Holy Trinity Orthodox Church began in 1980 as a campus ministry of the Orthodox Church in America‘s (OCA) Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. In time, it attracted more and more individuals from the surrounding community who desired to worship regularly in town rather than travel up to 40 miles to attend already-existing parishes in neighboring communities.
In 1993, a small group of 16 souls ventured out in faith to purchase our current building at 119 South Sparks Street. Only three years later (1996), Father John Reeves relocated to State College from Texas with his family to serve as our first pastor. This was made possible by the stewardship of the mission community and a Planting Grant from the Department of Missions of the OCA.
Tapping into his missionary expertise, Father John guided the nascent mission church into fully self-supporting parish in just three years. During his 20 years here, the parish has grown from 16 adults to a community of more than 200 adults and children. In the summer of 2010, the parish was able to reward this hard work by applying for—and receiving—a Sabbatical allowing him to retrace as close as possible St. Herman’s 1793-94 missionary journey from Valaam Monastery to Alaska.
Holy Trinity’s faithful have always had a heart for college students. In 1997, Father John became the chaplain of the Penn State chapter of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) and the parish has fully sponsored this ministry ever since. Over the years, several of the group’s alumni have become missionaries or members of the clergy, including Deacon Alexander Cadman, who became a member of our staff in 2008 to lay the groundwork for a full-time University ministry and an office on campus.
One year later, Deacon Mark Oleynik moved to State College to become the administrator of Holy Trinity’s Sunday School program and Director of Christian Education. Under his guidance, Holy Trinity’s Church School has grown to include more than 60 children taught by a dozen teachers in 5 classes ranging from Kindergarten to the twelfth grade.
Also joining us that year was a former Lutheran pastor who had recently discovered Orthodoxy. Following a call to ordained Orthodox ministry, in June 2013, and then again in June 2016, Father David Smith was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood, respectively, to administer the parish’s outreach to Snyder County. There, a mission community—the Chapel of the Holy Spirit—continues to develop and grow. In October 2015, the Chapel opened the doors of its new temple prominently located on North Kern Street in Beavertown.
Mirroring our growth in attendance and personnel, Holy Trinity’s facilities also have undergone a dramatic enhancement in the past few years. In 2006, the parish began and completed a building program to expand worship and ministry program space by 75 percent. In August 2010, a major phase of this work was concluded with the installation of brand new iconography that completed the new iconostasis and the upper portion of the Sanctuary wall.
Coming off two major building projects in State College and Beavertown, the parish certainly was not looking for another! But our Lord tested the faith and resolve of the parish’s faithful once again when the building immediately adjacent to the church was put up for sale in the summer of 2014. Strategic planning undertaken in 2009 and in early 2014 had identified that the property was integral to maintaining growth, so it was not surprising that the parish overwhelmingly approved the purchase. Closing on 123 S. Sparks St. took place on the Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos in the Temple (November 21) that same year.
The generosity of many members of our parish family made this leap of faith of possible, enabling Holy Trinity to complete a nearly half-million-dollar purchase and renovation project that made Trinity House Ministry Center a reality. The new facility, home to parish offices, Sunday School classrooms, a student lounge, a guest suite, a library, meeting space, and ample storage, officially opened in January 2016.
Father John Reeves retired after 22 years of service at the end of 2018, at which point Dn. Alexander Cadman became Acting Administrator. In accordance with Church best practices, His Eminence Archbishop Melchisedek appointed Fr. David Smith as Interim Priest—a clergyman with parish experience who provides pastoral guidance and support to parishes that are between rectors—in March 2019. Fr. David shepherded the State College faithful on weekdays and the Beavertown faithful on weekends, while Fr. John Steffaro and other visiting clergy maintained the Saturday-Sunday cycle of services at Holy Trinity. Under this model, the parish rediscovered its identity, ministry, mission, and vision during the transition period until the new rector was appointed.
After the Divine Liturgy on January 19, 2020, Archbishop Melchisedek revealed his choice for the next rector of the parish—the Rev. Priest Ignatius Hunter. Father Ignatius joined us via of St. Innocent Mission in Napakiak, Alaska and St. Michael’s Church in Mount Carmel, PA, where he served with his wife, Matushka Seraphima, and two children, Daniel and Elizabeth. He holds bachelor degrees in Religion, History, and General Economics from Lycoming College and master degrees from Asbury Theological Seminary, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, and the University of Alaska.
Father Ignatius officially began as Acting Rector on February 1, 2020, at which point Fr. David and Dn. Alexander’s terms as Interim Priest and Acting Administrator, respectively, ended. Father David will resume his role at Holy Trinity as Associate Priest—keeping his regular office hours in State College through the month of February to assist Fr. Ignatius in the transition—and remain Priest-in-Charge at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. Deacon Alexander will remain on staff full-time with a title and roles to be determined.