The Basilian Fathers in the Edmonton Eparchy
The members of the Order of St. Basil, commonly called the Basilian Fathers, have been involved in extensive pastoral and cultural work among the Ukrainian people since their arrival in Alberta at the turn of the century.
The first four Basilian missionaries arrived in Alberta in the fall of 1902 and began to work with the Ukrainian settlers who had begun to settle the vast prairie areas since 1891.
In Edmonton the Basilians established St. Josaphat’s parish, which eventually became the cathedral parish for the Eparchy. In 1949 they established St. Basil’s parish on Edmonton ‘s south side, the largest parish in the Eparchy. From Edmonton they served the many rural parishes that were growing south east and south west of the city, and north and north west of the city as far as the Peace River country.
The Basilian settlement in Mundare became a very important center not only for the Eparchy but for the Ukrainian Catholic Church in North America . Following the initial settlement in 1902 Ss. Peter & Paul monastery was built in the town of Mundare in 1923 and ten years later a second monastery was built outside the town, “on the farm”. These two monasteries enabled the Basilians to provide the formation for new members by establishing a Novitiate in Mundare and a center for studies, teaching the arts, humanities and philosophy to the students. Presently the Novitiate home is still in Mundare.
To help carry out their missionary work the Basilians opened a press in 1936 which functioned in Mundare until 1949 when it moved to Toronto . During these years the Mundare press published newspapers and magazines as well as liturgical texts and other books for the Ukrainian people who could find little to read in their own language.
With at times up to 60 Basilians living in the two Mundare monasteries, food was provided by the large farms that were cared for especially by the Brothers. These provided meat and vegetables for the table, as well as grain and other products for sale.
From the early years until after the second World War, the clergy from Mundare served the Ukrainian Catholics throughout north east Alberta, traveling also to the Ukrainian communities in British Columbia. In several localities residences were opened in these rural areas. The Vegreville parish has continued to grow over the years and in 1967 a residence was built from where the priests serve their parish to this day.
From 1902 to 1931 Mundare was the center for the Basilian Mission in North America. When this mission was raised to the status of a province in 1932, Mundare was made the seat for the provincial superior until the division of Canada and the USA into two provinces in 1948.
In 1953, a museum was established in the former printing press building in Mundare. Over the years a valuable collection of Ukrainian religious and folk artifacts has been gathered, including books and manuscripts from the 15th century, and simple home made tools used by the early Ukrainian pioneers in Canada. In 1991 a new museum building was opened, dedicated to the memory of the pioneer Ukrainian clergy and settlers. This museum, library and archives, continues to preserve valuable artifacts from the past for the future generations.
The feast of the local Mundare patrons Ss. Peter & Paul was a time for spiritual and cultural celebrations from the earliest days. When the nearby grotto shrine was completed in 1932 the Ss. Peter & Paul praznyk or vidpust grew even larger. Faithful from around the province came to this religious center for spiritual renewal, provided through the sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), liturgical services with the local bishop, sermons by inspiring Basilian preachers, and an opportunity to share one’s faith with others often numbering several thousand. In addition concerts of Ukrainian folk and religious music, dances and other forms of entertainment were provided at the annual Vidpust. Although these activities have been reduced in recent years, on 30 June 1996 , an estimated crowd of 1,200 attended Ss. Peter & Paul Vidpust in Mundare with visiting Bishop Basil Filevych from Saskatoon.
In 1996 there are a total of 19 members living within the Eparchy. In Edmonton 5 priest reside at St. Basil’s monastery, serving St. Basil’s parish, as well as Camp St. Basil at Pigeon Lake and five rural parishes south west of Edmonton. Two priests reside in Vegreville where they serve Holy Trinity parish and the rural parish of New Kiev. In Mundare 12 Basilians reside at Ss. Peter & Paul monastery. These include 7 priests, 2 deacons and 3 lay brothers, some of whom are retired while others are active in various fields. Beside the central parish in Mundare, 13 other rural parishes are served from Mundare, two convents of the Sisters Servants (SSMI), several hospitals and nursing homes.
In addition to parish work in the Edmonton Eparchy, Basilians also work with the apostolate of the printed word, in preaching missions and retreats, teaching courses at summer camps and at Newman Theological College in St. Albert, and producing a half hour weekly Ukrainian language program broadcast in Edmonton and surrounding areas. As the Order of St. Basil the Great prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary of work in Canada in the year 2002, it can look upon its history with satisfaction and rededicate its members to continuing their efforts in spreading the Kingdom of God in the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton.