The Former Holy Rosary Parish
Erected: August 22, 1915
Partnered: October 9, 2002, with former Madonna of Czestochowa Parish, Cardale
Merged: June 25, 2013, to form St. Francis of Assisi Parish
One nation under God
“Whilst we grow with rightful pride, we must not forget to thank God, from whom all goodness flows. Grateful, indeed, we are to live in a country in which we have freedom and liberty and the right to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience.”
This quote is taken from the souvenir book of the dedication of Holy Rosary School and convent which was written in 1955, but these words, or ones much like them, might easily have been written by an immigrant Catholic man or woman living in southwestern Pennsylvania near the turn of the century. This Catholic man or woman, new to America and its virtues, would be full of hope for the future, and grateful for the opportunities offered in this land far from home.
In 1916, in the small coal mining town of Republic, such immigrant hopes and gratitude eventually gave birth to Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Parish. On the seventy-fifth anniversary of its founding, the members of this parish remembered their roots, celebrated growth, and continued to give thanks to God for their parish.
Beginnings: Southwestern Pennsylvania
The area to the west of the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania has a history quite different from the eastern part of the state. The east is known for William Penn, the Constitutional Convention, and the Revolutionary War; the west for abundant resources, and the French and Indian War.
Less than an hour from Republic, Fort Necessity Battlefield is now a national monument. British General Edward Braddock lies buried near the site. In 1763, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the British colonies took all French land east of the Mississippi, including what is now southwestern Pennsylvania.
Along the banks of three powerful rivers (Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela), where Native Americans had hunted and fished for hundreds of years, settlers built mills.
In Pittsburgh, by century’s end, this waterpower produced glass and iron, and further south along the Monongahela, small towns grew up around paper mills, sawmills, and gristmills used for the refining of wheat.
Tributaries of the Monongahela River wound through arable lands. By the late 1700’s, settlers arrived who would become the first citizens of a township which is now known as Redstone.
Republic: Hub City
The Township of Redstone, from which the town of Republic would later emerge, was formed in March 1797. Redstone was named for a creek on its northeast boundary. This name was inspired by the reddish stones which were the by-product of coke production in the area.
Early settlers of Redstone Township were farmers, millers, carpenters and tavern-keepers.
Throughout the 1800’s, the Industrial Revolution was taking shape around the Redstone area. Brownsville became noted for shipping; Connellsville known for coal mining; and Pittsburgh a center for steel mills.
In 1905, Republic Steel located an abundance of coal in the Redstone area. The initial cost of the coal investment ran roughly two to three million dollars. Approximately one hundred houses were built for the miners and their families.
During full production, Republic Steel employed 600 men on its 1,300 acre property.
In 1913 and 1914, bee-hive coke ovens were built in Republic. Considerable work was done at the Republic Mine to increase coal production and to assure a sufficient supply of coal for the Youngstown Steel Works, as well as for the coke ovens in the area.
Republic is surrounded by outlying towns, or patches, which sprang up around numerous other area mines. Each of these small communities took as its name the name of its mine such as Thompson #1, Tower Hill #2, Allison #2, and Ralph.
The names of these communities can be found on the Fayette County map. Republic became known as the “hub” because of its location in the center of a series of railway lines which ran out to the mines and to other communities.
Small businesses and stores were established in the town to serve the needs of area families.
Most of the families who made their living in the mines had recently immigrated from central and southern Europe. Some had come to escape from poverty; some, like the Slovaks, also fled from political tensions in their homeland.
Though the majority of the population was composed of Italians and Slovaks, there were also Polish, Czech, Yugoslavian, English, Welsh, Irish, Croatian, and Hungarian immigrants. This great mix of people of different tongues, traditions, and cultures shared a common bond – their Catholic faith.
The nearest Catholic Church was miles away in Uniontown. Without a local place of worship, this Catholic bond could not be strengthened.
Early in 1911, a group of people from the Republic area traveled to Uniontown to see Father James Vocca, the pastor of St. Therese, Little Flower of Jesus Parish, and explained their plight to him. He promised to help them.
By May 24 of that same year, Father Vocca had established St. Callistus Church as a mission in Republic. This original church building stood near the site of the former Holy Rosary School.
For five years, Sunday Mass was celebrated at St. Callistus Church by the priests from St. Therese Church. As the population of the area increased, however, it became obvious that the Republic area needed a resident pastor.
An appeal was made to Bishop Hugh Boyle of the Pittsburgh diocese, who in 1916, agreed to send a pastor to establish a parish. In July of that year, St. Callistus Mission Church became the parish of the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary. Father George Malinak, who had been ordained just a month before (June 29, 1916), became its founding pastor.
Many of the old timers still remember stories of Father Malinak: his intense activity, great love for singing, and strong determination to get things done. They tell stories of Father Malinak walking through town at 8:00 at night chasing the youngsters home because it was past their bedtime. Children who had walked an extra two blocks to avoid choir practice or some small chore Father Malinak had given them were surprised to find him waiting on their porches for them.
His parishioners were no less energetic and determined than he, and supported his efforts to stabilize the new parish. Within a year, a parish house was purchased to insure that Father Malinak could continue on as their resident pastor.
In the years between 1919 and 1926, Father Malinak performed 1,535 baptisms, 98 marriages, and 330 funeral Masses. By 1922, parish numbers had swelled to such a point that it became apparent that a larger church building would have to be erected.
Just as this project got underway, there was a coal strike. Miners who earned only a dollar or two on workdays, which could last up to eighteen hours, demanded higher wages and better working conditions.
The Republic Mine Company and the miners both remained firm in their positions, and the strike wore on resulting in many families being evicted from company owned homes. These families set up tents outside their houses for the duration of the strike, giving rise to a part of town known as “Tent City.”
Non-miners in the community lent the strikers what comfort and support they could.
In the middle of these tension-filled times, the building of the new church continued. Parishioners dug the foundation by hand, and helped to erect the walls. Every day, groups of men could be seen hand-mixing cement and laying brick.
Parishioner Joan Brosky remembers what her father, Ralph Benucci, told her of the building of the church:
“When the church was being built in the year of 1924, there was very little money to pay the workers who were building it, so in order to pay the men, Mr. Sam Capuzzi (Capuzzi Market) donated the bologna (minced ham), and Ralph Benucci (baker and owner, Republic Baking Company) donated the bread and rolls, as payment for their services. Also, my grandfather, Arlando Benucci, being a blacksmith at the time, repaired all the masonry tools, and built iron fences for the inside and outside to the church.”
When the strike was settled, many of the men working on the church returned to the mines. Although construction lagged, the building was finished before the end of the year.
The old church building was converted into a parish school. By this time, the parish numbered an estimated 1,100 members, and many children filled this small school.
Father Malinak found it impossible to handle their education alone. He contacted the Vincentian Sisters of Charity in Pittsburgh, to staff the school. Late in 1924, a house near the school was obtained for the sisters.
The original group of sisters sent to Republic were Sister Mary Caroline, Sister Mary Colomana, and Sister M. Hyacinth.
According to Millie Rogula, a long-time resident of Republic, the school at first accommodated only students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. In 1926, there were 36 students enrolled. The first eighth grade class, composed of eleven girls and five boys, graduated from Holy Rosary School June 27, 1927.
Vincentian Sisters of Charity continued their ministry at Holy Rosary School for 67 years. Throughout these years the sisters served as principals, teachers, sacristans, and a variety of other services within the parish.
On Sunday, October 6, 1984, a banquet was held observing the 60th anniversary of the sisters’ presence within the parish. Many of the sisters who were once assigned at Holy Rosary attended. Parishioners and former students also celebrated this memorable event.
In the eight years from 1916 to 1924, Father Malinak and the parishioners transformed a mission parish with a small church into a thriving spiritual center for the region, with a new church, rectory, school, and convent. They also began a parish cemetery.
In January, 1928, Father Malinak received word from the bishop that he was to be transferred to St. Gabriel’s Parish, on the North Side of Pittsburgh. He had worked hard in his first pastorate, and left Holy Rosary Parish firmly established in Republic.
Father Malinak died July 9, 1946.