Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 14, 2005
Church's cross saved from fire
Canada's first Ukrainian Catholic parish's church was blessed in 1927
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary — February 15
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Eight years before the Province of Alberta came into existence in 1905, settlers were establishing Canada's first Ukrainian Catholic parish near Edmonton. They were the forerunners of a massive wave of immigrants that were to populate and cultivate Western Canada's rich parkland belt. Travelling half way around the world to put down roots in the remote Northwest Territories, the homesteaders desired a base for their faith as a priority in this unfamiliar land.
Today, the hub of this migration exists as the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Star-Peno, northeast of the provincial capital.
Those first years were a time of great difficulty for the new Canadians. In addition to having to establish a new home, by 1900 they had built their first church. Lack of clergy, disputes with adherents of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the loss to fire of a second church in 1922, couldn't dissuade the people from constructing their present, attractive sanctuary. It was blessed by Bishop Basil Ladyka on the feast of the Assumption in 1927.
Despite its turbulent beginnings, the parish proved to be the ancestor of more than 80 churches and missions, serving some 26,000 Ukrainian Catholics in the Edmonton Eparchy alone.
It is appropriate that this Church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the great universal Marian observances. The concept of the Assumption, a very ancient feast in the Eastern Church, was celebrated in Rome by the year 600 when Aug. 15 was set as the feast day.
It was proclaimed as Church dogma in 1950 when Pope Pius XII decreed that "the Mother of God was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven." The event is also recognized in the fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary and identifies many Church names.
The Church at Star is of a conventional prairie Ukrainian design. Not the simplest, it is cross-shaped in plan with a prominent central dome. An unusual 1970 addition to the front of the building was designed to accommodate increased attendance at Divine Liturgies at the time. Noteworthy too, is the mission cross on the grounds and an attractive 1949 free-standing field stone belfry.
Visitors fortunate enough to be guided through Assumption Church by knowledgeable parish stalwarts Lawrence or Bill Skubleny are in for a treat.
Displayed on the walls are particularly fine 1930 examples of the work of artist Peter Lipinski. He not only rendered colourful images - Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the Holy Trinity (on the dome) and Mary the Protectress (welcoming people from the nave ceiling) - but produced many examples of his trademark marbleization and imitation stonework and embroidery borders.
Original iron cross
Also displayed here are relics and the original iron cross salvaged from the fire of 1922.
The absence of an iconostasis in the Church allows of an unobstructed view of the large Lipinski painting of the Assumption that hangs behind the altar. Portrayed is a traditional Eastern interpretation of the event - the Dormition (Uspennia) or falling asleep of Our Lady. In the foreground, Mary reposes, surrounded by the disciples, while angels hover above Our Lord who is welcoming his mother to paradise.
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary has always been an active parish with about 60 families now. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated at least once a month alternating with other district churches. Ancillary activities - weddings, baptisms, funerals, anniversaries - are a part of the parish year, culminating with the celebration of the parish praznyk each Aug. 15, the feast day of the Assumption.
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