Diocese: Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania
Deanery: Altoona-Johnstown Deanery
915 Blair St
Portage, Pennsylvania 15946
Johnstown, PA 15902
St Michael’s Church is located in Portage, PA, midway between the major cities of Altoona and Johnstown and ten miles south of Ebensburg, the county seat of Cambria County.
From Rt 219 (Johnstown, Ebensburg)
Exit east on Rt 53 (Portage/ South Fork exit). Travel approximately 9 miles and turn right on to Rt 164 in Portage. Travel .8 mile into town. After the second light, turn on the second right onto Sonman Ave. Turn right onto Blair St, and the Church is on the corner.
From Route 22 (Altoona, Ebensburgh)
Exit on to Rt 164 south and follow into Portage. In town, after second light, make the second right onto Sonman Ave. Turn right onto Blair St, and the Church is on the corner.
Schedule of Services
Services are in English.
9:00 AM Divine Liturgy as scheduled.
6:00 PM Vigil.
8:40 AM Hours.
9:00 AM Divine Liturgy.
6:00 PM Vigil.
Eves of Great Feasts
9:00 AM Divine Liturgy.
Mornings of Great Feasts
6:00 PM Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, followed by Lenten Covered dish.
Friday Evenings in Great Lent
Confessions are heard following Vespers or by appointment.
The history of the people of St Michael Orthodox Church bears the common story that brought the masses of eastern European peoples to the American shores in the late 19th century. In Portage, our parish history begins with the immigration of Slavic and Hungarian people from central Europe; the eastern heartland formerly known as the Austro-Hungarian empire; the present day countries of eastern Slovakia, south-east Poland, and south-western Ukraine. St Michael’s, without question, was founded by a people who looked for the hope of new life, political freedom and the economic opportunity in the new world. Our story begins in the coal fields of the Allegheny highlands of west-central Pennsylvania.
If the economic center for our people was the mines, the spiritual center for our families was the Church. Immediately, upon settling in the greater Portage area, the Brotherhood of St Michael the Archangel was established. The spiritual journal of that day tells us: “The first steps in organizing the Orthodox Parish in Portage, Pa, were taken by the Brotherhood of St Michael, founded on October 4, 1911, from St John the Baptist Orthodox Church, Conemaugh, Pa, by the priest, Rev Fr Alexis Mitropolsky.” The Church Journal speaks of “turmoil” that “existed at the time, eminating from the Greek Catholic Priest in neighboring South Fork, Pa.”, which delayed the construction of the present Church until sometime in July 1915. At that time a Charter was granted by the Russian Orthodox Church through Bishop Evdokim Meschersky. Three lots in block 26 were then purchased, a contract was drawn up between the congregation and Ira F Link, architect and contractor, and the church and rectory were built.
Much sacrifice was realized by the congregation in the areas of both money and service as the dream od having an Orthodox Church of their own in which to worship came to pass. The down payment for construction, as the Journal reports, was $17,000.00. No small sum for the economic tables of that era. With God’s help and trust in His Providence, many handy men united their hearts and souls with their skills and labor, to erect the current edifice which would propagate faith in Our Lord God and Savoir Jesus Christ, and nurture the Holy Tradition of the Church as passed down through the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox East.
Sixteen priests have served St Michael’s through her 81 years of history. The founding priest was the missionary Fr Alexis Mitropolsky. The first assigned Pastor and author of the Parish’s spiritual Journal was the historic and well known Very Rev Fr Anthony Repella.
Parish life at St Michael’s has followed the normal path of any local parish in the Orthodox Church in America: marriages, births, and deaths; festivals, dinners and picnics; maintenance, upkeep and renovation. The outstanding pillar at St Michael’s has been the Sisterhood. The great effort and hard work realized by our women through the years have given them a most honored place within the congregation and respect within the greater Portage Area.
The great strength of St Michael’s has been the precious “Gift” God has shed upon His people—Piety. he Divine Services, for this reason are many and regular and beautiful. Great Blessings have been manifested by God to the people for this piety and loving service of faith.
Through the years, updating, has caused structural changes to take place which has altered the exterior and interior appearances of the Church. Within the past 15 years St Michael’s can look back upon a period of renovation and renewal. Over $200,000.00 has been raised through free will offerings to meet the needs of the major building projects. Remembering the words of St James, the parishoners of St Michael’s can boldly say: “And I by my works will show you my faith.” (James 2:18)
Hard hit by the new economics, the major population shifts and rapidly changing job markets have hit St Michael’s adversely. Specifically, the closing of the coal mines and the steel mills have forced a majority of our families to relocate out of state and often away from Orthodox population centers. Of the remaining population at St Michael’s, three quarters of her 49 members are over the age of 65, while 3 children are either in grammar school or high school and three children are under the age of five.
With God’s grace, life carries on. And such a work is always for the strengthening of the common good. As we lift up the sacrifice of this generation, we likewise remember their story as well as our own. It is a simple story of how a people will come to a local area, and respond to the call of God: to save one’s souls through faith in the Lord Jesus; to make His House “a house of prayer”; to form a people into “the people of God for His Kingdom”; and ultimately, to be faithful witnesses and to proclaim His Good News of Salvation in the Truth of Holy Orthodoxy “to all men.”