A Parish is more than tile buildings that comprise its plant. It is rather the people that make up the worshipping Community of the People of God that give life to the family of the Parish.
St. John Nepomucene Parish was founded by Slovaks from Slovakia, in Central Europe, who wished to band together, in their new land. They wished to have a center to worship God and have a place for getting together. After meeting together in the Parish of St. Bridget on Avenue B in lower Manhattan, from about 1891, the Slovaks, having formed the Society of St. Matthew, decided to start their own Parish.
With the approval of Archbishop Corrigan, on October 25, 1895, the First Mass was offered in the new St. John Church, on East 4th Street. The Reverend Francis Pribyl was the first Pastor. The life of the new Slovak Parish was beginning.
New ventures are always beset with difficulties; - our new parish was no exception. The scattered groups, that comprised the parish, the poverty of the nearly arrived immigrants, the difficulty of obtaining a resident Slovak speaking priest, caused sloes grouch of St. John's. During the first 13 years over 15 priests served the parish.
With the pastorate of the Reverend Anthony Berhely in 1908, the Pariah began to move forward. Seeing the need of a larger Church, and one more centrally located, with the cooperation of the people, he purchased a new location for the Church on East 57th Street.
Father Berhely was succeeded in 1914 by the Reverend John Kropac. In a short time, he was able to make further progress in the growth of the parish. However, death took Father Kropac suddenly in February 1916.
The Reverend Stephen J, Krasula was installed as Pastor on March 12, 1916. He was tile First American educated and ordained priest to serve the Parish. Stephen J. Krasula was born in Slovakia in 1887. He came to the United States as a young man of 20. After finishing his course of studies in the Seminary of St. Joseph in Yonkers, N.Y., he was ordained on June 7th, 1914. From this we can see that he began his pastorate as a very young priest.
Father Krasula's dedication and zeal for his people, more than compensated for his age. He began home to home visitations of all the Slovaks. He began organizing the Societies which helped the spiritual and social life of the people.
The Third Order of St. Francis, The Rosary Society, the Holy Name Society, were not only responsible for the spiritual development of the people, but were able to work as a unit to promote the cultural and social life of the parish. With tile impetus given by Father Krasula, and the whole-hearted cooperation on the part of the people, the number of recur parishioners grew by leaps and bounds.
In 1918, the parish was in need of having an assistant priest in the person of Reverend Andrew J. Novajovsky. The Reverend Fathers Andrew J. Dzijacky, Stephen Seccor, Francis Spillar, and Joseph A. Damin, also were zealous associates who contributed to the family of St, John's. One of the parish sons, the Reverend John Neceda, was an assistant for 30 years; Reverend John Lissie assisted for 19 years. The Reverend Robert J. Tomlian is now Associate Pastor for the 18th year, while the Reverend Ladislav Janovic, newly arrived from Slovakia, via Rome, began his association with us this past July. Reverend George Torok has been a priest in residence since January 1968. He now denotes himself to the productions of Catholic Catechetical Audio vision films.
As the population again was moving further uptown, it seemed advisable to relocate the Church. In addition, a larger Church was needed. Property was purchased on First Avenue and 66th Street, and the present Church, Rectory, and School were build. The new Romanesque Church was dedicated by Cardinal Hayes on May 30, 1925, and thus our Parish had long way from the little Church on 4th Street.
Since a Pastor and his Parish are always closely related, the events in the life of Father Krasula may be considered as history of his Parish. In 1930, the Pastor was named a Monsignor, in recognition of his accomplishments and the worth of his Parish. In 1937, he was given the rank of Right Reverend Monsignor and named a Prothonotary Apostolic in 1963.
Events in the world affect everyone. St.John’s had over 800 men serving in the Armed Forces during World War II. Immediately after the War, St.John’s became a center for the aid to Slovaks Displaced by the War in Europe.
The beauty of St. John’s Church was enhanced by a new marble Altar and Baldachinno erected in 1956. At the same time, a new Organ was installed to improve the liturgical services. All this is a beautiful tribute to the deep faith and generosity of the thousands of the faithful who regarded St. John’s as their Parish and Monsignor Krasula as their Pastor for 52 years.
Due to his advanced age, Monsignor retired September 1, 1968, and lived at the Mary Manning Walsh Home until his death on March 14, 1970.
On June 17, 1967, the Reverend Stephen J. Hudacedk began his appointment as an Associate Pastor of our Parish. Upon Monsignor Krasula’s retirement from an active pastorate, Father Hudacek, at the request of His Eminence, Terence Cardinal Cooke, D.D., succeeded him as Pastor on September 14, 1968. He was solemnly installed by His Excellency the Most Reverend Philip Furlong, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop of New York, November 17, 1968.
On Sunday, October 10, 1971, Father Hudacek received happy news from His Eminence Terence Cardinal Cooke that he was elevated by the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI to the dignity of Reverend Monsignor. It was the most joyous news at the conclusion of our Diamond Jubilee year, for which we are most grateful.
Msgr. Hudacek was born in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, on June 24, 1907. he graduated from Holy Trinity Parochial School in Yonkers, New York, June 1922. He completed his courses of study at St. Procopius Academy and College, Lisle, Illinois, 1923-1929. He entered St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, New York, in the Fall of 1929, and after having successfully completed his studies of Philosophy and Theology, he was ordained to the holy priesthood June 8, 1935 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral by His Eminence, Patrick Cardinal Hayes, D.D. His first assignment was a curate to the Church of Sacred Heart on West 51st Street in Manhattan. In the Fall of 1936, he was reappointed as a curate to the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Yonkers, New York, and continued in his assignment there until his reassignment to our parish in the summer of 1967.
Life at St. John’s goes on, in the true spirit of the Church and People of God. Times, neighborhoods, conditions have changed to scatter the people more and more. However, this is still the Slovak Parish fro New York City. Msgr. Hudacek had the rectory enlarged and provided some needed parking facilities alongside the Church. To make it possible to carry out the liturgical Reforms of Vatican II, a new Altar was erected in the Church. This Altar, which is being consecrated today, as we conclude the 75th year of ths Parish, is a Memorial to Monsignor Krasula.
With the dedication of this Altar, St. John’s Parish begins its 76th year, looking to the future, to be of service to the People of God for many years to come.
May Christ, the Good Shepherd, bless and reward all those who have been associated with this parish in the past 75 years, and those who shall continue their association with our parish down through future years.