Ford City church celebrates 100th year

| Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

A Ford City church, built 100 years ago in a small mill town for its hard-working people, is the same today as it was back then.

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, home for Christ, Prince of Peace Parish, is just as majestic a sight to see.

And the people are still the same.

Local historian and church member Bill Oleksak says it best in the historical booklet “A Century of Catholic Faith in Ford City” that he put together for the occasion of the church building's 100 anniversary this weekend.

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church of Ford City stands today as Armstrong County's most magnificent religious edifice, one certainly comparable to large metropolitan churches, Oleksak writes.

“It's mind-boggling that in 1912 that such a large building was erected in a town of company houses,” said Oleksak. “Arguably it's the most magnificent building in the county.”

Oleksak said he is equally impressed with the church's interior architecture.

Builders spared no expense in erecting the church including marble from Italy, locally-quarried sandstone, Indiana limestone and Austria-designed custom-made stained glass windows.

“I didn't realize the complexity of the building,” said Oleksak.

A young priest of the church 100 years ago, the Rev. Francis Baldauf, who had much religious fervor, a wonderful vision, and a wealthy family, is credited with building the church from his own money.

“What's really impressive is it was built by the pastor,” said Linda Koleck, a member of the 100th anniversary committee. “He paid for the church.

“He built a magnificent church. It's awe inspiring.”

The cornerstone of the church was laid on Oct. 15, 1911. Construction began in 1912.

The church was completed in 1914 and was officially dedicated on Nov. 7, 1915.

The Rev. Bryan F. Summers is currently the pastor of the church.

“Father Baldauf wanted to create a structure that was a sign and symbol of the wonderful faith of the people in the community,” said Summers. “It's an uplifting environment. It's still as impressive as it ever was. The community is extremely fortunate to have such a church.”

Summers said the congregation has always maintained its Catholic faith and continued dedication to their church.

“The church is the center of the life of the people,” he said.

“From childhood to death, it's always been the pinnacle of their lives.”

On Sunday the congregation will celebrate modestly with a buffet luncheon after church at 1 p.m. at the Latin American Club.

Mitch Fryer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or

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