Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

7 October 2015. Here’s a “Good Work” That’s Well-Worth Supporting… Mark Your Calendars for 6 – 8 November!

00 mayfield pa christmas bazaar 071015


If you live within a two-hour drive or so of Mayfield PA in NEPA, here’s something well-worth considering marking your calendar for:

St John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral Christmas Bazaar 

St John’s Center

703 Hill Street

Mayfield PA 18433

6 – 8 November 2015

Starting 11.00 EST 6 November

Closing 15.00 EST 8 November

All intel and info is at the link above. I need add nothing more… except, bring plenty of green to spend and plenty of love to share (there might be some pierogies n’ pivo around, too, if you ask nice)… ’nuff said…




Monday, 5 January 2015

Holiday Celebrations for Churches Using the Traditional Orthodox Calendar

st john russian orthodox church mayfield pa


When Joanne Lutz was a little girl, she celebrated Christmas with her next-door Polish Catholic grandmother, and nearly two weeks later, again with her Russian Orthodox grandmother. She said, “I had two Christmases from the time I was born”. Now 67, the Scott Township woman attended Sunday services at St John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Mayfield PA with her daughter and pigtailed toddler granddaughter. Like her Russian “baba”, she’ll celebrate Christmas with her family 13 days after 25 December… this Wednesday, 7 January.

The Russian Orthodox Church adheres to the older Julian Calendar, as opposed to the newer Gregorian Calendar, which most of the western world follows. Introduced by the Roman Empire during the reign of Julius Caesar, the Gregorian Calendar mostly replaced it in the 16th century Gregorian calendar due to its perceived imperfections, leading to the 13-day difference. Therefore, the service at St John’s on Sunday was a pre-Christmas service… a celebration of the direct earthly ancestors of Jesus Christ in preparation for his birth… rather than a post-Christmas one. The bishop of the diocese, Nicholas of Manhattan, oversaw the Sunday service, called a liturgy, bringing with him an ancient icon cut out of a tree in Russia in the 13th century. The bishop told the congregation that believers took away the wooden icon, which has the faces of the Virgin Mary, the baby Jesus and others on it, appeared, from Russia after the revolution in 1920.

In a phone interview earlier in the week, Fr John Sorochka, the pastor of St John’s, explained that members of the Russian Orthodox Church prepare for Christmas Day on 7 January with a 40-day fast. On the night of Christmas Eve, the final day of the fast, the people celebrate with a Lenten meal of 12 meat-and-dairy-less dishes, to represent Jesus’s disciples. He also told us that people often place handfuls of hay under the table to represent the poverty Jesus was born into.

Straw plays an important part of tradition and celebration of Christmas at St George Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church in Taylor PA as well. Kyra Leasure, the daughter of the church’s pastor and a caroller herself, told us that on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, members of the church, which also follows the traditional calendar, but unlike the Russian Church falls under the Greek Orthodox Church, go carolling. Dressed in costumes to represent the shepherds who witnessed Jesus’s birth and wearing baggy pants stuffed with straw, the faux shepherds visit homes of other church parishioners. Once there, they sing carols in the ancient Slavonic language, act out the nativity and leave a bit of the metaphorical hay.

Fr John told us that other area Eastern Orthodox parishes that celebrate on the Julian Calendar include St Basil in Simpson PA, St Stephen in Old Forge PA, Ss Peter and Paul in Scranton PA, and St Mary in Dickson City PA. The North Pocono Cultural Society will celebrate Russian Christmas on Wednesday in Moscow PA with its fourth annual art and cultural event. Participating businesses on Main, Van Brunt, and Church Streets will feature locally made art, jewellery, and ethnic food from 16.00 to 18.00.

5 January 2015

Peter Cameron

Scranton (PA) Times-Tribune


Thursday, 10 July 2014

10 July 2014. Strange Things DO Happen in This World…God’s Ways aren’t Ours

00 Vechnaya Pamyat... Memory Eternal


Some sad news… many of us old-timers know the Burriaks. There used to be Lydia and her two sons, Peter and Alex. Everybody knows them. They seemingly did nothing but travel around to different churches and church events. 7 July was the patronal feastday in Mayfield PA, so, the two Burriak guys came to Mayfield for the weekend… as a otpust, I suppose. On Sunday, they confessed and took communion. Then, later, they attended Vigil. After that, Alex dropped dead!


This saddened everybody. Now, Peter is all alone. Metropolitan Hilarion Kapral did the Вечная память for Alexander after the Liturgy (also for Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan of Kiev). However, Peter did say that if one has to die, the way his brother passed was the best. Confessed, communed, at peace with God and man, after a Vigil on a Holy Day… “painless, blameless, peaceful…”.

That’s the way to go…


Monday, 9 December 2013

9 December 2013. There’s GOOD NEWS Out There Too! Sheppton PA Church Could See New Life

00 Russian Orthodox church building. Sheppton PA USA. 09.12.13


Editor’s Note:

Here’s something, a GOOD CAUSE worth a fin or two (or three or four). It’s on the up and square. E-mail Fr John at otch@icontech.com for contact information. These guys are on the straight n’ narrow… give ‘em a hand if you can!



One of the Cabinet sent this:

I put up an article about the Russian Orthodox church in Sheppton PA near Hazleton PA; its cornerstone says 1891. Bishop Herman Swaiko closed the church many years ago and the OCA sold the property. Apparently, the parish just died out. A couple bought the property in the early 2000’s intending to demolish the church building so that they could build a house. Then, they walked into the church and it looked like Liturgy just ended, people closed the doors, and left! The robes were still there, the candles were still in the candle stands, and the iconostas was intact. The couple got in contact with Fr John Sorochka, as they didn’t want to destroy the church. St John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Mayfield PA ended up buying the property and church in 2003, and we’ve been slowly renovating it.


A shuttered church could get new life in Sheppton PA. A Russian Orthodox congregation in Mayfield PA bought a historic Russian Orthodox church in Sheppton that closed years ago. They plan to make it usable sometime in the future, possibly, for a Russian Orthodox parish. The church is on West Market Street in Sheppton and, according to East Union Township resident John Biros, there’s been no services there in more than 20 years. Biros said he and his wife, Ann, purchased the church with the intention of perhaps building a house on the property, but once inside, something told him not to demolish the old church because it was so beautiful. He said, “It wasn’t heated but it somehow withstood the elements after it went out of service and it was preserved. It was just amazing how beautiful it was inside”.

Schuylkill County records indicate that Biros purchased the church in 1999 for 5,000 USD (164,000 Roubles. 5,300 CAD. 5,450 AUD. Euros. 3,050 UK Pounds) and sold it for 30,000 USD (982,000 Roubles. 31,900 CAD. 32,800 AUD. 3,650 Euros. 18,250 UK Pounds) in 2003 to the St John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Mayfield PA. Fr John Sorochka of Mayfield used those same words to describe what he saw when he went inside with then-owner Biros. He’d contacted Biros about his parish wanting to buy the church, and the good state of preservation of the building amazed him, seeing as how many years had passed. He said, “We were very much surprised how beautiful the inside of the church was”. The Mayfield parish and some local volunteers intend to restore the church so that they could conduct services in it from time to time, Fr John said.

About five years ago, Fr John, 71, and a few volunteers put a new roof on the church to stop any rain or water from leaking into the structure and he said that the outside needs a new coat of paint, saying, “The inside needs some cosmetic work, but it’s a very solid church. Outside, the church looks rustic”. He noted that they found some paper print icons inside with “vibrant” original colours that are more than 100 years old. Fr John said, “There’s a chandelier missing, but the altar is there, and, again, it’s surprisingly in good shape considering the years that have passed since a service was held inside it”.

According to Fr John, Biros bought the church 14 years ago, and his only stipulation in selling was that it remain a church. The parish didn’t hesitate to buy it. Fr John noted, “Just from a historic aspect, it’s believed to be one of the first, if not the first, Russian Orthodox churches in the area, it’s very important. The cornerstone of the church is marked 1891”. County records show that the official date for the church’s building was 1894.

St John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Mayfield has almost 800 parishioners, and it’ll celebrate its 125th anniversary in two years. The congregation might investigate having the Sheppton church added to the Schuylkill County Historical Register. Fr John said, “Our position is that we want to get the Sheppton church in usable condition, to where it can have a service once a month. It’s cost a few dollars, so far. The roof was most expensive and, you know, the cosmetic things, like the grass has to be cut and maintained each year. Its part of the history of that town, so, for that reason alone, in addition to the spiritual aspect, this is the actual motivation to restore a landmark church in Sheppton”.

9 December 2013

Thomas Ragan

Hazleton (PA) Standard-Speaker



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