Archpriest Father George Hnatko, 89 of Penn Run, passed away on Sunday February 13, 2022 at Indiana Hospital.
The youngest of 10 children, he was born on January 26, 1933 in Lyndora, PA to “Mikoli” Nicholas Hnatko and Helen (Lazorchack) Hnatko. His father, who was an orphan, immigrated from Ukraine to the U.S. in 1906 at the age of 16. He found work at the Armco Steel Mills in Butler. His mother, also an immigrant from Ukraine, worked hard for her family by gardening and helping take care of their two-acre farm.
After graduating from Butler High School in 1951, he attended Slippery Rock State Teacher’s College, the University of Pittsburgh, and St. Andrew Seminary in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. During his summer breaks he earned tuition by working at the Armco Steel Mills in Butler.
He married Luba “Lillian” Wierny on September 15, 1957. Later that year on November 10 he was ordained a priest at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Lyndora. Sorrowfully, his mother died from a stroke just six days later. His greatest treasure was his family. George and his wife, Stephanie, who were married in 1994 and have a son Zachary and a daughter Katelyn.
He was a priest intern under Fr. Sawchuck in Philadelphia, PA, for six months. His first parish assignment was Holy Virgin Church in Arnold, PA. He was then transferred to SS. Peter and Paul in Wilmington, DE, where he was active in helping purchase a tract of land where later a new church was built. Because he wanted to return to Western PA, his next assignment was Holy Ghost Church in Slickville. About that time, he also began his ministry with the mentally ill by becoming a chaplain at Torrance State Hospital, which he served for over 50 years.
In March, 1964 while serving in SIickvilIe, Fr. George learned that St. John the Baptist in Dixonville was without the services of a priest. He volunteered to help at Dixonville each Sunday and continued to serve both parishes for two years.
Leaving Slickville in May of 1966 he moved to Indiana, PA, and was assigned to serve the Holy Ascension Church in Nanty Glo. He has continued serving both Dixonville and Nanty Glo churches for 57 years. At a time when the Bakerton parish and the two Johnstown parishes were without the services of a priest, he was able to minister five churches for a number of years.
Fr. George’s work with the less fortunate at the Eastern Orthodox Foundation began in 1966. It started as a Transitional Living Center and shelter for the homeless. In 1999 the Cherryhill Manor, a personal care home for the elderly, was added to the campus. The EOF took over the properties of the Homestead Hospital in June 2002 which served those of need in the Pittsburgh area. In 2016 he saw a great need and helped to open the Spirit Life Drug and Alcohol Rehab Center. Here he counseled many individuals to overcome their societal issues.
In 1976 he was selected as the Ukrainian of the year by the Pittsburgh Ukrainian Technological Institute. In the late 1980’s he became the dean of the Western Pennsylvania Deanery and was elevated to Mitered Archpriest on July 16, 1989.
During his ministry Fr. George has always been there for his parishioners, the residents of the Eastern Orthodox Foundation, and thousands of others. He has been a mentor to many people including 11 persons who eventually entered into the Holy Priesthood.
Father George was preceded in death by his parents, siblings and wife, Lillian. He is survived by his son, George Jr., and a sister, Ann Medina of California, nephew’s Mark Medina, California, John Maxim, St. Mary’s, PA and Larry Maxim, Maryland.
St. John Chrysostom once said, “For in nothing do we draw close to God as in doing good to man”. For all his good deeds to his fellow man, we pray that God will truly bless this servant, Father George, and grant him memory eternal.
Friends will be received on Thursday, February 17, 2022 from 3pm to 7pm with a Parastas being held at 7pm at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Dixonville. Divine Liturgy will be celebrated on Friday, at 10 am at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church, DIxonville with His Eminence Metropolitan, Antony and Arch. Bishop Daniel and Fr. Ihor Protsak as celebrants. Interment will be in St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery, Dixonville. The McCabe~Roof Funeral Home, 565 Franklin St., Clymer is assisting the Hnatko family.
Memorial donation may be made to St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church, 690 Quince Rd, Clymer, PA 15728 or a charity of ones choice.
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