By Jayne L. Buryn, Communications Coordinator, Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of EdmontonPhotos by Mark Kopenic, Colleen Holowaychuk, and Florence Stelmach

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Perhaps it was the heavenly protectress of the Kraków parish who ensured that the rain held off during the Divine Liturgy on July 16. After all, the celebration marked a key event in the life of the Protection of the Mother of God parish (Парафія Покрови Матері Божої) – the faith community’s 100 years of existence.

“The church was standing room only,” said former Alberta premier and Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood of Canada eparchial ambassador, Ed Stelmach, “with a number of people standing outside.” Apparently, no one got wet.

The need for a spiritual home in the Kraków region west of Mundare became apparent 100 years ago with the arrival of between 37 and 40 Ukrainian Catholic families in the area. Most of the settlers came from Brody and Chortkiv, in the Sniatyn province of Ukraine, between 1898 and 1915 and were first served by Basilian Father Naucratius Kryzanowsky. Father Naucratius celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in a private home.

As the settlers made the region their new home, the need for a cemetery arose. In 1917, seven community members teamed up to purchase four acres of land for this purpose. A 1915 chytalnia (reading room, cultural centre, hall) located several miles from the cemetery was purchased and moved onto the newly-acquired land. The building was renovated and became the “Ruthenian Catholic Church of Zawale”, named for the nearest rural post office, and blessed by the Basilian Fathers.

In 1918, building of the 40- by 20-foot church began, followed by an expansion several years later, completed in 1928. A teacher of Ukrainian language, Ivan Stadnyk, became the parish’s choir director.

In 1938, the community’s Narodnyi Dim (National Hall), built in 1933 across from the church, burned down just a week prior to a national Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood of Canada conference. The determined parishioners rebuilt it in short order.

One hundred years later, on July 16, 2017, about 200 people came together to commemorate the legacy of their enterprising ancestors. “Guests from as far away as California, Ontario and Calgary made a special effort to attend,” according to Ed Stelmach, to celebrate the centennial milestone of the parish’s establishment. The Knights of Columbus, the Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood, established in the Kraków parish in 1938 under the direction of Fr. Andrew Truch OSBM, and Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate, who taught catechism and Ukrainian language reading and writing in the community, helped celebrate this auspicious event.

Festivities began with a Divine Liturgy concelebrated by Bishop David Motiuk and parish pastor, Father Dan Wach OSBM. Altar servers Nicholas and Jarek Stelmach assisted at the altar and the Kraków – St. Michael choir, established more than 50 years ago by the late Peter Shlichta and Joseph Weleschuk, sang the responses.

Following the Liturgy, a Panahyda was held at the memorial. Then, approximately 160 people enjoyed a buffet dinner in the St. Michael hall. Vice President of the parish, Colleen Holowaychuk, emceed a short program after the meal.

The Basilian Fathers have served the parish from its inception. Among the 15 who served were several who later rose to the “rank” of bishops: Fr. Basil Ladyka (Winnipeg), Fr. Neil Savaryn (Edmonton), and Fr. Myron Chimy(New Westminster). Current parish pastor is Fr. Daniel Wach OSBM.

As of 1981, a stainless steel cross and a monument recognize the original founders of the parish and pioneers in the area.

“This well maintained church

and cemetery are a tribute to the trials and hardships of the pioneers, to our faith in God,” wrote Ed Stelmach in an article about the Kraków parish’s history, “and may this be continued by our next generation.