Photograph of Emil Kubek in St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church,
Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania: Its History and Its People (1991)
by Emil Kubek
My friends of the ARUS have requested that I write a biographical sketch – about myself! But, are there any interesting events about which I can write? Were I a wealthy and eligible young man, then it would be an entirely different matter.
I was born, or rather, that certain “infant-transporting bird” smuggled me into the home of a poor old-country priest – without my consent. I cannot recall all the circumstances now, for it happened long ago – on the 28th day of November, A.D. 1857 – and it concerned very few people.
My mother was so terrified that she became ill; my father, in his excitement, ran to the phone to impart to his neighbor-friend the terrible news – but, alas! he found that the phone had not yet been invented.
Amid the excitement of the household I remained unruffled and settled myself more comfortably in my home, and, with the calm unconcern of a philosopher, I enjoyed the world – i.e., I slept, ate, yelled in a full-throated fashion, and grew (just as other more or less normal children are wont to do).
As soon as I acquired the use of my feet, the comedy began and my parents found life hard to endure. My father did not suffer long – he died early and left my mother a widow with four children and no means of livelihood. I cannot conceive now how we four children, ranging in age from three to 12 years, were able to complete our schooling. This miracle was accomplished by a poor, widowed mother!
Indeed, my inconsistency can be plainly seen – even in my choice of a family I was not careful, otherwise I would have chosen my parents among the American millionaires.
After I hungered and froze through my school days, finally I attained the priesthood – the vocation of my ancestors for approximately two hundred years. I was ordained on the 22nd of March (after being married on the 13th of the month), 1881.
I reared four children, all of whom are here in America, and with them 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren – thus far. (That is too much for an old man, even when he has nothing else, only the high title of Great Grandpa.)
In the spring of 1904, my bishop sent me into the mission field in America. Toward the latter part of June, that year, I came to the Mahanoy City parish. Before me, within two and one half years, seven pastors had come and gone. But I resolved to stay here, and, it seems to me, I perform my duties faithfully.
It was only here in the United States that I learned to value the hard and fruitful labor of the old-country priest, who works in the shadows of the Carpathian Mountains. There the priest is not only pastor to his poor flock, but also its unpaid lawyer, public notary, ‘squire, physician, advisor and protector – and I feel now that I had been there a truly respected pastor.
My people, both abroad as well as here, are good-hearted, religious and moral.
In spiritual matters abroad the people obey the head of the diocese, therefore, as every other priest in the Carpathians, I was busily engaged in matters of the church, the school, farming, horticulture, etc.
Practice and custom differ here, the board of trustees directs the welfare of the church, school, the priest and (sometimes) the religion itself, and therefore I had no other priestly function to perform but to say Mass, prepare sermons, hear confessions, etc.
In my spare time I took to writing, and produced articles, stories and verses for our magazines, calendars and newspapers. These sentiments of mine were endorsed by many who had never read my writings.
In 1913, I became a proud citizen of the United States, and of this I am very proud. In 1918, I became a widower and thereafter, for the most part, I was not only a priest, but also filled the roles of cook, laundryman, chambermaid etc., and nevertheless, peace reigned in my home.
After 57 years of priesthood, now I have little material worries, because I have absolutely nothing, except my 81st birthday – and this testifies to my business cleverness! My entire fortune consists of the love and thoughtfulness of my children.
At present, my spiritual work during the summer months consists of swatting flies and reading on the porch, while during the winter I feed the sparrows, cough and play solitaire. My salary is now, 24 hours daily, enough for breathing and living, but not for clothing and salt. Now I live like the field lillies.
I have had no trouble with the police nor the law, neither in the old country nor here, and I’ve never been in jail. I like homemade chicken soup with noodles and Florida.
That’s all I remember about myself.
(Signed) E.A. Kubek, Great Grandfather
- “Rev. Kubek Painted Humorous Self-Sketch,” St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church, Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania: Its History and Its People (), np.
Kubek’s “autobiography” was republished in the anniversary book commemorating St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church’s 100 year anniversary. It was preceded by the following introduction written by John E. Usalis:
Back in 1938, Rev. Emil A. Kubek, long-time pastor of Saint Mary Byzantine Catholic Church, was asked to write an autobiography to be placed in the program for the banquet held in his honor on Feb. 21 of that year, acknowledging his 56th year in the priesthood and his 34th year as pastor of Saint Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church. Filled with humor, it may be an excellent indication of a priest who cared much for his flock and who didn’t take himself all that seriously. The world would be much better if we followed his example.
My friends of the ARUS . . . The American, Russian, Ukrainian, Slovak (ARUS) Club was a cultural organization with members in Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Northumberland, and Schuylkill counties. Most active in the 1930s, they held banquets, conventions, dances, lectures, parties, and picnics throughout the Coal Region.
I like homemade chicken soup with noodles and Florida. Kubek’s daughter Mary lived in West Palm Beach, Florida, with her husband, the painter F. C. von Hausen. When Kubek visited them in late 1925 and early 1926, the Mahanoy City Record American wrote a story entitled “A Farewell Banquet Given to Rev. Kubek” marveling eat the fact that this was Kubek’s first vacation since he became a priest. Kubek also wrote a long account of his trip entitled “My Journey to Florida” that was published serially in the American Rusyn Messenger from March 25 to May 20, 1926. (For more information about his trip to Florida, visit St. Mary’s Rectory.)