Bishop Paul presides at 100th Anniversary of Protection Church, Royalton, IL
ROYALTON, IL [MW Diocese Communications] — His Grace, Bishop Paul presided at the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Protection of the Holy Virgin Mary Church here August 15-16, 2015.
The highlight of the weekend was the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine liturgy. Members of the parish prepared the festive dinner that followed.
The Protection of the Holy Virgin Mary Church was founded by immigrants from central Europe’s Carpathian mountains who were attracted to southern Illinois by the prospect of employment in the region’s coal mines. Being financially unable to build a church, the founders of the parish held services in their homes with visiting clergy from St. Louis, MO. The three men cited as principle founders of the community were Frank Derbak, John August and Paul Andrews. With great spirit and determination, they and many others, including Ivan Matichen, Ivan Drozd, Ivan Shender and Ivan Lapko, went from home to home soliciting funds, which enabled the faithful to purchase land. Each family was asked to give $25.00 at the start of construction and another $25.00 at its completion. On the Feast of the Protection of the Theotokos — October 14, 1914 — work began on the church’s foundation using plans borrowed from Saint Ioasaph of Belgorod Church, Muddy, IL. Father Michael Vyacheslavov was assigned as the parish’s first resident pastor. Historical records indicate that the church was built at a cost of $2,200.00 and paid in full upon completion, which left the parish debt free.
Two weeks after construction began, an earth-shattering explosion took place at Royalton’s Franklin County Coal Company, a mere five blocks from the church. Of the 52 men who died in the blast, thirteen were Orthodox Christians. They were buried on land owned by the mining company, which was subsequently given to the parish for use as Orthodox cemetery. Kitty Mabus, the parish’s choir director, said, “The graves are a permanent reminder of these men and their efforts to build this church.” Bishop Paul visited the miners’ graves and prayed for the repose of their souls during his visit to the parish.
Over the years many improvements have been made to the parish property, including the building of a church hall and rectory, installation of traditional iconography, and the erection of a grotto featuring a mosaic of the Mother of God.
During the festive weekend, Priest Frederick Janecek was elevated to the dignity of archpriest and formally installed as the parish’s Rector.