St. Hilary Roman Catholic Church
St. Hilary Roman Catholic Church began as a Polish congregation on Henderson Avenue, at the corner of Bruce St and Henderson Avenue (Rt. 18 North) in Washington, Pennsylvania in Washington County. The congregants were mostly laborers who worked in nearby coal mines, steel mills, and heavy labor. The small building, which reeked of age and from thousands of candles burnt down to nubs over the years, sat within a few hundred feet of St. Hilary Roman Catholic Grade School (grades 1-8 in 1960s, K added later)
Congregation, and Description of the old and new building
Mass was said in Latin or Polish until around 1964, when Vatican II came into effect. The new church had been built by this time. It was the newest "modern" architecture of the times, a huge white edifice set at an angle on the lot.
It was in stark contrast to the old church, both inside and out. The old church had a very small entrance with porch on the outside, while the newer building has a wide entrance.
The old church was impressive, with its ornate altar from where the priest said Mass with his back to the congregation. Priests' robes had a brocade-type design on the back, and the Priest's sleeves of his outer garment would open widely as he held the chalice high above his head. On three sides of the church but especially in the front were hand-painted life-size statues.
There were side areas right and left of the main altar in the old church, with racks of votive candle sitting below very large statues. Attached to the front of both racks was a metal coin box; if you had coins (pennies, nickels, dimes), you could light a votive candle (or a couple) using very long sticks. You'd put the end of the stick into the flame of a lit candle, then light a new one of your choice. And you were supposed to pray for someone if you lit a candle - but many of the young children wanted to light candles even if they had no coins, just to watch the dancing flames.
The new church altar faced front while the old church altar had taken up the entire back wall. The altar area of the new church was no longer separated by the communion rail of the old church.
Organ area and Organists
The organist for years in the new church has been Louis Florian (who is also a writer for the Observer-Reporter newspaper), and his father, Fritz Florian, had been the organist in both the old and new church until his death.
The new organ was positioned to the left of the altar area, but in the old church had its organ high in the balcony where the chorus stood, above the back of the church.