OUR HISTORY - IMAGES OF THE PAST AND FUTURE
The year 2000 commemorates the 75th anniversary of our parish. The following is a short historical summary of highlights of the parish during the different phases of its growth. From the founders of the 1920s, the pioneers of the 1930s and the subsequent builders of the 1940s to the 1990s, our parishioners have continued to make our parish grow, develop and flourish.
THE INITIAL YEARS
In Winnipeg during the early 1920s, there was no Ukrainian Orthodox church nor were there any church services conducted in the Ukrainian language to serve the early Ukrainian pioneers. With the arrival in Winnipeg of Wasyl Swystun and Julian Stechyshyn and joined by Wasyl Kudryk, who later became an Orthodox priest, they started organizing people who expressed an interest in forming a Ukrainian Orthodox parish. In July 1923, a small group of concerned and interested individuals met for the first time at the Ukrainian National Home to discuss the situation and to explore the idea of starting a Ukrainian Orthodox parish. The foundation was laid by this group who included Rev. Wasyl Kudryk, Apolinarij Novak, Taras Ferley, Joseph Bohonos, Hryhoriy Block, Julian Stechyshyn, Wasyl Swystun, Myroslav Stechyshyn, and Stefan Basisty, who was elected as acting chairman. Following 3 meetings, the committee expanded from approximately 12 to 30 people and included Rev. S.W. Sawchuk, Victor Kupchenko, Paul Popiel, Manoly Mihaychuk, and Michael Skyba. Not all who attended the initial meetings became members of the parish (the names of all other members are presently being researched).
A parish committee was organized and in addition to the above members, Wasyl Novak, Wasyl Kiziuk, Dmytro Danko, Wasyl Batycki, M. Komar, Semen Kowbel and others joined. A new parish was formed and it was decided to rent space for services at St. Peter’s Anglican Church on Selkirk and Aikins and to explore the possibility of purchasing the structure.
Our first parish Dean was Rev. S.W. Sawchuk, who was also acting as head of the UOCC. The first Ukrainian Orthodox service in Winnipeg was held on January 7, 1924, Ukrainian Christmas. This was the first Ukrainian language service in Winnipeg. For a time, services were held on alternate Sundays following the Anglican services, however, it soon became obvious that the structure was not suitable for our parish and a new search was started. The executive, under the presidency of Wasyl Novak, commenced a search for a parcel of land to build their own new church.
First parish Dean Rev. Dr. S. Sawchuk
THE FIRST PHASE
It was envisioned immediately for the future, to construct a large Cathedral. As a result, undeveloped land consisting of 10 lots was purchased at Burrows and Sinclair. The Cathedral was to be built in two stages, with the first stage being the basement so that services could be held. The upper level would be built at a later date when funds were available. A national fundraising campaign was initiated with announcements in numerous Ukrainian language newspapers. Donations were received from all parts of Canada from individuals sending in $1.00, $2.00, $ 5.00, and even less. Collections were held at various functions across the west where people contributed to the building of the new Cathedral. Initial members and Supporters of the parish extended all across Canada. Construction started in June 1925 and by late November 1925, it was completed. The parish was chartered on October 12, 1925, under the Manitoba Church Lands Act with Wasyl Swystun, Wasyl Novak, Hryhoriy Block, Victor Kupchenko, and Joseph Bohonos as the first Trustees of the parish. The chosen design of the Cathedral was based on the style of the St. Mykoliaivsky Sobor in Kyiv. Members of the parish volunteered thousands of hours of physical labor to hand dig the basement and to pour and build the stone and concrete walls and floor. As the men were digging, the women and youth helped with many chores by providing food, refreshments, and helping in any way they could. In addition to the volunteer time, funds of $39,000.00 were required to pay for the construction and furnishing of the structure. Members generously donated funds, leaving only $15,000.00 which had to be provided by private loans and a mortgage. The building committee, under the direction of Semen Kowbel, coordinated the construction of the structure. The initial president during the 1925 construction was Paul Popeil and Wasyl Swystun served as president from the latter part of 1925 up to 1928.
Church activities greatly flourished while attention focused on paying off the loans. Membership expanded from a small number to hundreds of families. Prior to the church being built, a Cathedral Choir was organized and directed by Wasyl Swystun. Olha Swystun headed the first ladies organization in the parish. Anna (Hanka) Romanchych coordinated the ﬁrst Sunday School and Michael Demchuk headed the ﬁrst Brotherhood. The Boyan Theatrical Choir under the direction of Maxym Pasichniak also flourished in the parish.
With the depression in the 1930s, funds became very limited as many of the parishioners lost their jobs. During these difﬁcult years and under the leadership of eight different presidents, the parish continued to flourish and expand its activities and membership, despite the lack of funds.
Rev. Semen W. Sawchuk, except for one year, served as the parish priest from its conception till 1932 when Rev. Peter Mayevsky arrived and served the parish from 1932 until 1946. At this time, membership expanded to over 500 families. In the early 1940s, the mortgage was paid off and a mortgage retirement ceremony was celebrated.
In 1944, it was decided to start fundraising for the completion of the upper level. By 1946, approximately $20,000.00 was raised, but this was not sufficient to start construction.
In 1947, on the initiative of the executive headed by Hryhoriy Block as president, Metropolitan Ilarion Ohienko arrived in Winnipeg to serve our parish and was joined one year later in 1948, by Rev. Hryhorij Metiuk. In 1951, Metropolitan Ilarion became primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. At a later date, Rev. Metiuk also went on to become the primate of the UOCC as Metropolitan Andriy. Our parish was blessed as being the source of two Metropolitans of the UOCC, the only parish in Canada to claim such an honor.
Due to very generous donations by parishioners, member organizations, and the timely large estate of Michael Korzyk, sufficient funds became available and the executive felt that construction of the upper level should start. In 1950 an additional appeal was made for funds. The executive, under the direction of Nicholas Kushniryk and building committee headed by Nicholas Hawryluk and assisted by Walter Gelmych, started construction in 1951.
Construction was completed and dedicated on December 28, 1952. In addition to the many thousands of hours of volunteer labour time donated, the cost of the upper level was almost $165,000.00. The Architect for the upper level was S. Meush. At the start of construction, Metropolitan Ilarion was still at our parish and Rev. H. Metiuk continued until 1958 before becoming a Bishop of the UOCC.
With the completion of the upper cathedral structure, inside furnishings, and the relocation of the Iconostas from downstairs, attention was focused on completing the interior. Painting and decorating of the walls and ceiling, and building a new Iconostas was deemed a priority. (Some of the Icons and the Iconostas are illustrated in this book.) The Executive, under the direction of Hrehory Babiak, began additional fundraising, with strong support from parishioners and member organizations.
Rev. I. Stus was Dean of the parish during this period. The Iconostas and the wall Icons were done by the artist G.S. Hordynsky and assisted by Roman Kowal. They were completed at a cost of approx. $44,000.00 and were consecrated on October 16, 1965. In the following years, due to the generosity of many donors and our member organizations, the Cathedral was completely finished under the executive leaderships of Jakym Gelmych and later Dmytro Duschak, with Rev. Serhij Kiciuk as Dean. The Parish celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1975 during Rev. Andrew Teterenko’s tenure.
1) By the early 1980s, it became obvious that some renovations were required. The domes outside had to be repainted and the Cathedral windows had to be replaced due to deterioration. In 1982, the executive under the leadership of John Kapty, embarked on the project with Alex Surasky raising much of the $55,000.00 from the bingo activities of St. Andrew’s Brotherhood as well as coordinating the design and installation of the new dual pane windows.
2) Although minor reﬁtting of the basement auditorium was done in the 1970s, it was obvious that major renovations were required to modernize the basement auditorium; everything from a new boiler, heating system, electrical, ceiling, floor, etc. The total project cost was approx. $110,000.00 and the parish embarked on the renovation in 1986. The project was coordinated by Alex Surasky who also did most of the fundraising and construction coordination under the executive of which Mary Kushniryk was president. The parish Dean was Rev. Stephen Semotiuk from 1983 to 1992.
3) The last remaining major work was the restoration and cleaning of the inside of the Cathedral and the replacement of the roof. At a cost of almost $85,000.00, the restoration was completed in 1987. The fundraising and project coordination was carried out by Alex Surasky from the executive under the presidency of William Kowalchuk.
1) During the 1970s and 1980s, the bingo committee under the presidency of Michael Chaykowski embarked on a program of acquiring land for future development adjacent to the Cathedral. As homes came on the market, they were purchased by the parish for future expansion. Construction started in 1988 on a $4,200,000.00 , 72 unit senior housing complex. The Ukrainian Orthodox Millennium Villa was completed in the summer of 1989. A non-profit corporation was established with parishioners electing 9 Board Members. Dmytro Duschak has been elected by the Board as Chairman since the Villa's inception, I0 years ago. The parish provided a portion of the funds necessary and the Board of Directors obtained a long term mortgage for the balance and have successfully managed the property by maintaining a near-zero vacancy and paying down a large portion of the mortgage. The church executive, under the direction of William Kowalchuk, supported and encouraged fundraising and member involvement. The project design and construction were coordinated by the Board of Directors.
2) A second major project, in 1995, saw the construction of a large 3 level elevator to allow the elderly and inﬁrm easier access into the Cathedral. At a total project cost of $175,000.00, the fundraising campaign was successful in raising the full amount required due to the generous support of our parishioners, supporters, and member organizations. Vasyl Balan, the president, guided the executive and the project was coordinated by Dmytro Dushchak.
The parish is celebrating its 75th anniversary and the executive, under the direction of Eugene Hyworon, president, has embarked on several major renovation projects and celebration events for the year 2000. Major renovations include modernizing the men‘s washrooms, repainting the outside structure trim and domes, repairing and venting the roof, cleaning and restoring the inside walls and ceilings of the Cathedral, lighting the domes, and improving the roadway and sidewalks in front of the Cathedral, etc. Celebration events include a Spring Ball, Summer Reunion Festival, Fall Patron Feast Day, as well as commissioning a plaque by Leo Mol commemorating Metropolitan Ilarion and others. Support & raise funds for the publication of a book authored by Prof. Mykola Timoshyk on Metropolitan Ilarion's life and work was also started. Work also commenced on researching and consolidating all historical information and artifacts about our parish and preparing a computerized database of all information as well as preparing all historical artifacts and photos for a permanent exhibition. All materials will also be stored on computer CD‘s for future research, use, and publications about our parish. During the early 1990s, under the direction of James Chimuk, our parish was also one of the first to computerize our parish ﬁfinancial and accounting records and this work will continue and expand. Our current parish Dean is V. Rev. Michael Skrumeda.
Although the information provided above is only a brief summary of highlights and mentions only a few names, the growth and development of the parish includes many hundreds of wonderful and devoted individuals who have made this parish strong and vibrant over the years. We are blessed with many individuals and member organizations who through the years, have continued to work diligently and donate generously. No one individual or any particular generation is responsible for what this parish has accomplished. It has been a continuous and ongoing building process. We would like to thank everyone who is a part of this parish and its history.
Our member organizations - the Cathedral Choir, Bratchyky, Sisterhood, St. Mary‘s Brotherhood, The Ukrainian Women's Association Kniahynia Olha Branch, St. Andrew's Brotherhood, CYMK, Boyan, Sunday School, and the Villa, all have their own sections of history and photos in this book. These are the people and groups that have molded our past and direct our future. It is always people that make things happen. In our member and supporter section, the majority of our members are shown. It was not possible to achieve full participation. Our In Memoriam section shows some of our deceased members.
My thanks are extended to the previous executives and parish Deans of 1927, 1952, 1965 and 1985 who ensured that qualified individuals or committees documented major events in our parish over the years and published 3 souvenir booklets about speciﬁc events or celebrations as well as a book about the first 60 years of our parish history.
Eugene B. Hyworon. President
(The following was prepared for the 75th Anniversary Celebrations of St. Mary the Protectress UOC)
We believe together we can change the world and bring to our life more love, and values that will establish a foundation of prosperity for the next generations.
As one family in the Holy Trinity, we aim to grow spiritually, intellectually and culturally embracing the best, helping each other to be better, happier with every day of our extraordinary life.