Mt. Pleasant Township church to mark 5th year at current location
Just over five years ago, parishioners of Transfiguration of Our Lord Polish National Catholic Church began the parish's first official Mass at its current location in near darkness.
Prior to the start of the Mass on Dec. 8, 2007, a vehicle accident occurred in the vicinity of the place of worship on Bridgeport Street in Mt. Pleasant Township in which a utility pole was struck, knocking out power to the edifice.
“The Mass began with emergency lighting and candles,” said Ann Rosky, the parish's council secretary. “We didn't even have an organ.”
The congregation — led by the Rev. Joseph S. Lewandowski, the church's administrator at the time — pressed on nonetheless.
Soon after, something extraordinary happened.
As the parish began singing the hymn titled “Gloria,” power was restored to the building bringing light back the facility where its members had worked for roughly three years renovating it for worship.
“That's such a joyous song. I'll never forget how that was when the lights came back on,” Rosky recalled. “Tears came to my eyes, because all of our work up to that point was visible again to all.”
The need for such work was borne out of what Rosky and Daniel Levendusky, chairman of the church's council, both referred to as a situation in which their parish was left with “nothing.”
Its members found their way back with a similar sense of resolve.
In September 2002, Transfiguration Roman Catholic Church in Mt. Pleasant Borough was closed after structural engineers determined the building was unsafe and could collapse.
A $2 million estimate to make repairs prompted the parish's pastoral and finance committees to ask the Diocese of Greensburg to raze the building.
When the building was razed in 2003, the church's parish was dissolved and its members were forced to seek out other local churches.
“The flock was scattered, and we basically wanted to reestablish our own church,” Levendusky said.
Levendusky's son, Alan, subsequently told him about the Holy Family Polish National Catholic Church in McKeesport, which is part of the Pittsburgh-Buffalo Diocese of the Polish National Catholic Church.
Levendusky and his wife, Carrie, attended a service there. Soon after, the couple and other former members of the dissolved parish worked to become a member of the church's Pittsburgh-Buffalo Diocese.
In October 2003, the Right Rev. Thaddeus Peplowski, bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo-Pittsburgh, issued a warrant declaring the parish a member of the church.
The newly formed parish then found a temporary home at the First United Church of Christ in Mt. Pleasant, where it leased space and many of its members reconvened to conduct its Saturday Masses and fundraisers.
“The accepted us with open arms,” Levendusky said.
In early 2004, parish members set out in earnest to find their very own place of worship.
In fall of 2005, the parish learned that the site formerly occupied by Rainbow Gardens — a bar and banquet hall — was for sale by owner Kathleen Fatla, Levendusky said. By December of that year, the parish approved the purchase of the building for $135,000, he said.
In spring of 2006, roughly 10 of the parishioners began working together to renovate the facility.
“We had to frame the Sacristy, the choir room, we did all the wiring and the plumbing,” Levendusky said. “God gave us the skill to do this. I lived down here for about two years.”
The group located pews out of state and received a donated podium, choir hymn boards, tabernacle and bell.
On April 19, 2008 — about four months after the “Gloria lighting” — the church's official dedication was held.
Since then, the parish's members have worked hard to serve the surrounding community and to build a strong bond with the diocese on both a regional and a national level, said the Rev. Bruce Sleczkowski, who this month is marking one year as the parish's administrator.
“With the faith and devotion of the people attending, I am totally amazed,” Sleczkowski said. “They're growing slowly, and they're not only demonstrating their faith, they're sharing their faith and doing things for others in the community.
Locally, the parish members assist the Salvation Army with ringing the Christmas bell. Nationally, its members recently sent ceramic angels to Newtown, Conn., to comfort the survivors of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
“That's admirable,” Sleczkowski said.
Parishioner Diane E. Cheek, a biology professor at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, serves on the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocesan Council.
Teen member Kristen Yanuck attended a national youth conference last year held in Niagara Falls.
In addition, Levendusky has served previously as a delegate representing the parish at Diocesan synods in Carnegie and Erie and at a national synod in Manchester, N.H. Synods are legislative bodies of the church which address the financial workings of the church.
“They're finding a niche in our church,” Sleczkowski said. “And the parish is embraced by the diocese and the national church. We have a very positive direction we are going and we have a very bright future.
“I, myself, enjoy celebrating the Eucharist with them; they're wonderful people,” he said.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.