Our History

A Brief Parish History

The Church tradition represented by Resurrection, Smithtown is the result of the very complicated history of Christianity in Eastern Europe and the desire of several Eastern Orthodox bishops and priests in the 17th century to attached themselves to the central authority of the Roman Catholic Church while keeping Eastern Orthodox worship and spirituality. Two regions in particular opted for this: Western Ukraine, which saw the establishment of the Ukrainian Catholic Church; and the area south of the Carpathian mountains, now part of Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania and Hungary, which was known as Carpatho-Russian, Rusyn, or Ruthenian. Geography, politics, distinct customs and history kept the two regions from unifying, and members of both came to the U.S. in the great wave of emigration during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

By the early 1930’s, there were already two Ukrainian Greek Catholic parishes in Suffolk county on Eastern Long Island. These early immigrants, drawn by potato farms and local industries, included almost no Greek Catholics from the primary Ruthenian eparchies (dioceses) of Preshov or Mukachevo in (what was then) Czechoslovakia and Ukraine. It was only after the Second World War that Ruthenian immigrants, and especially their children, began to move out of Manhattan and Brooklyn to Suffolk County, and others were attracted from Pennsylvania by employment opportunities.

In the late 1960’s, Fr Paul Dano, pastor of St Mary’s Ruthenian Catholic Church in Manhattan, was traveling to the Smithtown area to bless homes and Easter food baskets for a growing Ruthenian colony, now also known as “Byzantine Catholics”, and with the blessing of Bishop Stephen Kocisko- the first Bishop of Passaic,- he gave to look for a suitable location for a parish. In March 1967, the spacious church, rectory and grounds of St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Smithtown were purchased by the eparchy, and the first liturgy was celebrated in April of that year. In honor of the Easter season, the new parish was dedicated to the Resurrection of Our Lord. In the summer of 1967, Fr Daniel Bitsko, the young assistant at St Mary’s Church, Manhattan, was appointed the first resident pastor of Resurrection Church, and Bishop Stephen visited for the feast of the Transfiguration (August 7) in 1967. By Pascha (Easter) 1968, membership in the parish had grown to fifty families.

Initially, the brick and wood church was refitted for Byzantine worship with a simple, home-made iconostasis (wall with holy pictures) with icons done by Fr Basil Kraynyak of Yonkers. The present iconostasis and altar were designed and executed between 1969 and 1972 with iconography by Felix Sanger; the carpentry, painting and marble work were provided by parishioners who also renovated the basement parish hall. Finally the traditional golden “onion domes” and crosses were added to the exterior in 1981, giving the simple Gothic exterior a more authentically Byzantine appearance.

Eternal Memory, Fr. Daniel Bitsko

Fr Bitsko’s 38 year pastorate was marked by...

Fred J. Wagner was the premier race starter in the early 1900s including: all the Long Island Vanderbilt Cup Races with the exception of the 1904 race. Researcher Corey Victoria Geske has recently revealed that a beautiful Smithtown residence built in 1913 was the residence of Fred and Nancy Wagner.

Ms. Geske's findings were recently published in the Preservation Notes Newsletter of Preservation Long Island. Although the building is currently vacant, our church plans to restore it as a rectory and meeting place.

Wagner's residence was designed by architect, furniture designer and publisher, Gustav Stickley, a leading proponent of the American Craftsman style.