Shandro AB Holy Assumption (Dormition) Russo Orthodox Church and Cemetery 1899

Saw a few really cool Churches up in the Mundare area when I was up there at my Birthday in 2020. I didn’t get photos of the cemetery that day, but I’ll be back when it’s safe from this covid stuff.

Here’s the history on this one (credit their own site).

Shandro AB Holy Assumption (Dormition) Russo Orthodox Church and Cemetery 1899

As is the case with other Temples in this district of Two Hills County (and parts of Lamont County) in Alberta, the founders had originated in villages near the city of Cernăuţi (Chernivtsi) in the Chernivtsi province of Ukraine, which is historically northern Bucovina. At that time, it was the Duchy of Bukovina in Moldavia, Romania. It was this part of Bucovina that was severed as one result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Mr. J Stalin and the western European powers before World War II. The whole province was then divided so that Romanian speakers were living within the Soviet Union, in Ukraine, and they were pressed to speak Ukrainian. There were also some Ukrainian speakers who then lived in Romania, and who were pressed to speak Romanian. Previously, they had all lived together without this pressure and division of families.

At the time of their emigration to Canada, this region was within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is for this reason that some families are registered as having come from Austria, when they had in fact come from this particular province. The northern part of this province, whose main city is Chernivtsi, is a region in which more Ukrainian is spoken than in the southern part of Bucovina. However, the whole province had then and it has now a very large presence of Romanian-speakers. The people from this region have always been strongly Orthodox Christians.

As were other parish communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan, this parish of the Dormition of the Theotokos at Shandro was registered under the incorporation of the Orthodox Bishop in the Statutes of the North-West Territories. The incorporation of the bishop-and-parishes had been accomplished in 1903 by Bishop Tikhon (Belavin). Thus, the beginning of the history of this parish was within the “Russian Mission”. This was the popular name for what was at that time called the Diocese of the Aleutians and North America. It was Saint Tikhon who began using the term “Russo-Greek Orthodox” to describe the majority of Canadian parishes under his omophor.

The Shandro family in particular came from the village Baniliv, which is in the western part of the present Chernivtsi Oblast (province), on the south side of the Cheremosh River, a tributary of the River Prut (there is another Baniliv, farther south and nearer the present Romanian border). Ostasheks and others also came from Baniliv. Hawrelaks came from Vashkivtsi, also by the River Cheremosh. Tkachuks came from Kotul Bainsky, a little to the south-east of Chernivtsi. For those who formerly lived near the Cheremosh or Prut rivers, living quite near to the North Saskatchewan River (and also on the south bank) may have provided some sort of small reminder of “home”.

Founding the parish, 1899
In May, 1899, Paul Boychuk, Semion Hawrelak, George Ostashek, Anton Russ, Stefan Shandro, Nikon Shandro and their families, a group of immigrants from the province of Bucovina, Austria, settled in what is now Lamont County in Alberta. They numbered 28. Many of them likely arrived as a result of the enticements of the Government of Canada and the presentations of Dr. Josef Oleskow. Their immediate concerns were those of survival, and their first endeavours in the new country were to clear land, to build shelters and to plant food crops. To begin with, they prepared dugout sod homes, called "soddies" or "boordays". They then planted seeds that they had brought with them. Since they were all Orthodox Christians, they also felt the immediate need for a Temple. Therefore, during that summer, Stephan and Nikon Shandro and Semion Hawrelak and their wives selected what they thought would be a good site for the church and cemetery. That autumn, more settlers emigrated from neighbouring villages in Bucovina (Boriwtci, Zadubriwtci, Washkiwtci, Ispas), also of the Orthodox Faith. The Priest Alexander Antoniev came to bless the site of the future Temple.

On 7 January, 1900, the community met after they had celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, and by the Feast of Pascha (Easter) of 1900, they had approved the site for the new Temple. To obtain the necessary government approvals, Nikon Shandro, Jacob Matichuk and George Ostashek then made the 129 km (80 mi) journey to Edmonton. Through an interpreter (they could not yet speak English), they presented their case to the government officials, and their requests were granted. The standard allotment for a church was 40 acres.

In June, 1900, the cemetery was blessed and sanctified by the Priest Jacob Korchinsky, a travelling missionary priest in this region, who visited the community for 3 days and served the first Divine Liturgy on the site. Thirty-three children were baptised and chrismated that day. Their families had travelled from many miles away by horse and oxen.

Construction of the Temple, 1902
In the winter of 1901-1902, trees were cut and timbers milled from them for the new Temple, and construction began that summer. Under the leadership of head carpenter Stefan Rosychuk (the only one who was paid for his work), a crew of volunteer labour completed the main body of the structure by the spring of 1904. The interior, completed by Stefan Gudzowaty, was finished several years later.

Saint Mary’s Russo-Greek Orthodox Church at Shandro is a traditional wooden Bucovinian “tripartite”, or 3-sectioned design plan with angular roofs and gables, topped by 3 small onion-shaped domes or cupolas (some affectionately call them “banyaks”, that is, “pots”). The exterior walls are wood-sided and the roof is cedar-shingled. The designer and head carpenter was Stephan Rosychuk, who could neither read nor write ; his amazingly accurate designs came from his memory of Ukraine. Mr. Rosychuk’s style of architecture is unmistakable, as it combined more than one element of different regions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe into one harmonious design. Saint Mary’s Temple at Shandro is structurally noteworthy for this reason.

The following parishioners were born before 1904 (in 1987) :

Mrs. Sevata Ambrosie ; Mr. Moisy Hawreliak ; Mrs Baselena Kucher ; Mrs. Lena Leliuk ; Mrs Katherine Lukowanko ;
Mr. Nick Mekechuk ; Mrs. Mary Menzak ; Mrs. Nastasia Shandro ; Mr. & Mrs. William N Shandro ;
Mrs. Vera Shapka ; Mr. John Tkachuk ; Mr. & Mrs. Anton Ulchik ; Mr. John Waselashko ; Mr. William Zazula.
On 28 August, 1904, Bishop Tikhon of North America and the Aleutians (later Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and then Saint Tikhon), accompanied by 2 priests of the Faith, celebrated the first Divine Liturgy at the new Temple. At the same time, the Temple was sanctified and named in honour of the Dormition of the Mother of God. Considering the facts that Bishop Tikhon had only the previous year achieved a legislative act which enabled the corporate existence of the Orthodox bishop and Orthodox parishes in western Canada, and that Bishop Tikhon later became not only Patriarch of Moscow, but also a saint, it is now indeed considered to be a great blessing that he was the first cleric to serve in this newly-constructed Temple. It is not forgotten that his glorification as a saint came about because of his intense missionary activity, both in North America and Europe, his calm but steadfast leadership of the Church during some of its darkest hours of persecution (following the Bolshevik Revolution), and because of his untimely death in 1925 while under house-arrest by the Soviets.

In 1913, a belfry (bell-house) was added as an integral part of the Temple building, at the western entrance, which was rather unusual for this period, and characteristic of Mr. Rosychuk’s distinctive architectural style. The belfry is of Ukrainian Carpathian design : square, topped with an octagonal drum featuring flared overhangs. What is most unique is that on top of this structure is an amazing 16-sided drum, capped with a modified Greek-Byzantine (rather than Slavic) dome. This gives the unusual appearance of a lighthouse. The belfry is located above the second level of the Temple, just over the west door entry-way. It is accessed by a wooden staircase via the vestibule. The addition of the tower gives the whole building the look of a more Lemko-Carpathian-style Temple. However, the original and fundamental Bucovinian design still prevails, and the 2 styles work harmoniously together to make an Orthodox pioneer church which is completely unique in all Canada. The work was completed in 1915. Saint Mary’s Church is truly a landmark for the surrounding region. Due to the scarcity of original Rosychuk churches, its completely unique design, unusually blended elements, and long history, Saint Mary’s Russo-Greek Orthodox Church at Shandro is a prominent, rare jewel in Two Hills County, and indeed in Canada. With its rich history, continued use, unusual artifacts, and its outstanding Ukrainian-Canadian vernacular architectural features, it is considered to be a precious legacy for Two Hills County.

Building characteristics

In this particular Temple (in some ways similar to Saints Peter and Paul, Dickie Bush), a person enters the Temple from the west end at one level, and then descends by 1 step to the nave. Although the transepts of Saint Mary’s are much less noticeable than they are in Dickie Bush (it was also built under the leadership of Mr. Rosychuk), they both reflect the usual Cruciform structure of Orthodox Temples. Although the transepts would typically be used for singers, these raised areas provide an opportunity for those who stand to the sides and to the rear to be able better to see and to hear the services (assuming that, following the historical custom, those who come first to the Temple stand nearest to the Altar).

Saint Mary’s Russo-Greek Orthodox Church at Shandro stands as a historical site not only because of its age and the manner of origin, but also because it contains some important artifacts directly associated with Bishop Tikhon. These include : a signed Church Founding Certificate (also known as a “gramota”), a 1904 Slavonic Gospel Book, and a Holy Relic of Saint Tikhon.

According to the analysts concerned with the historical status of the building itself, its source in the Bucovinian tradition includes architectural features and decorative detailing such as : the exterior itself ; the cedar-shingled roof ; its construction with wooden, hewn logs ; its tripartite design with angular roofs and gables ; its onion-shaped domes with metal Orthodox Crosses ; the nature of its interior, including the spatial configuration of the nave, transepts, and the Altar which is separated from the nave by an iconostas ; its vaulted ceiling ; the vestibule (narthex) with stairs that lead to the belfry. This design, however, is not identical with that of the 8 Temples in Moldavia which date from the time of Saint King Stefan the Great and his family (15th and 16th centuries).

The belfry contains a half-peal of finely-tuned bronze bells made in the early 1900s in foundries, both in Winnipeg, Manitoba and in Michigan.

The Temple contains the original period hand-painted, framed icons on the iconostas, and the original period hand-painted, framed icons which are distributed throughout the Temple. It has the original “plashchanitsa” (Burial Shroud of Christ) for Holy Friday services, which was made circa 1905. It has a late Victorian crystal chandelier. Hung in a frame is the Church Founding Certificate (gramota) signed and presented in 1904 by Saint Tikhon. There is a Slavonic Gospel Book which has been in the Temple since 1904. There is a Holy Relic of Saint Tikhon. There are also other original liturgical items, including a chalice, a censer, crucifixes, an “antimins”, 4 processional banners, 2 processional Crosses, 2 stationary banners, 2 framed icon paintings by the Archpriest John Wasel (†1974).

Time of historical disturbances, 1920s
After World War I and after the Bolshevik Revolution against the Russian Empire, there came to Canada and to Alberta a period of considerable disturbance in Church life. At the end of the war, the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada had been established, and many parishes throughout the prairie provinces determined to join this entity because of the use of the Ukrainian language instead of Church Slavonic in the services.

During the 1920s and 1930s also, there were divisions of sorts amongst the western Canadian parishes of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in North America. Bishop Adam (Philiposvsky) had previously been the administrator of the Canadian parishes of the ROGCCNA when it was yet the North American Diocese of the Russian Mission. However, he became a bishop of the Carpatho-Rusyn Diocese in the USA in 1922, and during the following decades he made visits to the Canadian parishes he once served. These visits were welcomed by the people, since they knew and loved him from before ; however, he did not make these visits with the blessing of the ruling bishop at that time, Bishop Arseny (Chahovtsov). This caused confusion and some controversy as a result, and some of the effects of those incorrect visits remain even now.

In 1963, Bishop Sylvester (Haruns) became the Bishop of Montréal and of the Archdiocese of Canada, and he soon made a pastoral visitation to many of the parishes in the country. In that same year, the interior of the Temple was renovated.

In the late 1960s, the Church in North America began negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate, which led to the granting of autocephaly to The Orthodox Church in America. This caused much controversy and conflict in the life of the Church in Canada because of the complications of the past decades, political fears, and the difficulties that people generally have about forgiving.

On 7 April, 1968, Bishop Joasaph (Antoniuk) was ordained to the Holy Episcopate in order to serve as the Vicar-Bishop to Archbishop Sylvester. He moved at first to Edmonton, Alberta, where he served in the Temple of All Saints (which later became a non-canonical congregation), and also in the rural parishes to the northeast. Even after he was transferred to serve in Vancouver, British Columbia, Vladyka Joasaph returned many times to serve at Saint Mary’s.

Archdiocesan Assembly, 1968
Later in 1968, the parish of the Dormition of the Theotokos at Shandro was the host to an official assembly of the Archdiocese of Canada. This assembly was attended by Metropolitan Ireney (Bekish) of New York, and by the Archpriest Alexander Schememann, the dean of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary in New York.

Archbishop Sylvester was able to pacify inflamed passions and to clarify numerous misunderstandings amongst the clergy and the faithful regarding the meaning and implications of autocephaly. He considered that autocephaly was the correct canonical structure for Church life in North America. Autocephaly was granted to the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in North America (ROGCCNA) by a Tomos of the Russian Orthodox Church on 31 March, 1970. At that time, the name of the North American Church was changed to “The Orthodox Church in America”.

Move to the Moscow Patriarchate Parishes in Canada, 1975
After the sudden repose of the Archpriest Michael Andruchow in 1975, the parishioners decided to avail themselves of the services of the clergy of the Parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in Canada. The Archdiocese of Canada was at that time suffering from a shortage of clergy, and the Moscow Patriarchate administration was able to bring clergy from Eastern Europe.

In 1976-1977, the parishioners worked together to build a parish hall nearby the Temple.

In 1979, the parish marked its 75th anniversary with a festal Divine Liturgy. The Archpriest John Margitich and singers from Saint Barbara’s Cathedral in Edmonton participated on this occasion.

Return to the Archdiocese of Canada, 1993
In 1993, the parish returned to the Archdiocese of Canada, and The Orthodox Church in America. From that time, it participated together with other parishes in a mutually-advantageous grouping that enabled the parishes together to support a priest. The arrangement also allowed for better pastoral care, and the parishioners themselves began to support each other as they followed the priest from Temple to Temple as he made his rounds. This arrangement has provided many other benefits to all the parishes as well. Rural depopulation has continued to affect all the parishes, especially since World War II. Not only does this arrangement provide for the mutual support of those who still farm the land, but it also has opened doors for new people to join, and for people to find the Orthodox Christian Faith from outside the Orthodox Church.

In 2001, at the conclusion of the Archdiocesan Assembly Meeting in Edmonton, Alberta, buses of representatives and clergy visited various historical rural parishes, including the Holy Dormition Church in Smoky Lake. The parishioners warmly greeted their guests. At each stop, the visitors learnt a considerable amount about the history of our Orthodox Church in Canada, and especially in the east-central part of Alberta. This region is often called "Kalyna Country" because of the omnipresence of cranberry bushes.

In 2004, which marked 100 years since the construction of the Temple, there was a festal Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, and Bishop Seraphim (Storheim) led the services. After the Divine Liturgy, water was blessed outside the Temple, and the Temple was blessed on all 4 sides during a procession around it. Afterwards, there was an anniversary dinner at the Willingdon Recreation Centre. During his remarks, the bishop recalled that one of his junior high school teachers had been Mrs. Mary Lobay (born Hawrelak), whose family roots were in this parish.

There is a more recently-constructed arched wrought-iron and brick memorial portal (gateway) entrance to the church grounds. The church-yard is bordered by trees on the north, west, and south sides. There is a monument located south of the Temple, which includes the inscribed names of members.

The parish structures have long included a house for the priest who serves the parish. This fell out of use in recent times, and it was removed. A parish hall was constructed near the Temple, in which parish functions of various sorts are held.

Historic site
This parish has been listed as an Alberta Historic Place. It is also listed by the County of Two Hills as a Municipal Historic Resource.

Holy Assumption (Dormition) Cemetery, Shandro
The cemetery is located on the same property, to the south of the Temple. It was established at the time of the beginning of the parish, and it is accessed by a gate which is separate from the main gate entry to the Temple.

, Shandro , 1899 , Church , Holy Assumption , Alberta , Nikon , D700 , Fotoman , Fotoman. #Shandro #Holy #Assumption #Dormition #Russo #Orthodox #Church #Cemetery

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