Our Church

The Odyssey

For historical purposes, it was really in 1912 when a small group of determined Woodlawn Serbs (later to be named Aliquippa) came together and launched a common undertaking. They organized in a joint and dedicated effort to create a HOUSE OF WORSHIP for themselves and their Serbian Community. They recognized early that the catalyst for their very survival and progress rested in a house of reverence with its deep spiritual impact and bond of unity.

This initial “home” was to be the foundation for the preservation of their identity, faith, and hope for the future. Moreover, it would provide their families with a sense of security, stability and a community presence. This daunting endeavor became the mandate and mission of: Marko Maravich, Ilija Gvoic, Mihailo Stepanovich, Mitcha Rebich, and Nikola Vujnovich- the original charter members.

This small group, in June of 1912 banded together to draft a certificate of incorporation. As they deliberated, it is believed, a strange and startling phenomenon occurred-overhead. A fiery, golden chariot driven by six white stallions streaked across the heavens above them. A blazing streamer then proclaimed the presence of the celestial pilot, none other than Sveti Ilija! Bringing his chargers to a halt, Elijah hovered over the small cluster of planners.

“My” – he observed, as he looked down. ” Those are the children of my Christian faith, the sons of Serbian Orthodoxy. I shall direct them, support them, and anoint them with the elixir of the saints. Thus will I assure the success of their venture and dreams for the future. From this day forward, I shall be declared the Patron Saint of the Woodlawn Serbian Orthodox Parish.”

So with Elijah’s mystical guidance and critical scrutiny, the legal details and documents were cleared and presented toe the County Court to be approved and ratified.

On May 12, 1912, the original Church Charter was notarized and presented toe the court. It contained elements of both historical and dubious interest. The First Board of Trustees was recognized and approved by the court. These included: Nikola Mamula, Nikola Cico, Jovo Carich, Stojan Smiljunj, and Stanko Suica. St Elijah proclaimed their event as the ” Year of United Serbs”!

From that slogan, Elijah with his quick wit and wry humor coined the now universal Western Pennsylvania localism “YUNS”. This was conclusive evidence that Elijah had found friends, a home, and a common dialogue.

From that point on, St. Elijah authorized the approval and acceptance of the articles of Inc. ratified by the court on July 3, 1912. Richard Holt was the presiding judge, and his somewhat dubious familiarity with “Serbian” was quite evident. The name “Servian” was inserted exclusively in the charter, and accepted by the judge. IN the interest of harmony and diplomacy, St. Elijah withheld his displeasure. Later hid indiscretion, and as atonement, the judge was directed to groom and horses, quarter them, feed and pasture them and “sanitize” the stalls. St. Elijah’s judgment was swift and decisive.

A somewhat peculiar provision was inserted in the charter. It stipulated that the yearly revenue of the corporation was not to exceed $20,000.00. Except for tax purposes, the reason for this limit was never adequately determined. St. Elijah voiced his objections toe the dollar exchange rate, and insisted on the use of “dinars”. This would give the corporation an expanded income and apply an ethnic flavor to the charter. The court overruled Elijah’s proposal. But shortly thereafter, and for some strange reason, the judge was stricken with a severe and stubborn case of hiccups and hives. The twin maladies immobilized both his tongue and his gavel. The judge was quick to recognize both his errors and the presence of a weird and unseen power. Ever since, Judge Holt held the Serbs in highest regard and deepest respect.

With the charter in place, St. Elijah turned his attention to the “House of Worship”. Activity was accelerated and the first church was assembled on Hopewell Avenue. It was a small frame building purchased (by bidding) from the Presbyterian congregation. In a charitable gesture, J&L Steel Corporation donated a parcel of land for the church. A short while later (in 1913), a storm and strong winds demolished the feeble structure. Despair, panic and desperation set in. An urgent appeal was flashed into space paging Sveti Ilija with a huge S.O.S Banner- ” Save Our Serbs”. The message came through loud and clear. St. Elijah’s response was quick and productive. He convened the Board of Trustees and the Restoration Council. A fund drive was immediately instituted and the “YUNS” committee went to work. Elijah authorized the use of his chariot and horses to transport volunteers, make collections, recruit workers and promote public relations. The Campaign was a rousing and overwhelming success. Construction was completed ahead of schedule. In mid-July, the church of 1914 was officially dedicated and consecrated on Hopewell Avenue. St. Elijah conferred his abundant blessings on the completed project. He unveiled the plaque, which bore the caption: St Elijah Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church 1914. This new house of worship would grant his parish a renewed sense of accomplishment, pride, and dignity. The Serbs had arrived and a dream had become a reality. Following this successful venture, St. Elijah turned his attention to several proposals for his adopted family. He encouraged them to preserve their Orthodox faith, promote their culture and prize their heritage. With his closing blessings, St. Elijah the ” Gromovnik” (the Thunderer) mounted his chariot and departed into the celestial heavens. He had completed the first leg of his miraculous odyssey.

Picking up Elijah’s challenges, the church uprava went into action. The parish grew to 700 families. Supportive groups, clubs and fraternals were organized and pressed into service. Over the next 25 years (1914-1939) the membership contributed their talent, energy and resources.

On November 12, 1939, the Parish observed its Silver Jubilee-its 25th Anniversary. The event was held in the Slovak Hall in West Aliquippa- admission-25 cents. Notables present: His Grace Dr Damaskin-Bishop of the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese; Louis Christopher-Gary, Indiana, Editor of Serb Reflector Magazine; Simo Verlinich, President of the Serb National Federation; Tode Loverich, President of the St. Elijah Church School Congregation; Peter Bizic Sr, Jubilee Chairman; Jubilee Chorus, The St. Elijah Church Choir under the direction of Boris Dobrovoljski sang the 10th Rukovet.

At this time The St. Elijah Parish embraced all of Beaver County-and portions of Alleghany County. The boundaries are predominantly the same today, except for Midland and its surrounding area. That group formed its separate parish.

During this interval, the following clubs and organizations emerged: Serbian School, Sveta Petka Kolo Srpskih Sestara-KCC (1932). Sokols- St. Elijah Basketball Champions (1936). Svemir Club Social Organization (1930) Girls Softball (1931) Fruska Gora (1932) KCC Mala Gosponja-Ambridge (1935) Church Cemetery purchased (1936)  SNF Fraternals (1930-1940). Other groups, clubs and committees  were organized informally and proved a valuable asset to the growth and services of the church. The Serbian Club (Golub) was the hub and center of social activities. And most significantly, the Svemir Club and Fruska Gora emerged and became the vaunted and irrepressible St. Elijah Church Choir. (1932)

The second leg of Elijah’s leadership and Odyssey was brought into focus at the 50th Golden Anniversary Event (1914-1969). Father Vlastimir Tomich was selected as parish priest in 1949. The picnic grounds were purchased in 1945. Lots for the new church were bought in 1946. At the close of World War II, in 1945, a spirited group of service men and volunteers came together and formed the St. Elijah Young Men’s Club. They chose to serve as an arm and adjunct to the church body. They organized and sponsored the Social Games and have been operational ever since. This group has provided a continuing and invaluable source of revenue and income for the parish over the years. Their time and services are priceless and merit our deepest appreciation. The  St. Elijah  Mother’s Club came together in 1951. Ground was broken for the new church in 1954. In 1956 the construction was completed and ready for services. The last service in the church on Hopewell Avenue was held on Sunday June 3, 1956. The burning of the church mortgage was held in Sunday, August 3, 1958. On July 13, 1963 Bishop Stefan Lastavica was consecrated as Bishop in the St. Elijah Church- the first such ceremonial of Diocesan rank in the United States. Bishop Lastavica passed away in 1966, and Father Tomich in 1977. Both are buries in the St. Elijah Cemetery.

The third stage of St. Elijah’s Odyssey brought us to our 75th anniversary – (1914-1989). It included our progress and activity primarily from 1964-1989-(25 years). To expedite the agenda for that period, St. Elijah with cell phone beeping, sped over the Heavenly freeway with astonishing speed. His plans and priorities saw the addition of the following:

  • The beginning of the children’s Summer Day Camp- 1969.

  • Elijah Senior Youth Group was established 1970.

  • The St. Elijah Center groundbreaking in 1971.

  • Very Rev. Stevan Stepanov was chosen Parish Pastor-1973.

  • The Center was dedicated September 23, 1973.

  • The KCC Choir and the Junior Choir had their beginnings in 1973.

  • The Enthronement of the Rt. Rev. Christopher August 13, 1978.

  • The St. Elijah Choir observed its Golden Anniversary (50th) September 1980.

  • Center Mortgage Burning November 1, 1981.

  • Groundbreaking for the Resurrection Chapel 1986.

  • Silver Anniversary (25 years) of Very. Rev. Stevan Stepanov Priesthood Banquet held on April 17,1988.

  • Dedication of the Resurrection Chapel July 17, 1988.

  • Elijah Cornerstone’s Men Club became a valued and productive organization. No limits to teh time, support and resources that this organization provided.

  • The dedicated, productive, active, and tireless KCC members and their volunteers continue their “noodle magic and kitchen brigade”.

  • Timelessly and unselfishly, they offer their efforts, energy and concern to teh well being of our parish and parish home.

Accomplishments over the past years:

  • The continuance of our Slavas and an update of our status and circumstances.

  • The maintenance, replacement and renovation of our parish facilities and physical plant.

  • The cooperation and commitment of all related organizations to support the church in both its spiritual and material needs.

  • The Serbian Food Festivals became an annual enterprise and proved both productive and profitable.

  • Real estate was purchased to expand and secure our boundaries.

  • Proto Stavrofor Stepanov was feted, recognized and honored for 25 years of continued Parish Stewardship (1973-1998) on November 7, 1998.

  • The entire church interior was painted, repaired, and renovated. The choir loft was refurbished.

  • The roof, cupolas, crosses painted 24kt gold, and exterior stone re-pointed, and sealed with weatherproofing in 2003-2004.

Since 1930 the St. Elijah Choir has sustained its choral commitment vocally, spiritually, physically, and financially. The choir loft is their inner sanctum and secondary residence. In truth, and unassumingly, they are the ambassadors of goodwill for the St. Elijah Parish wherever their travels may lead them.

The Altar Boys are a source of pride and joy to both Proto Stevan and teh church parish. They are our investment in the future and the projected custodians of our faith and expectations for the years ahead. It is our sincerest hope that they will take the torch, fill the void and prove worthy of the trust they will inherit!

Our tutors are here each and every Sunday, holiday, funeral, pararstos and weddings to provide related services in an orderly and efficient manner. Candle care is their regular routine. Offerings are taken with quiet and courtesy.

The St. Elijah Mother’s Club has and always will be the source for the needs of the parish and especially the activities of the children. The St. Sava Day Celebration, Vrbica, and Church Day Camp are three of the main activities that this organization oversees. They are also responsible for the purchase of the Church School books and materials for Sunday school each year. They work in close harmony with the priest and Sunday School teachers.

St. Elijah has fulfilled his missionary odyssey with his precious blessings to bring us our success and prosperity. His sainted presence form 1912 to this moment has sustained us spiritually, and enabled us to realize our hopes and expectations. We shall continue to implore his silent guidance and concern as we terminate our first century of growth and development. May this treasured relationship persist as we greet the second century in 2014.

SUMMARY

So now we turn our attention to the official governing body of the St. Elijah Church- the uprava and its administrative family. They along with the sage counsel and input of Proto Stevan have managed our parish with care, vigilance, and wisdom. The welfare and solvency of our assets is evidence of their dedication and diligence. We commend them for served us with a generous offering of their time, effort, and deliberations. We are grateful for their sense of responsibility, duty, and concern.

We take heart and encouragement that our status and circumstances will prosper, and continue to remain healthy and progressive. In tandem we must also foster the same strength of faith, Christian brother-hood and confidence in our Orthodox heritage. We pray that our current uprava and their successors will continue to provide us with competency, courage and leadership.

A grateful congregation extends its abundant appreciation to the officers and trustees, and special accolades to Proto Stevan on his commitment to his stewardship and pastoral ministry. We are fortunate that we can share the dividends of his calling.

Sveti Ilija concurs whole-heartedly with these sentiments, and promises to sustain us with his blessings and spiritual  guidance.

May  his chariot and stallions continue to thunder across the heavens throughout eternity!

We extend to Proto Stevan, Protinica Ana their children Ivana and Marko and their respective spouses Tony and Melinda along with the pride of their family grandsons Alexander and Dimetri, our unbounded Best Wishes for every blessing that our benefactor and Patron-Sveti Ilija, can bestow from above.

ZIVELI!

CONCLUSION

An abbreviated and compressed history can not account for and identify all the individuals, past, present, who have struggled, sacrificed and labored so hard in the best interests of the St. Elijah Church. The chronicle of this Parish is a product of many years of the combined efforts of all the church pastors, presidents, officers, trustees, committees and volunteers who strived to create, sustain and improve the St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Church Parish. To all of them we extend our deepest respect and gratitude. To our pioneers and veterans we offer a solemn “Vjecnaja Pamjat”. To our current and future parish “care takers”, we issue a robust “Good Luck” and Mnogaja Ljeta. And Sveti Ilija confers his protective blessings and commends us with his Kudos, garlands and bouquets! In return we shall always exalt him, glorify and venerate him. We can do no less for our “GROMOVNIK” and “CHARIOTEER” – AMEN!

Lazo Maravich

  • The first immigrants to arrive in Aliquippa came from Banija, Korduna, Lika, Bosnia, Slavonija, Srem, and Vovodina

  • Oldest Lodge organized in 1907 was called ” Simeun Mirotocul”

  • The first church was to be erected on land bought in the McDonald Heights section of Aliquippa in 1909

  • This did not happen due to the need of an immediate burial site, which became the first St. Elijah Cemetery

  • In 1912 the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company granted 3 lots of land in the Logstown Section along Hopewell Avenue so that a church could be erected

  • A church was purchased from the Presbyterians and it was moved to the Hopewell Avenue site

  • 1914 it was destroyed by a violent storm and construction of a new church began and was dedicated to the Prophet St. Elijah

  • First wedding performed was Mr. & Mrs. Dan Maravich

  • First president was Mihailo Stepanovich

  • 1932 Choral Group ” Fruska Gora” was started by Milivoj Yoykich it united with “Svimir” and thus became the St. Elijah Church Choir

  • 1932 Circle of Serbian Sister was formed

  • 1935 Ambridge Serbian Sisters were organized

  • 1936 Church cemetery property was purchased on Brodhead Road for $10,000

  • 1939 St. Elijah Celebrates its 25th Anniversary, Tode Loverich was president

  • 1945 Picnic ground adjacent to cemetery property was purchased

  • 1946 Seven lots were purchased where current church stands

  • 1949 Fred Philips-President helped to renovate the church

  • 1949 Proto Vlastimir Tomich arrives from Omaha, Nebraska
*Balance in church account when he arrived $700.00

  • 1950 Church School/ Mother’s Club are organized

  • 1951 Fundraising begins to build a new church in the New Sheffield area of Aliquippa. General Chairman selected to head this up was Sam Milanovich.

  • Pledges of $120.00 per working family were being solicited

  • July 1951 five additional lots were purchased at a cost of $12,000.00 next to church

  • 1952 St. Sava Day kick-off fundraiser for the church

  • New grounds were consecrated by Bishop Nicolai

  • 1953 Selection of Architect, Mr. George Voinovich of Cleveland, Ohio was hired. Sketches from Belgrade arrived.

  • We copied a church from the village of Shilopaj near Gornji Milanovac. It was of Byzantine Style.

  • Fall of 1953 Final Draft was completed and it called for a church of 95 feet long by 39 feet wide. His Grace  the Right Reverend Bishop Dionisije approved all plans

  • 1954 Groundbreaking ceremony  was held $14,000.00 was collected for the New Building Fund.

  • Total in fund at this time from pledges and various fundraisers-$100,000.00

  • Cook-Anderson was retained as the contracted builder. They also erected the St. George Church in Midland. Bid amount was $263,358.00 plus add on expenses

  • June 7, 1954 Construction began and in August the Church celebrated its 40th Anniversary

  • October 17, 1954 Cornerstone was laid this event was once again attended by Bishop Dionisije also in attendance were:

  • Fr. Peter Karaffa (Russian Priest) Fr. Peter Paunovich – Youngstown, Fr. Milorad Doborota -Midland,

  • Fr. Bronko Kusinjie – Cleveland, Fr. Miodrag Djurich -Lackawanna, and Fr. Branko Skaljac – Masontown

  • 1955 Mr. Alexander Dzigurski was entrusted with designing, painting, and installation of the Iconostas

  • 1956 Parish house was completed and ready to move in

  • June 3, 1956 last Liturgy was held in church on Hopewell Avenue serving the people for 42 years

  • June 10, 1956 Present church was dedicated by Bishop Dionisije. Grand Banquet was held under tents for over 1000 guests

  • Fall 1956 funds fall short and a loan for $110,000 was obtained from Union National Bank of Pittsburgh. Payments were to be made quarterly for 15 years

  • 1958 The Loan was paid off in just 2 years. A gala event to mark the occasion was held on August 3, 1958

  • July 13, 1963 Very Reverend Stefan Lastavica became 1st Bishop to be consecrated in America at St. Elijah Church

  • 1964 50th Anniversary was observed

  • 1968 A banquet was held honoring Very Rev. Fr. Vlastimir Tomich for 20 years of continuous service

  • Upon his retirement in 1970, Fr. Srboljub Bulich arrived in Aliquippa

  • Planning Committee formed to build a Cultural Center headed by then president Steven Kavic, with Dewey Vanich elected as General Chairman

  • 1971 Groundbreaking for Center was held. Kumovi for the even was the Ralich Brothers, George, Dan, and Nick

  • February 1973 Father Stevan Stepanov arrived as pastor of the church

  • Cornerstone dedication was held, Kumovi once again were the Ralich Brothers

  • April 1973 KCC Choir was formed

  • 1976 Women were first permitted to join the church as voting members. Dorothy Reback was the first female elected to office on the Executive Board as Secretary.

  • Followed by Patricia Cekoric as Financial Secretary. Other women holding early office: Mary Poola, Millie Kosanovich, Kata Crevar, Kata Grkovich, Milica G. Milanovich and Seya Mabee

  • 1978 His Grace Bishop Christopher was installed as Bishop

  • 1978 Church Day Camp was started

  • 1980 St. Elijah Choir observed its 50th Anniversary

  • 1981 Mortgage Burning on the Center Mortgage $717,356 paid in nine years

  • 1985 Plans to build a Chapel at the cemetery began

  • 1986 Groundbreaking ceremonies was held Ann Fagan was honored Kuma

  • 1988 Resurrection Chapel dedicated once again Mrs. Fagan attended

  • 1992 Church undergoes a renovation project. Marble flooring, new pews and patching and painting were done

  • 1998 25th Anniversary Celebration of Father Stevan’s continuous service to the St. Elijah Church

  • 2000 KCC regional meeting hosted in Aliquippa

  • 2002 Day Camp celebrates 25th Anniversary

  • 2002 We began the Paint Renovation Project

  • Hired Lickey and Associates as our consultant for the outside project

  • Marini&Richards were hired to do the masonry work on the Church and Planters

  • Penn Perry repaired our roof and metal sheeting and replaced the Copper domes

  • AJ Vater placed 24kt gold on teh Cross on top of the domes

  • Tuma Lawn Service trimmed all trees and shrubs around the church

  • All Phase Construction and Harshman Construction insulated the attic

  • Halama Brothers rewired the fan and placed a thermostatic control on it

  • Knight Light and Sound installed our new Sound System in the Church and the Church basement

  • D’Eremo Heating and Air Conditioning installed the air conditioner in basement

  • New church bells and speakers were done by the Verdin Company

  • AJ Vater was hired to do the Painting of the Church

  • Lucci Kitchens installed custom designed our new candle burners and exhaust system

Past Kumovi of the St. Elijah Church School Congregation

(Note): Accurate records were lost, destroyed or missing. If we have missed someone we apologize. From some of our past program books, bulletins and the memory of those who are still as sharp as a tack we are submitting the following list of names.

George & Darinka Kusic     1914

Kata Crevar

Peter & Kata Grkovich

Milica Milanovich

Nick Radakovich

Millie Kosanovich

Milan & Rose Mijatov

Dorothy Reback

Dan & Mildred Ralich

Pete Samardzia

Nick & Irene Gruber

Frank Snyder

George & Deanna Pevac

Mickey Belas

Nikola & Milka Pesut

Seya Mabee

Stevo & Milka Zernich

Andy Muha

Michael, Alex, Tim & Tom Kavic

Dusan & Beba Rebich

Stevo & Mary Madjarevich

Bisa Kovacevic

Milos & Anka Padezanin

George Zatezalo

Dragovan & Milka Markovich

Tootsie Everly

Eli & Lela Mamula

Frances Kozlina

Nikola & Irene Gruber

David Baron

Alex & Bess Roknich

Nick & Anne Paich

Dan & Mildred Ralich

Steve Mesko

Stevo Drobac

Robert Sparcie

Dewey & Jeanne Vanich

Lazo Marovich

Albin & Diana Abramovich

Eli Rebich

Daniel & Janet Britza

Dujo & Bisa Kovacevic

Michael & Doris Semick

Walter & Sophie Loverich

John & Violet Tomei

Eli & Nadine Maravich

Dan & Anne Menich

Monty & Kay Popovich

Robert & Mileva Mervis

Brian Hayden

Jovanka & Sasa Koledin

Nicola & Olga Yorgin

Stevo Drobac

Penn Tile installed the new carpet in the Choir loft and Roth Carpet supplied the entrance carpet and runner

  Past Presidents of the St. Elijah Church School Congregation

(Note): Accurate records were lost, destroyed or missing. If we have missed someone we apologize. From some of our past program books, bulletins and the memory of those who are still as sharp as a tack we are submitting the following list of names.

Mihalo Stepanovich

Milich Mervosh

Vaso Santrach

Mita Pivar

Eli Govic

Mitcha Rebich

Peter Grkovich

Teodor Lovric

Milan Buchan

Vaso Oresconin

Bogdan Vukmanovich

Rade Filipovich

Sam Tatolovich

Jovan Musulin

Nikola Pesut

Peter Shartz

Lazo Matavich

Sam Milanovich

Dusan Mrkal

Dan Koslin

George Zatezalo

Eli M Rebich

Pete Susnjer

Steve Kavic

Dewey Vanich

Stevo Zernich

Robert Popovich

Albin Abramovich

Milan Mrkal

Past Parish Priests of the St. Elijah Church School Congregation

  1. Rev. Nestor Vukicevich: 1912-?

  2. Rev. Serafim Vukojevich: ?

  3. A Russian Priest whose name is unknown

  4. Rev. David Popovich: January 1916- January 1919

  5. Rev. Matej Stijacich: February 1919-July 1921

  6. Rev. Pavle Markovich: August 1921- December 1921

  7. Rev. Nestor Vukicevich: Returned 2nd time December 1921-October 1922

  8. Rev. Hariton Marijanovich: November 1922-February 1925

  9. Rev. Jovan Smiljanich: March 1925- March 1935

  10. Rev. Mirko Vujisich: April 1935-August 1935

  11. Rev. Zivojin Ristanovich: August 1935- February 1936

  12. Rev. Marko Komnenich: March 1936- July 1936

  13. Rev. Mane Momcilovich: September 1936-August 1937

  14. Rev. David Popovich: September 1937- May 1938

  15. Rev. Strahinja Maletich: August 1938-December 1943

  16. Rev. David Popovich: January 1944 (3rd time)

  17. Rev. Mladen Trbuhovich: February 1944-May 1946

  18. Rev. Zivojin Ristanovich: May 1946 – November 1946 (2nd time)

  19. Rev. Borivoj Pavlovich: January1947- February 1949

  20. V.Rev. Vlastimir Tomich: March 1949- December1969

  21. Rev. Srboljub Bulich: January 1970- December 1972

  22. Rev. Nenad Resanovich: January 1973 -February 1973

  23. V.Rev. Stavrophor Stevan Stepanov: February 1973- 2014

  24. V.Rev. Stavrophor Milan Krstic: December 2014 – Present

St. Elijah Church History 1912-1989

From 75th Anniversary book by Lazo Maravich, 1989 Forward:

We have reached the threshold of a significant and historic milestone in the growth and development of the St. Elijah Church in Aliquippa.  God’s providence (and Good Fortune) have guided and led us to a point where we now observe the 75th anniversary of our humble origin on Hopewell Avenue in 1914.  In tandem with that event we are also celebrating our cherished and venerated Slava-Sveti Ilija.  As we survey our past, we note with no small awe and wonder, the tremendous strides and progress we have made over three quarters of a century.

With a generous “Thank You” to our persevering and industrious pioneers, we inherited a “Blueprint” that gave our parish a firm foundation, a sense of direction, solidarity and a “roadmap” for the years ahead.  They made these continuing sacrifices that today allow us to enjoy the convenience, comfort and beauty of a House of Worship and a Community Center-second to none. In the process, those same veterans clung tenaciously to their Serbian Orthodox religion, drew strength from their church, and maintained their Serbian identity with pride and dignity.

Today as we reflect on our fortunate circumstances, and our many blessings, we recognize that our primary concern is to muster all of our human resources, define their mission, and challenge them to their fullest.  To do less will make meaningless all we have achieved to date.  This indeed will require renewed dedication, total commitment, and strong leadership.  We hope these elements can come together in generous quantities and with equal proportions of wisdom, good judgment and understanding.

To date, we have expended our energies, efforts and finances to create a model physical plant, a thriving and active parish, and a solvent operation.  This indeed was indication that we were moving forward and laterally and growing materially and economically.

But now, the real proof of our success and growth lies in our ability to move onward and upward-to discharge our spiritual and moral responsibilities with even more purpose and intensity.  That is truly our greatest obligation.  Everything else is simple by comparison.  To do that, our predecessors have handed us a sacred trust and a three-fold legacy:

  •      To perpetuate our spiritual heritage.

  •      To preserve our shrines and traditions.

  •      To promote our treasured culture.

And in fulfilling the above we shall have demonstrated our gratitude for the past, appreciation for the present and high hopes for the future!

“For, if indeed we find favor in the eyes of the Lord-we shall surely find favor in the eyes of our fellow man.”

With that as our goal and beacon, we can face the “Nineties” with confidence, courage and renewed spirit.

St. Elijah Church History 1912-1989

In 1909, the first wave of Serbian immigrants in Woodlawn (Aliquippa) bought a parcel of land in the McDonald Heights area.  Although they originally planned to build a church on the plot, they later reconsidered and decided to use the land for a cemetery.

Three years later, the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation made an outright grant of three lots on Hopewell Avenue to the Serbian people to assist them in their efforts to erect a church.  From the Woodlawn Presbyterians, the Serbs purchased a frame church, located on Franklin Avenue, and had it moved to the new site.  In 1913, the first church, a weak and unstable structure, was demolished by a violent rainstorm.  The following year the Serb colony built and dedicated a totally new church, selecting St. Elijah as their patron Saint.  The intended sponsor was to be the famous Serb scientist, Dr. Michael Pupin.  Dr. Pupin was unable to attend, and his replacement was Mr. Sam Verlinich, then President of the Serb National Federation.  Red brick siding was added to the exterior of the church in 1926.  Dr. Pupin served as sponsor for the dedication of this addition.

The first priest of the St. Elijah Church was Rev. Nestor Vukicevich, and the first president was Mihailo Stepanovich.  Charter members included Ilija Gvoic, Marko Maravich, Mihailo Stepanovich, Nick Vujnovic and Mitcha Rebich.

Organizations Important Part of History

In the late thirties a junior choir was formed and under the direction of Lela Yojkich Mamula was a vibrant addition to our church llife.  During the war years, when many of our young men were in the armed services, this junior choir sang the responses for the Liturgy many Sundays.  Lela Mamula taught the young people both church music and folk and patriotic music.

In 1932,  the choral group, Frushka Gora, was united with the parent social club Svemir, and from this union emerged the St. Elijah Choir.

Professor Boris Dobrovolsky became choir director in 1937, and led the choir to outstanding success and acclaim.  That same year the choir joined the serb Singing Federation.

The Sveta Petka Circle of Serbian Sisters (K.C.C.) was organized in 1932, and the original group numbered 60 members.  Their noteworthy and generous contributions to the church community set a challenging and inspirational example for subsequent church organizations.

In 1935, the Ambridge K.C.C. Mala Gospojna was organized, and it objectives complemented those of the Sister group in Aliquippa.

In 1936 the church bought a new cemetery site situated along Brodhead Road in Hopewell Township.  The area covered approximately 33 acres.  The initial investment in the property was $10,000.

The St. Elijah Praish observed its 25th (Silver) Anniversary in 1939.  Rev. Strahinja Maletich was pastor at the time, and Peter Bizic served as general chairman.

One of the first priests, Fr. Marijanovich conducted a Serbian School. Sessions were held every Saturday morning in the little schoolhouse located next to our church on Hopewell Avenue.  The youngsters learned to read the epistle in the Church Slavonic chant; to read and write the Cyrillic alphabet and performed in many dramas for church celebrations.  The Junior and Senior Choirs also held their first rehearsals in the school.  A Sokol organization was also formed by the late Pero Medakovich and the instructor was the late Professor Popovich.  The Sokols performed at many tri-state patriotic celebrations.

Between 1945 and 1948, the picnic grounds adjacent to the cemetery were purchased.  The pavilion on the picnic grounds was built in 1948.

In 1946, the church administration had the foresight to buy the 7 lots that today (1988) comprise the site of our present church.  Five more lots were purchased in 1954, at a cost of $12,000.

Very Reverend Vlastimir Tomich

Rev. Vlastimir Tomich assumed the St. Elijah Pastorate on March 6, 1949. With him came a tireless energy and resolve to create a new and bigger church.  A regular Serbian Church School was established in 1950, with Mary Zlatovich as coordinator.  She served in that capacity from 1951 until her passing in July of 1981.  It was another active and strong supporting arm for church projects and activities.

In the early fifties, the Young Men’s Bible Class was organized with Lazo Maravich as its instructor and president.  From this body emerged an active group which later provided personnel for the bazaars, tutors, work committees, and athletic programs centered around the church.

The New Church Building Committee was organized on Dec. 23, 1951, with Samuel Milanovich as the chairman.  Pledges were sought in the amount of $120, and the Circles of Serbian Sisters helped considerably with the campaign and solicitations.  The kick-off for the fund-raising was the St. Sava observance on January 27, 1952.

The new church grounds were consecrated and dedicated on June 1, 1952.  Bishop Dr. Nicolai Velimirovich of the South Canaan Orthodox Seminary assisted by Fr. M. Djurich and Fr. V. Tomich, officiated at the ceremonies.

New St. Elijah to be like Zica

 George Voinovich, Architect; Alexander Dzigurski, Iconographer

Acting on Fr. V. Tomich’s recommendations, the Uprava chose the Serbian Byzantine style of the church of the Zica Diocese for the new structure.  The edifice was to be ninety-five feet long and thirty-nine feet wide.  The plans received the official approval of the former late Rt. Rev. Bishop Dionisije.  In early 1953, George Voinovich of Cleveland was selected as the architect for the new church.

Laying of the Cornerstone with Bishop Dionisije, October 17, 1954

The groundbreaking was held on May 30, 1954.  Cook-Anderson Co. of Beaver, whose bid amounted to $263,538, was chosen as the general contractor.  Construction began on June 7, 1954 and on August 8, the St. Elijah Church observed its 40th Anniversary.  The consecration of the cornerstone was performed on October 17, 1954, with Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Pesut as the Kumovi.  Alexander Dzigurski, academic painter of New York was retained as the church artist for the Iconostas and the church interior.  The parish residence was completed in 1956.

Sunday, June 3, 1956 was a memorable, sentimental, and nostalgic Sabbath.  The final Holy Liturgy was held in the old church on Hopewell Avenue.  It marked the end of a site, which for 42 years, was the source of spiritual guidance, worship and inspiration, for the Orthodox faithful of Aliquippa.  The new church dedication was held on the next Sunday, June 10, 1956.

That same year the church Uprava (Board) borrowed $110,000 from the Union National Bank of Pittsburgh to help pay for construction costs, with a mortgage set for fifteen years.

On Sunday, August 3, 1958, the Mortgage Burning of the St. Elijah Serbian eastern Orthodox Church was held with traditional vesper services and programs.  Nicholas and Midred Pesut were Kumovi for the third time.  In two short years, a zealous, tireless, and enthusiastic parish had erased a debt of $110,000!

On July 13, 1963, the V. Rev. Stevan Lastavica became the first Serbian Orthodox bishop to be consecrated in America.  He thus became the head of the newly organized Eastern American and Canadian Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church.  Upon his death in 1966, the funeral services were conducted in our St. Elijah Church, and interment took place in the St. Elijah Cemetery.

In 1963, the church observed its Golden Anniversary on August 1 and 2, with Bishop Stefan officiating and Dan Koslin serving as general chairman.

A testimonial banquet was held on Sunday, October 20, 1968, honoring V. Rev. Vlastimir Tomich for almost twenty years of continuous spiritual guidance and community leadership of the parish.

Again in 1969, the idea for a cultural center was renewed.  Fr. Tomich and Steve Kavic made strong and urgent appeals for prompt action.  In 1970, Fr. Srboljub Bulich arrived on the scene, and serious general meetings were again convened.  Steven Kavic was then church president and Dewey Vanich was elected chairman of the General Planning Committee.

The groundbreaking for the cultural center was observed with a two-day program on May 29 and 30, 1971.  Kumovi for the groundbreaking were the Ralich Brothers:  George, Dan and Nick.  Steven Kavic was made general chairman of the Building Committee, and upon his passing, was succeeded by Dewey Vanich.  John Tomich was the architect for the building, and Vlastimir Djordjevich retained as engineer.

  1. Rev. Father Stevan Stepanov

On July 4, 1972, the center cornerstone was laid.  On Sunday, September 23, 1973, the dedication of the center was held in the new center auditorium. Kumovi for both occasions were the Ralich Brothers.   Father Stevan Stepanov became pastor of St. Elijah in January, 1973, and served during the dedication exercises.  A milestone had been reached in the creative, constructive, and progressive lives of the parish.

Payments of the Center debt were reduced dramatically both in amounts and frequency.  The Bazaar Committee, led by John Musolin, Nick Pesut and Rudy Tatalovich made regular, uninterrupted and substantial deposits.

A junior choir was assembled and held its first practice session in February 1973.

On April 17, 1973, the K.C.C. Choir was organized by Fr. Stepanov.  This group has performed faithfully and commendably for both church services and secular events.  On May 29, 1979 this choir was able to cut a record of Serbian religious and patriotic songs.  This was the first recording of its kind in the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Bells in Memory of  Eli Bulat

Periodically new changes, additions and materials were obtained to improve the physical church and its facilities.  New icons were purchased and altar items were gold-plated and refinished.  New sound systems were added to both the center and the church proper.  New church bells were installed in memory of a great benefactor, the late Eli Bulat.  As a token of his appreciation for parish kindnesses, he bequeathed a sum of well over $10,000 to the St. Elijah Church.

In 1975, Fr. Stepanov, assisted by Randy Obsenica established an extensive audio-visual library with contributions made by the church and its parishioners.  Today, these materials include:  slides of the Divine Liturgy; slides of Serbian monasteries showing internal frescoes and relics; twenty-three volumes of Bible movies and film strips; historical movies and slides covering yearly events of the St. Elijah Parish; film strips and cassettes on church and Bible history; slides of the Holy Land; slides showing Mt. Athos and Hilandar, and slides revealing the concentration camp at Jasenovac.  The approximate value of these education aides exceeds $20,000.

Women and the Right to Vote

Women were first permitted to join the church as voting members in 1976.  Dorothy Reback, as secretary, became the first woman elected to the Executive Board, followed by Patricia Cekoric as financial secretary in 1978.  After Nick Radakovich resigned due to illness in 1979, Mary Poola became the treasurer.  Mildred Kosanovich became the financial secretary in 1980.  The first women to serve as members of the Auditing Board were Kata Crevar, Kata Grkovich, Milica Milanovich and Seja Mabee.  In 1978, an annual Summer Day Camp was established for vacationing church-school children.

His Grace, Bishop Christopher, was consecrated and enthroned as Bishop of Eastern America and Canada in the St. Elijah Church on August 13, 1978.  Bishop Christopher succeeded Bishop Sava, who left for Yugoslavia to become Bishop of the Diocese of Sumadija.

October 4 and 5, 1980, marked the Golden Anniversary of the St. Elijah Church Choir.  For the St. Elijah Choir, this anniversary marked fifty years of unfaltering loyalty, dedication, and devotion to the spiritual and liturgical values and meaning of Serbian Orthodoxy.

As a matter of information, on January 4, 1972, a Mortgage Settlement Document was signed between the Ambridge Savings and Loan Association and the St. Elijah Church in the amount of $715,376.  Nine years later, that contract was fulfilled and the St. Elijah Parish had completed another monumental and remarkable milestone in his history.  The Serbian Center Mortgage Burning of 1981 was really a “glowing” event.

In February 1982 Father Stepanov issued a call for male singers.  Thirty-five members responded and a Male Chorus was organized.  A lively “Sing-Along” program, and “Night in Woodlawn” were both fun-filled and enjoyable events.  The same year, the K.C.C. Sveta Petka observed its 50th and Golden Anniversary.

The painting of the church interior and major roof repairs were completed in 1984.  Additional renovations were added to the parish home in 1985.  Total air conditonal was also installed in the church at this time.

Major external improvements and additions were made to the church grounds in the summer of 1986.  Seventy-seven plants and luxuriant shrubbery now thrive around the church and parish home.  The lawn was reseeded and enriched.  Deteriorated concrete walks were replaced b colorful and lasting Omnistone.  Volunteer work saved the treasury a considerable sum in maintenance and labor cost.

Cemetery Chapel and Vracar in Belgrade

In 1985 a Cemetery Chapel became the next dendeavor of the St. Elijah Parish.  The groundbreaking Ceremony and Banquet were held June 1, 1986.  Work and fund-raising continued unabated.

On November 23, 1986, a memorial banquet netted $10,000 for the St. Sava Church Project at Vracar.  On August 2, 1987, on the occasion of its annual Slava (Sveti Ilija), the Aliquippa Parish was host to the Clergy Choir of Belgrade, Yugoslavia.  A significant sum was again contributed to the Vracar campaign.

Finally, the Blessing of the Cornerstone of this newly erected “Resurrection Chapel” was held on Sunday, October 4, 1987.  The Charter was officially signed by His grace Bishop Christopher of the Eastern American Diocese, Fr. Stevan, Albin Abramovich, church president and Mrs. Ann Radovich Fagan of Broomall, PA, Kuma for the occasion.  The actual contractual value of the chapel reached the tidy sum of $83,000, paid in full.  An additional amount of $8,000 accrued to the chapel value from good will efforts, generous free labor and volunteer work.

An abbreviated and compressed history cannot possibly name and credit all the individuals, past and present, who have strived so diligently and industriously in the best interests of their church.  The progressive chronicle of the St. Elijah Parish is the result of many years of combined efforts of all the church pastors, presidents, boards, organizations, committees and parishioners who “labored in the vineyards” to create a Christ-loving God-oriented community, the St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Church Parish.  Our sincerest and deepest gratitude is extended to all of them.  We await with high hopes and expectations the challenges of the future.  To our pioneers and past parishioners we offer:  “”Vjecnaja Pamjat” and to the present and future custodians of Serbian Orthodoxy-Good Luck and “Mnogaja Ljeta.”

History of St. Elijah Church From 1914-1939

25th Anniversary of the St. Elijah Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church, Aliquippa, PA

Written by Rev. S. Maletich-Translated by Ann Milanovich for the Silver Jubilee Souvenir Program Booklet

Amid lofty hills and thick clouds of smoke rolling out of the steel mills of the Jones & Laughlin Corporation stands the St. Elijah Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church, which was rehabilitated in the year 1914.  The Serbian immigrants being good Christians felt the need for a church.  Exactly 25 years ago the church bells pealed, calling the people to this House of God for prayers and thanksgiving.  Since then the St. Elijah Church has stood like a beacon of light for the Serbian people of Aliquippa and vicinity.  Even today it not only stands as a guiding light for our people, but also symbolizes their faith.

The author in his attempts to write this brief history was confronted with a most difficult task.  The original written sources (written documents) of information were not available, thus making it necessary to interview the charter members of the parish for most of the information.  According to the charter of the church which is on file in the archives of the Beaver County court house, the following are recorded as founders of the St. Elijah Church:  Mr. Marko Maravich, who now resides in South Chicago, Ill; Mr. Elijah Gvoich, Aliquippa;  MR. Mihailo Stipanovich, now residing in Mingo Junction, Ohio; Mr. Nikola Vujnovich, Detroit Mich., and Mr. Mitcha Rebich, Aliquippa, PA.

The first elected board of trustees were Messrs. Nikola Mamula, Nikola Cico, Jovo Carich, Stojan Smijulj, and Stanko Shuica.  The following are recorded as Charter members:  Messrs. Elijah Gvozden, Milak Mrvosh of McKeesport, PA, George Novich, Jovo Novkovich, Mita Yovanovich, Teodor Mamula, Mita Pivar, Pavle Milanovich, Djoka Hajdin, Petat Manojlovich, Ignjat Vincic, Milivoj Jojkich, and Paule Roncevich.

The first president of the school and parish was Mr. Mihailo Stipanovich, now residing in Mingo Junction, Ohio.  The above mentioned plus others whose names are unknown realized the necessity for a church.  Despite obstacles and unforeseen circumstances this group began laying plans for the construction of a church.  In the meantime an opportunity presented itself.  A small frame building which belonged to the Presbyterians and which was located on Franklin Avenue was placed on auction.  The Serbian people grasped the opportunity and purchased the church at the auction sale.  The authorities of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation made possible the transporting of the small church from Franklin Avenue to Hopewell Avenue (its present site –at the time of this article).  Incidently, the church lots were donated by the Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation to the church.  The church was so poorly constructed of inferior materials that it wasn’t a bit surprising to the people when one morning after a windy and stormy night their church was found demolished and in ruins on the street.  This tragic incident led to the rehabilitation of the church.  In 1914 dedication services were held.

Mr. Simo Verlinich, in absence of Dr. Michael Pupil, presided as the sponsor.  Mr. Verlinich is at the present time the supreme president of the Serb National Federation.  During the period from 1914 to 1927 very little was done in the way of repairs which was due to unfavorable financial conditions.  In the year 1927, the entire church was rebuilt.  After the completion of the church, again dedication services were held.   The community was honored in having the late Dr. Michael Pupin present at the services in the capacity of sponsor of the church.

Since the church books and records have been either destroyed or lost, it is impossible to mention all the officers and people who were instrumental in the founding of the church.  However, the charter members were able to recall the pastors who had officiated since 1912 up to the present time.  They are as follows:  Rev. Nestor Vukicevich, Rev. Serafin Vukojevich, a Russian priest whose name is unknown, V. Rev. David Popovich, Rev. Matija Stijachich, V.Rev. Pavle Markovich, V. Rev. Nestor Vukicevich returned a second time,  Rev. Hariton Marijanovich, V. Rev.Jovan Smiljanich, V. Rev. Mirko R. Vuisich, V. Rev. Zivojin Ristanovich,  Rev. Marko Komnenich, V. Rev. Mane Momchilovich.  The present pastor is Rev. Strahinja Maletich.

During the past 25 years of its existence, the St. Elijah Church has experienced many sad and happy occasions.  Through the untiring efforts of the Serbian people, many worthwhile accomplishments were achieved.  The Circle of Serbian Sisters or Ladies Auxiliary* of the church has played a big role both from a financial and moral standpoint.  The church choir has also endeavored to give its utmost support. The youth as a whole have aided in promoting the growth of our church.  Today the church is well established and the members are proud to be able to announce that there are no financial obligations.  The church property is comprised of a church, school building, parish house, and a beautiful cemetery.  The latter is one of the latest additions, having been purchased in 1936 with money contributed by the Serbian people.

The author realizes that this is not a complete history and that many names and items of interest have been omitted due to lack of space and authentic information.  Nevertheless by reading these lines and between them one can readily see and understand the sacrifices, efforts, and faith of the Serbian people.  Our vocabulary is scanty when it comes to giving words of praise to the supporters and founders of the St. Elijah Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church in Aliquippa, PA.  To them we bow our heads in tribute and we ask the blessings of our Lord that He many guide our people to continue living a life of upright Christians and citizens.

  • In a 1939 booklet ad, it thanks the Ladies Auxiliary of the St. Elijah Church for the beautiful chandelier they donated to the church on October 27 1939,

  • and for their silver offering of 100 silver dollars donated to the Church in commemoration of this event!

  • 10:00 AM Liturgy by His grace, Dr. Damaskin, Bishop of the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese in the U.S. and Canada,

  • assisted by Rev. S. Maletich, pastor of our St. Elijah Church and seven visiting pastors from the Tri-state area.

  • Responses will be rendered by the St. Elijah Church Choir and the Laza Kostich S.S.S. Singing Society of Midland, PA.

  • 1:00 PM Banquet at the Slovak Hall, West Aliquippa, PA; Lord’s Prayer by St. Elijah Choir; Invocation by His Grace, Dr. Damaskin.

  • Welcome Address by Rev. S. Maletich; Comments and Introduction of Toastmaster by Mr. Peter Bizic.

  • Toastmaster:  Mr. Louis Christofer, editor of Reflector Magazine; Address by His Grace Dr. Damaskin, Speaker=Burgess of Aliquippa, Pa, Hon. George Kiefer.

  • Selection: Rukovet No. 10 Mokranjac –St. Elijah Choir, Directed by Prof. Boris Dobrovoljski;  Speaker=Yugo Slav Royal Consul, Dr. M. Stanojevich

  • Speaker: Sup. Pres. Of the S.N.F., Mr. Simo Vrlinich;

  • Speaker: Founder of the St. Elijah Church

  • Speaker:V. Rev. J. Krajnovich; Selection by Laza Kostich S.S.S.

  • Speaker: V.Rev. M. Shundich, Introductions of the representatives of the various organizations.

  • Word of Thanks: Pres. Of St. Elijah Church, Mr. Theodore Lovrich; Selection: St. Elijah Choir.

  • 6:00 PM-Zabava, Slovak Hall; Selections by Laza Kostich S.S. S.

  • Comments by Rev. s. Maletich;

  • Comedy in Three Acts by J.C. Popovich, under the direction of Rev. S. Maletich. Cast- Grof. Trific=Mr. E. Mamula; Sultana, his wife=Miss E. Yoykich;

  • Pesida, maid: Miss M. Smiljanich; Stevan, chauffeur=Mr. M. Adamovich;Sreta, shoemaker=Mr. Spasa Vincich, Pela, his wife=Miss Millicent Milanovich.

  • Selection by St. Elijah Choir; Dancing to the music of Djoko Dokich’s orchestra.