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Parish History


SS. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in America, located on the corner of Hill Avenue and Witherill Street on the Northside of the village, was the first Orthodox Catholic church established in the Triple Cities. Since its establishment in 1914, the church has endured a varied and interesting history including name and administration changes, an old wooden rectory and church being replaced by new brick structures, and an ever increasing look of Byzantine style splendor about the entire church complex.


When the parish was first organized informally in 1912, members attended services at the home of Mr. Michael Hopko at 101 Squires Avenue. Hieromonk Dennis Pirko offered the Divine Liturgy in the parlor that was converted into a sanctuary for the Sunday morning services. In 1914, with the permission of the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow, whose office had established the first Russian Orthodox mission in America (in Alaska and California) and who thus had exclusive right of certificate for any and all Orthodox affiliated churches established in America, SS. Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America was formally organized with the Rev. Constantine Leontovich as its first pastor.


Being the first Orthodox Church established in this area, SS. Peter and Paul thus became the "mother" church for other churches in the area. Here in Endicott the church provided the seed in the early 1920s for its namesake, SS. Peter and Paul (now) Roman Catholic Byzantine Rite Church in Watson Blvd. In the mid 1950s St. Mary's American Carpathian Russian Orthodox Church in Jenkins Street became a further offshoot of the Watson Blvd. church.


For a time before the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation was built on Arthur Avenue, the Hill Avenue church ministered to the Greek community in the area. This service extended even to the parish reserving a portion of its cemetery on Newell Road for the interment of deceased members of the Greek community. With incorporation in 1914 came the first formal church building, which was erected on one of five lots donated by the late George F. Johnson. A simple, rectangular structure, the first church had a square cupola mounted over the front and a smaller one at the back. The familiar onion shaped domes and bell tower were added later along with other aesthetic embellishments. At the same time the three bells that are still in use today were purchased with funds donated by Czar Nicholas of Russia, who was really the financial backer and treasurer for the Holy Russian Orthodox Church wherever it existed in the world at that time.


That structure served the parish until it was demolished in 1960 when the present brick structure was occupied. In 1923 the Russian Orthodox churches in America, fearing that the Church in Russia had come under the domination of the communists, declared their independence of the mother church and established an organization known popularly as the "Metropolia." This state of affairs continued until 1969 when Patriarch Alexei of Moscow, reasserting his primal authority over the Russian Orthodox "mission" churches in America, issued a decree granting autocephaly and the right of self determination to all Russian Orthodox parishes in America. Implied in this decree was the hope that the newly formed Orthodox Church in America be on an equal footing with all the other Orthodox patriarchates of the world and subservient to none.


As a footnote to history, Patriarch Alexei, who was 93 years old at the time he issued the decree and had survived the rigors of two world wars and Communist domination of his beloved Church, died within three days of issuing the decree.


The present brick Byzantine style structure with its distinctive blue onion shaped domes was completed in the spring of 1960 and dedicated formally on August 13, 1961. The plastic covered domes were an experiment indulged in by the building committee of the church and the Nikula Construction Company in an attempt to hold down the massive weight otherwise required in more conventional construction of onion shaped domes. Originally a greenish shade, the domes were recovered with a blue fiberglass paint that greatly enhanced the overall appearance of the church.


At the time of the building and consecration of the church, the parish was under the pastorship of the late Rt. Rev. Andrew S. Kuharsky who had been active in the Kiwanis during his stay in Endicott. Under the guidance of Rev. Father Gerald G. Sudick, pastor, from May 1967, the church continued to take on more of the Byzantine style. With a large gold chandelier imported from Greece along with a gold baptismal font, sanctuary vigil lights and many other imported handcrafted artifacts, the glistening interior of the church reflects the splendor that once was so characteristic of the Eastern Byzantine culture. The carpeting along with a new icon screen (iconostasis) and painted murals for the walls and ceiling serve only to enhance the already resplendent edifice and make it a "must" stop for visitors to our area.


Atop the church building now are affixed three anodized aluminum crosses that were designed by Philip Tatusko, a Subdeacon in the church, and constructed in Florida. Standing over seven feet tall, the center cross rests atop a scimitar, which is a symbol of the pagan Tartars who once overran and completely dominated Old Russia. The story goes that a czar of Russia, overjoyed when the Tartars were overthrown in the 13th century, had the cross designed to symbolize the domination of Orthodox Christianity over paganism. In February 1968, Father Sudick was able to move from temporary quarters he and his wife had occupied since their arrival in Endicott into a Georgian style brick rectory built on the site of the old rectory. Complementing the church in both design and materials, the new home is oriented so that it faces the church from the north.


In addition to Father Karlgut and Father Holowatch, the church staff consists of Father John Bohush, Subdeacon Mark Bohush, Subdeacon Simeon (Terry) Peet, Subdeacon Michael Pylypciw, and Subdeacon Monk Starvos.  A church board of some seventeen members is elected yearly to oversee the administration and maintenance of all church property. Organizations active in the church are: Choir, The Ladies Altar Society, the Russian Brotherhood Organization, and the Senior and Junior FOCA (Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America), Ministry to shut ins and sick, Outreach and Charitable works committee. Altar boys ranging from 7 to 18 years or age, assist the pastors with all services.


During the year except for the summer months, the Sunday school meets every Sunday following Liturgy. More than forty children, ranging in age from pre- kindergarten through high school, are enrolled. Also, on the first Saturday of the month, Father Karlgut and Father Holowatch conduct an additional class for students promoting individualized questions and discussions pertaining to the Orthodox Church. Adult education classes are also held on a biweekly basis and film festival and discussion group meets once a month.


An Annual Ethnic Dinner, which is held in the fall, has become a cultural highlight in the community over the past several years. Also very popular with the community are the annual Easter and Christmas bake sales. Parishioners work for months to prepare for the popular and successful events.