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Inspecting the new church in 
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On Sunday, October 22, 1995, I made stop in Hronsky Benadik to visit the director of the Salesian's community father Vit Usak. Who told me a about the history of church and the monastery. Order of Salesian's is all around the globe. It's Slovak center is in Bratislava however they are also in Sastan, Bardejov, Petzalka, Trnavka, Kosice, Dubnica nad Vahom, Michalovce, Poprad, Presov, Roznava, Kopanka, Zilina.

This Church built in the Gothic style of architecture was built over a Romanesque style church that was built here and consecrated in 1075. Long wars and attacks by Avars and Turks and other feudal nobles including Matus Cak from Trencin, have ruined the church and monastery. In 14th century in the place of the old ruined church they built a new and bigger one in Gothic style. During the Turkish wars they rebuilt the whole object to a fortress with fortified walls, watch towers, the windows were removed and replaced with rock walls.

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The pilgrimage monastery Catholic church in Hronsky Benadik was built in fourteen century in years' 1342-1382. The exact dates are not known anymore as the written documents have not been found. In 1995 village of Hronsky Benadik was celebrating 920 anniversary of the first mention of the church and monastery. They call it fortified monastery. The church was fortified and rebuilt again in 1881 after a fire that almost destroyed it completely. First they wanted to repair it and build a wooden scaffold around that burned too and damaged the church even more. They rebuilt in completely then. In those times the territory what is now known as Slovakia was under the Ostrihom's Archbishop.

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At first it was order of Benedictines that were living here. The name of the village was originally Hronsky Svaty Benadik Hron's St. Benadik. They had dealings with the Archbishop of Ostrihom, Bishop of Nitra and others and they left Hronsky Benadik in 1552 with the last monk leaving in 1555. Since then the property was under the direction of the Archbishop of Ostrihom until the end of Austro-Hungarian monarchy and for a year conventionalists lived here. In 1919 Trnava become the new seat of administration of the territory, previously administered by Ostrihom in the Slovak lands. Shortly it became the seat of the Bishop and later the Archbishop. The Apostolate Administrator named during this time a priest for the Church in Hronsky Benadik.

The order of Salesian fathers' first came to Slovakia in 1924 and settled in Sastin, western Slovakia. Second locality of the Salesian order was Hronsky Benadik. They were in Vrable prior to that all together about 25 people and did not have enough room so they have changed locations with the priest from Hronsky Benadik, who went to Vrable and they arrived in Hronsky Benadik. They formed school for novice's of their order. There was a director of the novices, Chaplain, Chaplain for Kozarovce and Orovnica, there were brothers of the order, they had horses and live stock and they lived here until 1950 until they were liquidated as the other orders during the night from 13 to 14 April 1950. After that the previous regime turned the monastery into a vocational school, carpenter’s work shops, theater and the whole object was devastated. Right now you cannot go to the upper floors as they are unsafe and may collapse any time. After that they had a home here for nuns of different orders here. About 60 of them are buried in the cemetery. In 1989 the nuns returned to their orders and the Salesians have returned again as before. Not anymore as novitiate, but just the parish office. So there is only a priest and Chaplain here Father Usak is the director, than there is a retired priest and one layman.

Every year they hold at least 16 to 17 spiritual practice sessions for the priests. They are maintaining the monastery, but can not afford any repairs, as they have lots of work with repairs of the church. They fixed the roof first, the state did contributed some money later they fixed the main entrance and the state has giving them less and less money every year and in 1995 the state has given them nothing. So they turned to corporate sponsorship and received 40000.00 Sk from Slovnaft a major Slovak Refinery company, 80000.00 Sk was from other donations and still need over 3000000.00 Sk to fix the facade.

They manage the churches in Hronsky Benadik, Orovnica and Psiare where they just finished building a new church that was consecrated on May 24, 1996, the celebration of Virgin Mary by Archbishop Jan Sokol.

Father Usak is a writer too. He became a writer by accident. He always felt that he had the ability to be a writer however had no opportunity to practice it. His knowledge of the Slovak language is excellent. In 1973 he went to work as a corrector in the Slovak Institute in Rome. He worked on many books doing language corrections. The first book he corrected was: "The History of Salvation."

Then he used to write for magazine: "The voice from Rome." During this time he frequently visited what was at that time known as Yugoslavia. Those were the times when there were not to many visitors from Slovakia there and he used to go there for 12 years.

He got to know many Slovaks in the Slovak villages and did lots of research including the seniors from first generation that were born there, but still remembered how the life used to be in those villages. They are all gone now. When he realized that their past is so colorful, he started to make notes, went to search for documents about their past in old parishes. He found birth and wedding and death certificates. His search extended to schools and searches in newspaper’s archives, but he could not find many articles.

Suddenly he realized that he has more material on the Slovaks there than anybody else he started to put it together and when Father Lacko from Oriental Institute in Rome saw it he encouraged him to publish it. And he documented 250 pages, one could say it is the: "History of Slovaks in Croatia."

In 1983 when he was 60 he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He wrote about his trip in Jednota paper, published in USA, together twenty stories. He added to it and published 80 page book.

He started to write poems and published them in a book called: "I am adding to bonfire." Later on, late Mt. Elias from USA suggested to make poems for children. Father Usak worked on this project for many years and later did finish and published the poems: "On children's wave."

He is not very well known in Slovakia as all his books were published in Rome. Stories were published in USA, then he wrote also for Italian magazine La Stanca Literaria and for four years he had a spiritual article in every issue.

Father Usak has returned to Slovakia and Hronsky Benadik in 1990, recently he stop writing as he is getting old and tired and just does not have feel for it after fulfilling his duties. He is sending best wishes to our members and please if you pass through Hronsky Benadik do stop by.

Editor's note: Father Usak is now in Salesian Monastery in Velka, Poprad.

Otec Vit Usak, Saleziani
Velicke Namestie 1
O58 01 Poprad-Velka 1




Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 5, No. 1, Spring 1997
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1997 
3804 Yale Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article and photographs may not be copied, reproduced, republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without the express written permission of Vladimir Linder. All rights reserved.