Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 4, 2006
Belgian Oblate crafted Cathedrals
Fr. Philip Ruh designed four elaborate Prairie cathedrals
The Immaculate Conception – December 8
By TED FITZGERALD
More than 30 of his churches are now scattered across the Prairies through to Ontario.
Amazingly, Ruh requested and obtained permission to transfer to the Ukrainian Catholic Church, spent two years in Ukraine learning a new language and sacred rites and in 1913, ended up in Mundare.
Ministering to people over thousands of kilometres in the area east of Edmonton, he soon realized that not only were clergy in demand, but churches in many areas were non-existent or were being built by area pioneers. So added to his excessive pastoral duties, Ruh found himself following a new career as church designer and builder.
More than 30 of his churches are now scattered across the Prairies through to Ontario. His often innovative techniques culminated in the construction of what have come to be called Prairie cathedrals - four elaborate structures of which only the one at Dauphin and the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Cook's Creek, dedicated to his order's patron, have survived.
Parishioners of two small churches at Cook's Creek had requested that Ruh be sent to help them build a larger replacement. Construction began in 1930 with his arrival as parish priest.
He would serve there for 30 years and oversee the painfully slow construction of the great church, entirely the labour of parishioners, always short of funds for materials during the Great Depression. Immaculate Conception was open for service in 1940 but not consecrated until 1952.
The elaborate, seven-domed structure exhibits architectural elements that the priest had encountered in his lifetime - basically a Kievan design with Romanesque and Gothic adaptations - a unique Western Canadian edifice.
Sung Divine Liturgy is celebrated here Sundays at 10:30 a.m. in English and an annual pilgrimage is held near the mid-August feast of the Assumption. The adjacent Lourdes grotto is accessible to the public on weekends and daily in July and August.
Ruh ended his remarkable life of ministry and church building on Oct. 24, 1962 and is buried with members of his beloved, adopted Ukrainian flock in the well-maintained cemetery of his Prairie cathedral - the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, Cook's Creek.
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