Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 20, 2006
Log church houses exquisite religious art
The Delph structure was built in 1917
Presentation of Mary – November 21
- WCR photo by Ted Fitzgerald
The Presentation of Mary painting in the Delph church is hung behind the main altar
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Like many Eastern churches in Alberta, the architectural and religious gem at Delph is a potential museum as well as a sacred place dedicated to the late November observance of the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
One of the important occasions in the early Church, this memorial was observed as early as the fourth century in the East and was one of the four great Marian celebrations that were introduced in Rome in the 600s.
The event commemorates the Presentation of Our Lady in the Temple or the Entrance of the Mother of God on Eastern calendars. Its origin is based on ancient text accounts that tell how Anna and Joachim were childless for many years before the birth of their daughter Mary.
So pleased were they with the event, they promised to dedicate the child to the service of God in the Temple at Jerusalem. Observance of the feast day is now celebrated as a memorial in the West and a solemn feast day in the Ukrainian Catholic church.
The parish dedicated to Our Lady at Delph, near a post office with this name, was organized by area farmers in 1911. The building faces west onto Range Road 190 north of Township Road 582 just south of the North Saskatchewan River down stream from Edmonton. The nearest large town is Waskatenau across the river to the northwest.
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church was built in 1917 at a cost of $2,000. It's a log construction in the form of a Roman cross with a prominent cross-topped silver dome on an octagonal drum and two decorative, silver dome-capped towers, also with crosses, flanking a tiny entry porch.
Fieldstone bell tower
Later, siding was added to all the exterior surfaces of the church and in 1936, an attractive, unusual free-standing fieldstone bell tower was built to the southwest of the church.
It is topped by three open arches capped with crosses. The adjacent large cemetery has been in use since 1912.
The real glory of the church is in its interior. Although those entering are immediately impressed by the three tiny ornate altars, they can't ignore, over their heads, the life-size image of Our Lady the Protectress, painted on canvas attached to the wooden ceiling, performing her traditional function of greeting and protecting all who enter the church.
This, as with much of the art in the building, is the 1935 work of noted Edmonton church painter Peter Lipinski.
Other pieces by him include many popular Eastern saints.
Behind the main altar, the prize of the parish is his rendering of the patronal festive event. With her aged parents standing behind her, the three-year-old Mary is being welcomed by high priest Zachary, father of John the Baptist, while three young women look on.
On the north transept wall, beside the altar, a smaller portrayal of the scene shows the figures positioned a little differently and is missing two of the women attendants.
For much of its existence, parishioners of the Delph church enjoyed regular celebration of the Divine Liturgy once a month. But with changing times, the observance has become sporadic, now happening about once every four to six weeks.
The church has become a mission of St. John the Baptist at Lamont under the guidance of Father Gabriel Haber who must alternate the Eucharistic celebration among six separate missions.
The Presentation of Mary is on the historic church tour promoted by the County of Lamont and contact to gain access to the building is available at their office.