Donora Church History Recorded for Posterity

Article excerpt

How do you tell the 110-year history of a major religious, ethnic and social symbol in a 52-page book?

"It was a whirlwind but worthwhile project based on the reaction received," said Ruth Ann Yatsko, a lifelong member of the book's subject, St. Dominic's Roman Catholic Church at Sixth St. and Thompson Ave. in Donora. "While a book about all of the Catholic parishes in Donora never got off the back burner, once St. Dominic was closed, interest quickly grew in preserving the church's heritage."

The result of that commitment is "Saint Dominic - A Cornerstone of Community," which sells for $15.

Yatsko, who retired in March 2000 after a 40-year career as a reporter and copy editor at The Valley Independent in Monessen, and others at St. Dominic, credit Donora native Joseph P. Rudinec, an acclaimed photographer, and Karen Kelly Hill, a veteran public relations professional and president of CopyWrite Ink of Boardman, Ohio, for coming up with the idea to create the book.

"When Joe was told by his sister, Anna Marie Bedner of Donora, that the church was going to be closed, he made arrangements to take pictures for his family and himself after a weekday Mass," Yatsko said. "People asked if they could get copies of his photos. When he showed his pictures to Karen, she was fascinated by the imagery and beauty of the church and thus the idea of preserving this was born.

"After they made the decision to do the book, they thought it would be nice to have some history in it. Joe's sister asked me if I could help. I had a history that I have done for other publications, updated it and forwarded it to Joe and Karen and they moved ahead.

"We are fortunate to have the beauty of our church captured by a professional with the credentials of Joe and grateful for the desire and expertise of Karen, editor and publisher, to keep alive our memories," Yatsko said.

Rudinec, whose company, Rudinec & Associates, is based in North Lima, Ohio, offered similar appreciation for what he called a "collaborative effort."

"Ruth did the written history of St. Dominic's that appears in the book and it was a tremendous help to Karen and me," he said. "Veronica Salat assisted with the research on the beautiful statues and stained glass windows at the church and with translation of the Slovak and orders for the book, and Pete Worhatch provided invaluable help in working with me to do the photographs."

Hill also had gratitude for the "people of St. Dominic's parish for contributing to this book," which details the "rich and proud history of ... as well as the iconic beauty of the worship space in the church."

"Without Ruth Ann's tireless dedication to recording the parish's accomplishments and always championing the cause, this book would not have been possible," Hill, who did the layout and design of the publication, said. "And Joe's photography beautifully represents his boyhood church and its stunning architectural and religious features."

Slovak church

In her history of the church, Yatsko writes that many Slovaks were among the pioneers who flocked to Donora at its birth at the turn of the last century. As early as January 1901, they joined together to establish the first Catholic organization in the community, a Slovak fraternal and beneficial society under the patronage of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. It became affiliated with the First Catholic Slovak Union of America in February, becoming Branch 369 of that organization.

"The desire for these faithful Catholics to have services in their own language brought about the birth of St. Dominic Parish in 1902," Yatsko said. "Prior to its actual organization, several meetings were held to discuss formation of a parish for those of Slovak heritage."

The book follows those origins through the ensuing years of growth and celebration of St. Dominic's and the announcement by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh in July 2011 that the church would be closed. …