This is the Church that I went to as a kid.
Every Sunday, my parents woke me up to put on “Sunday’s Best” and off to church we’d go.
I remember on the busy mornings of Christmas or Easter, the smells of cooking food already filled the house as we were getting ready for church, We’d go to service and come home and have our holiday family dinners.
We were proud members of Sacred Heart Croatian Catholic Church, and it was impressive!
(713 Shaw Ave. McKeesport, PA 15132)
This church, at one time, had the 2nd largest religious mosaic in the US.
There used to be stained glass windows on both sides of the church and my grandparents actually paid for one of them.
When walking in the front door, the first thing that you noticed was that distinct scent, that “church smell”, the incense and everything that makes up that scent that screams “CHURCH” to most people.
To the left of the main entrance, there was a huge Baptismal Font that was all enclosed with decorative wrought iron.
Looking back, it was beautiful; However, as a child (and not realizing its purpose), it was a jail-like enclosure that I used to marvel at quietly and often as we could pass it on the way in or out of the building.
On either side of this main entrance were stairs that led up to the balcony where the enormous church organ was located and where the choir members–my Father, inlcuded–were seated for the typical Sunday service.
Placed around the church in various locations were huge (at least to a 4 or 5 year old girl) statues of religious figures that were scary and fascinating at the same time to me; There was one right by the steps to the choir/organist balcony where my mother, brother and me would wait for my father after church–I could never get a good enough look at it for my own satisfaction.
I have not been “to church” in ages, let alone THIS church.
I heard rumors that it no longer operated as a Croatian Catholic, but it was on of many churches that was used for traveling/rotating services among a group of churches in the area.
I think that now its being used as a steady location of one religious affiliation on a regular basis. This, I feel, is better, It was no longer an orphaned church; it has a steady family.
As I drove home today, I had this sudden urge to take a detour and drive past the church to see what it was looking like these days. To my surprise, there was a U-Haul truck in front and a crew of guys moving things to the truck. I kept going and wondered if it was being emptied and I realized that if this church was being torn down or privately sold and it became something other than a church and I didn’t try to go into the building today, I would regret it.
So… I turned the car around.
I parked and asked one of the guys if it was still a public church and if I could enter and he said “Sure! Help yourself!” (Really?!?) So, I did!
Sadly, “My Church” is in bad shape now.
I don’t know what church it’s operating as currently, but in it’s day… It was very impressive!
Those stained glass windows…they’re now gone (all of the stained glass is). It’s probably due to a combination of age and vandalism.
The Baptisimal Area–gone.
Our Mosaic is still there and appears to be in tact (pictured above).
Overall, it’s just sad what time does to things from your childhood that you remember so vividly as being “impressive” and “beautiful”.
A bit melodramatic, I’m sure, but it’s almost as if my memory of that church is now damaged somehow. Though I remember it vividly as the place that I knew it once was, I can’t paint a sufficient picture of it for anybody else to see, no matter how hard I might try.
I have a picture in my head of what I remember from those times and I can’t ever articulate how amazing it truly was.