Father Theodore Krepp celebrates the blessing of water, a purification rite of profound meaning and quiet drama marking the feast of the baptism of Christ. Anne Byzantine Catholic Church in Harrisburg, which was founded in the 1960’s in part because of migration from towns like Kingston; it now has about the same number of families, but three times the number of children.Afterward a hushed congregation lines up to fill bottles with the holy water. Few of the 100 or so in attendance are children or, for that matter, young. Mary’s eight years ago, the church had about 275 families. Simply put, demographics indicate that all churches in the region are losing people.
Desperate for workers, mining companies scoured Central and Eastern Europe for cheap labor, recruiting many agricultural workers eager to escape the turmoil and poverty of their homeland.Tradition and family, says Father Krepp, have always been central. Their three children and their grandchildren remain in the area.“Our primary goal, beyond serving the existing population, is to instill the identity of being an Eastern Christian, a Byzantine Catholic, into our youth so they can take it with them when they leave their families. When the church was the center of life, you didn’t have to know a lot about it; it just was. Married 50 years, the couple met in the church choir as did many of their friends.With few opportunities locally, almost all the young have left.
Northeastern Pennsylvania at one time contained three-quarters of the world’s anthracite deposits.Like many Austro-Hungarians, these people did not have a clear sense of ethnic identity.