St John the Baptist Church had its origin in October, 1911 in what was then called Rhone, PA. Its humble beginning originated with a group of some eleven families and a few individuals who immigrated here from Poland and Slovakia. Faced with an enormous task, they began with the purchase of a double block home on the corner of Front and Welles St. This home was then moved to the back and was used as a rectory while the church was being built in the front. The first service was celebrated by Fr. Kivko, who was succeded by the first permanent pastor, Rev. A. Salanka.
In 1918, the Iconostas, the interior of the church and the icons were completed. There have been numerous improvements to the church, including remodelings, additions, and a new parish rectory, all resulting from the hard work and dedication of the parishioners and pastors through the years.
Fr. Andrew S. Slepecky (ca. 1921-1929) is also shown in this picture of St. John's and faithful.
The Wanchisen's - A Founding Family
In the photo to the left sit Peter and Julia Wanchisen surrounded by eleven of their thirteen children in approximately 1918. St. John's parish had existed at that point for seven years and this due in large part to the hard and dedicated work of people such as Peter and Julia. Emmigrating to the USA from Slovakia, then Austro-Hungary, the Wanchisen's brought with them a strong and enduring faith in Jesus Christ and a dedication and true grit that would stand them in good stead in the new world. Peter and Julia, in addition to housing themselves and their thirteen children in the same tiny 2 bedroom home in Lower Askam, Hanover Township, were also the gracious hosts to many boarders and other family members who got their start in a new land by the generosity and hospitality of these two extraordinary individuals. They thought nothing of housing family from the old country while they got themselves established here. Peter's name is immortalized in one of the stately bronze bells which sound out across the village from the belfry atop the entrance to our temple. These bells were installed in 1912. CLICK HERE to see more info on our bells. On November 19th 2009, we sang memory eternal for Theresa (Wanchisen) Klos (shown here between her parents) who was the last surviving of the Wanchisen children. She was 94 and a pillar of this community and her absence is heavy in our hearts. May their memory be eternal!
Fr. Andrew S. Slepecky is seen here in a picture, along with the Parish Council Comittee for 1927. He was a pastor at St. John's in the early 1920's until 1929. He was then transferred to St. Clair PA to build up St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Church where he stayed about 20 years past his 50th year in the priesthood. We are grateful to Andrea (Slepecky) Shandor Lutov (grandaughter of Fr. Slepecky) who kindly provided us with this info.