Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 28, 2004
Vermilion Ukrainian sanctuary
Bosnian priest delights in telling the history of the Eastern Church
St. Olga -- July 11
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
If visitors expect to find a conventional, domed, perhaps 70-year-old Prairie style Ukrainian church, they are in for a surprise. Instead, on the outskirts of the thriving central Alberta town of Vermilion, St. Olga Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church proves to be a modern jewel of an urban sanctuary. Graceful modifications of traditional architectural features, open-work domes but with a conventional two-storey detached bell tower, make for a distinctive house of God.
St. Olga's was consecrated by Bishop Myron Daciuk of the Edmonton Ukrainian Eparchy on June 14, 1992. Patron of the church is the 10th century Kievan princess who anticipated the conversion of Ukraine to Christianity that was accomplished by her grandson Volodymyr. She shares the patronage of many individual churches with him.
Situated outside and to the southeast of the main area of the turn-of-the-century Ukrainian block settlement east of Edmonton, Vermilion has a shorter history of Eastern Catholicism than other Alberta regions.
Parish began in 1948
Although the town, centre of a rich mixed farming area, was incorporated in 1906, the parish of St. Olga wasn't begun until 1948 in a former Roman Catholic church that by the 1980s had become too small. In fact, the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the present church in 1989, long before construction was finished.
Enthusiastic, youthful pastor Father Slavko Dumec is always prepared, schedule permitting, to enlighten visitors on the history of the Eastern Church. Hailing from Bosnia, Dumec enjoys his heavy work schedule at Vermilion and in the Lakeland Ukrainian Catholic parishes.
He will explain the innovative design of the church with its very flat, low peaked ceiling and proportionately wide, low iconostasis. Characteristically, an Eastern church such as St. Olga's relies on artwork rather than coloured windows to provide visual faith lessons. Illumination here is mainly provided by an ornate central chandelier.
Images on the iconostasis are ordered and arranged by tradition to include the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary, saints and Old Testament prophets and personalities. In addition to the church patron, favoured Eastern saints, Nicholas, Stephen, are given prominence in St. Olga's.
The Kievan princess is at the far right, ornately crowned and robed and holding a large cross, seeming to bless, with outstretched right hand, the assembled faithful. At the rear of the church another icon portrays the patron full-length against a backdrop of Kievan-style churches.
The morning star
Olga is honoured as the precursor of Christianity in Ukraine, the "morning star," the "dawn before the sun," who chose to be baptized after observing the honesty and high morals of a small Christian community in Kiev and of Christian soldiers in the army of her husband Prince Igor.
Although she was unsuccessful in converting her son Sviatoslav, her efforts are believed to have set the stage for the wholesale conversion of Rus-Ukraine under her grandson, St. Volodymyr the Great about 1000 AD.
Olga ruled, the first Christian, from the throne of the Grand Princedom of Kiev for many years following the death of Igor, noted for her brilliant character, singular wisdom and charm. She performed many works of mercy, may have built St. Sophia Church in Kiev, sought clergy from Germany and maintained close ties with the Church in Byzantium. Her day is observed as a minor feast this year since July 11 falls on a Sunday.
Divine Liturgy is celebrated at St. Olga's daily except Mondays. It is also said at intervals in three seniors lodges in the area. And to fill an already busy schedule, the Eucharist is periodically celebrated at the outlying missions of Myrnam, Derwent, Mannville, Ascension, Angle Lake, Northern Valley, Fidelity, Derwent Farms and Lloydminster.