The History of the Saint Matthias Slovak Parish
Youngstown, Ohio - 1913 to 1998

Original Wooden Church - 1915

The present Saint Matthias Roman Catholic Slovak Church is located on the southeast side of Youngstown, which was called Lansingville in the early 1900’s.

In 1913, a handful of Slovak families from Lansingville, who attended Saints Cyril and Methodius Roman Catholic Slovak Church, met regularly and with the assistance and advice of the pastor of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Reverend Oldrich Zlamal, petitioned The Most Reverend John Farrelly, Bishop of the Cleveland Diocese, to authorize the establishment of the Saint Matthias Parish in Lansingville. In 1914, permission was granted and the Slovak people of Lansingville enthusiastically and gratefully received the newly ordained Father John Gerenda, shown at the right, as their first pastor.

Minutes of a July 5, 1914 meeting of the new church, indicated 35 families in attendance and a week later, 52 families attended another meeting indicating their strong support of the new parish. Construction of the new church, a wooden frame structure began and was dedicated on July 5, 1915. During construction of the church, masses were offered in the “Gergus family home” on Homewood Avenue shown at the right in a 1914 photograph. Financial assistance and other support was generously offered by Saints Cyril and Methodius Church.

In 1917, a rectory of red brick was constructed and in September of that same year the first parish school was opened in the basement of the church, consisting of grades one through four. The remaining grades, students went to Adams School. The Slovak Vincentian Sisters of Charity from Perrysville, Pa. were in charge of the parish school and a convent for them was built in 1921.

The Reverend John M. Gerenda served the parish until February 4, 1922, at which time The Reverend Francis Kozelek, shown at the right, was appointed pastor. In the 1922 Census of Slovak People Living in Mahoning County, a list of 276 different Slovak surnames in the Lansingville area are noted. The parish grew so rapidly that the church was found to be too small to serve its needs and on June 18, 1925, a new church of red brick with sandstone trimming was begun to replace the wooden church. It was built on the corner of Indianola and Homewood Avenues. On June 13, 1926 the new church was dedicated by The Most Reverend Joseph Schrembs. The wooden church was then remodeled and grades five and six were added. Grades seven and eight were then opened in the basement of the new church. Some of the students that went to Adams School after the fourth grade returned to the Saint Matthias School. The first eighth grade class, graduated on June 19, 1927. There were 13 girls and 12 boys in the class.

Rectory and Brick Church - 1925

In 1929, marble altars were installed in the new church and consecrated in 1932 by The Most Reverend James A. McFadden, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland.

The Reverend Francis Kozelak resigned on May 1, 1938, and Bishop Schrembs appointed a native son of the parish, The Reverend John G. Hamrak, shown at the left, as Saint Matthias’ new pastor. Under his guidance, the parish advanced in spiritual strength, increased in membership and more frequent reception of the sacraments. Saint Matthias School increased in enrollment to nearly 400 students.

In August 1948, the parish community had increased to 625 families and it was decided to purchase 7 ˝ acres of property bordered by Shady Run Road, Florida and Cornell Avenues, and Zedaker Street. This property was located more in the center of the parish population. The parishioners were unanimous in building a new school on the new property.

Saint Matthias School - 1952

Approval to build the school was given by The Most Reverend Emmet M. Walsh in October 1950. Ground breaking for the school took place in February 1951 and was completed on September 8, 1952. The new school was a vast improvement for students and teachers. The enrollment at this time had reached 463 students.

Saint Matthias Convent - 1957

In November 1957, a new convent to house 16 sisters was completed on Cornell Avenue. This new building was a vast improvement in living quarters for the sisters, who for 40 years lived in limited facilities.

In May 1961, Saint Matthias Parish was honored as The Reverend John Hamrak was rewarded for his priestly work by being made a Domestic Prelate with the title of “Right Reverend Monsignor” by His Holiness, Pope John XXIII.

Monsignor John G. Hamrak was called to his eternal reward by the Heavenly Father on February 18, 1965. The Reverend George Winca, shown at the right, a former associate pastor at Saint Matthias, became the parish pastor on March 25, 1965.

In 1966, the parishioners of Saint Matthias became separated from Rev. George M. Winca their church by the construction of Interstate Highway 680 , causing many parishioners on Homewood and Taylor Avenues to move elsewhere. The interstate dissected the parish, causing the church and rectory to be east of the freeway and the school, convent, and a majority of the parishioners west of the freeway. The only solution to the problem was to construct the rectory, offices, and church on the new property. Permission was granted by the bishop to build the priest’s rectory and office facilities on the Cornell Avenue and Zedaker Street location. On July 1, 1968 the buildings were completed.

Saint Matthias Rectory - 1968

For the parishioners it was a dream to have all the parish facilities at one location and this dream became a reality when the construction of the church began on November 6, 1971 on the corner of Cornell Avenue and Zedaker Street next to the rectory.

Saint Matthias Church - 1973

On April 8, 1973 dedication of the church was held. The church is of contemporary style and seats 582 parishioners in a semi-circular arrangement. Many of the new church items were salvaged from the old church. The rose window that graced the back of the old church is now a backdrop to the tabernacle in the front of the new building. All of the stained glass windows were worked into the new structure. Other items that are used in the new church is the organ, part of the old altar, and the huge crucifix which is suspended by black chains and hangs over the sanctuary. On the outside, the huge copper bell and the cornerstone of the old church is encased in a special-designed encasement.

In the spring of 1974, The Reverend George Winca retired and The Reverend Francis Snock, shown at the left, former assistant pastor to Monsignor Hamrak, was appointed pastor.

From 1975 to 1987 there was continual renovations and remodeling to modernize the facilities, including the school kitchen, auditorium, renovation of the 62 year old organ, new roofs on the school and convent and landscaping the entire property.

In May of 1988, the Marian Shrine, on the northwest portion of the property, was dedicated and in September 1988, the Kindergarten was added to the curriculum.

The Reverend Francis Snock retired in August 1994 and The Reverend Peter M. Polando, shown at the right, was appointed pastor. In addition to being pastor of Saint Matthias, he serves as judge in the diocesan tribunal. On March 23, 1997, Saint Matthias Parish was again honored, as The Reverend Peter M. Polando was rewarded for his priestly work by being appointed “Chaplain of His Holiness”, by Pope John Paul II. His title now is Rev. Monsignor Reverend Monsignor Peter M. Polando Peter M. Polando

Renovations and repairs continued to the property and computers were added to the school.

Today there are 1127 families registered at Saint Matthias. The school is the only Slovak school in Youngstown with 164 students and is the only school that requires its students to attend daily mass before school.

Saint Matthias continues to be a vibrant parish community and many of its members are first and second generation American-Slovaks who treasure the heritage of their Slovak ancestors. Saint Matthias Slovak Parish community is proud that it has been able to continue its positive influence on the upper south side of the City of Youngstown (Lansingville) and hopes to be a visible presence there for many more years to come.

Aerial View of the Parish Community:

Written by George Malinich June 24, 1997.

Edited by Reverend Monsignor Peter M. Polando September 1, 1998

We are sorry to say that the author, George Malinich passed away in the spring of 2001. Information was obtained from:

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