The church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was established in 1940 and in the year 2022 will be celebrating 82 years since this community first came together to form a parish in Russell, MB.
The current structure is the second church of the parish. The first church in the town of Russell was partially constructed by Ukrainian settlers in 1941; the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in it by Rev. Stefan Shawel, CSSR on Aug. 9 of that year. The parish executive elected during the first meeting of Dec. 14, 1941, was comprised of Andrew Lapka, Andrew Bereza and Phillip Chukhry. From 1943, the year of completion of construction of the church, until 1948, monthly Divine Liturgies were celebrated by Redemptorist Fathers from the seat of the pastoral district in Roblin: Rev. Dmytro Hawryliuk, Rev. Peter Laptuta, Rev. Roman Chomiak, and Rev. Joseph Denischuk. Construction of the church was accomplished through the voluntary labor and monetary donations of all the parishioners under the foremanship of Vasyl Hyra and Hryhorij Shalley. The wooden rectangular church, fronted by three decorative domes, was entered via an added-on vestibule and had a choir loft as well as a sanctuary and sacristies built in a low added-on adjoining structure. On Mar. 12, 1953, a bell was purchased and installed in a newly constructed belfry. The land upon which the church was built was blessed by Rev. Stefan Bachtalowsky on May 25, 1941, while the Canonical consecration of the church, its main altar and relics, and the bell was accomplished on Aug 2, 1953 by Metropolitan Maxim Hermaniuk who visited the parish. Within less then twenty years the first church proved too small to accommodate the needs of the rapidly growing parish membership. On Dec. 6, 1960, a new church construction committee was struck which was comprised of Peter Pushka, Peter Boychuk, and Hryhorij Stanchuk; Tony Dzavra, Michael Lapka and Paul Ivankiv made up the planning committee. These two committees, in conjunction with the parish executive which consisted of Andrew Lapka, Nykola Derkach, Michael Sydoryk, Peter Ushij, and Vasyl Stasiuk began planning fund raising activities which would raise sufficient funds to initiate construction of a new larger church. In the latter part of 1961 a joint building committee was formed which was headed by the pastor, Rev. Michael Bzdel, and consisted of Nykola Derkach, Vasyl Snitynsky, Peter Chipelsky – president, Andrew Lapka, Ivan Bulishchak, Vasyl Stasiuk, Michael Sydoryk, Anthony Dzavra, Hryhorij Stanchuk, and Oleksa Ushij. This committee directed the efforts of the faithful towards fund raising activities whose proceeds, combined with the individual donations of time and money of the parishioners, led to the successful completion of the second church in which the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated on Sunday, Apr. 10, 1966.
The second church was constructed according to the design and architectural specifications of architect Victor Deneka of Winnipeg under the supervision of master contractor Nykola Magnovsky and with the labor and expertise of master builder Michael I. Sydoryk. It stands upon a deep foundation within whose framework is included a totally developed basement consisting of a parish hall with a kitchen and several additional rooms. The building is constructed fundamentally of wood within a fortifying steel and concrete framework. The exterior walls are finished with white brick and vertically placed dark siding, the interior walls with gyproc and plaster, the ceiling with plywood. The upper central portion of the rectangular structure has the appearance of a second level or story, a feature which allowed a row of horizontally placed windows to be built into the tops of the main level walls and a second row to be positioned vertically in the walls of the upper level. The sanctuary, located in the north wing of the building, is dominated by a large cylindrical dome projecting over the second upper level which has elongated windows built into the north and south sides of the supporting drum and whose domed summit is covered with white sheet metal and apexed by an iron cross. The exterior architectural bilevel design of the structure imparts a cruciform appearance to the interior which appears to have a main longitudinal nave and two corresponding transversal naves over which extend low ceilings. The effect created by the design is one of spaciousness, lightness, and height. The church interior is accessed by three entrances – the north main entry which is adorned by an overhead mosaic of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and two additional frontal ones with west and east approaches, located upon corresponding sides of the main entrance. The materials used to build the main altar, ledges, underlying the principal church icons, and tetrapod, are all coordinated with regards to design and type of wood used. The wall behind the main altar is beautifully adorned with five elongated stained-glass windows inlaid with representations of the symbols of the Holy Eucharist. Above these windows are a second group of windows, arranged vertically, depict Jesus Christ, The Mother of God, St. George, and St. Michael. Additional stained-glass windows are located above the large standing pose representations of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ which were painted by Roman Kowal. The sanctuary is adjoined bilaterally by sacristies, wooden pews provide seating for approximately 150 faithful. The church is illuminated electrically and heated by a gas furnace.
Near the church stands a single-bell decorative bell-tower and beside it, a mission cross commemorating, in particular, the mission which was held by Rev. Hryhori Shushkowich, CSSR on Oct. 2-9, 1960. Parishioners avail themselves of the services of the local town cemetery where on Apr. 24, 1957, the body of Rev. Jaroslav Zlepko was laid to rest.
Ukrainian pioneers began settling the Russell area in 1899 and until their first church was built in 1941, congregated in private homes for the celebration of Holy Services. The homes thus visited were those belonging to the families of Andrew Bereza, Andrew Lapka and Michael Hrebeniuk. The Holy Services were celebrated by Rev. Constantine Zarsky, and Redemptorist Fathers, Rev. Vasyl Osadec, Rev. Stefan I. Shawel, Rev. Stefan Bachtalowsky, Rev. Hryhorij Shawel, and Rev. Joseph Fornalchuk. The first parish organizational meeting was held on Aug 4, 1940, in the home of the family of Andrew Bereza under the chairmanship of Rev. S.Bachtalowsky. At this meeting it was resolved to form a parish under the patronage of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Hryhorij Sokolianov and Andrew Bereza were handed the mandate to research and locate an appropriate site for the church. On Nov. 15 of that same year, two lots 20 and 21, Block 115, Plan 377, were purchased from the city for $30.00. a sum which was comprised of the donations of the following individuals who donated $5.00 each: Taras Chukhrij, Phillip Chukhrij, Andrew Bereza, Hryhorij Sokolian, Andrew Lapka, Michael Fedyshyn, and Michael Zurovel. All aforementioned names as well as the following belong to faithful who, because of their donations of labor, money, time, or hosting of the early Holy Service celebrations, are considered founders of the parish: Nykola Savaryn, Samuyil Sokolian, Vasyl Derkach, Michael Hrebeniuk, Vasyl Stanchuk, Stefan Kocuk, Nykola Dunec, Dmytro Hrebeniuk, Joseph Gallant, Michael Luba, Magdalyna Vyshprt, Chesky (wife of Ivan), Michael Kurovsky, Vasyl Davydovsky, Ivan Opruch, Peter Boychuk, Joseph Savaryn, Drozdovsky (wife of Theodore), Michael Derkach, Ivan Vishira, and Hryhorij Snitynsky. The gifts of the above-mentioned were followed by those of subsequent generous parishioners who in 1945 purchased an additional lot for the church, worked diligently towards the continued growth and development of the parish, and achieved construction of the second church. The members of the parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary not only provided for the construction of both churches but also worked diligently to ensure that it’s organizational, cultural and educational needs were fully and appropriately met. A catechism class was held for eight children by Rev. Joseph Fornalchuk in 1940. In 1948 Rev. Joseph Denischuk organized a Ukrainian Catholic Youth Club comprised of 31 members under the leadership of Michael Lapka. The parish executive of 1948-1958, consisting of Andrew Lapka, Vasyl Ushij, Peter Kominko and Nykola Zemliak, provided for the organizational and recreational requirements of the parish by arranging for the purchase of a school building which was relocated to a spot near the church and renovated for use as a parish hall. An Altar Boys’ Club and a Children of Mary group which participates in Mother’s Day and Christmas concerts and other activities, were organized in addition to the Ukrainian Catholic Youth Club. From its very inception the parish has been faithfully served by a Women’s Aid Society. The first written record of its existence is dated Sept. 27, 1940, in which it is noted that Mrs. Bereza, wife of Andrew Bereza, urged the members toward a unified effort at raising funds for the construction of the church. The Society is currently comprised of about 60 members.
During its years of existence the parish was under the pastoral charge of frequently changing pastoral districts. In 1948 the parish was spiritually served by priests from the seat of the pastoral district in Roblin and from from 1948-1957 – by those from the Angusville district at which time its itinerant pastors were Rev. Roman Zakrewsky, Rev. Volodymyr Luchkiw and Rev. Jaroslav Zlepko. After the death of Rev. J. Zlepko in 1957 until 1965 the Russell and Angusville parishes were spiritually served by Rev. Ivan Lehky from Rossburn. In 1965 the parish was again placed under the pastoral care of Roblin which is the home of the Redemptorist Monastery and St. Volodymyr Seminary. The parish at Russell grew from its original handful of founders and seven recorded member families in 1941 ie. A. Bereza, A. Lapka, M. Fedyshyn, P. Chukhry, T. Chukhry, M. Zurovel and H. Sokolian, to the present number of 100 faithful, among whom remain seven born in Ukraine. In 1988 the parish was under the directorship of Rev. Peter Pidskalny, CSSR (Pastor), Peter Shewchuk, Michael Lapka, Mykolaj Derkach, Vasyl Boychuk and the president of the Women’s Society, Veronica Lapka. Cantoral duties have been performed by Vasyl Stasiuk and Peter Shewchuk; Leonard Derkach has directed the parish choir since 1984. Today, Leonard Derkach is the main cantor with the help of Elaine Moshandz & Evelyn Kuz
The Ukrainian Catholic parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Russell, is under the pastoral charge of the Rossburn Pastoral District since the late 1990s.
**This description was first written in 1989. It is incomplete and we look forward to updating this information in due time.