"Memories of Wilkes-Barre"
by Father J.J. Curran
First Pastor of Holy Saviour Church
On February 1, 1919, the members of Holy Saviour Parish welcomed a new pastor, Father John J. McCabe who was no stranger to East End. Father came to the parish from the Church of St. Joseph in Georgetown where he had served as pastor for sixteen years. A brilliant orator, a great spiritual leader, and most capable in the management of parochial affairs, he proved a worthy successor to Father Curran.
At this time in the diocese, during the episcopacy of Bishop Thomas O'Reilly, emphasis was being placed on the important of Catholic education, and many parochial schools were opened in the City of Wilkes-Barre.
Despite the impact of the depression, when employment was uncertain for the many unskilled laborers in the area, Holy Saviour School, a handsome red brick building, consisting of nine classrooms, was erected on Worrall Street and included at the time of opening grades one to six. Later, two more grades were added.
The school was opened in September 1932 and was staffed b y the Sisters of Mercy of Dallas, Pennsylvania. Sister Mary Justina Ryan was the first principal of the school and was assisted by other members of the first faculty - Sisters Mary Geraldine Mock, Thomas Brennan, Victorine O'Brien, Naomi Puetz, Ignatius Leonard and Henrietta Yeglinkski.
The large historic house at 35 Worrall Street which had been the rectory was remodeled into a convent and the nuns who staffed the school took up residence there.
The school had stood as a monument to the memory of Father McCabe who always took great interest in the children's education. As a result of the skillful management of the finances committed to his care, when the school building was finished, no debt had been incurred by the parish and the building was paid for in full.
Father McCabe served as pastor of Holy Saviour Church for eighteen years. He enjoyed perfect health until November 6, 1937, when he was stricken ill and was admitted to Mercy Hospital where he died seven days later.
Rev. John E. Lynott was named successor to Father McCabe early in 1938 by His Excellency, Most Rev. William J. Hafey, and the members of Holy Saviour parish welcomed their new pastor who had been transferred from St. Patrick's Church in the Newtown section of the city.
One of the first undertakings of Father Lynott as pastor was the building of the present rectory next to the Church. It was completed in 1939. Later the original red brick walls of the church were resurfaced, covered with a buff stucco, and many improvements were made to the interior of the church.
Father Lynott served as pastor only four short years. In 1942, on September 6, he entered Mercy Hospital as a patient, and the parish was saddened by the news of his death only ten days later.
Early in 1943, Father John J. O'Donnell relinquished his pastorate at St. Mary's Church, Wilkes-Barre, to assume the duties of pastor at Holy Saviour. It is significant to note that Father O'Donnell's boyhood days were spent in East End, where he worked as a slate picker in the coal breaker, and later carried the mail in this section, at the age of fifteen, being the youngest carrier ever to work at the Wilkes-Barre Post Office. He sought further education and attended night school in the old school building then located at Scott and School Streets.
Four hundred fifty parishioners, priests and friends welcomed Father O'Donnell at a dinner held in Holy Saviour Church hall on Thursday, February 11, 1943, where Bishop Martin J. O'Connor praised the guest of honor for his honest bluntness. He returned to the home of his boyhood days, to the church in which he read his first Mass, and assumed the spiritual leadership of his friends and neighbors, many of whom knew him during his entire priestly career.
Father O'Donnell, like his predecessor, Father Curran, was also a staunch friend of the laboring man and rendered valuable assistance to the United Mine Workers in their struggle for better living conditions. His friends were legion, among them President Theodore Roosevelt and John Mitchell.
Possessed of a kindly nature - a great spiritual leader and an able administrator - Father O'Donnell was loved and admired by his host of friends.
Father O'Donnell read his first Mass in Holy Saviour Church, and also celebrated his last Mass there, for on January 25, 1945, he submitted to an operation in Mercy Hospital, where he lingered in critical condition until he died on March 7.