(Borrowed without permission from The All Saints Byzantine Catholic Church in Ft. Myers, Florida....)
In the mountainous region of Carpatho-Rus, known also as Carpatho-Ruthenia, situated between present day Slovakia and Ukraine, there is a group of Eastern Christians. Evangelized in the ninth century by those equals-to-the-apostles, Saints Cyril and Methodius, this group received the Holy Gospel and Sacred Mysteries (Sacraments) from the Byzantine Church of Constantinople. Although Cyril and his brother, Methodius, were Greek (from Thessalonika), they promoted the use of the ancient Slavonic language in worship. This language, later known as Old Church Slavonic, would become the liturgical language of the Carpatho-Rusyns and all Slavonic Christians, both Orthodox and Catholic. In time, Cyril and Methodius brought their liturgical books to Rome to receive the blessings of Pope Hadrian, and he in turn blessed their mission of establishing the Greek (Byzantine) Catholic religion in the Carpathian mountains of Central Europe.
Over time, a rift grew between East and West; and, in 1054, estrangement was realized with the Great Schism of Constantinople and Rome. Being an Eastern Church, the Carpatho-Rusyns were eventually drawn into by this unfortunate break and became members of the Orthodox Church. This ecclesia sui iuris (self-governing church) of Mukachevo-Uzhorod in time sought reunion with the Church of Rome, re-establishing its Catholic faith while maintaining the spirituality, ceremonies, and discipline of the Eastern Church. On April 24, 1646, in Saint George Castle Garden in Uzhorod, a number of priests and faithful proclaimed vocally their reunion with the Catholic Church, re-establishing the unity that Christ so ardently prayed for. From this nucleus would grow a reborn church which the Empress Maria Theresa of Austro-Hungary would later call "The Greek Catholic Church" -- "Greek" in its ritual, theology and art; "Catholic" in union with the Bishop of Rome. In time, the reunion would spread to other areas of Europe, and new eparchies (dioceses) would be created in such places as Presov (Slovakia), Krizevci (Croatia), Hajdudorog and Miskolc (Hungary).
In the 1870’s, the first wave of Carpatho-Rusyn immigration brought significant numbers of Greek Catholics to the United States of America. The first parish they founded on these shores was Saint Michael's in Shanandoah, PA followed by an establishment in Freeland, PA. Others were established in places like Wilkes-barre and Kingston, PA, and in Jersey City and Passaic, NJ.
The Greek Catholic Church in America continued to grow, and there was seen a growing need for hierarchial leadership. In 1905, Father Andrew Hodobay was sent by Rome as Apostolic Visitor to care for the immigrant church; but, being a Hungarian, he was not the proper leader for a predominantly Slavic church. Rome, then, in turn, sent two men to care for what would become two separate administrations for the American Greek Catholics: Father Peter Poniatishyn for the Ukrainians, and Father Gabriel Martyak for the Carpatho-Rusyns (Ruthenians). By this time parishes were springing up all over Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio and the Northeast. In 1924 Rome raised the status of the American Greek Catholic Ruthenian community to that of an Exarchate (Apostolic Vicariate) with Bishop Basil Takach as its first Exarch, establishing Saint John the Baptist Cathedral in Pittsburgh’s Homestead/Munhall neighborhood as its seat. Meanwhile, Greek Catholic immigration continued from Carpathia as well as Hungary and Croatia. Not only were parishes and priests being established and assigned, but the Sisters of Saint Basil the Great received a call from Bishop Takach to minister to the immigrant church, and they eventually settled in Uniontown, PA, after a number of temporary locations.
The spiritual life of the Byzantine Catholic Church was and continues to grow with assistance not only from the Basilians of Uniontown, but also from Monasteries for men and women, such as The Basilian Fathers of Mariapoch, Matawan, NJ, as well as from Holy Dormition Franciscan Monastery, Sybertsville, PA.
The Byzantine Catholic Church is an Eastern Church in union with Rome; Carpatho-Rusyn in background and flavor, but indeed an American Eastern Church celebrating the Gospel in words, symbols, and action. We are unique in our mystical theology, blending the colors of our many ikons with the congregational acapella chants; raising up our hands and our fragrant incense in prayer and inviting you to come and see who we are and what we are all about as part of the Eastern half of the Universal Church.