Youngwood Serbian church marks 100th anniversary

| Thursday, May 17, 2012, 1:20 p.m.

The Serbian presence in Youngwood might be small but it remains mighty.More than 100 years ago, this group of immigrants came to Youngwood to work long, dangerous hours on the nearby railway and persevered through their love of family and their faith.Today's tight-knit Serbian community is still keeping family and faith together through the church built in 1912 at the corner of North Third and McKinley streets.This Sunday, about 200 people will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Holy Ascension of Our Lord Serbian Orthodox Church of Youngwood."The catered banquet will be at the Youngwood Fire Hall, so we're going out to eat," said Angie Babich, a matriarch of the "kolo" or ladies auxiliary-type group formed in 1929 and called the Circle of Serbian Sisters."We did make all the desserts," Babich said about the 42 assorted nut rolls, apple strudel, cheesecake and Russian torte the group made for the special event.It will gather together an estimated 65 church members, four former priests and four additional priests from the Serbian Orthodox Diocese based in Mars, Butler County, and members of congregations in McKeesport and Monroeville.The church and attached parish house is the original building that cost $262.88, according to Youngwood's Centennial Book published in 1999. Updates to the property have been done throughout the years, with most of the major renovations undertaken in the early 1960s.The kolo remains dedicated to keeping the church's presence in Youngwood, despite some difficulties. There is no more Bible school and there hasn't been for the last five years.There is no more resident priest, since the last one left with his family for the state of Georgia in January. Now, the Rev. Vladimir Demshuk comes in from Masury, Ohio, and stays at the parish house for the 10 a.m. Sunday Liturgy."We do a lot of fundraisers," said Babich, 80, of Yukon, whose husband, Nicholas, died six years ago. "We do bake sales, make pierogies, have Advent fish fries and will be taking part in the 12th annual Community Yard Sale on June 9 in Youngwood."I just love my church," she said. "The church itself is beautiful. I was brought up Serbian Orthodox. It's spiritual and we do it for our souls, and we try to keep our church going."She is modest about her role in preserving the church with brightly colored icons, religous, symbolic paintings, and beautiful woodwork throughout the sanctuary.Bernadette Barron, another member, said Babich is the "heartbeat" of the church who knows its history better than anyone else.Babich shrugged off the compliment with a wave of her hand.The kolo, the backbone of the church, is made up of "mostly older women" and a handful of men the ladies recruited to help roll out dough when baking for fundraising events, Babich said.Today, members of the congregation lives in communities from Hecla to New Alexandria to Bolivar and beyond.Kim Kabaci, 45, a Mt. Pleasant resident who teaches second grade at Norvelt Elementary School, leads the choir. She grew up attending the Youngwood church where her great-grandmother was a founding member.She said that Babich keeps the church running smoothly."Angie's always there. She can outwork all of us and make it look easy," Kabaci said. "She can do more than us with one hand tied behind her back. ..."Without her, we wouldn't know what to do."

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