Our History

The history of Eastern Catholics in the Eparchy

Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada

1891  September 7: Wasyl Elyniak and Ivan Pylypiw, the first Ukrainian settlers, land in Montreal. They emigrated from the village of Nebyliv (district Kalush), Western Ukraine. Shortly after arriving by train in Winnipeg, they find work in Gretna, Manitoba. Impressed by the availability of land in Canada they make arrangements for their families to join them, and together they travel to Alberta to homestead – Elyniak and his family take a homestead in the vicinity of Chipman, and the Pylypiw family settle near Edna-Star.

1897  April 4: Reverend Father Nestor Dmytriw, from the United States, is the first Ukrainian Catholic priest to visit the Ukrainian settlers in Canada, arrives in Winnipeg. 

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1897  April 12: Reverend Father Dmytriw celebrates the first Ukrainian Catholic Liturgy in Canada, in the home of Wasyl Kzionzyk in Terebowlia (now Valley River).

1899 – October 21: Reverend Damascene Polywka, OSBM, from the U.S.A., arrives in Winnipeg. On December 8th of the same year, he arranges for the purchase of property at the corner of McGregor and Stella for the sum of $450.00. He consecrates the property and places it under the patronage of St. Nicholas. May 1 st, 1901 the building of the first St. Nicholas Church is completed. The parish, unfortunately does not have a permanent pastor, since none of the priests arriving from the United States stay for any length of time in Canada.

1902 – October 23: The first Basilian Missionary priests, who are to stay permanently in Canada, arrive from Western Ukraine. They are: Platonid Filas, Sozont Dydyk, Antin Strotsky and lay brother Yeremia Yanishewsky. Also arriving with them are four members of the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate: Ambrosia Lenkewych, Isydora Shypowska, Emilia Klapoyshok and Taida Wrublewsky. They all travel by train to Alberta where on November 7th Father Filas settles near Beaverlake (now Mundare). Next summer he begins building the first little church and monastery-convent for the Basilian Fathers and the Sister Servants at their new homestead.

1903 – July 11: The first convent and novitiate for the Sister Servants is officially opened in Beaverlake (now Mundare), Alberta.

1911 – May 27: The first Ukrainian Catholic newspaper, Kanadyjsky Rusyn, starts publishing regularly. In 1918 the name is changed to the Kanadyjsky Ukrainetz. In June 1927, the paper passes into the hands of a private national co-op press, which eventually becomes “unfriendly” towards the Ukrainian Catholics. Therefore on November 7, 1929, it is decided to publish a new Ukrainian Catholic paper in Edmonton under the title Ukrainian News. It becomes the official instrument of communication in the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada.

1923 – August 28: The Basilian Fathers in Mundare open their novitiate and studies in philosophy and theology.

1929 – July 14: Bishop Basil Volodymyr Ladyka, OSBM, the pastor of St. Josaphat Cathedral in Edmonton, is consecrated at St. Josaphat’s and takes over the leadership of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada from Bishop Nykyta Budka. At this time there are 29 diocean and 18 religious priests serving the Church in Canada. According to the data given in the 1931 Canadian Statistics, there were 186,587 Ukrainian Catholics served by some 100 priests, in 350 established parishes and missions from coast to coast.

1929 – September 22: The Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate open the first Ukrainian Catholic hospital in Mundare, with 30 beds and an operating room.

1932 – December 28-29: A church organization called “The Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood” is established. Membership in the organization is open to men, women, as well as young people. However, in 1946 separate organizations are formed – for women the “Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League” and the “Ukrainian Catholic Youth” for young people. The Brotherhood becomes an organization for men only.

1951 – Nine monks of the Studite Order, fleeing from the communist regime, arrive in Canada. The Ukrainian Bishops of Canada arrange for the purchase of land in Woodstock, Ontario where a monastery and church are built for them.

1974 – January 27: The Apostolic See creates another Eparchy in Canada – the Eparchy of New Westminster for the province of British Columbia and the Yukon Territories. Thus, the Edmonton Eparchy now retains the province of Alberta and the Northwest Territory.

1974 – October 3: Bishop Demetrius Greshchuk, pastor of St. Stephen’s church in Calgary, is consecrated at St. Josaphat’s Cathedral in Edmonton and becomes Auxiliary Bishop to Bishop Neil Savaryn, OSBM, for the Edmonton Eparchy.

1981 – July 22: The Ukrainian Catholic Bishops of Canada establish the Holy Spirit Ukrainian Catholic Seminary. Initially it is housed at the monastery of the Basilian Fathers in Ottawa, then on September 23, 1984, the Seminary moves to its own site, where there is room for 28 seminarians. The first rector is Father Joseph Andrijishyn.

1991 – Bishop Myron Daciuk, then Auxiliary Bishop of the Archeparchy of Winnipeg, is appointed Eparch of Edmonton.

1997 – April 3: Reverend Lawrence Daniel Huculak, OSBM, is consecrated Bishop; on April 6th, 1997 he is enthroned as Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton.

2007 – March 24: Bishop David Motiuk, then Auxiliary Bishop of the Archeparchy of Winnipeg, is enthroned as Eparch of Edmonton at St. Basil the Great church in Edmonton

St. Josaphat Cathedral

The Basilian Father’s in Edmonton

 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.

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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

Mundare Pilgrimage
Saint Peter and Paul

Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in the Edmonton Eparchy

SSMI Logo

Visit their website for more information: https://ssmi.org/

Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate History

The Congregation of Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate was founded on the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother God, August 27, 1882 , in the village of Zhuzhyl , Western Ukraine , where Father Cyril Seletsky was Pastor. The Co-foundress and first member of the Community, Michaelina Hordashevska – Sister Josaphata, was initiated into religious life at the Novitiate of the Felician Sisters in Lviv , Ukraine.

Just ten years later after its founding, responding to the request of Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky, who feared for the spiritual safety of his people overseas, Sister Josaphata, co-foundress, missioned four Sisters to Canada. One of the original members of the Community, Sister Athanasia Melnyk, came to Canada in 1905 as a missionary.

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Sisters Ambrosia Lenkewich, Taida Wrublewsky, Isidore Shypowsky and Emilia Klapowchuk arrived in Edmonton with the Basilian Fathers on November 1, 1902. The following day the missionaries from Ukraine were welcomed joyfully by their people. The youth greeted them with recitations and songs of their own compositions, expressing their love and hope for the future. Seven months later, in May of 1903, the first and youngest missionary, Sister Taida dies. The three Sisters were transferred to the Basilian homestead at Beaver Lake (later named Mundare). When they arrived at Beaver Lake on July 11, their home was still under construction. The settlers were overjoyed that “Their sisters” would be living in their midst and pioneering with them. They brought the Sisters food and other necessities.

The Sisters entered into the homestead experience wholeheartedly. They plastered their home and other buildings on the homestead. They cleared the brush for a garden and helped with farm chores. They prepared meals for the volunteers who helped with the construction and farm work. On Sunday and holy days the Sisters taught the children catechism and singing after the Divine Liturgy. When the priest was away at another colony, they conducted prayer services for the settlers. Just over a month after their arrival to the homestead, on August 14, the Sisters welcomed their first Canadian candidate, Maria Letawsky from Lamont.

By 1920 the Sisters had founded two missions in Alberta: Mundare and Edmonton. Aware of the pioneers’ desire to educate their children, the Sisters opened schools at each of their missions. The Sisters taught religion and Ukrainian language after school hours and during the weekend. During the summer holidays they taught hundreds of children catechism in rural areas.

Their students took an active part in the life of the parish. They sang the liturgical celebrations. They joined church organizations such as Sodality, Children of Mary or Altar Boys societies. The Sisters prepared as many as five concerts annually, sewing the costumes and painting the backdrops. The entire parish looked forward to the program of recitations, songs, drills and dramas.

At each mission the Sisters cared for the orphans, bearing the entire cost of raising and educating them. They also provided room and board to children from rural areas, enabling them to get a better education. The Sisters travelled many miles to care for sick, using homemade remedies, and the sick often came to the convents for healing. During the influenza epidemic of 1918, their boarding school at Mundare was converted temporarily to a hospital. In 1928 they built their first hospital in Mundare.

The Sisters cared for the churches, cleaning and decorating them and providing them with linens, altar bread and all other liturgical needs. They made flowers which were used to decorate the sanctuaries for festive occasions. They were also serving as cantors and organized choirs and directed church organizations for adults such as the Apostleship of Prayer. Whenever possible they distributed religious literature.

Besides these works and the frequent soliciting of donations to maintain their institutions, the Sisters did their own domestic work such as planting large gardens and doing farm chores in their rural missions. They provided domestic services at the Basilian novitiate/scholasticate at Mundare.

The pioneer Sisters left a precious legacy to the Congregation, their Church and people: the example of dedication, self-sacrifice and deep faith in God. They were faithful to the founding spirit of the Congregation, serving where the need was the greatest and passed this spirit on to the succeeding generations of members. Their main concern was that their people would not perish in Canada. They did everything that was possible to preserve and enrich their religious and cultural heritage.

Today the Sisters continue to respond to the most urgent needs of their people, adapting to changing needs and circumstances. They conduct the Eparchial Religious Education Center in Edmonton . They care for the sick in hospitals, do pastoral ministry, conduct retreats, Bible Studies, Baptism preparations, missions for adults, organize youth programs, write programs, provide domestic services at the Bishop’s residence.

Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate

Highlights of Alberta Missions

EDMONTON – St. Josaphat’s Home (1905)
Religious Education Center where Sisters organize and prepare programs for children, youth and adults of the Eparchy. Teach catechism at the parish, preparing children and their parents for the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist. Instruct laity to teach catechism. Give spiritual direction to the members of the UCWLC. Visit the sick at hospitals and in their homes, and help the needy. Take care of the church. Provide domestic service at the Bishop’s residence. Travel to parishes where there is no resident priest, teaching catechism to children, youth and adults, familiarizing them with the Eastern Rite and culture. Cantoring, lead in Services, like Divine Liturgy, Molebens, Vespers and funerals, etc. Conduct Associates of the SSMI’s, meeting monthly with the members for prayer and instructions.

St. Ambrose Home (1968)
The apostolate in this home centers on Parish work, and pastoral visits. A Sister conducts a daily pre-school Ukrainian language program, as well as the Children of Mary. During the summer, Sisters teach catechism at the various outlying parishes, and children’s camps. They also care for the church building.

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CALGARY – St. Bernadette’s Home (1952)
Sisters serve in both parishes, adapting their mission to meet the needs of their people: teaching Ukrainian language and religion, conducting young adults choir, teaching and leading liturgical singing, visiting the sick in hospitals and homes, bring Holy Communion to those unable to attend the Divine Liturgy. During summer, teach at the various rural parishes. Care for the church. Give spiritual guidance to the UCWLC members, and instruct the adults in scriptural reading and prayers.

MUNDARE – St. Joseph ‘s Home (1926)
This home is for elderly and ailing Sisters. This home is a “house of prayer”; and those who are able spend time on the telephone giving good counsel and supporting the needy.

Mary Immaculate Hospital (1928-2005)
Sisters ministed to health care needs of predominantly Ukrainian community, visiting the sick and elderly Sisters and people of the vicinity until 2005 when they gave it over to the Catholic Health Corporation of Alberta.

VEGREVILLE – Our Lady of Perpetual Help (1943-2003)
The Sisters were involved in parish work, teaching catechism, preparing children for First Holy Communion, visiting the sick and elderly in their homes, and sowing liturgical vestments.

WILLINGDON – Mary Immaculate Hospital (1935-1998)
Sisters managed the hospital, often having a great influence on the religious life of their patients. They visited the sick at other hospitals. Helped the needy and neglected. Took care of the elderly and ailing Sisters. The hospital was closed in 1998 as part of the provincial government cut backs.