Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel – Bridging the 21st Century

I would like to thank Mark S. Auerbach, City Historian of Passaic, NJ for the time he has spent detailing stories of early Passaic and for the images which he has so kindly given me permission to include in my posts about early Passaic and St. Michael’s Church.

The elevation of St. Michael’s Church to that of a cathedral gave St. Michael’s a new purpose and direction. While it still had a congregation of staunch supporting parishioners, the church founders had all passed away. Even the children of the founding families were in their senior years by 1965, when the church celebrated its 75th Anniversary.

Msgr. Stim oversaw the cleaning and painting of the inside and outside of the church. The inside was also redecorated, but the most noticeable change was the removal of the tall steeples of the church. Even in the early days, when the church was first being built in 1903, a building inspector reported that they were unstable and needed to be reinforced, which they were. However, time and weather had taken their toll on the towers and they came down. Domes with less height replaced them.

About one year after becoming a cathedral, Msgr. George Durisin became the new pastor of St. Michael’s.

Monsignior George Durison
Rt. Rev. Msgr. George Durisin

He completed the renovation begun by Msgr. Stim in preparation for the Diamond Jubilee on 31 October 1965. The cathedral was rededicated with a Solemn Pontifical Divine Liturgy celebrated by Bishop Kocisko. A banquet, attended by a thousand people, was held in the Passaic Armory, during which many memories of the founding and founders of St. Michael’s were remembered.

My grandmother was a saver and I am the lucky owner of both the program and the menu.

Diamond Jubilee Menu

Diamond Jubilee Program
Diamond Jubilee Menu and Program, 1965

Julia Sabo, my Nana, was one of the honored guests as she was the oldest living parishioner baptized at St. Michael’s. I am lucky enough to have her original baptismal certificate:

She was honored along with the oldest male parishioner, oldest female parishioner and the oldest married couple:

Julia's Picture in St Michael's Book
Honored Guests, 1965

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the children of St. Michael’s School summed up the milestones in the church history perfectly:

Kids Holding St Michaels Milestones in Book
1965 Celebration

St. Michael’s celebrated its 90th Anniversary in 1980. The church was again rededicated and picture announcement cards were published. The front had a photo of the inside of the newly redecorated church.

Saint Michael 90th Anniversary Invitation   Picture Inside Cathedral of Saint MIchael
St. Michael’s, 1980

If a book was published, Nana didn’t buy one, but I remember there was another banquet dinner.  I also remember that we were asked to not tell her that she was again going to be honored as the oldest parishioner baptized at St. Michael’s and she was very annoyed that everyone knew how old she was when they announced the date of her baptism. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me now since the 1940 census is available. Nana shaved twelve years off her age in that census. 🙂

Julia Sabo, 1980 Celebration

St. Michael’s was then only ten years away from its Centennial celebration. Nana made it half way through those years, passing away in May 1985.

I have only one souvenir of the church Centennial, a coffee mug in brand new condition that I bought years ago on eBay.

 StMichael100thMug     StMichael100thMugBack
Centennial Mug, 1990

Earlier, I mentioned how 1963  and the elevation to cathedral status gave St. Michael’s a new sense of purpose and direction. The newest wave of immigrants had long been settled in Passaic – Hispanics, first from Puerto Rico and then other countries of Central and South America.  By the 90th Anniversary celebration in 1980, the old timers were almost all gone. My grandmother outlived most of her friends, most of whom were either born in Udol or Hajtovka or whose parents were born there.

The major milestone of St. Michael’s as it approached its Centennial was the completion of the Chapel and social center located in West Paterson, NJ. The cornerstone was laid and the complex dedicated in May 1987. West Paterson was chosen as an acknowledgement that many of the parish families had moved to the suburbs and were no longer residents of Passaic.

After Msgr. Durisin was transferred to a new post in August 1988, St. Michael’s was again in a cycle of several short term pastors with the arrival and departure of four priests within six months.

In February 1989, Rev. Marcel Szabo  was appointed as the new spiritual leader of St. Michael’s Cathedral.

Rev. Marcel Szabo

Preparations were already underway for the Centennial in October 1990, but the load of work to be done was tremendous as the church and rectory were in serious need of repair and updates. Under Fr. Marcel’s direction, it was all completed in time for the celebration.

As part of the public festivities, Bishop Dudick, the Bishop of Passaic, presented the Cathderl parish, with an icon, “Our Lady of Passaic.” St. Michael’s website  link to the church history explains the cultural change in the neighborhood better than I can:

The process of renewal and renovation in anticipation of the Centennial Anniversary began concretely in August of 1989, on the eve of the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. On this date, St. Michael’s Cathedral Parish as well as the ENTIRE city of Passaic was entrusted to the custody of the Blessed Mother. Bishop Michael Dudick, Bishop of Passaic, presented his Cathedral Parish with an icon entitled “Our Lady of Passaic” which was carried in procession around the church, through the neighborhood, and on the streets for all to see. As the Bishop, clergy and faithful parishioners proceeded down the middle of the street singing hymns to the Mother of God, some parish women were on hand to distribute blessed flowers to the curious neighborhood residents and onlookers who dotted the procession route. So moved were some of them by this gesture that they even followed the procession into the Cathedral and attended the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. As a direct result of this procession, now an annual event, the relationship between the Cathedral Parish and its Hispanic neighbors has greatly improved. Not only has the occasional of graffiti and vandalism decreased, but there has also surfaced a crew of Hispanic gentlemen who do not hesitate to volunteer their services to St. Michael’s even if only at a moments notice.

This pretty much sums up the cultural and ethnic change in the old First Ward neighborhood.

Rev. Marcel Szabo has been described as exactly the urban priest one would want to have leading his flock today.  Today, the neighborhood is mostly Hispanic, but Fr. Marcel had connected with members of the community. There is even a shrine in front of the rectory dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has earned the respect of the Latino neighbors.

Current church bulletins include names that are mostly Slovak in origin and the parish family is stable and generous with its financial support of the Cathedral. The Mothers’ Club and Rosary Society are still active and there is an Eastern Christian Formation/Byzantine Catholic Youth (ECF/BCY) religious education program is offered at the Chapel for pre-K through Grade 12.

Cultural changes that were evident as early as 1940 have not seemed to hamper the vitality of St. Michael’s and the Cathedral is prepared to celebrate its Quasquicentennial in October 2015. The church founders would be proud of its accomplishments.

From St. Michael’s home page on the web:

Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel Today

Recommended Reads

There is a plethora of news and interesting reads. Here are the picks for this week:

What Spouses Promised Each Other by Yvette Hoitink on Dutch Genealogy

Family Bibles in the Digital Public Library of America  AND

How Do We Maintain Multiple Online Family Trees on Multiple Websites, both by James Tanner on Genealogy’s Star

2015 State of the Genealogy Industry by Amy Archibald on Revealing Roots and Branches

A Transcription Toolbox by Sue Adams of Family Folk on Worldwide Genealogy – A Genealogical Collaboration

Want to Preserve All of Your Genealogy Blog Efforts? Better Book It! by John D. Tew on Filiopietism Prism

My eBay Find by Vikki on Today’s Genealogy

Tombstone Tuesday: Weep Not for Her by rienik on FamilyHeirlooms

Finding the Living Among the Dead: Using the Internet to Find Your Living Cousins by Amy Archibald on Revealing Roots and Branches

Genealogy Societies of France by Jacques Gagne on Genealogy Ensemble

Italian Research: One Mystery Solved by History Chick on Genealogical Musings

Re-Visioning and Editing Your Family History Narrative by Lynn Palermo on The Armchair Genealogist

She Haunts Me on Generations Gone By

An Open Letter to the Genealogy Community AND

An Open Letter to the Genealogy Community – Part Deux, both by Janet Hovorka on The Chart Chick

Research All Names by John Newmark on TransylvanianDutch

Things Are Looking Up for Indiana Genealogy by Melissa Wiseheart on A Wise Heart’s Journey

Complex Evidence Webinar by F. Warren Bittner: A Case Study Demonstrating GPS by Dana (Stewart) Leeds on The Enthusiastic Genealogist

5 Misspelled, Misused Genealogy Words. . . and How to Get Them Right by Amy Johnson Crow on No Story Too Small

MooseRoots Is A New Genealogy Search Engine by Randy Seaver on Genea-Musings

Same Place, Same Day, Two Marys by Jacqi Stevens on A Family Tapestry

and last, but not least, for those who want to catch up on RootsTech 2015:

31 Sessions of RootsTech 2015 Now Online by James Tanner on Genealogy’s Star



Johannes Elias Molin

Johannes Elias Molin was a nephew of my 3x great grandmother, Johanna Elisabeth Molin, who left Öved, Sweden in 1838 for a new life in Copenhagen, where she married soldier Johannes Jensen.

Johanna Elisabeth’s nephew, Johannes Elias Molin, differed from most of his other family members in one important way – he stayed put in one place, except for a short sojourn to nearby Skartofta, perhaps to train for his job,  for his entire life. My Swedish lines haven’t been too easy to research because they all moved a lot – Johanna Elisabeth’s uncle, a farmer worker, moved villages twelve times in eighteen years – and there are some missing parish records in places where they lived.

Johannes Elias, on the other hand, was a dream to research. He was the one who stayed “close to home,” the theme for this week.

Johannes Molin was the son of Anders Molin and Elsa Öberg. He was born 25 October 1826 in Östra Kärrstorp, in the old Malmohus County (today’s Skane), in southern Sweden.

He married his first cousin, Charlotta Augusta, who went by Hasselgren because her mother, Beata Sophia Molin, married Henrik Hasselgren. However, Charlotta was born on 4 March 1829 in Lund, Skane County to an unmarried Beata Sophia; no father was noted in the baptismal record.

Charlotta moved to Östra Karrstorp on 20 May 1856, just days before her 23 June marriage. So much for the groom marrying in the bride’s home parish!

Swedish records are so easy to search, even though they are not indexed by name. Household examinations were the equivalent of local census records. Their purpose was for the vicar to check on the progress of the religious education of his flock. Some household examinations are set up with one year recorded in one book. However, most contain a span of perhaps three to six years. If the vicar was doing his job properly, then each time he visited a home, he would have recorded any new births in the household as well as deaths.

An additional detail was provided that I have not seen outside of Scandinavian records. When a member of the household moved out of the parish, the date (always the year, but sometimes also the month and day) was noted next to the person’s name along with the new parish of residence. The household examination, along with marriage and death records also included the occupation of the head of household. Johannes Elias was a “smed,” a smith or blacksmith.

Johannes Elias and Charlotta had eight children, all born in Östra Kärrstorp:

1. Malte Andreas, born 10 October 1857
2. Sophie Elise, born 2 January 1859
3. Frans Niclas, born 4 October 18604. Johan Alfred, born 11 October 1862; died 24 February 1863
5. Johan Alfred, born 18 February 1864
6. Adolph Fredrik, born 23 June 1866
7. Otto Wilhelm, born 17 August 1868
8. August Harald, born 9 October 1870

They were a bit usual in that only one of their children died young. Infant and child mortality rates were quite high and it is common to see that a family buried three or more very young children.

Here is the first household examination for the Molin family after they married:

ArkivDigital, Household Exam, AI:13, Image 168

We have smith Johannes Elias and wife Charlotta Hasselgren (yes, maiden names of married females were also recorded!) Notice that Johannes returned from Skartofta in 1847 and Charlotta moved into the parish in 1856.  Their four children, Malte Andreas, Sophie Elise, Frans Niclas and the first Johan Alfred are all listed. Charlotta’s birthplace is Lund. Johannes Elias and the four children were all born in Bjerrod, which is a farm area in the parish of Östra Karrstorp.

A later household examination from 1875-1884 gives further details about the family. All seven surviving children were still at home in 1875, but look at the side notes. Malte left for America in 1880. I was able to find him in the passenger lists. He was a barber who eventually settled in Chicago. He is last found in the 1930 census. No death record or cemetery record has yet been found. It appears he never married and left no descendants.

Son Johan Alfred moved to Sallerup on 28 September 1883.

Daughter Sophie Elise moved to Ystad, on the southernmost coast, in 1876.

The final household examination for the family is found in the register covering the years 1884-1895. The number of years in the book is a good indication of just how small the village was.

ArkivDigital, Household Exam, AI:17, Image 213

There are a lot of notes on this page. I don’t read Swedish, aside from sometimes being able to figure out parish names so I will ask for help getting these translated. Look at the far right hand columns, though. The last column says “Dod.” Johannes Elias died on 17 September 1894 in Bjerrod. This time, it says Malte went to America in 1886 – either he returned to Sweden for a visit or else the vicar made a mistake when entering the date. Otto Wilhelm died in Bjerrod on 12 march 1891. August Harald moved to Öved on 5 September 1892, Johan Alfred moved back and forth from Ystad in 1888 and 1889 and then went back and forth from a parish I don’t recognize in 1891 and 1892. Son Frans Niclas is now married to Anna Jonsdotter and they have a little girl of their own, Ester Charlotta. It is also noted that Frans Niclas is a smith, like his father.

Finding that Johannes Elias died on 17 September 1894, I then looked in the deaths/burials and found his entry:

On 17 September 1894, smed Johan Elias Molin, who lived at Bjerrod #3, aged 67 years, 10 months, 22 days, married, died of ? (this word isn’t recognized by Google translation, so I have another question to ask the staff in Salt Lake City next month) and was buried on 20 September 1894.

If you haven’t researched in Swedish records, don’t think that they are all this easy. Oftentimes, household examinations don’t begin early enough for the time period one needs and the same happens with moving in and moving out records.

Births, deaths and marriages are usually quite complete, but they are not indexed and are kept at the local church level. If you have a parish and year, it is an easy job. If you don’t know the parish, you might be reading a lot of registers looking for that one entry.

Johannes Elias Molin did, indeed, stay close to home for his entire life.I am very grateful for that because this is the one super easy search I’ve had for the Molin family.