"A CENTURY OF MEMORIES of
SAINT CHARLES BORROMEO'S PARISH
"In the middle of the nineteenth century there was nestled in a forest of mighty oaks, tall spruce and sturdy maples the beginning of a small town. At that time the area was dotted with log cabins owned by a few settlers. One such house was located near the [home of my great-grandparents, Patrick (also known as P. F.) and Mary (Finn) Caffrey] . . . another was in the Old Row; and for many years the Wilverding family occupied a log cabin diagonally across from Holy Family Church. The population gradually increased to a reasonable size prompting the requirements of a name of the borough. Keeping in mind the many maple trees that produced maple sugar and the notch located in the mountains near the old reservoir the name "Sugar Notch" was selected for this borough.
In the year 1869 the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroads were built carrying passengers, freight and coal through Sugar Notch to distant markets. With the coming of the railroads, mines were opened including Number Nine. As a result more people settled in the area.
In 1870 the population of the town reached 1,560, Catholics making up the larger portion. The faith that sustained them in their mother countries and their great love for the Blessed Sacrament urged them to walk miles to Saint Mary's Church in Wilkes-Barre.
Their economic status, with low income and large families delayed the construction of a church in Sugar Notch, but this was a cherished hope that would someday become a reality.
Mr Charles Parish, although not of the Catholic faith, proved to be a true friend. He was the owner of the mines and he graciously gave permission for mass to be offered twice a month in the carpenter shop at Number Nine.
Time passed and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Yates and Mr. and Mrs. Peter O'Donnell, who lived in a double block called the "Boarding House", gave the use of their homes for Sunday Mass to be offered. This home is diagonally across the street from Saint Charles church. Meanwhile funds were being gathered to build a church. With many sacrifices and hard work a parish began to form.
Mr. Charles Parish donated the ground on which the parish properties are located. It is likely that out of gratitude to him, Saint Charles Borromeo was chosen as patron saint of the new parish. The lower church was built in 1875. Four years passed before a permanent pastor, Father Thomas Rea, was appointed. He was welcomed with great enthusiasm upon his arrival on August 15, 1879. At this time the parish covered Sugar Notch, Warrior Run, Askam, Preston, a part of Ashley and Mountain Top.
Two years after Father Rea was installed as pastor of Saint Charles Borromeo the upper church was ready for occupancy. It was dedicated by Bishop O'Hara on November 6, 1881. This was one of the town's greatest days - people coming from far and near. Before services began, the many societies organized by Father Rea to aid in the success of his new parish paraded down Main Street to the church.
Solemn High Mass was sung by Reverend Father Denis O'Haran; the deacon was Father Charles Mattingly of Nanticock; the sub-deacon, Father Benvenutus Gramlevicz of Nanticoke; Father Timothy Donahue of Plymouth was Master of Ceremonies and the Deacons of Honor to the Bishop were Father Peter C. Christ and Father Thomas J. Rea.
Bishop O'Hara addressed the people on the joyous occasion and congratulated them for the sincere efforts and hard work.
Immigrants from Lithuania and Poland were now becoming numerous in Sugar Notch and the facilities of Saint Charles were extended to them, but they felt the need of having the gospel preached to them in their own language. Through the cooperation of Father Rea, two priests, Father Benventus Gramlevicz and Father Anthony Lapinski, who were interested in their spiritual and temporal concerns, came from Nanticocke to minister to them. The gospel was preached in the language they understood, marriages and baptisms took place and many other spiritual customs and consolations were afforded to them. Thus, these became the nucleus of the Holy Family and of Saint Peter and Paul's parishes.
Father Rea celebrated his Silver Jubilee of ordination to the holy priesthood in 1897. His parishioners rejoiced with him for he became known and loved for his personal interest in each of them.
Although his parishioners seemed to think that Father Rea would remain for life as pastor of Saint Charles, he was assigned to Saint Joseph's, Minooka in 1899. He was replaced by Father John Judge who was known for his learning, wisdom and concern for people.
During his administration, the rectory was relocated to the rear of the parish property. Father Judge lived well into his nineties. He died February 29, 1920. A Celtic Cross marks his grave in Saint Charles Borromeo's Cemetery among the people he loved, and who in turn held his name in benediction.
August 1, 1920, Father Walter Gorman was named third pastor of Saint Charles.
He was responsible for the opening of our parochial school in Saint Charles, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary arriving in 1928 to conduct the classes. Their consecrated lives and zeal in spreading the word of God deeply impressed the parishioners. The sisters served Saint Charles for forty-three years.
Father Walter Gorman was transferred to Saint Joseph's, Minooka, and from there he went to Saint Rose, Carbondale, where he was elevated the rank of Domestic Prelate by His Holiness Our Holy Father the Pope.
Father James Lynch succeeded Father Gorman in 1930. His dynamic love of God was reflected in his affection of the members of his congregation. After three years of dedicated service, Father Lynch peacefully passed into the Lord's presence while taking time out to rest on the rectory porch one summer afternoon. Saint Charles parishioners felt the loss of the great priest of God for a long time. Father Francis McNulty was appointed administrator until November, 1933 when Father Michael Sweeney was named Pastor. He gave his time and efforts to the training of the children of the parish. He saw fit to make renovations to the parish property during his stay. In 1941, shortly after he finished renovating the parish, he was transferred to Saint Mary's, Avoca.
Father James Houlihan, who served as an assistant pastor under Father Judge, returned in 1941 as pastor after serving in the United States Army for many years. Father remained in our parish for six years.
Father Joseph Hammond was appointed to Saint Charles Parish in June, 1947. During his stay the church steeple got a new look as a result of a mighty wind storm. In 1950 Father Hammond was transferred to Saint Leo's parish, Ashley. He became Monsignor Joseph Hammond shortly after. Father James Nolan followed Father Hammond and renovated the school property during his stay until 1956. Father Leo Granahan came to Saint Charles parish in 1956. During his stay he renovated the church and rectory. He will be remembered for his special interest in the parish altar boys.
In 1966 Father Leo Granahan was transferred to Saint Thomas Aquinas, Archbald and later became Monsignor Leo Granahan. Father Martin Roche replaced Fater(sic) Leo Granahan in 1966. It was God's will that Father Roche would only spend a short time serving our parish; however, he made an everlasting impression on his parishioners with his devotion and concern to all and his visitation to the sick and those in need. Father was called to this eternal reward in June, 1967.
Father Harry Lewis was appointed administrator until September of that year. Father Daniel A. McCarthy arrived as pastor to succeed Father Roche. Father has served our parish for the past twelve years and is presently working hard on our revovation(sic) program. It is difficult to do justice to all the great spiritual leaders who made up the history of Saint Charles parish the past one hundred years; however, we must not overlook the past generations of parishioners whose hard work and sacrifices are largely responsible for the success of our parish. It is our duty now to continue what they began so many years ago.
From the standpoint of history, Saint Charles Borromeo parish was and is blessed. Its most valuable asset has been and is a deeply rooted gift of faith. With this heritage Saint Charles Borromeo Parish enters into its Second Century. We intercede to our patron, Saint Charles Borromeo and to Saint Patrick, patron of many of our ancestors, to guide us."
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From St. Charles Borromeo's Centennial ProgramBack to Luzerne County Genweb
This Article was donated by Mary Clare K. Fedor.
©1997-2018 by Mary Ann Lubinsky for the PAGenWeb Project, and by Individual
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