ovecka (1949).  Fr. Ovecka remained until 1951 as the last assistant pastor St. Andrew’s ever saw.  Fr. Kucharic himself was to leave St. Andrew’s in the year 1948.  Upon his death in 1963 he was buried in the St. Andrew Parish Cemetery.

Fr. Kucharic was succeeded at St. Andrew’s by the Reverend Frederick Gasparovic, who served from 1948 to 1966.  These years are remembered as a time of wonderful activity at St. Andrew’s.  The Parish was truly the center of its people’s social lives as well as their spiritual lives.  Affectionately remembered as “Fr. Fred”, Fr. Gasparovic remained at St. Andrew’s for 18 years, until his death in 1966.  Fr. Fred is buried next to Fr. Kucharic in the St. Andrew Parish Cemetery.

Shortly after Fr. Gasparovic’s death in January of 1966, the Reverend Joseph Birosh returned as pastor of St. Andrew Parish.  At the time, Fr. Birosh was the assistant pastor at Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Northampton.  He was now to remain at St. Andrew Parish as its pastor for the next 23 years.  In his final years, when Fr. Birosh’s health of declining, he was joined by his brother, Reverend Stephen Birosh.  “Fr. Dick” was a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who had retired from active ministry.  Although he was never officially assigned to St. Andrew Parish, Fr. Dick came to help his brother, Fr. Joe.  He was with him until his death in June of 1989 and remained at the parish for a few months afterward.

Sadly, those years were a time of declining parish population at St. Andrew’s.  In 1966, there were 22 infants Baptized into the faith.  By 1989, the number of Baptisms had declined to just five.  Slowly, the demographics of the parish had been changing.  Increasingly, St. Andrew’s had become a parish with a larger elderly and retired population, while there were fewer younger families.

Following the death of Fr. Birosh, Bishop Thomas Welsh, Bishop of Allentown, had to take these statistics into account.  Accordingly, the Bishop appointed the Reverend Michael Stone as administrator of St. Andrew’s.  Fr. Stone was also pastor of Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Northampton, where he resided.  Because of the weekend Mass schedule for both parishes, Fr. Stone sought the assistance of the Barnabite Fathers, who reside in Bethlehem Township, and who continue to be a familiar presence to this day.

For the first time since those early days of the Mauch Chunk mission, St. Andrew’s was not to have a resident pastor.  Fr. Stone was officially appointed as pastor of St. Andrew’s and Blessed Virgin Mary in March, 1992.  Ironically, history had come full circle.  Again, the people of North Catasauqua, Northampton, Hokendauqua and Cementon were to share a common pastor.  He was to be the pastor of two parishes.

In April, 1992, Fr. Stone was asked to assume the duty of pastor at St. Ambrose Parish in Schuylkill Haven.  His successor was the Reverend Stephen Radocha, who was to remain pastor of the two parishes for the next ten years.  Fr. Radocha’s pastorate was a time of renewal and renovation.  New activities were initiated and the church building itself was refurbished and restored.

In June of 2002, Bishop Edward Cullen, Bishop of Allentown, appointed Fr. Radocha as pastor of the newly-built church of St. Jane Frances de Chantal in Palmer Township near Easton.  The Reverend William Baker, pastor of St. Lawrence in North Catasauqua, was appointed pastor of St. Andrew’s as well.  Since the two churches are only blocks away from one another, this really represents a melding of Catholics from the same neighborhoods, who share one common faith.  Under Fr. Baker’s leadership, St. Andrew and St. Lawrence form one people in two “sister” parishes.

The above history is provided thanks to Reverend Stephen Radocha.

St. Andrew the Apostle
Feastday: November 30
Patron of Fisherman

Saint Andrew the ApostleAndrew, like his brother Simon Peter, was a fisherman. He became a disciple of the great St. John the Baptist, but when John pointed to Jesus and said, "Behold the Lamb of God!" Andrew understood that Jesus was greater. At once he left John to follow the Divine Master. Jesus knew that Andrew was walking behind him, and turning back, he asked, "what do you seek?" When Andrew answered that he would like to know where Jesus lived, Our Lord replied, "Come and see." Andrew had been only a little time with Jesus when he realized that this was truly the Messiah.

From then on, he chose to follow Jesus. Andrew was thus the first disciple of Christ. Next, Andrew brought his brother Simon (St. Peter) to Jesus and Jesus received him, too, as His disciple. At first the two brothers continued to carry on their fishing trade and family affairs, but later, the Lord called them to stay with Him all the time. He promised to make them fishers of men, and this time, they left their nets for good. It is believed that after Our Lord ascended into Heaven, St. Andrew went to Greece to preach the gospel. He is said to have been put to death on a cross, to which he was tied, not nailed. He lived two days in that state of suffering, still preaching to the people who gathered around their beloved Apostle. Two countries have chosen St. Andrew as their patron - Russia and Scotland.

[The acts of this apostle's martyrdom, though rejected by Tillemont, &c., are maintained to be genuine by Nat. Alexander, Hist. t. i. and by Mr. Woog, professor of history and antiquities in Leipsic, in learned dissertations, published in 1748 and 1751. The authority of this piece being contested, little stress is laid upon it, and the following account is gathered from the sacred writings, and those of the fathers.]

St Andrew was a native of Bethsaida, a town in Galilee, upon the banks of the lake of Genesareth. He was the son of Jonas, or John, a fisherman of that town, and brother to Simon Peter, but whether elder or younger the Holy Scriptures have not acquainted us. They had afterwards a house at Capharnaum, where Jesus lodged when he preached in that city. It is no small proof of the piety and good inclinations of St. Andrew, that when St. John Baptist began to preach penance in the desert, he was not content with going to hear him as others did, but became his disciple, passed much of his time in hearing his instructions, and studied punctually to practice all his lessons and copy his example; but he often returned home to his fishing trade. He was with his master when St. John Baptist, seeing Jesus pass by the day after he had been baptized by him, said, "Behold the Lamb of God."[1] Andrew, by the ardour and purity of his desires and his fidelity in every religious practice, deserved to be so far enlightened as to comprehend this mysterious saying, and without delay he and another disciple of the Baptist went after Jesus, who drew them secretly by the invisible bands of his grace, and saw them with the eyes of his spirit before he beheld them with his corporal eyes. Turning back as he walked and seeing them follow him, he said, "What seek ye?" They said they desired to know where he dwelt; and he bade them come and see. There remained but two hours of that day, which they spent with him, and, according to several fathers, the whole night following. "O how happy a day, how happy a night did they pass I " cries out St. Austin. "Who will tell us what things they then learned from the mouth of their Saviour!"

Andrew, who loved affectionately his brother Simon, called afterwards Peter, could not rest till he had imparted to him the infinite treasure which he had discovered, and brought him to Christ that he might also know him. Simon was no sooner come to Jesus than the Saviour of the world admitted him as a disciple and gave him the name of Peter. The brothers tarried one day with him to hear his divine doctrine, and the next day returned home again. From this time they became Jesus’ disciples, not constantly attending upon him, as they afterwards did, but hearing him frequently, as their business would permit, and returning to their trade and family affairs again. Jesus, in order to prove the truth of his divine doctrine by his works, wrought his first miracle at the marriage at Cana in Galilee, and was pleased that these two brothers should be present at it with his holy mother. Jesus, going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, stayed some days in Judea, and baptized in the Jordan. Peter and Andrew also baptized by his authority and in his name. Our Saviour being come back into Lower Galilee in autumn, and meeting one day Peter and Andrew fishing in the lake, before the end of the same year, he called them to a constant attendance upon the ministry of the gospel, saying that he would make them fishers of men. Whereupon they immediately left their nets to follow him, and never went from him again. The year following, the Son of God formed the college of his apostles, in which our two brothers are named by the evangelists at the head of the rest. Not long after Jesus went down to Capharnaum and lodged at the house of Peter and Andrew and, at the request of them both, cured Peter's wife's mother of a fever, by taking her by the hand and rebuking the fever, by which it left her When Christ would not send away the multitude of five thousand persons who had followed him into the desert till they were refreshed with some food, St. Philip said two hundred pennyworth of bread would not suffice. But Andrew seemed to express a stronger faith, saying there was a boy who had five barley loaves and two small fishes—which, indeed, were nothing among so many—but Christ could, if he pleased to exert his power, seeing he was greater than Eliseus who, with twenty loaves, fed a hundred men.[2] When Christ was at Bethania, at the house of Lazarus, a little before his Sacred Passion, certain Greeks who came to worship God at the festival, addressed themselves to Philip, begging him to introduce them to Jesus. Philip did not undertake to do it alone; but spoke to St. Andrew, and they both together spoke to their divine master and procured these strangers that happiness. This shows the great credit St. Andrew had with Christ; on which account St. Bede calls him the Introductor to Christ, and says he had this honour because he brought St. Peter to him. Christ having foretold the destruction of the temple, Peter, John, James, and Andrew asked him privately when that should come to pass, that they might forewarn their brethren to escape the danger.

After Christ's resurrection and the descent of the Holy Ghost, St. Andrew preached the gospel in Scythia, as Origen testifies. Sophronius, who wrote soon after St. Jerome and translated his catalogue of illustrious men and some other works into Greek, adds Sogdiana and Colchis. Theodoret tells us that he passed into Greece; St. Gregory Nazianzen mentions particularly Epirus and St. Jerom Achaia. St. Paulinus says this divine fisherman, preaching at Argos, put all the philosophers there to silence. St. Philastrius tells us, that he came out of Pontus into Greece, and that in his time people at Sinope were persuaded that they had his true picture, and the pulpit in which he had preached in that city. The Muscovites have long gloried that St. Andrew carried the gospel into their country as far as the mouth of the Borysthenes, and to the mountains where the city of Kiou now stands, and to the frontiers of Poland. If the ancients mean European Scythia, when they speak of the theatre of his labours, this authority is favourable to the pretensions of the Muscovites. The Greeks understand it of Scythia, beyond Sebastopolis in Colchis, and perhaps also of the European; for they say he planted the faith in Thrace, and particularly at Byzantium, afterwards called Constantinople. But of this we meet with no traces in antiquity. Several Calendars commemorate the feast of the chair of St. Andrew at Patrae, in Achaia It is agreed that he laid down his life there for Christ. St. Paulinus says, that having taken many people in the nets of Christ he confirmed the faith which he had preached by his blood at Patrae. St. Sophronius, St. Gaudentius, and St. Austin assure us that he was crucified; St. Peter Chrysologus says, on a tree; Pseudo-Hippolytus adds, on an olive-tree. In the hymn of Pope Damasus it is barely mentioned that he was crucified. When the apostle saw his cross at a distance, he is said to have cried out, "Hail, precious cross, that hast been consecrated by the body of my Lord, and adorned with his limbs as with rich jewels. I come to thee exulting and glad: receive me with joy into thy arms. O good cross, that hast received beauty from our Lord's limbs; I have ardently loved thee; long have I desired and sought thee: now thou art found by me, and art made ready for my longing soul; receive me into thy arms, taking me from among men, and present me to my master; that he who redeemed me on thee, may receive me by thee." The body of St. Andrew was translated from Patrae to Constantinople in 357, together with those of St. Luke and St. Timothy, and deposited in the Church of the Apostles, which Constantine the Great had built a little before. St. Paulinus and St. Jerome mention miracles wrought on that occasion. The churches of Milan, Nola, Brescia, and some other places, were at the same time enriched with small portions of these relics, as we are informed by St. Ambrose, St. Gaudentius, St. Paulinus, &c.

It is the common opinion that the cross of St. Andrew was in the form of the letter X, styled a cross decussate, composed of two pieces of timber crossing each other obliquely in the middle. That such crosses were sometimes used is certain; yet no clear proofs are produced as to the form of St. Andrew's cross. It is mentioned in the records of the duchy of Burgundy, that the cross of St. Andrew was brought out of Achaia and placed in the nunnery of Weaune, near Marseilles. It was thence removed into the abbey of St. Victor, in Marseilles, before the year 1250, and is still shown there. A part thereof, enclosed in a silver case gilt, was carried to Brussels by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy and Brabant, who, in honour of it, instituted the Knights of the Golden Fleece, who for the badge of their Order, wear a figure of this cross, called St. Andrew's cross, or the cross of Burgundy. The Scots honour St. Andrew as principal patron of their country, and their historians tell us that a certain abbot, called Regulus, brought thither from Patrae in 369, or rather from Constantinople some years later, certain relics of this apostle, which he deposited in a church which he built in his honour with a monastery called Abernethy, where now the city of St. Andrews stands. Usher proves that many pilgrims resorted to this church from foreign countries, and that the Scottish monks of that place were the first who were called Culdees.[3] Hungus, King of the Picts, soon after the year 800, in thanksgiving for a great victory which he had gained over the Northumbrians, gave to this church the tenth part of all the land of his dominions. Kenneth II, King of the Scots, having overcome the Picts, and entirely extinguished their kingdom in North Britain, in 845, repaired and richly endowed the Church of St. Regulus, or Rueil, in which the arm of St. Andrew was reverently kept. The Muscovites say he preached the faith among them, and honour him as the principal titular saint of their empire. Peter the Great instituted under his name the first and most noble order of knighthood, or of the blue ribbon; leaving the project of a second Order of St. Alexander Newski, or of the red ribbon, to be carried into execution by his widow.

St. Andrew, by conversing with Christ, extinguished in his breast all earthly passions and desires, and attained to the happiness of his pure divine love. We often say to ourselves that we also desire to purchase holy love, the most valuable of all treasures, and the summit of dignity and happiness. But these desires are fruitless and mere mockery unless we earnestly set about the means. We must first, with the apostle, leave all things; that is to say, we must sincerely and in spirit forsake the world (though we live in it), and must also renounce and die to ourselves before we can be admitted to the familiar converse of our Redeemer and God, or before he opens to us the treasure of his choicest graces. In the same proportion that the world and self-love are banished from our hearts shall we advance in divine love. But this great virtue is learned, exercised, and improved by conversing much with God in holy meditation, reading, and assiduous prayer and recollection; also by its external acts, in all manner of good works, especially those of fraternal charity and spiritual mercy. [4]

1 John i. 36.
2 4 or 2 Kings iv. 43.
3 See Fordun, Scoti-Chr. lib. ii. c. 46; et Usher, Antiq. c. 15, p. 345.
4 On the panegyrists on St. Andrew, see Fabricius in Biblioth. Graeca, t. ix. p. 54; and in Codice Apocryphe Novi Testimenti, p. 707.
(Taken from Vol. III of "The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints" by the Rev. Alban Butler.)