History of Saints Peter & Paul Church
Over a century ago, people from the Carpathian Mountain region of, what was then, Austria-Hungary began coming to America seeking improvement in their earthly lives. Those that settled in the village of Mt. Hope near Rockaway quickly found work and gained economic stability. However, they quickly felt "hunger pains" of a spiritual nature and by 1907 banded together to form a parish.
In 1925 the congregation formally incorporated itself and set to the task of building a house of worship. Construction quickly ensued and the parish church was completed in 1928. The first permanent pastor was Father Eugene Volkay. Father Alexander Ulitsky assumed pastorship in 1936 and saw the acquisition of land and establishment of a Parish Cemetery in nearby Randolph Township in the year 1938.
By 1944, one of the first graduates of our Diocesan Seminary, the Very Reverend Protopresbyter John I. Dolhy, was appointed as the pastor by Bishop Orestes (+1977). During Father John's energetic tenure, the church choir was re-organized, an ACRY Chapter was established and formal religious education classes begun. Soon after Fr. John's arrival, a house adjacent to the property was purchased and he became the first priest to take residence in the new parish rectory.
The Very Reverend Father Stephen Skasko (+1992) served the parish from 1952 until 1978. During that time the church's interior was beautifully decorated by Michael Kupets, tragically, the last work of this talented artist before his death in 1964. In 1972 the parish family was able to acquire in excess of 12 acres of adjoining woodland in the hope of building a parish hall.
In 1978, Father Michael Kleban was assigned to the parish. Finally, after years of effort and anticipation, the parish hall was completed, along with the expansion of the existing church building in 1984. Four years later, in the spring of 1988, the faithful of SS Peter and Paul Church experiences the thrilling and spiritually uplifting restoration of the entire church interior, icons and iconostasis in time for the celebration of Pascha. Not long thereafter, the mortgage incurred for the building projects was amortized and burned.
Father Stephen Krivonak arrived in the parish in 1991,. During his tenure, the parish saw growth in converts and people seeking the True Faith. Adult Education classes were conducted on a larger level and the Sunday School program was expanded.
In 1996, the parish witnessed first-hand the ordination of Father Deacon Paul F. Stoll to the priesthood. He was assigned to minister to the parish by Bishop Nicholas. During Fr. Paul's time at the church, more converts were added to the family and the parish was blessed with many births and baptisms.
The newly-ordained Father Michael T. Chendorain arrived in the Fall of 2002. Upon his arrival the parish undertook the task of completely renovating the parish rectory, both inside and out. Adult education classes were augmented, the Parish Sunday School Program re-organized and additional liturgical services were added on a weekly basis. The parish agreed in 2003 to start a 5 year, $100K capital renovation program for the purpose of completely renovating the church interior. With the advent of 2005, the parish saw fit to eliminate the 'ancient dues system' and replace it with a Dollar-A-Day Individual/Family Contribution in order to promote growth and the return of so many lost sheep. Later that same year, the parish began its interior renovation and the renovation of its parish hall to create and elegant banquet/catering facility (click here to view both).
Desiring to continue improving the and completing the parish facility, the parish undertook the lengthy process of looking to build a new parish rectory which was voted upon in 1993. After much deliberation and consideration, the parish eventually sold its excess landholding to the Borough of Rockaway for $1Million to be used as Open Space. The money was used to pay existing parish debts and the new rectory was completed in March of 2011.
As of Pascha 2013, the church continued additional improvements to the interior by adding 4 additional cast bronze, mini-chandeliers to match the main chandelier. In addition, other lighting changes were made in the interior to add to its beauty. At the same time, the church underwent an energy audit and is preparing to receive upgraded efficiency systems in electric and HVAC in a joint program the State of NJ through grants.
On March 23, 2014, the Church bore witness to the ordination of the first and only son of the parish, Father William George, who was subsequently assigned to become the community's new spiritual leader. He brought a youthful joy to the ministry of Saints Peter and Paul, developed a fantastic ministry with the Orthodox Christian Fellowship at the Community College of Morris. Fr. William worked diligently to guide many of the lost sheep of the community back to regular worship as well as gaining many converts to Holy Orthodoxy through his outreach efforts in the community. Tragically he was taken from the community too soon and lost his life in motor vehicle accident in May 2017.
In September 2017, Father Matthew G. Stagon and his family were assigned to Saints Peter and Paul Church.