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Prior to the construction of St. John the Baptist Church, most of the residents of the Shade – Central City area attended Sacred Heart Church. The origins of the second Roman Catholic Church dedicated to St. John the Baptist reach back to 1917, when Fr. John A. Lach, then pastor of SS. Cyril & Methodius Church in Windber, read the first Mass in October, though he had begun the construction of the church in July of that year. The building, of frame construction, was dedicated in June 1918.St. John’s continued to be attended as a Mission from Windber until 1920.

During the pastorate of Fr. Michael J. Kallock, the frame church building was completely destroyed by fire on Christmas Day, 1920. The loss, including furniture was estimated $16,000.

The present church was built during the years 1921 and 1922 at an estimated cost of $100,000. It wasn’t until 1927 that the church was completed and dedicated.

Fr. Anthony C. Choby came from St. Stephen’s in Johnstown and began his duties in 1939. Fr. Choby’s major accomplishment was the establishment of St. John’sParochial School in the year 1943. In June, Fr. Choby received a letter that six Sisters from the Dominican Sisters would be sent to teach in Central City. The school opened on August 30th with an enrollment of 99 students on the first floor of the church building. Sister M. Gabrielle, O.P., was the first superior of the school.

The Catholic school was closed after the school term of 1952 with a registration of 122 students. At the time there were three Dominican Sisters and one lay teacher.

Fr. Choby died on October 1, 1953, while getting ready to celebrate the morning Mass.

In November of 1953, the church lighting fixtures were installed under the direction of pastor of the church, Fr. John J. Marnecheck.

In 1957, Fr. Marnecheck completed an extensive church improvement program of brick pointing of church and rectory, church painting after repairing of loose plaster, and rectory improvements.

In May 1958, Fr. John B. Golias came to the church. Extensive repairs continued on the church building and rectory, preparing for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the parish. It was during 1967 that the beautiful Fatima Shrine was erected on the grounds in front of the rectory commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Blessed Mother’s apparitions to the children of Fatima.

In July of 1968, Rev. Fr. Sylvester Bendzella was appointed as pastor of the church, serving until August of 1983.

Rev. Fr. Lawrence Lacovic came to St. Johnin September of 1983. Fr. Lacovic was transferred to St. Stephen inJohnstown. Fr. Matthew Misurda was appointed pastor atSt. John in June of 1989, where he remained until July of 1990.

Rev. Msgr. Ignatius Wadas, who held the pastorship at Sacred Heart Parish in Central City, was the assigned toSt. John’sin addition to attending his duties at his own church in July of 1990. Since then, the church has been completely repainted and carpeting has been installed in the sacristy.

– Fr. Donald W. Dusza
The Legacy of Prince Gallitzin
A History of the Altoona Johnstown Diocese

In 1998, St. John the Baptist Church was combined with Sacred Heart of Jesus Church to form Our Lady Queen of Angels Church. 

The Rev. Joseph A. Wozny, pastor of the Holy Family Church in Hooversville, began ministering to the needs of the Catholics in Central City in 1914. Holy Mass was offered in the Kudasik home on Lohr Street and in a private home in Cairnbrook; and when more Catholics gathered around him, he began offering the Holy Sacrifice on an occasional (not every) Sunday at the Widomski Hall on Lohr Street.

In July 1916, the Rev. Ignatius M. Pilz was sent as the first resident pastor of the Catholics in the area. His brother Fr. Francis, accompanied him, coming by train to Cairnbrook Station and walking to Central City; but Fr. Francis had to return to his own parish and Fr. Ignatius was left alone, standing on the street. Going then to the hotel on the corner of Sunshine Avenue and Main Street, Fr. Ignatius was received – roughly – by an elderly lady who refused him lodging. At a loss for what to do, he called at the nearest building, which happened to be a blacksmith shop, where he met John Sesack who had informed Father that there was neither the Church nor the Rectory about which Father had inquired and about which Father previously had been told were already erected! Mr. Sesack then took Father to the home of Walenty Sutyla on Ash Street.

Fr. Pilz offered his first Mass here at the Widomski Hall on Lohr Street on Sunday, July 16. After Mass, accompanied by Joseph Widomski, he took up a census. (It is interesting to note that Fr. Pilz spoke Polish, which he learned at home; German, which he learned in grade school; Italian,, which he learned inItaly; Spanish, which he learned in South America; and English, which he acquired in North America.)

On August 3, 1916, Father reported to the people an income of $257.23, including an assessment for building a new church. On September 10, Father announced that “… tomorrow we begin building our new church”; and that the Bishop had allowed the parish a $2,500 debt limit. And so the building of the church was begun on September 11, 1916; on October 22, Fr. Pilz announced that the work of building was going very slowly, but that it was going always forward.

Central City’s Sacred Heart of Jesus Church was dedicated by the late Bishop Garvey on May 28, 1917.

The rectory was not built until 1920. At the start, only the foundation was constructed; building restrictions, difficulty in obtaining materials and hesitancy of the Bishop to allow Fr. Pilz to go further into debt held everything up. It was this hesitancy that finally prompted Father to build the rectory with his own personal funds. The year 1961 saw Father signing over the parish-house to the parish, gratis.

Each year the parish went a little deeper into debt until the deepest point of $23,725 was reached in 1925. By the end of 1926, the parish debt suddenly decreased to a mere $9,889.28! What happened? Fr. Pilz stopped listing the amount of money that the parish owed him personally (e.g., the stipend permitted him monthly for his services to the parish). The parish-books were shown carrying the balance due him; and Father, seeing how meager the parish income was, concluding that the parish would never be able to pay him, simply wrote off that part of the debt.

It was not until 1938 that the parish books balanced at the end of the year without a deficit; this was the first year that the parish income was sufficient to pay parish expenses.

After only a few years in Central City, Fr. Pilz began formulating plans for a Catholic School. He had already built his church and rectory and he next looked at the possibility of a school. Although the parish was deeply in debt, Father went forward with his school plans and in 1924, from the Central City School District, purchased the school building on Oak Street.

Father “hung on” to his school building for almost fifteen years. With parish income being too small to meet even regular parish expenses, with no convent or teaching Sisters, with taxes and maintenance expenses creating a mounting debt, Father was forced, in about 1937, to let the school building go. The building was sold to liquidate the debt which it had accumulated, and today it serves as the Central City United Mine Workers Union Hall.

After the school building on Oak Street was sold, Fr. Pilz had classrooms built in the church basement hall and for many years these classrooms served catechetical purposes very well.

During the years that the Dominican Sisters taught at St. John the Baptist School in Central City, they also taught catechism to the children of Sacred Heart. When the school closed, the Dominican Sisters from Windber continued teaching classes. In the years 1959, 1960 and 1961, the Franciscan Sisters from Geistown (Johnstown) taught; and from 1961 to 1966, Dominican Sisters from Windber very ably taught the grade school children.

Fr. Ignatius C. Wadas, the ninth of ten children of Ignatius and Magdalena Jaszcz Wadas, was born in Wanamie, Pa. The family very shortly thereafter moved to Nanticoke.

After service in the European Theatre of Operations came college and seminary training at Mount Saint Mary in Emmitsburg, Md. He was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood on May 16, 1953, at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona by the Most Rev. Richard T. Guilfoyle, D.D. Father’s first solemn Mass was celebrated in his parish-church on May 17, 1953, at St. Mary of Czestochowa Church in Nanticoke. He became the second resident pastor of Sacred Heart Parish on January 18, 1966.

– Fr. Donald W. Dusza
The Legacy of Prince Gallitzin
A History of the Altoona Johnstown Diocese

On January 7, 1968, the new church building, which currently stands now, was blessed and dedicated by Bishop James Hogan. In 1982, the activities center was demolished and the current building was built. In 1998, Sacred Heart of Jesus Church was combined with St. John the Baptist Church to form Our Lady Queen of Angels Church.

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