The history of the Catholic Church in America is essentially a history of those European immigrants who came to this country possessing an inspiring dedication to their families, their faith, and their church. The history of our parish is just such a portrait, painted by the stories of Slovak Catholic families who left their homeland to make a new beginning in America.
Against tremendous odds, the immigrants maintained family bonds, traditions, and the deep faith in God which was rooted in their souls since the time of the ninth century Saints Cyril and Methodius, “the Apostles to the Slavs.” They came to America with their prayer books and rosaries, driven by a strong faith which told them that God was with them and would take care of them.
The Slovaks began to settle in this locality where many of the men worked in the cement mills or related industries. They came from towns such as Spis, Sarisa, Zemplina, and Trencina, and they settled in and around Egypt, Ormrod, and Cementon. They would travel on foot to attend church at St. Andrew’s (now Saint John Fisher) in North Catasauqua which was founded in 1902. Later they traveled on foot to Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Northampton after its founding in 1922. There were 56 Slovak families in the area of Egypt by the late 1920’s. Realizing the value of a unified religious community, the local Giant-Portland Cement Company generously permitted the Catholic families to use one of its buildings in lower Egypt as a place for Sunday Mass. Representatives of these families began to petition the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Dennis Cardinal Dougherty, by letter and personal visits to establish a Catholic parish in Egypt to care for their spiritual needs. In June 1928, Father Michael J. Holly was appointed by Cardinal Dougherty to found the new parish. Father Holly, born in Mahanoy City, PA, on March 13, 1898, was only five years ordained when he was appointed founding pastor. Father Holly lived in the rectory of St. Andrew’s in North Catasauqua and traveled to Egypt for Mass and to visit his families. The first collection amounted to $19.00.
Father Holly obtained the property at the corner of Main and Church Streets in February 1929. The home was built in 1880 by Eugene M. Long, a local businessman who owned the Egypt Hotel and a variety store on Main Street. The house and property were purchased for $24,000.00. Soon Mass began to be celebrated on the first floor, while the second floor was the pastor’s living quarters. On May 12, 1929, twenty-nine children received their First Holy Communion and five days later, Cardinal Dougherty visited and confirmed 29 boys and 25 girls. In that same year, 29 infants were baptized. These initial sacramental celebrations expressed the true identity of Holy Trinity Parish as a living, active community of faith.
Work began in June 1929 to renovate a barn located on the property. To save money, men of the parish dug the foundation and enlarged the building so that it could serve as the first church. The sacrifices of the parishioners were great. There were only sixty families and many donated far beyond their means to cover the $4,225.00 cost of renovation.
Father Holly was transferred to St. Mary’s Church, McAdoo on October 23, 1930, and Father John M. Matlos, a native of Treskow, PA, became Holy Trinity’s second pastor. During Father Matlos’ time several renovations to the church property were made, including the addition of a new church organ and bell. In the difficult post-depression days, Father Matlos proved an astute administrator, negotiating the transfer of the parish mortgage from a commercial bank loan to the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Union at a lower and more manageable rate of interest.
After nine years as pastor of Holy Trinity, Father Matlos was transferred to be pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, Saint Clair. Father Michael G. Ditsky was welcomed as the third pastor of Holy Trinity. He was to remain here for 36 years. Father Ditsky was born on September 29, 1903, in Lansford, PA. In the first six years of his pastorate, Father Ditsky cleared the parish of all its debt. He initiated renovations and improvements of the church, rectory, and grounds. The “modernization” included insulated siding, slate roofing, a new oil furnace, and new electric fixtures. New Stations of the Cross were added. Concrete sidewalks and paved parking areas made the property much more attractive. The families were united as one family in a strong spirit of community. On January 28, 1961, Pope John XXIII established the Diocese of Allentown, formed from the five northern counties of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Holy Trinity was now a part of a new diocese, shepherded by its own bishop, Joseph McShea, the first Bishop of Allentown.
Church membership continued to grow throughout the 1950’s. A fund was initiated to begin raising capital for a more adequate church building. The excavation for the new church began in September 1964, and the church was completed in May 1966 on the Feast of the Holy Trinity. Bishop McShea officiated at the dedication ceremony held on September 18, 1966. The original Church bell was moved from the old building to the Church sign on the rectory grounds. The corner stone of the new Church contains a time capsule with parish history and pictures. This information will be removed and shared with the parish community on the 100th Anniversary of the Church.
Father Ditsky was honored by his beloved parishioners at a testimonial dinner on June 6, 1971, in celebration of his 40th Anniversary of Ordination. Because of Father Ditsky’s declining health, Bishop McShea named Monsignor Raymond F. Merman administrator of the parish on August 19, 1975. Two months later, Father Ditsky was named Pastor Emeritus and Monsignor Merman, born in Philadelphia, PA, on December 11, 1934, became Holy Trinity’s fourth pastor.
In addition to being the pastor of Holy Trinity, Monsignor Merman was also the Judicial Vicar or Chief Judge of the Diocesan Tribunal. Because of this additional responsibility, it became common to have a priest-in-residence at Holy Trinity. The priest-in-residence has a primary assignment outside the parish but helps with the parish liturgies.
The nine years of Monsignor Merman’s pastorate were a time of growth in many areas of parish life. The C.C.D. program was expanded through the dedicated teaching of many parish volunteers. The Bicentennial Year, 1976, was marked by a variety of parish events culminating in a star spangled parish picnic on July 18. The following year, Holy Trinity observed a milestone in its history – the celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the founding of the Parish. The Golden Jubilee began on July 17 with the parish picnic. The Anniversary Year concluded with the Golden Jubilee Mass celebrated by Bishop McShea on May 21, 1978 and the Anniversary Banquet on June 11.
The liturgical ministry of cantor was initiated at the Sunday Masses and the Liturgy Planning Committee was formed in the fall of 1979.
Bishop Thomas J. Welsh was named the second Bishop of Allentown in March 1983. Bishop McShea retired but remained active in the diocese as his health allowed. Bishop McShea passed away on November 28, 1991.
In order to address the needs of the young people of our parish, a Parish Youth Group was formed in September 1983. The group is open to all high school students of the parish and continues to be a dynamic part of life at Holy Trinity through educational, service, and social events. One of their service projects was to serve at the Ecumenical Soup Kitchen. Also in September 1983, Christ the King School (CTK), a regional Catholic elementary school for St. John the Baptist, Whitehall, St. Peter, Coplay, and Holy Trinity Parishes, was established. CTK was a model school, acclaimed for its excellence in Catholic education, and received full accreditation from the Middle Atlantic States Association in 1993.
Monsignor Merman was named pastor of St. Theresa Church, Hellertown in December 1984, and Monsignor Aloysius R. Callaghan became Holy Trinity’s fifth pastor and the Diocesan Judicial Vicar. Monsignor Callaghan, a native of Heckscherville, PA, held several positions in the administration of the diocese prior to his appointment as pastor. Monsignor Callaghan introduced the parishioners to a number of clergy from around the world who visited Whitehall – all Monsignor’s friends from his days as a student in Rome. He was especially dedicated to the increase of priestly vocations, devotion to Mary, and fostering the involvement of younger couples in parish life.
After only 18 months as pastor, Monsignor Callaghan received an appointment to a curial office at the Vatican where he was in the service of the Holy Father and the universal church. In July 1986, Monsignor Callaghan was succeeded by Father Ronald W. Gainer, a native of Pottsville, PA, born on August 24, 1947. Father Gainer became Holy Trinity’s sixth pastor. He also served as the Judicial Vicar of the Diocesan Tribunal. The Kids Praise Too! program was established in August 1986. This week-long summer program had become an annual celebration of learning, music, crafts, and praise for the youngsters of the parish. The First Annual Parish Yard and Garage Sale was held in September 1986, and was a great success. The Pre-School Religious Education program began on December 7, 1986, and was held weekly during the ten o’clock Sunday Mass. The parish started Bible Study programs, Seniors in Action and Pierogie making.
Through the tremendous efforts of many parishioners, the Holy Trinity Parish Picnic was revived in July 1987. The picnic was a complete success and continues to be the principal parish fundraiser and unifying event each year. The first group of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion was installed in September 1987. These women and men distribute Holy Communion within Mass and also to home-bound parishioners. Holy Trinity welcomed the first permanent Deacon who was assigned to the parish in December 1987. Deacon Eugene Wyrwa was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate on October 19, 1982; he was part of the first Diocesan graduating class of permanent deacons and he exercised his diaconal ministry through preaching, teaching, and serving the parish. Deacon Gene retired from active ministry after 34 years of service in March 2016; he will be sorely missed in his role as Deacon, but continues to be an active member of the parish family. A new ecumenical experience began in January 1988, with the Interchurch Study Series. Members of Egypt UCC Church, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church and Holy Trinity gathered to study some of our differences as Christian Churches. This annual three-week program which focused on a particular theme met for several years and was an enriching experience for all parties.
In July 1988, two important positions were added to the parish staff. The Director of Religious Education oversees the teaching of the parish religious education program. The Director of Music conducts the Senior Adult Choir and the Youth Choir (now CrossFire), directs the cantors, and participates in the preparation of parish liturgies. In the fall of 1988, the parish community began to implement the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), the process through which we welcome new members to the Catholic Church through Baptism or acceptance into full communion.
The first Parish Weekend Retreat was held in March 1991 followed by a second retreat in February 1992. These “weekends apart” provided parishioners opportunities to focus on their relationship with the Lord and with one another in the community of faith.
A Parish Finance Council was formed during the summer of 1991 and met for the first time on October 2, 1991. This council of nine parishioners meets quarterly, advises the pastor on the parish finances, approves the annual financial report and budget, and aids in the general financial planning for the parish.
In October 1991, Bishop Welsh announced that Father Gainer had been named a monsignor by Pope John Paul II. He was formally invested at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena on December 22, 1991 along with seven other priests of the diocese.
Two projects in 1993 involved major external improvements. The retaining wall along the South Church Street property line was removed and the land was excavated and landscaped. New sidewalks and a new walk to the rectory were installed. The work was dubbed “The Jericho Project” and not only did “the wall come tumbling down” but the property took on a new and more attractive appearance. In August 1993, a 40-year lease was signed with Egypt UCC Church for the use of 1.5 acres of the field adjacent to Holy Trinity’s property for the development of a greatly needed parking lot. This long-time dream was realized after much hard work on the part of both churches.
Holy Trinity had grown from a parish of 321 families to one of almost 600 families between the years of 1988-1994. The many housing developments within parish boundaries indicated that the growth would continue for the foreseeable future.
After reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75, Bishop Thomas J. Welsh resigned as Bishop of Allentown in December 1997. Bishop Edward P. Cullen, an Auxiliary Bishop in Philadelphia, PA, was installed as the Diocese of Allentown’s third bishop in February 1998.
Monsignor Gainer was named Secretary of Catholic Life and Evangelization for the Diocese of Allentown in January 1999 after serving as pastor for twelve years; he also continued as the Judicial Vicar of the Diocesan Tribunal. On February 22, 2003, he was ordained to the episcopacy and installed as the second Bishop of Lexington, Kentucky. It was a proud day for Holy Trinity Church and the Diocese of Allentown. (In March 2014 he was installed as the eleventh Bishop of Harrisburg, PA.)
With Monsignor Gainer moving on to his new assignment, Father Thomas D. Baddick, became Holy Trinity’s seventh pastor in January 1999. He was born July 30, 1955, and is a native of Tamaqua, PA. Father Tom energized the rapidly growing parish of over 760 families inviting us to share time, treasure, and talent to meet the needs of our parish family. We added Clean Teams, Palm Strippers, Basket Party workers, Contemporary Choir, Handbell, and Handchimes Choirs. Deacon Michael Laroche, ordained to the Permanent Diaconate on May 20, 1995, joined our parish staff in June 1999 and continues to serve the parish in various ministries.
Father Baddick led Holy Trinity in celebrating another hallmark in our history, the Seventy-Fifth Diamond Jubilee of the Parish in 2003. Father Baddick was transferred to Notre Dame of Bethlehem Parish after serving Holy Trinity for eight years.
Father Thomas A. Derzack became Holy Trinity’s eighth pastor in March 2007. He was born April 14, 1949 and is a native of Coaldale, PA. This new Father Tom and the former Father Tom were both announced as Chaplains to Pope Benedict XVI on February 11, 2008 with the title of Reverend Monsignor.
Bishop Thomas Welsh died in February 2009. When Bishop Edward Cullen retired in May 2009, Bishop John O. Barres, a priest from the Diocese of Wilmington, DE, was appointed the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Allentown.
After two short years, Monsignor Derzack was transferred to Our Lady of Good Counsel in Bangor. Currently he is Pastor of St. Nicholas, Walnutport.
We welcomed Monsignor Daniel J. Yenushosky as Holy Trinity’s ninth pastor in June 2009; he was born on August 28, 1951, and is a native of Tamaqua, PA. He is also the Vicar Forane (Dean) of the Lehigh Deanery in the Diocese of Allentown. In residence, as of this writing (2018), is Monsignor David L. James, the Vicar General of the Diocese.
Christ the King School closed its doors in June 2011 and a new regional school was formed. Good Shepherd Catholic School opened its doors for the 2011/2012 school year. This new regional school was comprised of students from six parishes: Assumption B.V.M, Northampton; St. John Fisher, North Catasauqua; St. John the Baptist, Whitehall; St. Peter, Coplay; Queenship of Mary, Northampton; and Holy Trinity, Whitehall.
The Religious Education program (PREP program) combined with St. Peter Church, Coplay and St. John the Baptist Church, Whitehall (Stiles) to form Holy Apostles PREP program in 2013. Students in grades 1 through 8 come together in the former Christ the King primary building in Stiles from September through April for this program of religious formation.
Under Monsignor Dan’s leadership some large capital improvements have been made to our church building. In 2015 the church was renovated in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of the construction of the present church building. An elevator and handicapped restroom was installed to better serve our parishioners and visitors with special needs in the following year. Additionally, the roof was replaced and the steeple repainted.
In January 2017, Bishop John Barres was transferred to the Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY, and one of our own native sons from the Lehigh Valley, Bishop Alfred A. Schlert was named the Diocese of Allentown’s fifth bishop.
The parish now with 1,000 families celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2018. Our new Pastoral Council was formed in 2017 and is active in its role of assisting the pastor in accomplishing the mission of the parish. A Woman’s Bible Study, the Munchkin Music Program (movement and music for children ages two through five), and a Greeter Ministry to welcome parishioners and visitors to Mass was also established.
Holy Trinity continues its commitment to feed the poor, not only in participation in the Ecumenical Soup Kitchen in Allentown, but by collecting food, and donating it weekly to area food banks and participating in the local Hunger Initiative Program.
In conjunction with the parish’s 90th Anniversary, a pilgrimage to Lourdes and Fatima was conducted in October 2018, with our pastor, Monsignor Dan, as the spiritual director.
Deacon Art Chin-Fatt was assigned to the parish in June 2018 following his return to the Diocese from Texas where he worked for many years. He was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate on May 20, 1995 while an active parishioner at Holy Trinity.
Zachary Wehr, son of Kathleen and Dennis Wehr, was ordained a Transitional Deacon in May 2018. Father Brendon Laroche, son of Wilhelmina and Deacon Mike Laroche, was ordained a priest in June 2015. His first priestly assignment was at Holy Infancy Church in Bethlehem. In 2018, Tyler Loch, son of Maria and Daniel Loch, was accepted as a candidate for the priesthood for the Diocese of Allentown and will prepare for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia. The Holy Trinity family is proud of them and those who may be contemplating a vocation to the priesthood and religious life.
As a community of faith, the parish’s mission has been and continues to be “…bringing people to Jesus Christ through the proclamation of the Word, the celebration of the sacraments and service to the community.” May the Blessed Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God and Mother of the Church assist the parish in fulfilling this noble mission. May the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be praised, now and forever!
Msgr. Daniel J. Yenushosky, Pastor