St. Nicholas Cathedral Parish in Chicago celebrates its centennial

by George Matwyshyn

CHICAGO - St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral Parish continued its yearlong centennial celebration with a spectacular two-day commemoration, emphasizing the theme of the celebration to "Renew, Reflect and Commit." The festivities were hosted by the bishop and pastor of St. Nicholas Cathedral, Most Rev. Richard S. Seminack, with the assistance of the St. Nicholas Centennial Committee.

On Saturday, November 4, the grand centennial banquet with over 1,000 in attendance was held at the Grand Ball Room of Navy Pier in the City of Big Shoulders. Under the watchful eye of the Centennial Banquet Committee co-chaired by Lidia Matwyshyn and Cheryln Pilch, the evening took on an almost magical mood. Attendees came from every corner of North America, from Florida to British Columbia, from New York to Hawaii, and from England and Ukraine - all converging in Chicago for this historic celebration.

After gathering in the beautiful Lakeview Terrace, the participants entered the regal hall at the end of the pier to a breathtaking sight of bright lights in the high, vaulted and recessed ceiling, the window vistas exposing the great Chicago skyline against the tranquil waters of Lake Michigan. Exquisite flower arrangements and elegant white-on-black table settings graced the tables, which appeared to go on forever.

The banquet began exactly at 6:45 p.m., with George Matwyshyn, president of the St. Nicholas Parish Council, asking everyone to take their places and leading all in greeting Patriarch Lubomyr Husar of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop Stefan, Soroka Bishop Seminack and nine other bishops with a standing ovation as they entered the room.

Mr. Matwyshyn emphasized in his introduction that: "A century ago, 51 families demonstrated an unparalleled act of faith, enthusiasm and sacrifice that gave those who followed in their footsteps the courage to continue their dedicated work for God and country. We gather here today to honor these pioneers, whose religious, cultural and civil fruits of labors we enjoy today."

At that point, Jaroslaw Hankewych, an active member of St. Nicholas Parish and the Chicago Ukrainian community, who is president of the Ukrainian National Museum and chief financial officer of the St. Nicholas Eparchy, was asked to assume the role of master of ceremony of the celebration.

He adroitly proceeded through the program by welcoming all to the parish family centennial gathering and then requested the members of the Ukrainian American Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 32 to post colors. This was followed by the playing of the U.S. and Ukrainian national anthems.

The Very Rev. Bohdan Nalysnyk, rector of St. Nicholas Parish, then opened the banquet with a prayer and short greeting. Immediately afterwards Nestor Popowych, chair of the St. Nicholas Centennial Committee, led all in a toast honoring the parish pioneers and the centennial.

Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and State Treasurer Judy Barr Topinka offered their congratulations in person. A letter of congratulations was read from Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago.

At this point Mr. Hankewych introduced those sitting at the head table: Patriarch Lubomyr; Cardinal George, Roman Catholic archbishop of Chicago; Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka, Archeparchy of Philadelphia for Ukrainian Catholics; Archbishop Vsevolod (Majdansky), archbishop of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A.; Bishop Seminack, Eparchy of St. Nicholas for Ukrainian Catholics in Chicago; Bishop Walter Paska, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Philadelphia; Bishop Innocent Lotocky, OSBM, bishop emeritus of St. Nicholas; Bishop Paul Chomnycky, OSBM, bishop of Stamford; Bishop John Bura, auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia; Bishop Nicholas Samra, bishop emeritus of Newton; Bishop Basil Losten, bishop emeritus of Stamford; Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, auxiliary bishop of Chicago; and the Very Rev. Nalysnyk.

In addition, in the audience were: Consul General of Ukraine Vasyl Korzachenko and his wife, Olha; Consul of Ukraine Oleh Shevchenko and his wife, Irena, as well as many sisters of the Order St. Basil the Great: General Superior Sister M. Alphonsa Danovich, Provincial Superior Sister Laura Palka, and Sisters Bohdonna Podney, Maria Bernarda Arkatin, Maria Gerard Jesep, Susanne Matwijiw, Ivanna Bukachyk, Francis Bukachyk, Ann Laszok and Olga Marie Faryna.

Also present were: Rear Adm. Boris Lushniak, assistant surgeon general of the U.S. (a native son of the parish and graduate of the parish school); Anna Seminack and Stephen Seminack, respectively, mother and brother of Bishop Seminack; and Volodymyr Takoy, fire commissioner, City of Wooddale.

Patriarch Lubomyr gave a stirring keynote address in which he called on all not to boast of their accomplishments but join in praying and working for Christian unity.

Cardinal George congratulated the parish and praised Bishop Lotocky on the occasion of being recognized for his many, many years of service to Church, community and country.

Archbishop Vsevolod spoke eloquently about the spiritual goodwill that Bishop Lotocky has generated during his lifetime and how he wished that this spirituality would transform all into better Christians.

On behalf of the Ukrainian government, Consul General Korzachenko, applauded the dedication of the parishioners of St. Nicholas to their Church and heritage.

An especially poignant moment occurred when Bishop Seminack presented Bishop Lotocky with the Man of the Century Award. Echoing the praises of the previous hierarchs, he thanked Bishop Lotocky for being a spiritual model for all to emulate. Bishop Lotocky humbly accepted the award, stating that he feels that he is the spiritual father to all who had come into his life and is very grateful to all who motivated him to enter the priesthood.

Bishop Seminack concluded with remarks that touched upon the spirit of stewardship that the parish pioneers had passed onto their successors. Our forefathers and mothers worked and sacrificed to improve the spiritual and physical elements of not only our parish and church, but also the larger community, he said, adding that this is a torch that has been passed onto us and to many generations in the future.

The Very Rev. Basil Salkowski, OSBM, pastor of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish and dean of the Metropolitan Chicago Deanery, ended the program with a prayer petitioning the Blessed Virgin to protect all from evil.

After the formal program, a dance provided superb entertainment and a nostalgic evening for the audience. Music was provided by the Good Times and Friends, a group very popular for over 25 years in Chicago whose members came out of retirement especially for this celebration.

On Sunday morning, November 5, the centennial celebration continued with a procession from the new school building down the street to the cathedral under a bright and warm sunny day. With the altar servers in the lead carrying the cross and "patarychi," the procession included members of Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization and the Ukrainian American Youth Association (SUM), children from St. Nicholas School, parish organizations with banners, Alderman Theodore Matlak, parishioners and friends of the cathedral parish.

Clergy and hierarchs joined the procession by the rectory and chancery, respectively.

The youth groups proudly formed an honor guard for the patriarch and hierarchs along the stairs of the cathedral.

The parishioners of St. Nicholas were pleasantly surprised to hear the real bells of the cathedral ring for the first time in over 30 years. At the time of the cathedral renovation in 1975-1976, a PA system was put in to ring tolls when needed. Paul Matwyshyn, Erick Fuoco and Wally Takoy thought that it would be a nostalgic treat for all to hear the real bells ring during the procession and proceeded to make it happen. It was magnificent.

As Patriarch Lubomyr entered the cathedral, the Very Rev. Nalysnyk, Mr. Matwyshyn, Iwanna Gorchynsky, Tania Jarmola and Juliana Nalysnyk greeted him with the traditional bread and salt, cross and flowers.

The pontifical divine liturgy was concelebrated by Patriarch Lubomyr, Metropolitan-Archbishop Soroka, Archbishop Vsevolod, Bishops Seminack, Paska, Lotocky, Chomnycky, Samra, Losten and Paprocki, as well as Bishop Raymond Goedert, emeritus auxiliary bishop of Chicago; Bishop Thad Jakubowski, emeritus auxiliary bishop of Chicago; and Bishop Timothy Lyne, emeritus auxiliary bishop of Chicago; assisted by numerous clergy. A capacity crowd of over 1,500 representing all segments of the Ukrainian community attended the service.

The bishops, priests, deacons and altar servers moved through the service with determination and precision, under the direction of the service's master of ceremony, the Rev. James Bankston.

The cathedral choir, Slavuta, under the direction of Wolodymyr Duda sang the responses to the divine liturgy. The St. Nicholas School Choir under the direction of Ira Dychiy sang during communion.

The ushers worked hard to ensure that all, especially senior citizens, had seats, that order was maintained and that all transitions moved in an efficient and respective manner.

At the end of the divine liturgy, the congregation gathered in front of the cathedral for a group photograph with the patriarch, bishops and clergy. A refreshing coffee and cake reception hosted by Phyllis Muryn Zaparaniuk and the school's Family Service Organization was held in the cathedral hall at the end of the service.

The Very Rev. Nalysnyk, rector of St. Nicholas Cathedral Parish, stated this massive participation in all centennial activities strongly underscores "the fact that all Ukrainian churches, community organizations and institutions in Metropolitan Chicago have recognized the importance of this Ukrainian Village congregation in the history of our community. St. Nicholas has been and is the heart and soul of the Ukrainian Village and metropolitan Ukrainian community."

Photographic services were generously donated by Oksana Melnyk of Highlander Memories and Stanley Wlodkowski of Photography by Stanley.

St. Nicholas Parish was founded by 51 families who emigrated from Western Ukraine to the near northwest area of Chicago at the turn of the century. Buoyed by the freedom they found in the United States and guided by the love of their Church and heritage, they combined their savings and mortgaged their homes to purchase a small wooden Protestant church at Superior and Bikerdicke (now Armour) in 1906.

Others inspired by this congregation's dedication to religious, educational and community pursuits soon joined this parish, necessitating the construction of a new place of worship in 1913 at Oakley Boulevard and Rice Street. St. Nicholas was modeled after the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kyiv, the mother church of all Ukrainian Christians.

Throughout its history the parish has served as a center of spiritual, educational and community activity. Thousands of Ukrainian and Eastern European immigrants have come to attend services, pray, socialize, marry, baptize their young, attend school and bury their loved ones. It is precisely because of this influence that the neighborhood developed and has retained its Ukrainian character, leading in 1976 to the area being designated as the "Ukrainian Village."

At present, at the request of Alderman Matlak and with the permission of Bishop Seminack, the Landmarks Commission and the City of Chicago are considering designating the cathedral a landmark in this great city.

All photos in this series by Oksana Melnyk and Stanley Wlodkowski.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, November 19, 2006, No. 47, Vol. LXXIV

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