305 Washington Street
New Britain, Connecticut

An Historical Narrative

I arrived in New Britain on September 8, 1899 and found living here Michael Cherpak and Nicholas Cherpak. In our evening get togethers, our talks were of building a church where we could worship God Sundays, perform marriages and baptize our children. Our first step was in organizing the Ss. Cyril and Methodius Society and gradually we would work toward erecting a church.

Our first meeting was held December 16, 1899 at which 17 people were present and elected the following officers: John Hamilla, President; Michael Cherpak, Secretary; Nicholas Cherpak, Financial Secretary; John Klotz, Treasurer; George Hamilla, A. Suchi, Sick Committee. On February 3, 1900 thirteen more members joined the organization.

After we had 30 members in the lodge we decided to talk to the Uniats to join in with us to build a church, but they were not interested. We then decided to go among the Polish people to see if we could find some White Russians. Here we met Alex Zdanuk who acquainted us with some of his Russian friends. But these people were skeptical. They said only the Czar built churches. We put up $5.00 in good faith and asked them to do so that we could start building a church and told them to pick one of their own for a Treasurer, but they were not certain and held off doing anything. When these people saw we were in the process of buying property, they finally decided to join us.

February 10, 1900, a committee was chosen to find a suitable spot for a church and they were Michael Cherpak, John Kolvek, and John Hamilla. On LaSalle Street and LaSalle Court was a large piece of property with a small house for which the price was $1,000. Not having any money with which to buy this property, it was decided to borrow money from the people and the following loans were made:

John Hamilla $100.00 George Kotrady $50.00 John Kolvek $25.00 Michael Cherpak $100.00 J. Maslar $50.00 J. Cherpak $25.00 Nicholas Cherpak $100.00 Peter Maslar $50.00 Andrew Dorin $25.00 George Hamilla $100.00 John Lazor $30.00 M. Soltis $25.00 Andrew Suchi $100.00 Ss. Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood $250.00

We had $1,030.00 in loans and elected the following first church officers: John Hamilla, Starosta; Michael Cherpak, Treasurer; Feodor Karpey, Secretary; Nicholas Cherpak, Stephen Karpey, John Martinchik, Church Committee. George Kotrady and Stephen Karpey were elected to collect 25¢ per week from each parishioner. Michael Cherpak and John Hamilla volunteered to visit Hartford, New Hartford, Terryville, Meriden and surrounding towns for contributions. As bees are busy collecting honey for their hives, they were just as busy collecting and building up the contributions for a church.

The land that was bought for the church was not to the liking of some so it was sold to Michael Cherpak and another parcel of land was bought on Beatty Street in June 1902 and we started to build our church at a price of $2,500.00. The bank gave us a mortgage of $2,000.00 and the Brotherhood loaned us $500.00 so with God’s help our church was started. The families were Nicholas Cherpak, George Hamilla, John Hamilla, Michael Cherpak, Steve Semanchik, John Kolvek, Michael Simko.

On August 31, the cornerstone was laid. Divine Liturgy was held at a hall on Main Street and officiating at this ceremony was Archimandrite Raphael (later St. Raphael), Rev. Benedict Turkevich of Bridgeport, and Rev. Ptolomey Timchenko of Ansonia. Mr. Michael Jankura, Starosta of the Bridgeport church arrived with the Bridgeport choir. They brought two banners, a cross and the American flag and a procession was held from Main Street to the church on Beatty Street. We thank the Bridgeport church for their help both financially and with deeds.

The church was built but the interior was empty. Rev. Turkevich sent us a plan of the iconostas, which we had made at a cost of $100.00. Feodor Karpey built of wood the analoi and candle holders. In the center of the church hung a large kerosene lamp. George Hamilla donated two banners, Peter Hamilla robes, John Hamilla darochranitelnica and white robes, and Bishop Tikhon (later St. Tikhon) donated $100.00.

When our church was nearing completion a letter was received from Duchovne Pravlenie to send a member of our church to Vladika Tikhon and John Hamilla was chosen. When Vladika greeted him he asked how many parishioners we had and was told six families and 30 to 40 single members. He asked what kind of factories we had in New Britain and what they manufactured. After he was told, he said to convey to the people of New Britain that he would make a visit to our church American Christmas or december 25, and would bless and consecrate our church. As this was being said, Archpriest Hotovitsky (later St. Alexander of New York) said to Bishop Tikhon, “That is impossible, there are so few people, they will break up and your visit will be in vain.” But the Bishop had faith. He pointed his finger and said, “Look at their Starosta, how young (only 20 years old) and their parishioners also — they will be pillars of our Orthodox faith.” Vladika was right. We were all young, but energetic and with God’s help and hard work we strengthened ourselves and accomplished our goal.

In December a letter was received that if we transferred our church from Ss. Cyril and Methodius to Bishop Tikhon, we would receive a priest, so on December 23, 1902, with the approval of the Lodge and the church we had assigned to us Rev. Ptolomey Timchenko.

December 24 was a happy and festive event for us for on that day Vladika Tikhon, Archpriest Hotovitsky, with the Dean and Rev. Benedict Turkevich, came and at 7 o’clock in the evening they celebrated Vespers. The next day our church was blessed by His Grace as he promised and our own choir sang under the leadership of Feodor Karpey. There was great joy and happiness among us in that we already had our own church, our own priest and our own choir and director.

John Hamilla