On the weekend of October 14-15, 2017, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon and His Grace, Bishop Paul of Chicago and the Midwest visited Saint John the Baptist Church, Campbell, OH for the celebration of the community’s 100th anniversary.
On Saturday morning, the hierarchs concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with Archpriest Andrew Nelko, Rector, and many priests from throughout the Ohio Deanery. A festive luncheon followed in the undercroft of the church. Great Vespers was celebrated on Saturday evening.
On Sunday morning, the hierarchs once again concelebrated the Divine Liturgy. In the afternoon, a Panikhida was celebrated at the parish cemetery for all departed faithful. An evening grand banquet brought the weekend to a memorable conclusion.
“In many ways, Saint John the Baptist Church is a quintessential parish of the Orthodox Church in America,” Metropolitan Tikhon said in his banquet remarks. “Not only are we celebrating 100 years of service and witness to Campbell and the greater Youngstown area, but also we are celebrating 100 years of service to the Orthodox Church in America. When I think about Saint John’s, the names Garman, Vansuch, Tucci, Nicoloff, Livosky, Kolosar and many others are familiar because I know you from your support and service to Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary, from your work for the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America, and from those young men who have been sent by this parish to seminary.
“This familiarity reflects our common history, an intertwining of our lives in ways that are sometimes unknown to us,” Metropolitan Tikhon continued. “We are a community of Orthodox believers across North America, united by faith, by the Eucharist and by our friendships, and by our stewardship to the Orthodox Church in America—truly a blessing from God to our Church and for our lives. So we thank God for your witness and your contributions to the life of the Orthodox Church in America.
“Soon you will be receiving from me a document expressing my vision for the future of the Orthodox Church in America,” Metropolitan Tikhon added. “It was written by me, and it soon will be sent out to the parishes for your review and reflection. My prayer is that this document will serve as an encouragement to continue that great work that has been done here at Saint John the Baptist Church for 100 years and a guide as we look at how we expand the mission, which was the vision of Saint Tikhon, our former Archbishop. As I said in my homily yesterday, the ‘Metropolia’ before—and now the Orthodox Church in America—always called itself ‘The Mission’ precisely because we have that apostolic work of Our Lord Jesus Christ as our chief concern. This parish has arrived here today because you have kept as your chief concern the apostolic work for and in this community.
“As we continue to move forward here in North America, our focus must remain on the commandments of Our Lord and Savior, on the Great Commission, and on the effort to bring the Gospel of healing to a world that is broken, and suffering—that is what the life of a parish really accomplishes, and that is what each and every one of you, with the clergy who have served here, brings to the world around us, that healing, the Gospel, the commandments of our Lord and the Love of Jesus Christ and true community,” Metropolitan Tikhon concluded. “Thank you, Your Grace, Bishop Paul for the invitation to participate in this festive weekend. Thank you, Father Andrew and Matushka Tanya and your family, and all of you here for your hospitality this weekend, for the love that I have felt from all of you. It has been a wonderful weekend, with beautiful services; the choir was absolutely fantastic. May God bless and strengthen you as you continue to work for Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
A History of Saint John the Baptist Church, Campbell, Ohio
In the late 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, life in the Carpathian regions of central Europe was very difficult. When word came that America was a land of freedom and opportunity, many migrated here, to the Youngstown area, where a new steel mill was in operation and jobs were plentiful.
Those who settled here joined together to form the “Saint George Society”—a group of people in search for a place to worship who petitioned the State of Ohio for a charter to form ‘Saint John’s Congregation of East Youngstown,” which was granted on April 20, 1917. A drive for funds was started immediately, making possible the acquisition of three lots on the corner of Gordon Ave and 14th Street. In September of 1917, the construction of a parish house was begun. On March 3, 1918, the parish house was completed and the newly assigned priest, Father Kulchinsky, celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in the basement of the parish house. With a roster of about 80 souls, these quarters soon proved inadequate. With the accumulation of funds through donations, pledges, and loans, the construction of a new hall was started to serve as a temporary church, and on September 19, 1918, His Eminence, Bishop Alexander [Nemolovsky] dedicated this hall as a temporary church.
The following year in 1919, lots were purchased to be used as a cemetery and Father Joseph Kreshko was assigned to the parish. In 1925, Father Isadore Salko assumed the pastorate and a “Russian School” was organized. The parish soon outgrew its facilities and classrooms for educating the youth were built.
In 1926, East Youngstown was renamed Campbell, and Father Honchok was assigned Rector of the parish. He and Matushka formed the Ladies Altar Society, choir, and the Campbell “R” Club—Chapter 27 of the Federated Russian Orthodox Clubs. Ten years later, Father Michael Kostyk was assigned as the new priest. He reorganized the choir through the training of choir directors, by supplying music, and by employing English in both worship and instructions. The young mothers of the parish organized the Mothers’ Club, while “Russian School” gradually evolved into a Sunday School program.
In 1947, a building fund was established with monthly collections. Funds were placed in escrow to be used only for the building of a new church. On January 16, 1947, Father Nicholas Vansuch, the first native son of the parish, was ordained to the priesthood. In 1952, the new cemetery chapel was dedicated by Father Joseph Stephanko, and three years later in 1955, Father Gregory Matveychuk was assigned Interim Pastor. Later that year, a new priest, Father Nicholas Yuschak, was assigned to Saint John’s parish.
Eventually, a five acre tract of land on the corner of Struthers-Liberty Road and Tenney Street was purchased as the site for the new church, for which ground was broken in 1959. The building committee, chaired George Libertin, oversaw with expert care the entangled stages of construction. Father John Voytilla, the second native son of the parish, was ordained to the priesthood. In 1960, the new church building was completed and Father Nicholas was assigned pastor. His Eminence, Archbishop John of Chicago consecrated the new church. The iconostasis was built by parishioner John Novak and designed by Father Nicholas; the original icons were the work of Andrew Bicenko.
During the 1960s, the cemetery chapel was renovated and the cemetery grounds were completely redone. Landscaping around the church was completed with the financial assistance of the Mothers’ Club and the Campbell “O” Club. In 1967, Father Eugene Vansuch, the third native son to enter the priesthood, served his first Divine Liturgy here at his home parish. In 1972, Father Philip Koufas completed the iconography behind the altar, on the walls, and on the arch over the iconostasis.
In 1969, Father John Psinka was assigned to Saint John’s and progress continued. Father John instituted a Reader and Sub-Deacon program, through which Subdeacons Maurice Garman, George Gresko, William Livosky, and Walter Rusnak were tonsured. Tonsured to the order of Reader were George Horodnic Jr, Harrison Krenitsky, Dr. Nicola Nicoloff, John Zastany, and John Zelina. In 1973, the parish’s fourth native son to enter the priesthood was Father Dimitri Voytilla. Barbara [Zelina] Matusiak, a native daughter, became a Matushka in 1975 when her husband, John Matusiak, was ordained to the priesthood.
In 1996, Father John fell asleep in the Lord. On December 1 of the same year, Father John Steffaro was assigned Rector. After 14 years of faithfully serving and ministering to the parish, he retired in June 2010. On September 1, 2010, Father Andrew D. Nelko, a retired Navy Chaplain, was assigned to Saint John’s as Rector.
Love is the key—love for Christ and His Church and love for one another as His children. In the early church the Christians in Antioch were identified because of their love for one another. If we, as the “Body of Christ,” accomplish nothing else in the years to come, it is our prayer that we indeed grow in love for Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and in love for one another. We continue to be a vibrant parish with many activities and ministries.