St. Joseph the Betrothed Parish in Chicago commemorates its 50th anniversary

by Irene Artiushenko

CHICAGO - In 1956 an energetic group of Ukrainian Catholics and a young, visionary priest, the Rev. Joseph Shary, decided to expand the Chicago community into the Northwest area of the city. Their dream was to establish a new parish and ultimately build a beautiful Byzantine-style church.

It took great foresight to lead the new parish. Fifty years later, and with a handful of the original founding members still engaged in parish life, St. Joseph the Betrothed Ukrainian Catholic Parish proudly marked its 50th anniversary with two notable events.

First, on Sunday, August 27, parishioners gathered after the liturgy for the re-dedication of the Grotto of Our Lady of Hoshiv and the memorial garden surrounding it. The icon in the grotto is a modern replica of the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Hoshiv, considered by many Ukrainians to be a special place of pilgrimage.

The original icon was painted at the beginning of the 18th century, and during the Turkish and Tatar incursions in Ukraine was taken to Hoshiv for safety. In Hoshiv, the icon began to miraculously glow with a great halo, as witnessed by many locals and their priest. After the glow subsided, there were tears on Our Lady's face. After this miracle, the people petitioned Metropolitan Lev Sheptytsky to transfer the icon to a "holy place" and it was moved to the Basilian monastery of Yasna Hora (Bright Mountain) in Hoshiv. There the miraculous nature of this icon continued to reveal itself with many documented healings.

The Grotto of Our Lady of Hoshiv that stands next to St. Joseph Church was built in 1961-1962, and was dedicated in May of 1962 by Bishop Jaroslaw Gabro. One of the interesting facts about its construction is that a young seminarian named Tom Glynn spent the summer of 1961 helping build the grotto. This seminarian was ordained to the priesthood in March 1964, and now, more than 40 years later, beloved Father Glynn is still serving the needs of St. Joseph parishioners.

The grotto draws people from both the parish and the outside community, as faithful are seen praying before the icon of the Mother of God at all times of the day.

Following the re-dedication of the grotto, the parish family gathered for the annual picnic, "pig roast" and raffle. A special guest at this year's festivities was the consul general of Ukraine in Chicago, Vasyl Korzachenko, and his wife, who greeted parishioners on the occasion of the anniversary year.

The cornerstone of the 50th anniversary year was the celebration scheduled for Sunday, September 24. The day began with a pontifical divine liturgy at which the main celebrant was Bishop Richard Seminack, joined at the altar by eight priests from St. Joseph and neighboring parishes.

As the procession of celebrants entered the church, they were greeted with the traditional gift of bread and salt by parish youth, Victoria and Diana Kuritza, and by members of the Parish Council.

Bishop Seminack delivered the homily and, in re-capping the accomplishments of parish pioneers, proclaimed that the "parish of St. Joseph is a strong advertisement that the Kingdom of God is present in a skeptical world" and counseled the faithful to "treasure this parish ... and cling to the faith."

The anniversary festivities continued at a commemorative banquet attended by almost 300 parishioners and friends. The master of ceremonies, Andres Durbak, acknowledged the accomplishments of each generation that has faithfully served the parish. He also introduced distinguished guests and, on behalf of the parish, accepted the generous anniversary donations of individuals and organizations, among them substantial contributions from both Selfreliance Ukrainian American Federal Credit Union and the Heritage Foundation.

Mitred Archpriest Andriy Chirovsky was the invited guest speaker at the banquet. He recalled his experiences at St. Joseph when, as a young priest, he served as pastor. He concluded his address with optimistic words: "This parish will never be finished building a community of divine love and the kingdom of God."

As the afternoon progressed, guests viewed a nostalgic retrospective of parish life, "Through the Years," prepared by parishioner Oksana Melnyk. The video showcased parishioners, clergy and organizations that worked diligently to sustain the parish through its first 50 years.

With a prayer and the singing of "Mnohaya Lita" (Many Years), the 50th anniversary banquet concluded.

However, the work of the parish is not concluded, and today's parishioners are willing to continue the work of the far-sighted founders. As stated by pastor the Rev. Pavlo Hayda, "As a parish, we stand upon the shoulders of a rich spiritual and liturgical heritage. We celebrate this milestone as a marker of our progress and look toward the future with our eyes focused upon Christ who we are here to serve and glorify for many years."

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

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