Olha

The current church of St. Michael the Archangel is the first and present church of the parish.

The church was constructed by parish founders in 1904 and blessed on Nov. 21, 1907 by Rev. Navkraty Kryzhanowsky who helped with the organization of the parish which served for some time as the seat of the pastoral district. In 1941 the parishes at Seech and Dolyny were under the pastoral charge of Olha. The church and its faithful were visited by Metropolitan Andrew Sheptycky in 1910, several times by Bishop Nykyta Budka and Bishop Vasylij Ladyka, in the last decades (1956, 1963, 1969) by Metropolitan Maxim Hermaniuk, and in 1984, on the 80th Anniversary of the construction of the church, by Bishop Myron Daciuk. The wooden cruciform church has a gabled roof, centally dominated by a dome and cross, which corresponds identically to the cruciform shape of the church, and two frontal towers apexed by decorative crosses with halfmoons at their bases. The north, south, and east arms of the longitudinal and intersecting naves extend into pentagonally angulated niches over each of which rises a low roof whose five sides converge pentagonally into a slight dome above the niche. These niches enlarge the church interior considerably and add to the church a very distinctive original appearance. Entry to the church is through a spacious vestibule with a narrow window over its main doors. During the winter, for reasons of heat conservation, the vestibule is walled off from the nave by a thin removable partition. The choir loft, supported by four vertical columns, is reached by steep stairs originating to the right of the main entrance. One is very favorably and pleasantly impressed with the rich beauty and ornamentation and paintings executed upon canvas by Yakiv Maydanyk in 1927. Some of these are framed; others are affixed to the wall and then decoratively bordered. The largest ones include: a depiction of St. Michael – between the two windows on the angulated wall of the sanctuary, a framed representation of the Ascension – between the two windows in the north niche, and one of St. John the Baptist – between the two windows of the south niche. Other paintings meriting recognition are: upon the left sanctuary wall – a depiction of St. Barbara, Martyr, and upon the right – one of St. Josaphat, Martyr, both decorated from below by small ledges on which flowers or candles are placed. Depictions of the Crucifixion, the Holy Family, and the Holy Trinity also adorn the walls and three of the four triangular sections of the ceiling. The fourth section extends into the elongated vaulted ceiling dominating the west part of the longitudinal nave. From the central axis of the intersecting arms, where the vaulted ceilings in the four wings of the church converge triangularly, hangs a magnificent electric crystal chandelier. An iconostas adorned with all the traditionally represented holy images separates the sanctuary from the nave. Another treasure preserved within the church is a metal bound Book of Holy Gospels upon whose first pages is inscribed the following: “From the Institute of Stavropij, Lviv 1897, in the time of Franz Joseph Emperor of Austria, in the time of Pope Leo XIlI’. Upon subsequent pages are written the following precious words: “Remember in your prayers the servant of God, Metropolitan Andrew who on September 28, 1921, in the church of St. Michael in Olha, prayed for our Canadian Ukraine, with Most Reverend Bishop Nykyta, bishop of Canadian Ukrainians and Rev. Peter Oleksiw, pastor of St. Olha. Written for eternal remembrance, Amen.”‘

The church has two sacristies. The interior is illuminated electrically and heated by a wood-burning stove located near the sanctuary. The wooden floor is partially carpeted. Comfortably spaced throughout the nave are 8 pews which provide seating for 7-8 persons each and 12 pews, each seating approximately 4 faithful. The church is generously equipped with all articles required for ceremonial processions. 

The main construction foremen of the church were John and Peter Koltusky. The six acres of church land were donated by Wasyl Luhowy. A priest’s residence and spacious horse stable stood upon the grounds until the seat of the pastoral district was transferred from Olha to Rossburn in 1946 at which time the residence was sold and the stable dismantled. Currently, in their place stand a tall wrought-iron cross, a belfry constructed by Nykola Dmytrenko, and the parish hall which was built in 1928. The parish cemetery lies in continuation of the church site. Two miles south of the church, near Peterson Lake, lies a mass grave in which were buried in April of 1899 43 children and 3 adults. They were pioneers who spent the first days after their arrival in simple tents, contracted Scarlet Fever and subsequently, tragically, died. Each year, the pastor at Olha and surrounding area, in conjunction with the people from the district, commemorate with a communal funeral service the victims of this unforgettable, sacrificial tragedy suffered by our pioneer families.

Ukrainian settlement of the area began in 1899 with the arrival of immigrants primarily from Western Ukraine (Halychyna). The first Ukrainian priest to visit the settlement was Rev. Vasyl Zholdak. Until the construction of the church was completed Rev. A. Delaere CSSR travelled to Olha to spiritually serve the parish. Between 1904 and 1915, pastors were Rev. M. Hura, Rev. S. Dydyk, Rev. N. Kryzhanowsky, Rev. I. Sholdak and Rev. M. Drohomyrecky 19151916, Rev. A. Krajkivskyj 1917, Rev. P. Oleksiw 1920, Rev. Dr. A. Radkewycz, Rev. P. Kameneckyi, and Rev. M. Ircha 1924, Rev. M. Krywucky, Rev. P. Pasichnyk, and Rev. M. Hryhoreychuk -from 1931, Rev. S. Zarsky 1937, Rev. K. Lotocki, Rev. T. Kocaba 1940, Rev. M. Shwed 1943, Rev. I Fornalchuk 1946, Rev. E. Oliynyk 1948. Since 1956 Rev. Lehky has faithfully and with perseverence and great dedication served the parish of Olha for which the parishioners honored him in 1981 with a banquet at which he was presented with a plaque and gold watch.

In the Propamiatna Knyha are listed the names of the 28 founders of the parish at Olha: Andrew and John Antonation, Harasym Osadec, Wasyl Swystun, Hryhory Maduke, Anton Pawchuk, Anton Kalyshyn, Panko Luhowy, John and Peter Koltuski, John Boklaschuk, Mykyta Krysowaty, Theodore Stebeletski, John Herchak, John Swereda, John Goletz, Mykola Kuzyk, Onufry Malanchuk, Zachary Jumaga, Theodore Tokaryk, Metro Nychuk, Wasyl Luhowy, Nykola Topolnicky, George Ivanyshyn, Anton Danyluk, Mykola Maydaniuk, Manuliak and Chegus. According to a locally-written parish history, in 1917 the parish was under the directorship of John Shwaluk – President, Wasyl Luhowy – Financial Secretary, Michael Wasilka – Secretary, John Boklaschuk Tresurer, Dmytro Luhowy and John Osadec Controllers, and Harry Maduke – Elder Brother. A Sisterhood has served the parish with great dedication since its very inception. In the afore mentioned historv it is noted that the women walked over ten miles to ensure that the House of God was suitably prepared for Divine Services. In 1926 the women named their organization “The St. Barbara’s Altar Society”‘, a name under which it operates to this day. Records from 1925 to the present time indicate that the following served on the women’s board of directors: Anna Drozda, Lena Shwaluk, Anna Shwaluk, Yaga Antonation, Antoshka Luhowy, Franka Antonation, Justina Wasilka, Rosalia Osadec, Rosalia Maduke, Lena Krysowaty, Magdalena Tokaryk, Palania Shkwarok, Frozena Kowal, Magda Yanyk, Anna Stebeleski, Lena Tokaryk, Teklia Boychuk, Carolina Dnistranski, Katerina Dnistranski, Justina Woychechowski, Warwara Budiwski, Helen Antonation, Maria Borody (Nykola), Petrunela Borody (Joseph), Wasylena Wasilka, Irena Danyluk, Rosalia Michalyshen, Antonia Luhowy, Katerina Krysowaty, Julia Kowal, Rosalia Twerdochlib, Shirley Tokaryk, Anne Kowal (Peter), Pauline Shwaluk, Mary Wasilka, Mary Stebeleski, Mary Woycheshen, Annie Maduke, Eileen Mychasiw, Victoria Drozda, Lena Nychek, Ruth Kawchuk. Anne and Mary Mychasiw, two sisters, donated much time and creative endeavor to the embroidering of altar linens for the church. Other women who contributed twenty years or more to various undertakings for the church were Annie Maduke, Mary Wasilka, Victoria Drozda and Lena Nychek. Peter Nychek was a member of the Parish Executive for over twenty years (for 15 of those years he was the President), as were also Milton Tokaryk (20 years as recording secretary) and Stanley Drozda (over 30 years in various positions). Philip Belinski was the first cantor and served in that capacity for many long years; his successors were John Sydor, Dmytro Glushka, and the current cantor, Walter Swereda from Shoal Lake.

In its beginnings the parish at Olha was an exceptionally strong and influential religious and cultural centre for the neighboring settlements. A reading room “Prosvita” was established as was an amateur arts club under the artistic direction of the pastor of the parish and various local educators. In 1908 the community school was named Olha; the local post office subsequently adopted the same name. The unproductive, rocky land, however, discouraged expansion and growth within the settlements. Slowly, existing community centres were closed; the last of them included the school at Olha which was closed in 1964. In 1941 the parish registered 60 members with 40 children (Prop. Knyha). Currently, 58 faithful still belong to the Olha parish, three of whom were born in Ukraine (Questionnaire). In 1988 the parish was under the directorship of Rev. John Lehky, pastor, Johnny Mychasiw, Milton Tokaryk, Evstakhij Drozda and Wasyl Gerelus.

The Ukrainian Catholic parish of St. Michael the Archangel, Olha, is under the pastoral charge of Rossburn.

**This description was first written in 1989. It is incomplete and we look forward to updating this information in due time.

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