Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 17, 2005
Warrior saint honoured by Hilliard church
The cross and dome identify its Catholic and Byzantine roots
St. Demetrius – October 28
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
He gazes straight ahead from a prominent icon on the wall of his church near Hilliard. Youthful, clean-shaven and in ancient military garb, he stands on guard, lance in hand.
This is Glorious Demetrius the Great, martyred in 299 AD for his faith and believed to be the intercessor for many miraculous cures at his shrine in Greece. With Sts. George and Theodore, he is a member of the great warrior saints triad of the Eastern Church.
He is remembered in the name of St. Demetro Church at Hilliard Farms off Highway 15 east of Edmonton, built in 1926 to replace a small 1903 chapel.
Originally dedicated to St. John the Baptist, but known locally as by Seniuks, in reference to homesteaders Peter and Appolonia Seniuk, it has faithfully served its rural congregation and has outlived its younger urban partner, the 1938 Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary a few kilometres away in the town of Hilliard.
An aging, unkempt St. John the Baptist Farms Church is the subject of one of the paintings in Parasia Iwanec's book, Ukrainian Churches of Alberta, executed before restoration and a change of patron.
St. Demetro is now an attractive, well-kept building facing west on an expansive lot with a church hall to the south and cemetery behind. A black stone 1991 monument identifies the location of the original 1903 chapel and joins in the front yard of the church, a traditional two-storey free-standing 1935 bell tower.
Of a basic three-element design for a Canadian Ukrainian church, St. Demetro has a small entry porch, saddle-roofed main portion and added-on sanctuary. It seats 300 people. The small false dome and cross that top the church identify it as Byzantine and Catholic.
Those fortunate enough to enjoy a tour of this distinctive historic building with custodian Mike Seniuk will find the interior of St. Demetro a treasure trove of period religious artwork, carefully preserved as it was when completed in 1929 by famed Edmonton church artist Peter Lipinski.
Since there is no iconostasis in the little church, the ornate altar with its paintings of Christ and the apostles is visible and fronted by a simple tetrapod.
The five-sided half dome that roofs the sanctuary has its triangular sections outlined with strings of small white lights. Then, dominating the tongue-in-groove ceiling in front of the sanctuary where a dome would be in a more elaborate church, is a dynamic painting of God the Father, arms outstretched in blessing, gazing down on his assembled people.
Adorning the wall behind the altar, the church's dominant icon is a large, rendering of, strangely enough, St. John the Evangelist. Dressed in off-red robes, the youthful, long-haired apostle holds his Gospel in one hand and a writing quill in the other and is accompanied by his symbolic eagle.
The St. Demetro icon and one portraying the Resurrection face one another across the sanctuary, while the church's original namesake is portrayed on a side wall in a dramatic rendition of the Baptism of Christ.
St. Demetro, with churches at Krakow and St. Michael, is now a mission of St. John the Baptist Parish at Borschiw, the Divine Liturgy being celebrated monthly in each of these.
Every fourth Sunday of October, former parishioners return to St. Demetro to attend Mass, participate in prayers in the cemetery and celebrate their patron's feast day.
Not usually open, this church is one of those featured in a popular church guide available from Lamont County. In it, those interested in visiting this historic gem can find parish contact names and phone numbers.