MUDDY - In the small incense-filled church amid rhythmic prayers that transform into song, dozens of the faithful gathered to participate in a celebration of the glory of St. Ioasaph (Joseph) of Belgorod.
Saturday's celebration at St. Ioasaph's Russian Orthodox Church in Muddy marked the 100th anniversary of the glorification of St. Ioasaph of Belgorod. It was that day in 1911 the Bishop became a saint.
The service was celebrated by His Grace Bishop Peter (Loukianoff) of Chicago. The Bishop said celebrations were taking place in other parts of the world associated with the 18th century Bishop Ioasaph's life.
Bishop Peter told those gathered that although there was never a permanent priest at the St. Ioasaph's in Muddy, the community has continued to care for the 98-year-old church, which has a historical significance to the diocese.
Siblings Madeline Pisani and Edward Kertis now own the church that sits on the land that once belonged to their grandparents. The Russian inscribed cornerstone of the church hints to the historical significance of St. Ioasaph's.
Pisani said the church was built in 1913 by Russian immigrant coal miners in Muddy. She said as the immigrants moved to follow the mining operations services at the church became less frequent.
"There were services here for many, many years," she said. "But they were very sporadic."
Kertis said when his parents - who owned the land before - passed away, the question of what to do with the church became an issue. Kertis said the diocese deeded the church back to the family. When the bishop caught wind of the church's existence, an emissary was dispatched and it was discovered that St. Ioasaph's was a patriarchal church.
"The Czar of Russia funded the building of that church," Kertis said. "And, in 1917, he and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks."
St. Ioasaph's is the only church in the U.S. to bear the name of the Bishop of Belgorod, a fact that motivated a husband and wife to make an 850 mile pilgrimage to Muddy to celebrate Saturday's anniversary.
Anton Golovin and Violetta Yufereva drove 14 hours from Palm Coast, Fla., to be at the celebration, both are originally from Russia.
Translating for his wife, Golovin said his wife's ancestors are lived in the diocese of Belgorod. Golovin said St. Ioasaph is an important spiritual figure in he and his wife's marriage and because they weren't able to travel to Russia for the 100th anniversary, they traveled to the one church in the U.S. that bears the name St. Ioasaph.