They call it simply St. Mary’s.
It’s a common name for a church. There are probably thousands of St. Mary’s houses of worship of different stripes around the state, across the country, all over the world.
But the little church in Osceola Mills, well, it’s special.
The name is just shorthand. Its more grandiose title is the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, but many wouldn’t recognize it if you said it, like hearing a friend’s full name for the first time. St. Mary’s is more comfortable, quieter, an unassuming nickname that is as warm as grandma’s afghan.
It sits on the edge of town, a red brick building that might have been a school or a different kind of church, distinguished by the sky blue tapered onion dome that tops the steeple.
In a borough with plenty of Russian ancestry, the orthodox church is no surprise. It is also an open and welcoming treat.
Not everyone in the area may attend St. Mary’s, but finding someone who hasn’t been a guest at the church hall or appreciated the culinary skills of the ladies of the congregation is harder. And if there are those people, they just don’t know what they are missing.
Pierogies and haluski are central Pennsylvania staples at festivals and holidays are seldom complete without a buttery nut roll, but not everyone has a Russian grandmother at home to whip up the specialties on a regular basis. I’m Austrian and Swiss, after all. Halupki just doesn’t run in my family tree. But I know that, a few times a year, the church ladies will help me get my pierogi fix.
It doesn’t physically sit in the middle of town. But spiritually, it can seem like a vital organ, part of what keeps Osceola Mills alive and well. And when you’re talking about a church, isn’t it the spiritual reality that matters?