Croatian lodge celebrates 125th year
BY KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent
Croatian Fraternal Union (CFU) St. Rochus Lodge No. 5, in Johnstown, is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.
An anniversary dinner to celebrate the founding of St. Rochus Lodge No. 5 was held Aug. 18.
On Sept. 2, the lodge will host its annual Tamburitzan concert. Though this concert takes place every Labor Day, lifelong member Patty Respet said this year’s concert is being considered part of the lodge’s 125th anniversary festivities.
The concert is to begin at 5 p.m. inside Croatian Hall on 612 Broad St.
This concert will bring to town the band Tamburaski Sastav Ravnica from Osijek, Croatia. This band has been performing around the world since the early 1980s. They have performed with singers such as Zeljko Ergotic and Zeljko Witowsky. For this performance, they’ll be joined by vocalist Zeljko Loncaric Zec.
The band and vocalist are coming to Johnstown as part of Croatian Fraternal Union’s 2019 Cultural Tour. The tour begins Aug. 31 and concludes Sept. 21; it will take the aforementioned performers to Lodges in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri.
Croatian Fraternal Union of America is sponsoring the entire 2019 Cultural Tour.
The concert is open to the public. There will be a nominal admission fee at the door. A cash bar will be available, and light hors d'oeuvres will be served.
“It will be nice to celebrate our ethnic heritage,” Respet said. “All of these performers are from Croatia, and the vocal performance will be in Croatian. Even if you don’t speak the language, you can still feel the emotions, and enjoy the chance to see this unique arts performance.”
For more information about the concert, call Respet 814-266-9039.
Representatives of Johnstown’s St. Rochus Society, led by Bozo Goisovich, helped to found the Lodge on May 13, 1894, in Cambria City, where it remains headquartered today. The lodge was one of the first five Croatian Fraternal Union lodges in the United States, said Respet.
According to Croatianfraternalunion.org, Croatian Fraternal Union of America began with a membership of approximately 300 people. Now, the organization boasts a membership of more than 60,000 people worldwide. The union started in Pittsburgh’s North Side, and, 125 years later, the home office is still located in the city.
“The purpose of the society was to look after the spiritual and material welfare of its members, to aid them in sickness and need, to contribute for the maintenance of its widows and orphans and to bury the dead,” reads a historical statement provided by Respet.
Members of the lodge met in the basement of St. Stephen’s Church. Their meeting place later moved to a building on Bradley Alley before enough money was raised to begin building the two-story hall on Broad Street in 1919.
Active membership involves having an insurance policy and/or annuity/IRA plans through the union. Social members are those who elect to pay yearly dues.
Respet, who has been serving as the lodge’s secretary for about three years, said that the lodge has approximately 810 active members, and approximately 775 social members.
“The active members range in age, anywhere from birth to those who have been members for over 70 years,” she said. “Active members of our Lodge can receive scholarships to help with their education. The main Lodge, CFU of America, also offers scholarships for students. So, in addition to promoting our history and heritage, we promote education as well.”
Cultural development, athletic participation and social activities are also included in Croatian Fraternal Union’s mission.
Since Croatian Fraternal Union of America is also celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, a two-day celebration is scheduled to take place in Pittsburgh Sept. 20 and 21 in order to commemorate the “founding of the National Croatian Society, the forerunner of the Croatian Fraternal Union of America,” according to Croatianfraternalunion.org.
The celebration in Pittsburgh includes a tour of the home office, an evening dinner cruise on the Gateway Clipper, a holy mass and a gala banquet, according to the Union’s official website.