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St. Ann Parish - Frackville PA

A parish history from the 1944 20th Anniversary Book


From a tiny hamlet, numbering seventeen persons at the time of the Civil War, Frackville, situated nine miles to the north of Pottsville, has grown into a "mountain city", with a census showing twelve thousand residents in 1924, but to-day reduced to 8,000.

The ten years from 1917 to 1927 have seen an almost phenomenal growth and Frackville at that time had earned the reputation of being among the most rapidly growing communities in Pennsylvania.

In 1850, David Frack, for whom the mountain city is named, settled with his family in a tract of virgin timber. He owned the land, cleared it and built his home. Two years later, Samuel Haupt, a contractor and builder of Pottsville, built a home on a 180-acre tract adjoining that of the Frack family.

Fifteen years later, the borough of Frackville was incorporated with David Haupt, one of Samuel Haupt's sons, as chief burgess.

Where eighty-five years ago there was only a wilderness, today there are beautiful homes. Where there were only mountain footpaths, there are now wide, paved streets.

Fifteen churches, one bank, three volunteer fire companies equipment with the most modern fire fighting apparatus, six schools, a High School, and a water works, are among the institutions of which Frackville may be justly proud of today.

Two railroads, the Reading and the Pennsylvania, give Frankville freight service. Passenger service however is given by motorbuses operating on schedule time.

Situated at an elevation of nearly fifteen hundred feet above sea level, Frnakville enjoys one of the finest views of the county overlooking the Mahanoy Valley.

While much of the wealth of Frackville is derived from coal operations, the operations proper are not near the borough limits and the little city is surrounded by "green fields and running brooks". No mining is conducted beneath the surface of Frackville and there is no danger of caves, an advantage that has made this borough an ideal place not for homes alone but for the establishment of various industries. Of these, there are three employing women: Charles Rabin & Co" making robes, employing 200; Frackville Manufacturing Co., making, pajamas, employing 125; Garden Dress Co., employing 125. There are also two industries employing men: Frackville Service & Equipment Corporation; and the Frackville Shops Co., both engaged in rebuilding and repairing contractors' equipment in use at the various mining operations in the vicinity. There are also three breakers for the processing of coal.

At one time, with twelve thousand inhabitants, Frackville had three thousand homes of which all but about one hundred were occupied by their owners. Due to the present war conditions throughout the nation, many have left this mountain city to be assimilated into the larger industrial cities to give all their efforts towards winning the war.

The community has always taken pride in taking part in all civic activities. During the present war crisis, all the war Bond Drives have gone over the top of the quota allotted; all the Drives have been generously contributed to. The men and women in the Service of the Armed Forces of the United States, from this community, comprise a percentage, comparing with the population, so large, that it causes special mention by the metropolitan press and radio commentators. To date, the number in the Service reaches 1,700.

St. Ann's Parish

Prior to 920 there were a number of Polish families residing in Frackville. Their spiritual welfare was being taken care of by the two Roman Catholic churches, viz: St. Joseph's Church, founded 1909, and the Annunciation B. V, M. Church, founded 1917. There is also St. Michael's Church, Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Greek Rite.

A mission was organized for the Polish people in Frackville, which \vas attended by the priest from St. Clair. The first services were held in Bradley's Hall, Cor. Lehigh Ave. and Spring St., December 8, 1921. These services were later transferred to the Annunciation B. V. M. Church.

Through the intercession of the Rev. James Graham, St. Joseph's Church, Frackville, Pa., and the Rev, John Mioduszewski, S. S. Peter & Paul Church, St. Clair, Pa., His Eminence D. Cardinal Dougherty, Archbishop of Philade1phia deemed it advisable to establish a. separate Parish for the Polish-speaking people in Frackville. From the Diocesan Funds, a sum of $2,000.00 was advanced to purchase a plot of ground, 165 x 150, from the Crestmont Realty Co. Spring and Line Streets, in West Mahanoy Township, Crestmont Addition to the Borough of Frackville.

St. Ann's Parish, Frackville, Pa., was officially established by His Eminence, D. Cardinal Dougherty, by the appointment, on June 14, 1924, of the organizing rector, the Rev. Stanislaus J. Garstka.

On his arrival in Frackville, and having no church building or living quarters provided, the Rector was invited to stay at St. Casimir's Rectory, Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, from whence he would commute to hold services ill the Annunciation B. V. M. Church.

In August 1924, a private home, 217 N. Broad Mountain Avenue, was rented for the Rector, as a temporary rectory, which was occupied for over a year.

A boundary line for St. Ann's Parish, was laid out by His Eminence, to include the Polish-speaking people of Frackville. Fountain Springs, Gordon, Ashland, Girardville, Mahanoy Plane, Maizeville, Gillberton and Wiggans.

The initial efforts of the Rector were spent in taking a census of the Polish people and inscribing the names of the members of the newly formed Parish. During this time the corner lot was purchased, to extend the plot of ground now measuring 200 x 150 feet.

With unremitting zeal, the congregation had toiled to make the Cardinal's vision a reality. The problems of creating a new parish are always perplexing, and lack of adequate quarters for church services, school classes and rectory were only some of the outstanding difficulties the members of the Parish had to deal with.

Starting with only a few scattered families, after one year's efforts, the Parish had increased many folds. When, therefore, Farther Garstka reported to His Eminence on the progress made by St. Ann's Parish, he was most pleased and saw in it evidence of the skillful efforts, and the loyal piety of the flock gathered together. The large sum of money needed to build, and the great burden of' a financial debt to be carried by the members of the Parish, necessitated the consideration of a smaller building, that would be within the reach of the individual families. When this plan was laid before the diocesan officials, whereby St. Ann's Parish could secure at a minimum of expense and delay a building adequate to meet all its present needs.

The status together with the improvements in the garden are a gift presented to the parish by the rector.

The impressive ceremonies of dedicating "St. Ann's Shrine in Frackville", took place on Sunday, October 3, 1937.

Another day marking an epoch in the history of the parish was Sunday, July 14, 1840. The members of St. Ann's Church rejoiced over the erection of the new main altar, which was solemnly blessed on this day by the Most Rev. George L. Leech, D.D., Bishop of Harrisburg.

To Catholics the altar is the most important part of the entire church.

It is the focal center upon which all services revolve, for it is the "table" upon which the sacrifice is offered-the sacrifice of the Mass upon which religion centers.

The style of the new altar is Roman, made of cast hard composition, properly reinforced to insure lasting and durable service, and is decorated in white marble effect with all columns in imitation onyx. Over all it measures 12 feet 3 inches high, 12 feet wide and 4 feet in depth.

In conjunction with the altar on each side, there are two pedestals, each supporting, in standing position, an angel candelabrum including fixtures for 11 electric lights. These statues are decorated in natural colors with a silk finish.

Above the center of the altar is a dome and ballachino, the background of which is decorated in mosaic with pure gold leaf and with special concealed lighting to illuminate the exposition throne.

In front of the altar, and below the mensa, is depicted the Last Supper, with specially modeled group made of the same material as the altar. These figures in statue form are decorated in traditional colors, and also with special concealed lighting for illumination.

The altar being the "table" upon which the sacrifice of the Mass is offered has for its center the Tabernacle. It is of obligation in the Catholic Church, to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in a separate compartment set in the middle of the altar and back of the mensa. This is tailed the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle on this new altar is in conformity with ecclesiastical prescription. There are two separate steel safes, one contained inside the other. The outer safe is made of steel; twelve gauge, firmly welded together; while the inner safe is made of steel, sixteen gauge. It is built like a safe with asbestos and protected air chambers all around, to counteract the great heat conductivity of steel. The automatic safety catch locks in two places with one turn of the hand.

This exclusive type of construction assures protection against fire and theft. There are no doors obstructing the Mensa, because the outer doors disappear and the inner doors open and do not extend over the altar. This provides free access to the Tabernacle. It is lined and curtained on the interior with silk. The outer doors are in gold lacquered finish. A Tabernacle Safe like this was installed for the late Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, in one of his private chapels. The Roman Ritual prescribes a special blessing for the Tabernacle.

To enhance the dignity of the altars, a beautiful appropriate effect has been achieved in the sanctuary. The walls and the ceiling of the Apse were beautified, decorated and acoustically treated with Gold Bond insulation tile, in variegated shades, simulating old world stone work. There are three new Gothic Arches, with the main arch over the central portion. This central arch is supported on two octagonal columns. The ceiling in the Apse is transformed into a Gothic dome. The doors leading to the sacristies are flush panel with a cross medallion in gold leaf on each door, The Altar railing has also been modernized by having the panels pierced with Gothic. quatri-foils. A new double gate has been installed. So that the altars and the entire sanctuary should harmoni1ze with the color schemes, all the columns, the arches, the baseboard and the altar railing, are finished off to retain a marbleized effect. A new hanging Sanctuary Lamp, made of brass, gold lacquered has been suspended from the ceiling of the 'Sanctuary. The design for the Sanctuary renovation was sketched by a registered architect.

The spiritual beauty, dignity and quiet, of the entire sanctuary is a recognized incentive to devotion. It satisfies both sight and spirit, and it once pleases the eyes and stimulates the faculty of adoration.

Having produced this transformation in the sanctuary, the members of St. Ann's Parish, will strive now with renewed effort to accomplish the same throughout the rest of the interior of the church.

It is with little wonder then that elaborate plans were made to dedicate the sanctuary with its new main altar and to solemnly bless the new Tabernacle Safe. The Rev. S. J. Garstka, Rector of St. Ann's Church, Frackville. Invited his Seminary classmate, the Most Rev. George L. Leech, D.D., Bishop of Harrisburg, to honor him and his congregation with his presence on Sunday, July 14, 1940, at 4 :00 P. M., to officiate at this ceremony. All the faithful present acted as sponsors by touching a ribbon extended throughout the church, which was in contact with the Tabernacle.

It was indeed a pleasant day, and one that the parishioners will long remember.

The windows in the church are of the standard domestic type, with top and lower sash, containing cathedral glass. To further beautify the interior of the church, a stained glass window was installed in February 1942. The group subject chosen artistically depicts the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Free-will donations, generously offered by the parishioners, made it possible for the first window, with expectations, that in the near future, the remaining seven windows in the church, will also be replaced.

During eighteen years of service, the original boiler that heated the entire building began to show signs of deterioration. On Sunday, February 8, 1942 the faithful found themselves praying in an unheated church, because the boiler gave way and was beyond repairs. It was, then, necessary to immediately replace the old boiler. Due to war conditions, however, when everything pertaining to the war effort had priorities, the difficulty was solved by the installation of a Losch Automatic Steel Boiler-Stoker Unit, which at present is serving its purpose both efficiently and economically.

It is with a sense of satisfaction, that the members of St. Ann's Parish, after twenty years, can look back with pride and observe the fruits of their labor. All was made possible by their generosity and willing cooperation with their Pastor.

Today, we give thanks to Almighty God, for His guidance and spiritual graces showered upon us throughout these years. We renew our pledge of obedience and gratitude to His Eminence, D. Cardinal Dougherty, Archbishop of Philadelphia, for his many acts of kindness and support.

May God shower upon our friends and us His many blessings. We are grateful to all, who are gathered with us this day to appropriately observe this dual celebration-the founding of St. Ann's Parish, and the rectorship of the Rev. Stanislaus J. Garstka.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2011