Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 20, 2004
St Stephen spirals heavenward
Calgary's Catholics of the Byzantine Ukrainian rite worship in this awesome church
St. Stephen – December 26
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Those in search of St. Stephen at his impressive church in southwest Calgary had best arrive on time for the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Divine Liturgy. Seats may be hard to find in this active parish where pastor Rev. Rendy Yackimec, assisted by Rev. Deacon John Doll and a full complement of altar servers, celebrates the sacrament with a fully engaged congregation.
Families with young children dominate and join the large choir in chanted responses, and although this particular Mass is sung in English, one or two Ukrainian hymns can be easily managed using the English-Ukrainian-phonetic hymnal.
All responses are conveniently identified in the parish bulletin and liturgy book.
St. Stephen's is an unusual church, famous for its remarkable, award-winning split dome design. Half of the city's Catholics of the Byzantine Ukrainian rite are served by this large parish.
Mundare Basilian clergy
More than 100 years ago, Ukrainian Catholics in Calgary were served by Basilian clergy from Mundare east of Edmonton, and it was not until 1912 that the people had a proper church to worship in, a small twin-towered structure dedicated to St. Stephen.
The parish prospered and by 1951 had outgrown the wooden northeast Calgary church. Soon after, a move was made into the impressive nearby hilltop Church of the Assumption.
Continued growth of the community resulted in the construction in 1972 of another facility to serve the people of Calgary, a new St. Stephen's Parish centre.
This multi-purpose building served for 10 years as the venue for all parish activities until the present church was added to it and blessed by Edmonton Eparchy Bishop Demetrius Greschuck.
The award-winning St. Stephen's was the inspiration of Montreal architect Radislav Zak. It's dominated by four quarters of a traditional Byzantine dome, rising to different levels to suggest a heavenward spiral.
Patron of the church, Stephen the great Protomartyr, is known from the Acts of the Apostles (6-7). One of 72 original disciples, he was chosen by the Apostles as the first of seven deacons ordained to minister to the physical needs of the infant church.
A zealous preacher, in about AD 34 he was falsely accused of blasphemy because his influence, power and miracle-working were becoming a threat to the Jerusalem authorities.
Although he gave an eloquent defence of himself in court, his audience, enraged, rushed him out of the city and stoned him to death, the first Christian martyr.
Stephen is honoured as a patron of stonemasons and bricklayers. His feast day, observed near Christmas, is a timely recognition of the birth of the Christian church.
St. Stephen's image dominates the front of the church sanctuary where it shares a place of honour with two other large murals - the Resurrection and the Mother of God. Elsewhere in the church, visitors are captivated by the angular asymmetry of the natural wood, steel-pillared nave.
The church faces west in the traditional manner with a large lateral choir loft extending along the north side.
Stained glass windows, high on the south wall feature personalities from the history of Christianity in Ukraine, Sts. Olga and Vladimir, Boris and Gleb for example, while prophets, apostles and Sts. (Josaphat, Nicholas, Demetrius) flank the choir loft.
The 10:30 Mass is not the only liturgical celebration at St. Stephen's.
Other Sunday Divine Liturgies are at 8:30 a.m. (Ukrainian) and 5 p.m. (English) and Tuesday to Thursday mornings at 8:30.
After Sunday Masses, visitors have the opportunity to share conversation and coffee in the welcoming atmosphere of the old parish centre auditorium and find out about a myriad of church organizations and activities.
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