DuBOIS — The former St. Joseph Church in DuBois was a natural fit for the new owner, the congregation of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church.
In addition to the structure being more accessible for members, Father Mark Meholick of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church said he liked the location and architecture.
“The location was an important factor when making the decision to buy it,” said Meholick. “People know where it is. You can see it from all over, and it’s between the hospital, and of course St. Catherine’s Church, which is also easy to spot with the tall spire.”
Inside the new St. Nicholas Church, there’s an apse, which is usually a main feature at an Orthodox church, said Meholick.
“That’s (apse) a concave recess,” said Meholick. “It’s like a half dome and it’s over the altar, and there’s certain iconography that goes up into those. There’s usually an icon of the Virgin Mary and Jesus in the middle, and it’s a beautiful icon, and it’s perfect for that once we get the repairs where things were.”
The former St. Joseph Church had an old, gothic altar, with three steps going up to it, and St. Nicholas is taking those steps out.
“The gothic altar has been removed,” said Meholick. “We don’t use that type so the Roman Catholic diocese removed that. We need to repair the wall, and there’s some other things that were behind there. There were some pipes and wiring that need to be repositioned, and then we’re going to be, basically taking the old flooring out, and then underneath that we discovered there’s a nice pine wood floor, which we’ll refinish. We’ll build a new icon screen and put some icons in there.”
Meholick said they will be able to install the icons in the new church pretty quickly. An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, in the cultures of the Orthodox Church.
“I did take one of St. Joseph already over there, because I know when we get more parishioners there to come visit, they’ll get to see that St. Joseph is not being bumped out,” said Meholick. “He’s still the protector of that church, and even though we’re the St. Nicholas community, I just happened to have a nice icon that’s a large one. We’re going to fit it to one of the alcoves in the church, so that’s nice.”
Meholick said St. Nicholas will be receiving icons for the entire icon screen in their new church building. The Orthodox church uses iconography, which have been painted by Meholick, to depict the saints or Jesus, the Virgin Mary holding him, and other saints, and the events the Old and New Testament.
In the late 1990s, Meholick said he painted an icon screen for a church in Boswell, Pennsylvania after a fire. Later, that same church closed, but they took the icons out before the building was torn down. The priest is giving the icons back to Meholick to be used in the new St. Nicholas Church in DuBois.
“We’ll design the icon screens around these icons,” said Meholick. “There’s plenty of room. It’s a nice, big area there, so we can make a very nice architectural icon screen, utilizing the icons. It will save me several years of painting.”
Meholick said icons are very important to the Orthodox church because they represent the presence of Christ and the Saints.
“It reminds us that our goal is to be in the Kingdom of Heaven, and that we don’t have to wait to join the Virgin Mary and the Saints, and worshiping God. We can do that on Earth, and the icons are like a witness that the church is triumphant,” he said. “Those who’ve gone before us, and then we’re called by St. Paul, the militant where we are still working here and trying to live a good life, and trying to love our neighbor as ourself, so that we can attain the Kingdom of Heaven too.”
In the early times, Meholick said it was helpful because not everyone could read.
“They didn’t have printing presses, so you maybe you’d have a copy of the New Testament and you had an Epistle book. Those were read in the churches like they still are. That’s where you heard The Bible. That’s where you heard the gospel,” said Meholick. “Then you could look around and see some illustrations of it on the wall, what’s going on. That was pretty nice.”
The new St. Nicholas Church is also about three times larger than their current church located on Third Street in DuBois.
“It looks like you could easily put 500 people in there,” said Meholick about their new church. “It will hold quite a few, we won’t have to worry.”
The St. Nicholas Church has approximately 55 members currently.
“We’re hoping to grow some more,” said Meholick.