Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
November 16, 2009
Wee Parish with Big Heart marks 25th
Red Deer Ukrainians' active parish welcomes new overseas families
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
RED DEER - Ukrainian Catholic parishioners here are in a festive mood these days as they mark the 25th anniversary of their St. Vladimir Parish.
Bishop David Motiuk and even Premier Ed Stelmach were expected to take part in the celebrations Nov. 15.
The late Bishop Demetrius Greschuk established St. Vladimir Parish at the request of a local group. It serves about 60 families from Red Deer and other neighbouring communities.
There are an estimated 8,000 Ukrainian Catholics in Red Deer. Six priests have served at St. Vladimir since it started, the first being Father Mark Bayrock.
Father Julian Bilyj, the current pastor, is well loved at St. Vladimir because of his long history with the parish. He and his family emigrated from Bosnia to escape the Yugoslavian wars.
In 1993 the local Ukrainian Catholic Women's League organized a Christmas charity project and provided Bilyj's family with everything they needed to celebrate their first Ukrainian Christmas in Canada.
Ten years later, Bilyj was ordained a priest at St. Vladimir and soon after he became the parish's spiritual leader.
"I never thought I would end up serving in this parish, but God does things in miraculous ways," the father of two said Nov. 8 after Sunday Mass.
His congregation is mostly "third, fourth and fifth generation Ukrainian-Canadians," from different parts of central Alberta and even Saskatchewan.
Mature parishioners make the bulk of the parish and are the most involved. But Bilyj says some young families are joining, which he says bodes well for the future of the parish.
He is referring to many temporary workers that come from Ukraine to work at the Olymel pork-processing plant. Some have decided to stay and are in the process of bringing their families to Red Deer.
The parish's Catholic Women's League has been helping the newcomers in different ways and some started attending the Sunday liturgies as a result.
"We have probably 25 people in regular attendance from those newcomers," noted Bilyj.
"We already have three or four of them who already have their wife and children here and they are coming. That's why I need to preach in Ukrainian because of them."
Without the newcomers, Bilyj could get away with celebrating the liturgy in English.
But, as he put it, "there are still some people that would like to hear something in Ukrainian. They may not speak it, but as kids they got used to praying in Ukrainian and to them it is so familiar that they wouldn't still completely go without it."
Bilyj, 34, currently celebrates the Divine Liturgy 70 per cent in English and 30 per cent in Ukrainian.
St. Vladimir is known as a Wee Parish with a Big Heart and not without reason.
In addition to helping newcomers with things such as ESL classes and translations services, the parish assists the poor, the elderly and the sick.
To mark the anniversary, parishioners decided to pay off the parish mortgage. A cheque for the last $58,000 was to be presented to Bishop Motiuk at the anniversary banquet. The current church was built for $480,000 some 19 years ago.
"Stewardship is certainly being practised," Bilyj said. "People are generally very involved in the parish."
Mike Znak, chair of the parish pastoral council, agrees the parish is generous and vibrant, with active branches of the Catholic Women's League and Knights of Columbus.
"Everybody contributes here," he said proudly.
"The history of our Ukrainian Catholic Church begins with the Edmonton Eparchy having the foresight to purchase two properties on 39th Street and 46th Avenue in August 1977 with the idea of establishing a parish in the near future," reads a two-page history of St. Vladimir.
"One of the properties had a small church on it occupied and rented from the eparchy by a Baptist congregation until late 1985."
Monthly Divine Liturgies were being already celebrated in 1983 at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church.
Later, the services were moved to the little church, with furnishings and liturgical items brought in from Drumheller after the Ukrainian Catholic Church there closed in 1986.
"We held services in this little church until it was demolished and our new church was built and opened in May 1990," UCWLC president Sylvia Lozynsky wrote in an article.
"Our building committee worked tirelessly to ensure the new church was truly distinctive, designed in the unique Hutsul style."
Anniversary celebrations included a Divine Liturgy followed by a banquet at the Black Knight Inn.
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