Q: Who is GCU?
GCU is a Fraternal Benefit Society founded in 1892. Founded by 14 independent lodges associated with Greek Catholic Churches (today they are called Byzantine Catholic and are members of the Eastern Catholic Church). The lodges were originally formed at each church as a means to offer some type of protection to the Rusyn immigrants that had founded these churches. Many of them worked in dangerous professions in the coal mines and early steel mills, where commercial life insurance companies would not provide life insurance to them due to their dangerous occupations. When a member was seriously injured or killed, the lodge would assess the members of the lodge a fee that was collected and then passed on to the family that suffered the loss.
At a meeting of the Greek Catholic clergy in late 1891, it was decided to unite the independent lodges to form a stronger bond between the Rusyn people spread out in various towns of Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Illinois and New Jersey. The organizational meeting took place on February 14, 1892 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Since all of the lodges were associated with Greek Catholic churches, it only made sense to call the new organization the Greek Catholic Union. The GCU began humbly with 743 members and $600 in assets.