By LINDA M. LINONIS
The heritage of the founders of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church was based in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now Slovakia and Ukraine, but the church embraces members from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
The Rev. Kenneth M. Bachofsky, pastor, said the church dropped Carpatho-Russian from its name to be more inclusive. “People from a lot of ethnic heritages belong,” he said. “We try to honor unique customs of many so everyone feels at home.”
The church services are in English. Cantors learn to sing traditional music, now all in English, he said. “This is a way of singing ... a plain chant,” Father Bachofsky said. He added this style is a cappella.
The church choir sings at services twice a month. It also participated in the recent 75th anniversary Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Nov. 3 celebrated by Bishop Gregory, ruling Hierarch of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A. An anniversary banquet followed in the church fellowship hall.
Father Bachofsky said the church uses technology to reach out to members. A Bible study may be accessed on the Internet throught the church web page, www.stnicholaswarren.org. The study follows vespers at 4 p.m. Saturdays. The pastor is a professor of scripture in the diocesan see in Johnstown, Pa. “The devotional is oriented to the average person,” he said.
The pastor said the church is interested in the religious education of children and to that end sponsors plays and retreats at Camp Nazareth near Mercer, Pa. Youths from 8 to 18 years old participate. The church also involves families through retreats, conferences and educational programs.
Father Bachofsky said the church conducts special liturgies, unique to Orthodoxy, in honor of St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great and the patron, St. Nicholas of Myra. This year for the patron’s feast day Dec. 6, the church will conduct great vespers at 6 p.m. Dec. 5 with veneration of holy relics and anointing with holy miro. Children will receive special treats and a meal will follow in the fellowship hall. On Dec. 6, a patronal Divine Liturgy will be at 9 a.m. with festive anointing with holy miro or St. Nicholas and veneration of holy relics. On Dec. 8, the Divine Liturgy will be at 10 a.m. followed by a patronal banquet at noon in fellowship hall. A free-will offering will benefit Holy Trnity Orthodox Christian Academy and Preschool.
Holy miro is a holy oil used for anointing. A Mother of God anointing service to pray for the sick is at 6 p.m. Wednesdays. “We pray for the healing of the body and soul,” Father Bachofsky said.
Holy relics of St. Nicholas are a piece of his bone and vestment worn by the saint. They came from Bari, Italy,
For the 70th church anniversary, the sanctuary was renovated and installation of icon murals on the nave walls and altar was done. Father Bachofsky described the icons as “pictorial catechesis.” He said though icons are art, they also are “teaching mechanism” that tell the story of faith. The pastor also said the beautiful, stylized artwork are depictions of the Gospel. “The representations of faith,” he said, show that God is among us.
A Warren native, iconographer Dennis Bell of Painesville painted the icons.
Father Bachofsky said the St. Nicholas altar follows the Orthodox tradition of facing east. The icon murals depict miracles performed by Jesus as told in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke on the south wall. The north wall features murals of miracles performed by Jesus as told in the Gospel of St. John. Parables are depicted on the stained-glass windows. Below the icons is “tiling,” which give the impression of a tent. Scrolls that accompany the icons explain the miracles.
The back of the church, the west wall, is highlighted by icons of St. Nicholas.
A nod to ethnic heritage is in the church’s food sale on Thursdays with a sit-down lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and takeout from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The meals include homemade soup, two holupki (stuffed cabbage), two pirogi and side of haluski (cabbage and noodles).
John and Marlene Falibota, members since 1975, volunteer for food sales. They said cooks use 150-200 pounds of potatoes, 10 heads of cabbage, 50 pounds of onions, 150 pounds of ground beef and 50 pounds of rice, in addition to other ingredients, to make the pirogis, haluski and holupki for each sale.
“The church is about being involved,” the Falibotas said. “It’s like a family,” John Falibota said. “It’s a friendly place,” his wife added.
Bettianne Dites and Jeff Yenchochik volunteer on the 40-member kitchen crew for the food sales. They said different jobs are done Monday through Wednesday leading up to the Thursday sale. They make spaetzle (dumplings) for the chicken soup — six large pots of it in addition to two pots of vegetable soup. They and other volunteers also make nine roasters filled with 90 holupki that ususally sells out.
“This is a labor of love,” Dites said. As for working with Yenchochik and other church members, she added, “We’re not related but we’re family.”
Food also is the part of the church outreach program. A free community meal the third Tuesday of the month, January through November, is offered at Windham American Legion Post on Route 303. The church also sponsors a free Thanksgiving Day dinner at Newton Falls American Legion Post. Another outreach program is a book bag and school supply giveaway in August that helped 300 students.