The Second Period

Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, Model Farms, SK, (1933)
Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Orthodox Church –
the parish broke from the neighbouring Catholic parish
The Church of the Holy Resurrection
Ukrainian Catholic Church (1936-1938), Dauphin, MB

For the purpose of this discussion, the second period of development of Ukrainian churches in Canada runs from the end World War I to about 1945. This period of history contains the second wave of Ukrainian immigration to Canada, which occurred from the early 1920s to the outbreak of war in 1939.

By 1918, Ukrainians in Canada were numerous. Institutions of all sorts on the prairies were more developed. While the pioneer period was frequently marked by subsistence farming, the interwar period saw many farmers with fully developed farm land and they were reaping the reward of their investments in sweat made a decade or two earlier. There were greater numbers of Ukrainians in Canada that were educated and many went into businesses other than agriculture. There were illiterate peasants who had arrived at the end of the 19th century who, by the 1920s, had children who were professionals.

The percentage of Ukrainian-Canadians living in urban settings also increased as many of the new Canadians took on non-agricultural jobs. Places like Winnipeg’s North End or the west side of Saskatoon now had their own ethnic flavour where one could find shops, businesses, and churches catering to Ukrainians.

For these reasons, there was extensive church building during this period. Many communities built new churches because the old ones were too small to accommodate the growing membership. In some instances, new churches were built where none previously had existed and this was particularly the case for towns and cities that were now experiencing increased numbers of Ukrainians.

One reason for increased church construction was related to religious turmoil in Ukrainian communities across Canada. After the First World War, the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada emerged and it rapidly drew new members from both Bukovynians, who were disenchanted with the Russian Orthodox Church, and from Galicians who were disenchanted with the Greek Catholic Church. The result was a painful split in many parishes, often resulting in two churches where previously there had only been one.

For example, Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Orthodox Church (south of Rama, SK) was built as a result of a break with the Catholic Church, but the new Orthodox community was unable to sustain the parish and now the church stands in ruin.

During the 1920s, Ukrainian-Canadians stopped building log churches for the most part since the materials in Canada for such churches were not readily available. Building wood frame structures became the norm and materials for these were plentiful at local lumberyards.

To a large extent, churches built during the second period were larger and more sophisticated than the ones built in the early period. Fr. Philip Ruh (a Roman Catholic priest who had transferred to the Greek Catholic Rite) began building churches, some of which are called “prairie cathedrals” because of their grand scale. The Ukrainian Catholic Parish of The Church of the Resurrection in Dauphin, MB, which is now a designated historic site, is a good example.

A fascinating example of architecture from this period is St. Mary the Protectoress Ukrainian Orthodox Church which was started in 1925 in Winnipeg and completed in 1951. This church, like the one in Dauphin, is unusual because of its grand appearance and size and also the vast amount of volunteer labour used to complete it.

Of course, not all churches built in the interwar period were large. One of the most diminutive Ukrainian churches in Canada was built during in the 1920s, namely the Virgin of Sorrows Greek Catholic Church located west of Canora, SK.

Church interiors were also more richly decorated at this time and the concept of painting iconography directly on the walls became more popular. It was not just the new churches that were more lavishly decorated. Many churches built during the pioneer period also could now afford to put more resources into beautifying their interiors. During this period, Peter Lipinski took on the first large scale iconography projects. Indeed, it is likely that no Canadian iconographer has exceeded Lipinski’s output and examples of his work are found in both Catholic and Orthodox parishes across Canada.

At this time, there emerged subtle differences between the Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox temples. While both of these Eastern Rite churches were subject to Western Church influence, the Greek Catholic parishes were perhaps even more influenced. Due to a shortage of Ukrainian Catholic priests, a number of French-speaking Roman Catholic priests transferred to the Greek Rite to minister to Ukrainian parishes. There was no Greek Catholic seminary in Canada during this period, so Ukrainian Catholic priests who trained in Canada were schooled in Roman Catholic seminaries. By contrast the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada had its own seminary shortly after it took root.

Under these influences, Roman Catholic pieties such as the Stations of the Cross, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, etc. grew increasingly common in Greek Catholic churches. This period also saw an increase in statuary in Greek Catholic Churches even though statues were uncommon in old-country Ukrainian churches.

Undoubtedly, the religious turmoil had its influence on the decoration of Greek Catholic churches. Previously, the three-bar Slavic cross was part of the heritage of Ukrainian Catholics but it all but disappeared from their churches during the interwar period because it was perceived to be associated with Orthodoxy. Greek Catholic churches built during this period rarely, if ever, had an iconostas since it seemed at the time to be too inappropriate in a Catholic church.

For example, Holy Resurrection Ukrainian Catholic Church was built from 1936 to 1938 in Dauphin, Manitoba, to accommodate a growing Ukrainian community in town and to replace a previous church that had become too small.  While the parish was to later spare no expense in decorating the church, there never had been plans to erect an iconostas.

Peter Lipinski’s iconography painted
in 1936, St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic
Church, Star-Peno, AB
Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church,
Beausejour, MB (pioneer museum)
with statuary
The interior of Holy Resurrection Ukrainian
Catholic Church, Dauphin, MB