The history of Saint Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church traces its beginning to the year 1887, when a group of dedicated Eastern Europeans gathered to make plans to erect a church in which they could worship according to their Eastern Catholic traditions.
These Sub-Carpathian Ruthenians, or Carpatho-Rusyns, came from the northeastern part of the then Austro-Hungarian Empire (present day Slovakia and Ukraine) and held a great devotion to their Byzantine (Greek) Catholic Church. Other Slavic groups, that is Slovak and Polish, who had earlier immigrated into this region possessed similar ethnic customs, however, they were quite different in their religious (Roman Catholic) rites. It was this difference in religious ritual, along with a fervent desire to worship in their own tradition that led to the formation of Saint Mary's Church.
St. Mary's, of Kingston, Pennsylvania is one of the oldest Byzantine parishes in the United States, having been started in 1887 under the leadership of Rev. Father Ivan Volansky the first Ruthenian priest to arrive in America. In 1892 an application for a charter was presented to the local Luzerne County Court. On May 16, 1892 the articles of incorporation were granted to the parish under the title of Saint Mary's Patronage (Pokrov) Greek Catholic Church of the Borough of Kingston, Pennsylvania.
St. Mary’s Church in Kingston is the mother church for four other Eastern parishes in the area: Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church, Plymouth, Pennsylvania (est. 1898); Saint Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church, Swoyersville, Pennsylvania (est. 1904); Saint Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church, Edwardsville, Pennsylvania (est. 1910); and Saint John Russian Orthodox Church, Edwardsville, Pennsylvania (est. 1910). The Holy Assumption of Saint Mary Byzantine Catholic Church, of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was founded and built soon after Saint Mary Pokrova Byzantine Catholic Church in Kingston was established. Until their church was completed the Wilkes-Barre faithful attended the Kingston church.
The original wood frame structure, which was later brick veneered and now serves as the parish hall, served as the parish church until 1911. In May of 1911, about one hundred Saint Mary's parishioners met to formulate plans for the construction of a new church. The new, red, brick church, whose cornerstone was blessed on July 4, 1911, was built for the sum of $32,933.00.
Two new church bells were purchased from McShane Bell & Foundry Co., Baltimore, Maryland for the sum of $1,450.00. The largest bell, named Paul, and the smallest bell, named Peter now joined a medium sized bell named Mary, which was moved from the original church and to this day they continue to call the faithful to worship at their beautiful church.
The parish celebrated the One Hundredth Anniversary of its founding in 1987. In addition to the considerable work done to prepare the church for this celebration, a chapel was constructed in the parish cemetery in Edwardsville, Pennsylvania. The chapel was blessed and additional cemetery land consecrated on November 7, 1988.
Over the years, the dedication of the many pastors, cantors and church council members, along with the generosity of the parishioners has resulted in many restorations and new constructions to maintain the beauty and structural integrity of the church and parish grounds. However, none was more significant than the effort made to restore the church after the devastation caused by the Hurricane Agnes Flood of 1972.
A brief history such as this does not allow sufficient space to name all of the individuals who have made significant contributions to our church. However, their efforts are nonetheless greatly appreciated and quite evident in maintaining Saint Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church, in Kingston, Pennsylvania as a beautiful house of worship.