Lidia M. Wasylyn, St. Josaphat Parish Council Vice-Chair.
St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Edmonton, observed a day of Gratitude and Re-Dedication during a hierarchical Divine Liturgy on February 11, 2018. The historic Cathedral recently underwent a major restoration involving both exterior and interior elements of the structure. The successful completion of the project called for this special event.
The celebrants included honoured guest Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak of Winnipeg and Bishop David Motiuk, Eparch of Edmonton. Joining them were priests who currently or formerly served at St. Josaphat Cathedral, including Very Rev. Father Stephen Wojcichowsky, Procyncellus and Chancellor, Rt. Rev. William Hupalo, Retired, Rev. Peter Babej, Cathedral Rector, Rev. Andrij Nykyforuk, Assistance Pastor of the Cathedral and Col. Rev. Terry Cherwick, Military Chaplain. Many Lectors and Altar Servers participated in this well attended bilingual Liturgy.
Three young parishioners, Melania and Daria Antoszko and Danylo Kichma greeted Metropolitan Huculak, formerly Eparch of Edmonton, with traditional bread and salt at the church entrance. The parish choir directed by Dr. Melanie Turgeon sang a particularly lovely liturgy that incorporated liturgical compositions by Oleksander Koshetz, Roman Hurko and Myron Fedoriv. The Nicene Creed was powerfully sung by tenor soloist, Lyubomyr Pastuszenko.
In his homily, Metropolitan Huculak recounted his happy childhood days at St. Josaphat, the parish where he began to develop love for his church and God. He recalled how the Cathedral was both a religious and community focal point. He was very happy to return to his spiritual home as Bishop of the Edmonton Eparchy years later. Metropolitan Huculak focused on the importance of maintaining the Cathedral for future generation and continuing to build the parish community.
Following the Liturgy, a gala fundraising luncheon was held at the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex. A sunny February day contributed to the celebratory atmosphere of the event as guests were entertained upon arriving by the violin duet of Anastasia and Saoirse Cipko. The event Master of Ceremonies was Andrew Hladyshevsky, Q.C. and opening remarks were presented by Pastoral Council Chairman Richard Doblanko. The opening prayer of “Our Father” arranged by contemporary Canadian-American composer Roman Hurko was masterfully sung by the Kapella Kyrie choir followed by a blessing delivered by Rev. Andrij Nykyforuk .
After the luncheon Daniel Papirnik, chairman of the restoration committee, offered interesting insights into this major restoration and recalled many anecdotes from the project. Preserving a storied historic landmark was a major endeavour.
To put matters in perspective, the Cathedral honours the cooperation between the French Catholic community in Alberta and the newly arrived Ukrainians. Before Ukrainian clergy was able to come to Canada, French Bishop Legal with help from the Oblate Fathers looked after the spiritual needs of the Ukrainians. Bishop Legal provided land and in 1904, a wooden church was constructed on the current site. Consecrated November 27, 1904, the feast day of St. Josaphat, the parish immediately became a cultural and community hub with a strong focus on education and service to the community. In 1913, the church was enlarged and in 1938, ambitious work began for further development.
Father Philip Ruh, an architect, was hired to design and build the new church. He was a French Oblate priest who worked as a missionary among Canada’s Ukrainians. He successfully assimilated the spiritual sensibilities and aesthetic of the Ukrainians and developed the unique Canadian style called Prairie Cathedral Style. St. Josaphat Cathedral is thought to be the most striking example of Father Ruh’s work in Alberta. An Alberta Culture historical assessment states, “St. Josaphat is the most grandiose example of Ruh’s work in Alberta, expressing the architect’s rich sense of historical continuity with the Byzantine traditions and his appreciation for Ukrainian Baroque ideals.” Father Ruh went on to build nearly 40 other Ukrainian churches across Canada. Several of his churches, including St. Josaphat Cathedral, are designated municipal and provincial historic resources or National Historic resources.
As recalled by Dan Papirnik, the Cathedral underwent some renovation in 1968, again in the early 1980’s and 1990’s. However, the current restoration involved major architectural and structural work so that the Cathedral could withstand at least another 50 years. Dan Papirnik has been involved in all of the previous renovations since 1968 and believes the structure will be successfully preserved for generations to come.
The original cost estimate for the current renovation was just under two million dollars and would take up to five years to complete. The restoration committee was determined to shorten the time line for completion and unwavering in their commitment to deliver the project under budget. With extremely close monitoring, excellent contractors, many volunteers and some divine providence, the restoration was completed in less than two years and under budget. Dan Papirnik presented certificates of appreciation to the contractors and craftsmen who provided outstanding work on the restoration and to many volunteers who dedicated hundreds of hours of time and energy to the project.
Guests were treated to a wonderful mini-concert by the Kappella Kyrie Slavic Chamber Choir, Dr. Melanie Turgeon, Conductor. They performed selections by Mykola Dyletsky, Giovanni Palestrina, Roman Hurko, Maksym Berezovsky and Stefania Turkewicz.
In addition to a silent auction, a live auction was conducted by MC Andrew Hladyshevsky. Table center pieces, consisting of an icon reproduction were raffled off at each table. All funds raised will be applied toward paying down a very significant mortgage.
During his final remarks Bishop David Motiuk presented the Cathedral Rector, Rev. Peter Babej with an icon to commemorate the re-dedication of this historic Ukrainian church. A closing prayer was led by Rev. Babej.
First billt 114 years ago and the current structure erected 80 years ago St. Josaphat Cathedral has served Ukrainian pioneers, immigrants and refugees. It has been the community and spiritual home for thousands of faithful. The current renovation will help preserve this historic house of worship for generations to come.