At first, these individuals attended religious services at either St. John the Baptist in Mingo Junction, Ohio, or St. Joseph in Toronto, Ohio. Over time, they entailed many hardships and sacrifices, since transportation proved very difficult to and from those areas. Therefore, the faithful believed they could not satisfy their spiritual needs.
However, St. Mary’s parishioners-to-be found themselves bound by common ties of the love of God and neighbor, accompanied by a strong desire to keep their faith and rite intact.
Consequently, they formed a fraternal society under the patronage of St. Nicholas of Myra. And from this society, St. Mary’s Parish was born. Father George Simchak, of Avella, PA, led the Weirton parishioners, offering divine services in the “Finnish Hall” in North Weirton.
Eventually, the congregation swelled and parishioners initiated plans to erect their own church. They realized their dream in November 1924 as 75 souls under Father Simchak’s direction officially founded the church at the site on which it rests today.
The Most Reverend Basil Takach, D.D., Bishop of the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite in America, dedicated the church under the special patronage of our Blessed Lady’s Assumption and appointed Father Michael Warady as its first resident pastor.
Over the next decade, St. John the Baptist in Mingo became a filial church to St. Mary’s, which also witnessed the purchase of a parish house and extensive repairs to the church. The pastors and the parishioners over the next several years worked diligently to clear the church debt and “burn” the mortgage.
In June 1946, during the early portion of Father John Kurty’s tenure, remodelers completed a major project, installing a new roof, furnace, alter, and stained glass windows. Bishop Takach performed the dedication ceremony, one that would be his last public function. Ironically, his consecration in 1924 of the newly-built St. Mary’s was his first.
Parisioners in November 1949 observed St. Mary’s Silver Jubilee at which the Most Reverend Daniel Ivancho, D.D., Bishop, celebrated the liturgy and served as main banquet speaker.
Two years later, a fire damaged the church interior and, while the damage was significant, Father Kurty continued to celebrate the liturgy amidst repair work. In the meantime, the church continued to flourish as the congregation increased to 500 souls.
In 1953, parishioners organized a Passion Play, which many parish members performed every Palm Sunday for 25 years at the Weirton (now Millsop) Community Center. Many talented parish members graced the stage to perform the play in pantomime to narration scripted by then-pastor Father George Billy in conjunction with a Weirton Latin Rite priest and members of other local Catholic Churches. St. Mary’s parishioners handmade all scenery, props, and costumes.
In Father Michael Kushner’s tenure, the church re-established its choir and commenced broadcast of Sunday liturgies on Weirton radio station 1430 AM W-E-I-R. To highlight the Golden Anniversary festivities in 1974, the church once again was remodeled. Attending the banquet that year were the Most Reverend Archbishop Stephen J. Kocisko and many former pastors.
Another blaze ravaged St. Mary’s in the summer of 1978, this time nearly destroying the rectory. The structure was ignored for more than one year. But in 1979, Monsignor Andrew Pataki led an effort to repair the interior as well as upgrade and remodel the exterior, to which very little had been done in the previous 20 years.
With the rectory under repair, enthusiasm remained high among the faithful, all the while being rejuvenated by the new parish house. St. Mary’s was fortunate, indeed, during this time as Monsignor Pataki dedicated himself to the care and spiritual well-being of his flock.
In 1989, Father Daniel Magulick made the installation of an Iconastas the focal point of renovation, along with new carpeting and some fresh coats of paint. The Iconostas features icons of Saints Cyril and Methodius and of the Resurrection to the right of the Savior, and icons of St. Nicholas and of the Nativity to the left of the Theotokos. St. John Chrysostom is on the north deacon door, while St. Basil is on the south deacon door. The Royal Doors feature an icon of the Annunciation.
Also within the course of its existence, St. Mary’s has been blessed with four vocations to the priesthood and the religious life: Father John M. Dorich, Father Daniel A. Forsythe, Sr. Euphemia O.S.B.M. (Helen Kopa), and Abbess Maria Michael P.C. (C.R.) (Anna Plesa).
Under Pastor Father Edward Lucas, the parish continued to be active and dedicated to St. Mary’s. The Altar and Rosary Society, in existence almost as long as the church, plus the Men’s club, the choir, and a C.C.D. program lent to the success of the Parish.
With the retirement of Father Ed Lucas in November 2015, and the appointment of Father Vasyl Symyon as pastor, the St. Mary’s parish began some renovation projects to ensure the long-term stability of St. Mary’s for 2016 and beyond. The parish is meanwhile grateful to Father Ed for his many years of leadership, and enjoys his visits to the parish at social events.
On Thomas Sunday, April 3, 2016, St. Mary’s Church was solemnly rededicated by His Eminence William, Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh. This concluded the first stage of renovations, which focused on repainting and recarpeting the interior of the church. The solemn rededication was followed by the annual Lamb and Ham Dinner celebration. Because of the generous time and material commitment of parishioners, the dinner proceeded wonderfully despite the storm that knocked out power for the city of Weirton for most of Sunday morning.
In addition to continuing renovation and restoration projects, activities at St. Mary’s include post-liturgical coffee and donut socials; pirohi, haluski, paska, and nut roll sales; church and grounds maintenance; Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and First Holy Communion breakfasts; pastor’s birthday and ordination celebrations; annual parish picnics; Thanksgiving Food Drives, and Christmas get-togethers.
Among these and all the Lord has planned for the future, the parishioners of St. Mary’s await a future with great faith and hope. So we pray: Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever.