HISTORY OF ST. NICHOLAS PARISH
The beginnings of St. Nicholas parish began at St. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in 1904. Soon after the establishment of that parish the members decided they would be come Greek Catholic. This decision was not unanimous and families such as the Grega's, Kopcha's and Guba's felt alienated from their Orthodox roots.
In Cohoes, in 1908, a branch of the Russian Brotherhood Organization of America already existed at St. Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church. In a few years, this group took the name of St. Basil the Great, and many of our people joined. They began to feel their own identity as Russian Orthodox, and they dreamed of their own Orthodox church and parish. Many years would pass before this dream could materialize.
In 1910, independent of the brotherhood movement, our people organized a "Reading Society" in memory of Michael Kachlovsky. This Society met in the home of an elder parishioner at 14 Sargent Street. It was there, within the Reading Society, that a strong movement developed to establish an Orthodox parish in Cohoes. This society proved to be the noble seed from which grew the powerful tree of our glorious St. Nicholas Orthodox Church and parish. The Reading Society was often visited by the late Very Reverend Michael Fekula, whose recommendations and advice were of great value.
In 1913, out of the membership of the Reading Society, the Brotherhood of St. Archdeacon Stephen was organized (Chapter #148, of the Russian Orthodox Catholic Mutual Aid Society, Wilkes-Barre, PA. On January 4, 1914, the members of the Reading Society and the newly formed St. Archdeacon Stephen Brotherhood passed a resolution to request that Metropolitan Platon, Bishop of the American mission diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, send a priest to Cohoes to celebrate the Divine Liturgy.
The first Divine Liturgy in Cohoes was celebrated on January 18th, 1914, in the hall of the Manufacturers Bank building on Remsen Street by Fr. Peter Kohanik. The large attendance at this first service provided faith, hope, and moral strength with which to continue 'in the efforts of establishing a parish. In the latter part of 1914, the members of the Brotherhood of St. Archdeacon Stephen, the Brotherhood of St. Basil the Great, and the Reading Society, all met and resolved to establish their own Russian Orthodox Parish; it was further resolved to petition Metropolitan Platon to assign them a permanent priest. The request was granted and Fr. Paul Filipovsky was appointed Rector. A hall in the Buchanan Bank Building was rented where services could be conducted. During this time, the Sisterhood of the Protection of the Holy Virgin was organized.
Soon after this, property was purchased at 65-69 Saratoga Street, for $7000. In the Spring of 1915, construction of a church was begun. This was a modest structure that was erected by the parishioners themselves in three months. By July 'services were already being held, in the new building. Within a year, Archbishop Evdokim was invited to dedicate the church in memory of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. The rector at this time was Fr. Peter Karel.
Since those early years, the following have all served St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Cohoes, New York, as Pastors and as Presidents of the Parish Council.
Rev. Paul Filipovsky
Rev. Peter Karel
Rev. Gregory Varhol
Rev. Nikita Borisoff
Rev. Paul Raskazoff
Rev. Kosma Gorbacheff
Rev. Theodore Chepeleff
Lu ka Patrician
Alexander P. Grega
Rev. Igumen F. Kulchitsky
Rev. Vladimir Shymansky
Rev. Vladimir Shymansky
Very Rev. John Krochmalny
Rev. Gregory Stefchak
Anthony A. Gel~ta
Rev. Constantine Kulmatitsky
Rev. Basil Stroyen
Anthony A. Geleta
Rev. Gregory Popoff
Very Rev. Theodore Kiryluk
John Guba, Sr.
Very Rev. Theodore Kiryluk
Very Rev. Eugene Serebrennikoff
Peter A. Geleta
John Walko, Sr.
Very Rev. Leo Silkin
John Guba, Sr.
Rev. Paul J. Pascavage
Stephen Mack, Sr.
Stephen Macyowski, Sr.
Peter J. Geleta
John Guba, Jr.
Very Rev. Igor Burdikoff
John Guba, Jr.
Fr. Budikoff/Rev.Jacob Kulp
Peter J. Geleta
John Guba, Jr.
Fr. Kulp/Rev. Alvian Smirensky
Peter J. Geleta
Rev. Daniel Pavelchak
Rev. Roman Shak
Rev. Daniel Pavelchak
Rev. Yaroslav Stebelsky
Rev. Daniel Pavelchak
Rev. Terenti Wasielewski
In 1925, under the unique guidance of Fr. Vladimir Shymansky, the sum of $650 was allocated from the treasury of the Carpatho Russian Club, and a concrete block hall was erected. In 1926, Fr. Shymansky served the parish, not only as rector, but as President. (Long after having left St. Nicholas Church, in 1963, our own Fr. Vladimir was elevated to the episcopate as "Bishop Peter." Unfortunately, his episcopacy was short-lived, only three months).
In 1928, with Father John Krochmalny as Rector, another milestone was reached. A parish cemetery was acquired, on route nine, in Boght Corners. There have been many improvements on the cemetery property: a chapel has been built there, and much work has been done in landscaping.
In 1930 a Russian Youth Club was organized and affiliated itself with the Federated Russian Orthodox Clubs. It has always been known as the Cohoes "R"Club, Chapter #57. Members of the "R" Club are engaged in various Church activities, and many of them are members of the Parish Council and the Choir. The "R" Club has made many contributions to the Church: the stained glass window in the front of the church, the tables and chairs for Sunday School classes, and a candelabra for the Altar, are just a few among the many contriburtions.
In 1935, while Father Kulmatitsky was Pastor, a collection of funds was started for new church building. A new and larger edifice was necessary. Two years later a Building Fund Committee was elected: Peter A. Geleta, John Walco, Sr., and Dimitri Wattsman. Once construction was underway, Stephen Macyowskie, Sr., was added to the committee. Raising of funds : continued until arrival of Fr. Theodore Kiryluk, in December of 1938. Together with members of the building committee he . visited the homes of the parishioners, and in the Summer of 1941, it was decided to start erecting a new church. Work was started on dismantling the old church in September 1941, with parishioners doing most of the work themselves.
In the midst of construction, a new test was put before the parishioners. The building contractor went bankrupt, making it necessary for the parishioners themselves to complete construction. Only G9d knows of the anxiety, troubles, and distress that fell upon the shoulders of Fr. Kiryluk and his small group of co-workers--the building committee. Also, building materials were becoming increasingly scarce due to World War II, and funds were not too plentiful. However, God's work did not cease, and construction was successfully completed. Standing today is a magnificent temple of God, with five cupolas, each surmounted by the Holy Orthodox Cross.
The church is an impressive edifice, built of yellow tapestry brick. The huge stained glass windows, with icons of Russian Style, were donated by church organizations as well as individual parishioners and their families and friends. A new iconostasis was also needed. A pious woman from our parish took it upon herself to journey to Yonkers, New York, where a new iconostasis was being installed, and asked the parishioners there to sell their old iconostasis to our parish. The generous parishioners of Holy Trinity Church, Yonkers, made an outright donation of the iconostasis to our parish, for which our parishioners are deeply grateful. The woman was responsible for the acquisition of the iconostasis paid the cost of transporting it to Cohoes. During the period of construction, services were conducted at the G & G Potato Chip Company on Saratoga and Ontario Streets, where the Orthodox Christian Association is now located.
By Thanksgiving Day, 1943, building had progressed to the point that services could be held there for the first time. After eight years of struggle and many adversities overcome by faith and tenacity, the members of St. Nicholas Church gave thanks to God for sustaining and rewarding their work together. Fr. Kiryluk, along with neighboring clergy, served the first Divine Liturgy on that day.
Honor and praise are due all the founders, contributors, and parishioners for their labors and donations which erected our marvelous church building. For his untiring, continuous, and boundless efforts, which furthered the realization of a new church, much deserved honor and praise are accorded to the late, Very Reverend Theodore Kiryluk, We bow our heads, in memory and gratitude, before his untimely grave. May his memory be eternal!
In 1948, a Junior Division of the Cohoes, "R" Club was formed. "The Juniors" help out at Church affairs and make contributions to the Church, such as a stainless steel bulletin board purchased as a result of their efforts.
In September 1949, the Very Reverend Eugene Serebrennikoff conducted his first Divine Liturgy in the St. Nicholas Church. One of his first accomplishment was the establishment of a regular Russian School. He had approximately 60 pupils in attendance regularly. They received religious instructions and were taught the Russian language.
Fr. Eugene was an experienced choirmaster with a great appreciation for Church Choral music. He devoted many hours at choir rehearsals, and the beauty of the singing at Divine Liturgy gave evidence of the progress made by the choir. Members of the choir organized a "Choir Circle," and now have a membership of approximately 40 persons.
During the 1950's many side paintings were donated by parishioners. On the women's side (north side) starting from the iconstasis and working back: Protection (Pokrov) donated by Anna and Stephan Matala; Transfiguration donated by Arkim Danisuk and John Kravchuk; Sts Vladimir and Olga, donated by John and Anna Guba and Family; Christ in the Garden donated by Washenko Family. On the men's side (south side) starting from the iconostatis and working back: St. George donated by William Sr., William Jr., Allan and George Hodges; ? donated by Mefodi and Maxim Sevchik, Terenti Kovachuk and ? Gadamshuk; Sts Cyril and Methodius donated by Stefan and Ann Matsyovsky (Macy) and St. Demetrius donated by John and Ellen Guba. The ceiling was adorned with paintings of angels, The Trinity, Crucifixion, etc. They were not signed and were attributed to Matushka Sereberenikoff. (These paintings were taken down in August of 2013 and replaced with traditional icons)
Mention must be made of Anthony A. Geleta. From the founding of our parish, not only did he serve in the capacity of choir director and psalmist, but he served as president and secretary of the Parish Council on more than one occasion. He was also a member of the Board of Trustees for many years. Memory eternal!
Following in the footsteps of his eminent father, Mr. Ronald Geleta served the parish as choir director for many years, setting a standard of reliability and attention to detail that has been the hallmark of all of his activities on behalf of the church.
Special recognition should also be accorded to Matushka Serebrennikoff for her untiring efforts in the Ladies Altar Guild.
Fr. Eugene and Matushka were responsible for the organization of the Guild. In a comparatively short time the Altar Guild donated many valuable gifts to the church: numerous sets of vestments for the priest and the altar boys, urns for the Holy Water, a Processional Cross, a Plaschanitza, and seven-day candle stand are but a few of the gifts donated. Most recently, the Altar Guild has donated all of the funds needed for the interior painting of the church.
In 1952, a Sunday School was instituted by Fr. Eugene, whereby children received instructions in catechism and prayers. When the Sunday School was first instituted the "R" Club donated all of the Sunday School material that was necessary. Also, many "R" Club members served as Sunday School teachers.
In 1952 a group of parishioners banded together and formed an organization which was later incorporated and is now known as the Orthodox Christian Association. The facilities as "the Club" are always available for all Church sponsored functions. The "OCA" has donated thousands of dollars to the church, in funds and gifts, including the Altar table and Table of Oblation, gold icon frames, and the Terapod along with its candelabra.
In 1954, as the result of continuous support by the parishioners, wise and capable administration by the Parish Council (of which John Wasenko was then president) working with the full cooperation of Fr. Eugene Serebrennikoff, the outstanding debt for the building of the new church was paid off. The hall under the church was finished, repairs to the cemetery and parish property were made, the interior of the church was painted, and new pews were installed.
On September 19th, 1954, at the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Cohoes, the new church was consecrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Leonty. The project that had begun with the collection of funds in 1935 was completed, after almost twenty years of work and sacrifice to the Glory of God.
Quite active in parish affairs was a one-woman institution of long standing service by the name of Mrs. Mary White. She too was one of the shining stars of our parish history. (Mrs. White passed in July 2001). May her memory be eternal.
In 1963, property across the street from the church was purchased for a parking lot, a temporary rectory was purchased at 32 Elizabeth Court, and the old rectory and hall was torn down. In July of the following year construction of a new rectory, to the North side of the church building, was begun, with John Walko as Chairman of the building committee. Once again, before the building was completed, the construction company went into bankruptcy! Alexander Oreshan was hired to complete the project. In September of 1967, Metropolitan Ireney blessed the new parish home after a Hierarchal Divine Liturgy.
Fr. Paul Pascavage, then pastor of St. Nicholas, was singularly honored by Metropolitan Ireney on that occasion. Only five years after his ordination he was presented with the "Kamilavka;" an honor ordinarily reserved for priests of three of four times his years of service to God as a priest. More than a decade would follow until Fr. Paul fell asleep in the Lord in 1978, much beloved and still mourned by the flock he had long guided with kindness and understanding.
In 1973 eight acres were purchased top the South side of the Cemetery property in Colonie, with an eye toward the possible future needs of the parish. With proposal of Interstate Arterial 787, and during its actual construction, it long seemed that relocation of our church building was essential and coming soon. Once actual construction was nearly complete, though, our actual circumstances at 67 Saratoga Street had, unexpectedly, been improved. Popular support for relocation evaporated overnight, and commitment to repair and restoration has begun to develop.
In commemoration of our 75th Anniversary in 1989, the interior of the church was repainted by donation of the Altar Guild. The Parish Council has had the woodwork of the church and rectory repainted. New carpet was installed in the Vestibule, and the cupolas repaired and painted.
In 1991 the domes on the church were repaired and painted blue during the time of Fr. Jacob Kulp. Originally they were silver-colored. During this time the façade of the church was cracked. New masonry was provided to insure a sound structure.
Shortly thereafter, under the leadership of Fr. Daniel Pavelchak donations for new icons came forth. The icon of the Resurrection, St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great, St Herman of Alaska and St. Innocent of Irkusk were installed behind the altar. St. Nicholas, Sts. Peter and Paul and the Holy Unmercenaries were installed on the back walls. Eight new American saints were installed on the upper walls. Bp. Peter blessed the new icons which were written by Nicholas Bobrovsky from Pittsfield, Mass.
Around 1994, Peter Geleta, the parish’s president suffered a stroke and could not continue. Joseph Talar became president and remained president until his retirement in 2008 to sunny California.
In 1997, the property was purchased adjacent to the south side of the church. The house was demolished and plans were made to built a hall.
Ms. Victoria Serbalik assumed the presidency in 2008 and in January 27, 2008 our deacon, Fr. Terenti Wasielewski was ordained to the priesthood and now serves as our priest. Committees were set up for bylaw changes and relocation of the church to the cemetery. New bylaws were adopted and decision to remain at 67 Saratoga St. was determined to be the best route due to costs for a new church.
Mr. Gregory Walko became president in July 2012. Plans are underway for a 100 year celebration. Cupolas are in the process of being restored, a new bell system and air conditioning system was installed. Plans for a new carpet and painting of the church will occur.