Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 1, 2004
Film documents Ukrainian story
Journey of Hope tells of the growth of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Alberta
By GLEN ARGAN
With 2005, the centennial of Alberta becoming a province, it will be important for Catholics to tell something of our story to other Albertans. The Church has made a massive contribution to making Alberta what it is today.
Religious orders built and ran many of the province's first schools and hospitals, organizations such as Catholic Social Services have confronted many social problems and the faith of the people nurtured in parishes and homes has built community and strengthened the moral fibre.
Not to be forgotten is the unique story of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Alberta. And a soon-to-be-released video does a remarkable job of telling that story. Journey of Hope: The Ukrainian Catholic Church in Alberta uses archival photos and film footage, interviews, and liturgical and traditional music to tell the story of Ukrainian Catholics in this province.
Weaving of words and song
Produced by Harvey Spak, the story is told by skillfully interweaving clips from various authorities such as Bishop Lawrence Huculak, Bishop Paul Chomnycky and historian Frances Swyripa. Background music is provided by several church choirs and by Brian Cherwick and the Kubasonics.
Ukrainian Catholics came to Canada in search of a better life, beginning in 1891. It was a hard life and they dearly missed their Byzantine liturgy.
The first priest to come to the Edmonton area was Father Nestor Dmytriw, who had been serving in the United States. Dmytriw showed up unannounced at the train station in Strathcona on Good Friday, 1897. Word got around quickly among the excited Ukrainians. At an Easter service two days later, they "wailed like little children" to again experience the Divine Liturgy.
But Dmytriw was only a visitor and quickly returned to the U.S. It wasn't until 1902 that the Basilian Fathers and Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate came to set up a permanent ministry. They quickly established themselves at Mundare, making that town, to this day, a key centre for Ukrainian Catholic life in North America.
The Ukrainians were also approached by other churches and sects in those days trying to tap their allegiance. As well, French Catholic priests learned the Ukrainian rite - a solution that was far from ideal for the Ukrainian Catholics who feared "Latin-ization" of their Church.
Visits by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky to Canada in 1910 and 1921 led to the establishment of a Ukrainian Catholic hierarchy here. The opening of the Basilian monastery in Mundare in 1923 spurred the development of indigenous Canadian clergy.
It seemed that no sooner had the Ukrainian Catholic Church got on its feet in Canada than it was outlawed and brutally persecuted by Soviet power in the homeland. For 45 years, it was the diaspora Church in Canada and other countries that kept Ukrainian Catholicism alive.
This time was also a golden age for the Church in Alberta - strong faith, growing numbers and an abundance of religious vocations.
Today, according to Bishop Huculak, the Church is in a period of decline. Ukrainians are being assimilated into Canadian society through mixed marriages, moving to the city and the general secularization of society.
But in the cities, the Church is growing and is gaining new life, evident in the striking iconography in St. George's Church in Edmonton, and the modern, yet traditional, architecture of churches such as Exaltation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Edmonton, St. Vladimir's in Red Deer and St. Stephen's in Calgary.
There is a role and a place today for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, says Huculak as he challenges his flock to put their faith in the teachings of the Apostles more than in buildings and organizations.
Married priest portrayed
Journey of Hope neatly skirts the issue of the Church reverting to its traditional practice of ordaining men - it shows a newly ordained married man with his family, but says nothing about the practice, thus avoiding entering the discussion of what it means for Vatican-Ukrainian relations.
Nevertheless, the nearly two-hour video provides an entrancing overview of the history of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Alberta, much of which may be unfamiliar to Roman Catholics. It is a must-see for anyone interested in the story of Catholicism in Alberta's first 100 years.
(Journey of Hope will be shown at the Provincial Museum, 12845-102 Ave., Edmonton, on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. Copies are available in DVD or VHS formats by phoning the Ukrainian Eparchy at 424-5496.)
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