|SERB NATIONAL FEDERATION|
In 1909, the first wave of Serbian immigrants in Woodlawn (Aliquippa) bought a parcel of land in the McDonald Heights area. Although they originally planned to build a church on the plot, they later reconsidered and decided to use the land for a cemetery.
Three years later, the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation made an outright grant of three lots on Hopewell Avenue to the Serbian people to assist them in their efforts to erect a church. From the Woodlawn Presbyterians, the Serbs purchased a frame church, located on Franklin Avenue, and had it moved to the new site. In 1913, the first church, a weak and unstable structure, was demolished by a violent rainstorm. The following year the Serb colony built and dedicated a totally new church, selecting St. Elijah as their patron Saint. The intended sponsor was to be the famous Serb scientist, Dr. Michael Pupin. Dr. Pupin was unable to attend, and his replacement was Mr. Sam Verlinich, then President of the Serb National Federation. Red brick siding was added to the exterior of the church in 1926. Dr. Pupin served as sponsor for the dedication of this addition.
The first priest of the St. Elijah Church was Rev. Nestor Vukicevich, and the first president was Mihailo Stepanovich. Charter members included Ilija Gvoic, Marko Maravich, Mihailo Stepanovich, Nick Vujnovic and Mitcha Rebich.
In the late thirties a junior choir was formed and under the direction of Lela Yojkich Mamula was a vibrant addition to our church llife. During the war years, when many of our young men were in the armed services, this junior choir sang the responses for the Liturgy many Sundays. Lela Mamula taught the young people both church music and folk and patriotic music.
In 1932, the choral group, Frushka Gora, was united with the parent social club Svemir, and from this union emerged the St. Elijah Choir.
Professor Boris Dobrovolsky became choir director in 1937, and led the choir to outstanding success and acclaim. That same year the choir joined the serb Singing Federation.
The Sveta Petka Circle of Serbian Sisters (K.C.C.) was organized in 1932, and the original group numbered 60 members. Their noteworthy and generous contributions to the church community set a challenging and inspirational example for subsequent church organizations.
In 1935, the Ambridge K.C.C. Mala Gospojna was organized, and it objectives complemented those of the Sister group in Aliquippa.
In 1936 the church bought a new cemetery site situated along Brodhead Road in Hopewell Township. The area covered approximately 33 acres. The initial investment in the property was $10,000.
The St. Elijah Parish observed its 25th (Silver) Anniversary in 1939. Rev. Strahinja Maletich was pastor at the time, and Peter Bizic served as general chairman.
One of the first priests, Fr. Marijanovich conducted a Serbian School. Sessions were held every Saturday morning in the little schoolhouse located next to our church on Hopewell Avenue. The youngsters learned to read the epistle in the Church Slavonic chant; to read and write the Cyrillic alphabet and performed in many dramas for church celebrations. The Junior and Senior Choirs also held their first rehearsals in the school. A Sokol organization was also formed by the late Pero Medakovich and the instructor was the late Professor Popovich. The Sokols performed at many tri-state patriotic celebrations.
Between 1945 and 1948, the picnic grounds adjacent to the cemetery were purchased. The pavilion on the picnic grounds was built in 1948.
In 1946, the church administration had the foresight to buy the 7 lots that today (1988) comprise the site of our present church. Five more lots were purchased in 1954, at a cost of $12,000
V. Rev. Vlastimir Tomich assumed the St. Elijah Pastorate on March 6, 1949. With him came a tireless energy and resolve to create a new and bigger church. A regular Serbian Church School was established in 1950, with Mary Zlatovich as coordinator. She served in that capacity from 1951 until her passing in July of 1981. It was another active and strong supporting arm for church projects and activities.
In the early fifties, the Young Men’s Bible Class was organized with Lazo Maravich as its instructor and president. From this body emerged an active group which later provided personnel for the bazaars, tutors, work committees, and athletic programs centered around the church.
The New Church Building Committee was organized on Dec. 23, 1951, with Samuel Milanovich as the chairman. Pledges were sought in the amount of $120, and the Circles of Serbian Sisters helped considerably with the campaign and solicitations. The kick-off for the fund-raising was the St. Sava observance on January 27, 1952.
The new church grounds were consecrated and dedicated on June 1, 1952. Bishop Dr. Nicolai Velimirovich of the South Canaan Orthodox Seminary assisted by Fr. M. Djurich and Fr. V. Tomich, officiated at the ceremonies.
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