By: Nancy Avolese
On September 4, 1890 twelve men under the leadership of Father Stephen Furdek of Cleveland, Ohio, gathered at the home of Jacob Gruss on Corwin Avenue in Cleveland and formed the First Catholic Slovak Union. They met together to find a way to provide insurance and other benefits to immigrant Slovaks and their families living and working in America.
In 1911, the main body of the organization moved to Lower Swatara Township, buying over 300 acres for their main headquarters and a print shop. The First Catholic Slovak Union (FCSU) became the largest landowner in Lower Swatara Township at that time. The land was mostly flat, but it had hilly peaks and was the past site of one of James Young’s farms.
Their mission was to uplift the economic and spiritual conditions of Slovak Americans and their neighbors. They donated prolifically to education, religion, the downtrodden, and any other charity that provided goodness for mankind. They believed in brotherhood, kindness, and community.
In 1914 after years of providing support to widows and orphans through a "Poor Fund", FCSU opened the Jednota Home and Immaculate Conception School in Middletown, Pennsylvania. They taught the children how to farm, create music in the Jednota Band, sing, play baseball, and continue life-long learning at the orphanage. Over the fifty-plus years that it operated; the school educated over 4,000 children. In the 1990’s, the building was demolished.
In 1915, the Union built the first Motherhouse of the New Order of Nuns, which included St. Anne’s Home for the Aged.
In 1917, the main body moved back to Cleveland, but the farm, school, and print shop remained, and folks continued to refer to the area as Jednota Estates.
In 1965, the FCSU donated the Jednota Chapel of Our Mother of Sorrows at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. and it remains one of the National Shrine’s most visited chapel.
In 1969, the FCSU headquarters left the Jednota area and returned to Ohio but retained ownership of the property.
In 1975, a new Jednota Slovak American Publishing House known as Jednota Printery was built on the high ground of the property due to past flooding on the flats. At that time, it was a super modern building with the latest technology and not only printed items for their own religious newspaper, The Jednota, but also for other area printing needs. The Jednota was printed in two languages, English and Slovak; it was mailed to every state, Canada, and twenty-seven other countries. It carried history, current events, epistle, gospel, and the printer published over twenty books a year. The staff had experienced top-notch writers such as Joseph Husek, Philip Hrobak, Joseph Krajsa, Stephen Matula, and Dr. Joseph Pauco.
By 1976, the Jednota Home was leased to the Diocese of Harrisburg for $1.00 a year. A natural progression of the Catholic faith and was used for meetings, religious retreats, and training of new staff.
Currently, the FCSU has over 50,000 members and $415 million dollars in asset. It provides life insurance, scholarships, cultural programs, a monthly newspaper, and fraternal events for its membership. Its mission in the 21st century is not only to protect the family, but to enlighten and uplift it.
In 2018, D&H Distributing, a technology distributor based in Harrisburg, purchased 275 acres of the Jednota property in Lower Swatara Township to build a mostly electronics distribution facility.
The entire Jednota property is just less than 300 acres, although D&H is interested in only 275.87 acres. Most of the land is west of the Airport Connector, and north and south of both the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Rosedale Avenue.
The FCSU plans to retain 21.39 acres to the east of Airport Connector Road that borders Route 441; and a memorial along Rosedale Avenue dedicated to all deceased union members, particularly those who were veterans.
As part of the agreement, Schwab said they would provide an easement to maintain the memorial.
Andrew M. Rajec, the FSCU’s National President said, “It makes sense to develop the Jednota property, we like D&H because it has a common interest. We care about people, and the impression we got is they have a deep interest in their employees.”
Describe what you offer here. add a few choice words and a stunning pic to tantalize your audience and leave them hungry for more.
June 11-13, 1976 Arts and Crafts Early America, Middletown Area Historical Society
October 17, 2018 issue of The Press and Journal, article by Laura Hayes