History of St. Michael's
Ukrainian Catholic Church
There are a half
dozen or so Ukrainian Catholic
parishes in the city of Montreal. St. Michael's was the first
Catholic Church, the "mother parish," in Montreal. Here, many
first worshiped, were baptized or married, or given final respects.
St. Michael's past is a memorable one to many
of its elderly parishioners. It was not without its great
or its sad ones.
Its history can be traced back to the arrival
in Montreal of the first Ukrainian immigrants, back in 1899. Of
peasant stock, they had come to Canada seeking better lives. Many
took jobs as factory workers.
The first Mass in their Rite was celebrated three
years later, in October 1902, by a visiting Basilican Priest, in an
church in the vicinity of the present parish.
For many years, visiting priests were their only
formal connection with the Rite. Many of these priests were
from the Metropolitan See of Winnipeg, passing through Montreal on
way to Europe. Records show that one of these priests was a
Canadian, one Fr. Sabourin, who had transferred into the Eastern Rite.
Various parishes were used for services during
this period, including St. Anne's, St. Eusebe, and St. Charles'
It was not until September 1910 that things were
set in motion to build a church. The prime instigator
of the move was the "Servant of God" Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky,
Montreal to take part in a Eucharistic Congress. (Sheptytsky was
later martyred years later by the Soviets).
The first regular pastor for the Ukrainians in
the area was appointed in 1911. From then on, the liturgy was
regularly in the Franciscan church of St. Anthony of Padua, on
and Plessis streets.
The property for the present parish complex was
purchased in 1912. The pastor at the time was Fr. Desmarais,
Then came the War, and tragedy struck the little
community. Since much of the Ukrainian territory was then under
domination (Ukraine has been subjugated by one country or another for
of its turbulent history; rarely had it been autonomous) Canada
many Ukrainians in detention camps at Petawawa and Crystal Lake, Quebec.
In April, 1916 the incumbent pastor called a
mass meeting at which it was decided to construct a house of worship
85 X 90 feet. Because of the war, his plans for a beautiful
were not realized, and only a basement church was built.
Its cornerstone was blessed by Bishop Nicetas
Budka (an other martyr at the hands of Communists), the first Ukrainian
Catholic bishop of Canada. The church opened its doors on Easter
In 1930, construction work on the parish hall,
now newly renovated, was completed.
In 1954, the old basement church was razed, and
the present edifice was built on the old foundations, under the
of the late Fr. Kushniryk.
The building sports Byzantine towers, and is
of Byzantine style within. At the front, separating the main
a magnificent nine foot high iconostasis or icon-stand, of sculptured
wood and polished walnut it bears the prescribed icons of Christ the
the Blessed Mother, St. Nicholas, the four Evangelists, and the patron
saint of St. Michael the Archangel.
Its motif is a grapevine, which makes the
unique, in so much as the congregation can see through the openings in
the structure into the sanctuary.
There are no statues. Instead, Byzantine
style icons and murals, bearing likeness of the saints and of the
kings, princes and ecclesiastics,
grace the walls and ceiling. Also
depicted are scenes from the lives of Our Lord and Our Lady. On
east wall lies a huge mural portraying the Martyred Ukrainian
The mural includes likeness of Metropolitan Sheptitsky, and Bishop
both of whom have figured in the history of the parish.
St. Michael's is a relatively modern Byzantine
edifice. Yet it looks different from other churches in
be they contemporary or not, and that is because it is different.
It was conceived to service the needs of people
from a different culture, whose spiritual upbringing would be
to other Catholics. Their upbringing is as far removed from
Catholic formation as a different church language and centuries of
from Rome, now ended, can have made it.
And yet, St. Michael's continues to fulfill a
necessary function to Montrealers of Ukrainian descent, and provides
for others to see how one distinctive segment of the Catholic Church
its obligation to God and to man.
This article was borrowed from:" The Golden
Book Commemorating the 50th Aniversary of St. Michaels Catholic Church
The author of the above article is: Yaroslaw Panasiuk