Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Seprtember 14, 2009
Parishioners' labour and love built St. Josphat
Ukrainian scholar documents the story of this Edmonton cathedral and Ukrainian life in Edmonton
St Josephat Ukrainian Cathedral, Edmonton: A History (1902-2002) has just been released.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - In late 1904, a group of Ukrainian settlers and their priests gathered at a square on Namayo Avenue to bear witness to the blessing of Edmonton's first Ukrainian Catholic church.
The 40 by 60-foot church was dedicated to St. Josaphat, a Ruthenian Catholic bishop who died a martyr's dead in 1623.
From its modest beginnings, the parish of St. Josaphat blossomed to attain the status of cathedral and seat of the Ukrainian Eparchy less than 50 years later.
Serge Cipko tells the history of St. Josaphat in his recently released book, St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral Edmonton: A History (1902-2002).
Cipko, a history professor and currently director of the Ukrainian Diaspora Studies Initiative at the University of Alberta, wrote the book on the occasion of the parish's centennial, which was officially marked in 2002.
THE UKRAINIAN STORY
The 244-page book, written both in English and Ukrainian, isn't just about St. Josaphat. It is also about Ukrainian settlement in Alberta and Canada and about Roman-Eastern-rite relations.
In addition to greetings from the likes of Metropolitan Lubomyr Husar of Lviv, Ukraine, and Alberta's Premier Ed Stelmach, Cipko's book contains a chronology that begins in 1871 with the establishment of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Albert under Bishop Vital Grandin.
Then there are five chapters, each chapter dealing with a specific period in the parish's history.
The first one deals with the early years - from the arrival of the first Ukrainian settlers to Alberta in 1891 to the choice of the site for St. Josaphat Church in 1902.
As it turns out, it was the Edmonton Archdiocese that sold the land where St. Josaphat was eventually built.
Other chapters deal with building toward a cathedral (1917-47), the first two decades as a cathedral church, toward the commemoration of the millennium of Christianity and from millennium to centenary.
Almost two hundred photos illustrate Cipko's book. The selection includes pictures of the early priests and bishops, a 1913 wedding and several photos of the cathedral's interior.
Although the blessing of St. Josaphat Church on Nov. 27, 1904 was a breakthrough for Ukrainian Catholics of Edmonton, the church was finished only on the outside. And there was no money available to buy a furnace or coal.
MINED FOR COAL
To remedy this problem, one of the parishioners, Theodore Chichka, mined coal in the banks of the North Saskatchewan River and paid 25 cents to a Frenchman with a team of horses to haul the fuel to the church.
To finish the interior of the church, the parish pastor approached a local building supplier who decided to give the materials on credit, charging no interest.
In 1913, as the Ukrainian population increased, the church building was enlarged. In that year too, a monastery-residence was constructed beside the church to house the parish priests and a significant fundraising drive was underway to build a community hall for Ukrainian Catholics.
By the 1940s, more than 6,000 Ukrainians were living in Edmonton. This called for a new, larger church. That's how the current St. Josaphat Cathedral came into being.
LABOUR OF FAITH AND LOVE
Built between 1939 and 1947, the Byzantine cathedral combines Roman, American Colonial and Renaissance styling. Seven elaborate domes, a grand entrance and rare, magnificent interior religious murals distinguish the church. Cipko says the cathedral was built by volunteer labour with the excavation of the footings and the basement virtually "dug by the hands of parishioners."
Father Phillip Ruh, an Oblate priest who had studied architecture in Germany and served in Ukraine, designed St. Josaphat, which was designated a cathedral March 3, 1948.
In the book's conclusion, Cipko says that up to 2002, the year of St. Josaphat's centennial, priests at the cathedral parish conducted 11,052 baptisms, 5,430 marriages, 4,548 burials and about 50,000 Divine Liturgies.
Contact the cathedral to acquire St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral Edmonton: A History (1902-2002).