Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church, 1906-2018
Excerpts from Romanian Orthodoxy in Youngstown,1906-1981, a book wrote by Dr. Gerald Bobango.
Rubbing his finger on the frost patterned window, Ioan Reftea turned back toward his friends. They had gathered on that cold, snowy December evening. Soon it will be Christmas, and Ioan’s heart was filled with a deep longing and loneliness. Thoughts of his village in the region of Sebes flashed through his mind: the clusters of neat, white-washed country houses, some in blues and creams, nestled in the foothills of Carpathians; the old inn, ” Corona de Aur”, with the camaraderie and laughter which filled the place when the day’s work was done; his parents sitting around the stove at home; and finally the village church, Biserica Veche, with its steeple soaring skyward and its courtyard filled with the modest marking the graves of his ancestors. Simon Lupse called him to rejoin the group. Ioan sighed, then return to his friends, who were gossiping around the table.
Ioan told them that he had received a letter from a friend in Cleveland. ” Can you imagine? A group there was organizing and had brought a priest from Ardeal to serve a Romanian parish”. Petru Tecau felt it would be a good idea if Youngstown had a church. ”We should see if he would come to Youngstown, too. It would be wonderful for everyone. We can tell the Romanian in East Youngstown, also, they’d come”. Ioan agreed to write his friend about their plan. Shortly thereafter, the gathering broke up. It was getting late. Ioan Reftea stepped out into the cold night. He glanced back at Simion Lupse’s house and smiled. Soon it would be Christmas, 1905.
There were several more meetings. Arrangements were made, people notified, and young Father Moise Balea, who had been in America only two months, agreed to come. On February 4, 1906, he arrived in Youngstown to serve the first Holy Liturgy. More than one eye became misty as the congregation sang the age-old responses. When it was over, eighty-two men remained behind to organize the first Romanian parish in Youngstown, Oh.
This was the beginning of the Romanian Orthodoxy in Mahoning Valley, OH
Therefore, on Sunday , February 4, 1906, a group of Romanians under the guidance of Fr. Moise Balea , elected the first Parish Council of the church. Between February and August, 1906, total of 164 members were inscribed in the records of the church. In the same year, the church was incorporated under the law of the State of Ohio, and the Archdiocese of Sibiu, Romania was informed in regards to the formation of a new parish.
In 1909, Fr. Ioan Podea (1884-1968) became the parish priest in Youngstown.
In 1910, a parcel of land, at 830 Wilson Avenue was purchased and construction was started. This building still stands today. Two years later the Parish house was purchased, on the same street,for the accommodations of the Priest and his family.
On March 1911, the new church was blessed and the first ringing of the bell took place (which still exists in our present bell tower). The total building cost was approximately $10,000 . In 1914, the first religious school classes were established.
From the beginning, the Romanians of this area had to pass through a tumultuous period of time, organizing politically, socially, culturally, religiously and in the same time they had to adjust to the new life. During the First World War, a large number of young men volunteered to fight the old enemy of Transylvania, which was the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
In the 20’s, Fr. Podea, with the agreement of the general meeting, had changed the name of the church patron from Sf. Petru to Holy Trinity. Long before this moment, the church was ministering all across the Ohio area, distributing the Pascha bread to those who had no church .
In 1930, after a line of priests, Fr. Ioan Stanila of Pianul de Sus & Psa. Victoria became the spiritual father of the Holy Trinity Church. Under their guidance the parish flourished. Most of the things we have today comes from their dedication and work.
The immigrants added to the history of Youngstown as business owners, mill workers, and land owners. Their numbers grew and with this growth came the need for a larger church. On August 5, 1944, the deserted Arms Mansion on Wick Avenue was purchased and renovated into the church that it is today.
One year later , on September 15, 1946 the church was blessed by a sobor of seven priests. The Iconostasis( icon wall/screen) was shaped out of the furniture from the mansion, which belonged to Charles D. Arms and the Wick family.
In the 50’s, after Archbishop Valerian Trifa become the head of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, his Eminence consecrated our church.
Over the years, priests and members of our parish (too many names to be mentioned) contributed to the success of the church and Episcopate.A legacy of their work is what we inherited and have today.
On September 17-18, 2016, after so many years , we were blessed to celebrate our 110th Anniversary. Our parish had a memorable weekend planned with our spiritual leader, the Most Reverend Archbishop Nathaniel Popp and other dignitaries in attendance.
The rich history of Holy Trinity Parish speaks for itself. It was here that, over the years, generations of Orthodox Christians have grown in faith together. It was here that generations have encountered the living Christ through countless baptisms, the Eucharist, confessions, wedding and funerals, which were both held in English and Romanian.