Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 7, 2003
In search of the Eucharist
Ukrainians created a house of worship to honour God and their heritage
Holy Thursday -- April 17
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church is an impressive, solid-looking house of God firmly planted in an open space in Winnipeg's Kildonan District. Fifty years old, it was designed, built and decorated by some of Western Canada's best-known master artists.
The church's name honours the Lord's Supper, focus of the daily Mass celebrated here and in churches throughout the world. It's dedicated to the Holy Eucharist, the sacrament instituted by Christ at the Last Supper, commemorated each year three days before Easter on Holy Thursday. Christians, including five and a half million Ukrainian Catholics worldwide, will celebrate the Easter season's pivotal feast in anticipation of the remembered events of Good Friday and Easter.
Year-round, this church's name reminds parishioners of the Last Supper. It's a familiar story, how Christ celebrated the Passover supper with the 12. He blessed bread, broke it and said "Take it, this is my body," and "This is my blood" (Mark 14:23-24).
The event is depicted in the church in stained glass above the altar. With just two Apostles, this abbreviated version of the Last Supper provides participants in the Mass a visual reminder of the church's name and purpose.
Large-scale immigration from Ukraine took place at the beginning of the 20th century when thousands settled large areas of the Canadian Prairies. These new arrivals immediately undertook the construction of churches to fill a basic spiritual need and to provide a visible emotional tie to the old country.
Over the years, these became larger and often replaced earlier, poorer buildings. Many of these churches were designed and built by Oblate Father Philip Ruh, often with the involvement of the entire community. Holy Eucharist, completed in 1954, was the next-to-last of a series of more than two dozen Ukrainian Catholic churches he designed.
Ruh made frequent visits to the church while it was under construction by builder Steve Zulak. For a while, Ruh's student, master carpenter Mike Yanchynski, worked at the church but most of the carpentry was done by Nickolas Cheremshynski.
Attractive, tan-brick Holy Eucharist is topped by three dark, copper-sheathed domes. Its cruciform plan indicates a sophisticated stage in the evolution of mid-sized Canadian Byzantine church design. Broad stairs lead to a three-door roofed entrance.
The church shares features with several other Ruh-designed houses of worship in southern Manitoba. Older, Holy Eucharist Church at West Selkirk shares its name and is very much like the Kildonan church. Both have prominent, domed, double façade towers, a feature Ruh favoured, and a large central dome. Similar churches at East Selkirk, Gonor and Ladywood lack the central dome.
In addition to the prominent Eucharistic icon above the altar, the Kildonan church contains many colourful images of saints and events in the life of Christ. Traditional subjects include Mary the Protectress and other appellations of the Blessed Virgin. An impressive window featuring St. Vladimir was installed in 1988 to recognize the millennium of Christianity in Ukraine.
Holy Eucharist's inside spaces are dark-toned, lighted in part by an elaborate central chandelier. And occupying their traditional triangular spaces at the base of the dome, the four evangelists are portrayed seated, earnestly working on their manuscripts of the Gospels.
Two prominent church artists, iconographer Sviatoslav Hordynski and sculptor/iconographer Leo Mol, both Ukrainian-born, decorated the interior of this church as well as dozens of other houses of worship in Canada.
An active parish, Holy Eucharist parishioners celebrate the Easter season reverently and enthusiastically. But in the church’s name they also honour the sacrament year-round at Sunday High Masses sung in Ukrainian and English Low Masses as well as daily Eucharistic celebrations.