Our Centennial Journey
1908 – 2008
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” 1
With these words written by nineteenth century American poetess Emma Lazarus which are engraved on a tablet within the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, America has welcomed countless numbers of immigrants since the late 1800s, among them many thousands of Ukrainians who came to these shores seeking a better life for themselves and for their children.
The first wave of Ukrainians, who were known as Ruthenians during that time, came to this country in the 1880s from the Transcarpathian and Galician regions of Ukraine. They settled in the major industrialized cities of the east such as Baltimore, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh to name a few, where demand for cheap unskilled labor was great. Many ended up in the coal mining regions of Pennsylvania where they took root and began to organize their lives as best they could, keeping alive their culture and traditions they had brought with them. These simple and illiterate immigrants patiently endured much hardship from the local populations for taking many of the unskilled jobs that had been previously held by German, Polish and Irish immigrants who had preceded them. The New York Times wrote about these early Ukrainian immigrants stating that they “stoned and starved them, but without success because they were used to being stoned, buffeted and starved in their native land. It seems they believed this was always to be their fate.” 2
Despite the many hardships the first Ukrainian immigrants endured in America, they continued to possess a strong faith in God and a love for their Byzantine Rite Church and customs. However, here in America, there was no Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church in which they could worship. Moreover, there were no educated leaders or priests among these first Ukrainian immigrants to whom they could look for direction. When they attended church services in Polish, Slovak or German churches, they were strangers, and they were met with hostility from the Polish priests. 3 This made them realize they would not survive for long if they did not have their own Church. 4
In 1884, the immigrants who had settled in the coal mining regions around Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, finally appealed to Metropolitan Sylvester Sembratovich of L’viv to send them a Ukrainian Catholic priest so they could once again worship in their own Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic tradition. The first Ukrainian Catholic priest to arrive in America was Fr. Ivan Wolansky who celebrated the first Ukrainian Catholic Divine Liturgy on this continent at Kern Hall in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania on December 22, 1884.5 Thus, in these humble beginnings, the Ukrainian Catholic Church had itself emigrated to and taken root in the New World to serve the needs of its faithful.
During this same time other early Ukrainian immigrants came to New England to work in the factories and textile mills of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Many were attracted to the large industrial centers such as Manchester, which at the turn of the nineteenth century boasted some of the largest textile mills in the world. These immigrants faced many of the same challenges as their fellow Ukrainian brothers and sisters were enduring in Pennsylvania. They too longed to celebrate in their own Ruthenian (Ukrainian) Byzantine Catholic tradition.
The Ukrainians who left Galicia for Manchester, New Hampshire in the years before the turn of the century were young adults and teenagers seeking work. The constant correspondence between family members and friends already in America told them of the work to be had for both able bodied men and women in the textile mills of the Amoskeag and Stark companies, where the average mill worker earned less than ten dollars per week for sixty hours of labor.6 These first Ukrainian immigrants of Manchester were small in numbers and were unable to build their own church. Therefore, they had no choice but to attend the local Roman Catholic churches in the area. As the number of Ukrainian immigrants increased in Manchester, so did their desire to worship God in there own Byzantine Rite. The Right Rev. Dennis Bradley, the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Manchester, graciously granted permission in 1906 to the Ukrainian community to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine-Slav Rite, in the chapel of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral.7 The first resident Ukrainian Catholic priest in Manchester was Rev. Fr. Roman Volynets who put in much diligent work into establishing this parish. The first Ukrainian cantor-teacher was Mr. Onufriy Dubchak.
As the twentieth century dawned, many newly established Ukrainian communities in America began clamoring for their own Ukrainian priests and churches. Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky of L’viv, who had succeeded Metropolitan Sembratovich, convinced the Apostolic See to create a Byzantine-Slav Rite episcopate in the United States. In response, His Holiness Pope St. Pius X approved the appointment of the Most Reverend Soter Ortynsky as Bishop of all Byzantine-Slav Rite Ruthenians (Ukrainians) in the United States in 1907. This act of permanence triggered many Ukrainian communities to organize and build their own parish churches.8
Upon hearing this news, the Ukrainian community in Manchester began to organize, fund and build its own parish church. The construction of the church began in 1907. A parcel of land was purchased on the corner of Lowell and Walnut Streets and a new edifice dedicated to the worship of God in the Byzantine Rite was erected. The parishioners built the church themselves, financially and physically.9 Church records show that a mortgage in the amount of five thousand dollars was secured by Bishop Ortynsky on February 8, 1908, from the Amoskeag Savings Bank, for the building of a “Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church of Manchester, New Hampshire”.
Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary (St. Mary’s) Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church was dedicated on Sunday, October 18, 1908, by His Excellency, Most Rev. Soter Ortynsky in the presence of several priests. The local Manchester newspaper describes the fanfare surrounding the arrival of Bishop Ortynsky the previous day:
“Bishop Ortynsky accompanied by Frs. Dwulit and Chaplinsky, arrived in Manchester Saturday afternoon shortly before five o’clock coming from Granville, NY where the Bishop had been making an official visit to Fr. Dwulit’s church. They were met at the station by a delegation of Ruthenians of the city headed by the Manchester city band and the Polish military organization headed by its band.
Two hacks were in waiting for the accommodation of the clergy. The one which bore the Bishop was drawn by four white horses. When the dignitary arrived, he was escorted up Elm Street to Lowell and up Lowell to the parochial residence. There was a large concourse of people on the street to witness the parade.
The Rev. John J. Lyons, P.R. of St. Anne’s church, welcomed Bishop Ortynsky in the absence of Bishop Guertin. Fr. Puchala of St. Hedwig’s Polish Catholic church also called to pay his respects.
Shortly after his arrival in Manchester, Bishop Ortynsky, assisted by the two visiting clergymen and the pastor, held services in the church. Father Levinsky, the pastor, gave an address of welcome which was responded to by the Bishop.
Following these exercises, there was benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at which the Bishop assisted by the other clergy officiated.” 10
Bishop Ortynsky appointed Father Volodymyr Winyarsky as the first pastor of St. Mary’s after the parish’s dedication. Although the church was dedicated in 1908, physical construction and improvements on the church continued over many years.
In 1914, during the pastorship of Father Ivan Zacharko, a bell tower was added to the church. The bell, which was cast in 1913, is still in use today. An inscription on the bell written in Ukrainian, translates into the following: “This bell, “Simeon” was purchased with the donations of Simeon Martal and other donors. May it announce God’s glory. A.D. 1913.”
In 1916, under the leadership of Father Anton Strotsky, the church was painted with the funds being raised from private donations. In 1920, when Father Myron Zalitach was pastor, an iconostas which is still in use today was built and painted, also from private donations.
With the outbreak of World War I, the flow of immigrants to America halted. Those who had come earlier with thoughts of making money and then returning to Ukraine, realized they were here to stay. Faced with the prospect of not being able to return to their homeland, they began to settle into their new lives in America. Having taken care of their most basic needs, this generation began to develop into a community, centered around the church, where they would strive to maintain the culture and traditions they had left behind.11
St. Mary’s church became the center of Ukrainian community life in Manchester. It was a place where the immigrants could find comfort in the familiarity of their traditions which were strange to Americans. Nevertheless, the immigrants could celebrate their own unique holiday customs which linked them at least spiritually and emotionally with their compatriots and their homeland. The Byzantine Rite service with its icons, incense and beautiful liturgical chants was a comfort in the dreary routine of the mill workers’ lives. In these early years, people observed the Christmas and Easter feasts much as they had done in the villages of Ukraine, following the Julian calendar, but the conditions imposed on them by American society sometimes presented difficulties.12 Celebrating these major feasts according to the Julian calendar when the rest of society celebrated them according to the Gregorian calendar posed further complications especially for work and school schedules.
One life long parishioner (now deceased) recalled:
“People started work at six o’clock in the morning so we would have Christmas Eve Mass at three o’clock. We would walk a few blocks and our neighbors would join us and it was quite a stream of Ukrainians going to church at three o’clock in the morning. The police sometimes stopped them wondering what they were (doing). Then of course, you’d come home and have breakfast and you had to go to work or school so it wasn’t very satisfying.” — Mary Bednarczyk 13
The immigrants had brought with them from the homeland not only their traditions but also old regional hostilities. In 1915, one of these disagreements led to a split of the parish while Fr. Ivan Zacharko was pastor. The schism came about when the belfry was built and a cross was placed on top of it. Some parishioners wanted a three bar cross installed while others wanted a single bar “Latin” cross. The three bar cross was viewed by some as too Russian which could be misinterpreted as a symbol of the Orthodox Church. Others saw the single bar cross as a concession towards Roman Catholicism synonymous in some parishioners’ minds with the influence of Poland trying to eradicate all vestiges of Ukrainian culture and customs as was happening at that time in Ukraine. In the end, the single bar cross won out and can still be seen on top of the church bell tower today.
Those who disagreed with this decision in 1915, left the parish and organized their own church a short distance away under the banner of “Ss. Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Galician Church” Sadly, this schism led to physical violence among the parishioners which brought out the local police. In the end, those who could not agree with the decision, left and began to worship in the new church, while others remained loyal to St. Mary’s. This split sometimes affected members within a family with a father going to one church while a son or daughter worshipped in the other.
The parishioners of St. Mary’s did not let this painful chapter in their history deter them in their quest to grow and flourish. Around the time of the schism, a reading room was organized by one of the parishioners to help many illiterate immigrants stay informed about events in their homeland. Through the reading room, Manchester’s Ukrainians came into contact with the two major Ukrainian newspapers Svoboda and Ameryka whose articles helped to influence the community to continue to develop their ethnic zeal and consciousness.
This reawakening of their ethnic conscience took the form of parish organizations some of which were more successful and longer lasting than others. During the teens, 20’s and 30’s, the parish touted a band, a choir, a drama and dance ensemble, and a school.
As with many Catholic parishes that had been established in Manchester over the years, attempts were made to form and maintain a parish school. The first attempt was made in 1920 but was short-lived. Church archives show the school’s enrollment stood at forty-two pupils in 1921. A second attempt was made in the 1930’s under Father Athanasius Czerepaniak, with enrollment totaling approximately twenty-five students. Unfortunately, this attempt was also of short duration.
The failed attempts to sustain a viable parish school in Manchester denied the immigrants’ children of the opportunity to learn their language and culture in a formal setting. Although Ukrainian was still spoken at home, English slowly displaced it as the immigrants and their children were immersed in a society that stressed assimilation, and not diversity.
Nevertheless, other parish organizations were more successful in promoting Ukrainian culture and heritage. These included a band, a choir and a drama club which presented Ukrainian plays for the parish and for the greater Manchester community. The Manchester Ukrainian community thrived in the teens, 20’s and 30’s culminating in a public display of Ukrainian dance and culture which celebrated the parish’s twenty-fifth anniversary in October of 1933. The local paper described the festivities in the following article:
“A pageantry of Ukrainian historical and festive dances will be given by pupils of Vasile Avramenko’s local school of dancers at St. Cecilia’s hall, Beech and Lake Avenue, Friday evening, October 20. The program, the first of its kind ever to be presented here, is to acquaint the public with the inherited customs of the Ukrainians who succeed in portraying the folk life in times of peace and war.
Some 70 boys and girls ranging from the ages of six to 16 will depict these dances. For the past six months, a group of about 35 have been rehearsing bi-weekly to master the intricate and colorful dance steps under the direction of Miroslaw Zelechiwsky of Boston, student of Vasile Avramenko, one of the world’s greatest ballet masters who will appear on the program. An equal number of students, many of which are from Boston, will form the mixed choir which plays an equally important part in the evening’s program under the direction of Rev. Joseph Zelechiwsky, father of Mr. Zelechiwsky, also of Boston.
Flashing colors of native costumes will predominate, some of them handed down from mother to daughter for generations. Many of the costumes are being made purposely for the occasion by the parents of the children who will participate in the elaborate demonstration.
Similar pageants have been given in the larger cities and towns all over the country in the past several years and the response has been so great that the local Ukrainian colony decided to stage the program in this city. The proceeds of the night’s performance will be used to help defray the great expense incurred in the staging of the pageantry.
The program is one of the most extensive and well prepared ever to be undertaken by any nationality in this city. It comprises a sort of pantomime folk opera in scenes, folk dances, festival presentations, hopaks, character dances, historicals and pageants, all done with the peculiar intimate ensemble for which people of that class of ballet and opera are so famous. Color and romance all combine to make the view kaleidoscopic and fascinating.” 14
Other organizations also flourished in the parish during the 1930s and 1940s, and into the succeeding decades including a Ladies Sodality, the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America (“Soyuz Ukrayeenok”), and a local branch of the Ukrainian National Association. Additionally, a parish choir was established which sang not only beautiful liturgical music, but also folk songs of the homeland under the direction of professional choir masters. Parishioners taught each other folk art that was indigenous to the various villages and regions in Ukraine from where they came. Different embroidery patterns to decorate native Ukrainian costumes were demonstrated along with how to make pysanky, which are richly decorated Ukrainian Easter eggs. These beautiful traditions and cultural expressions were being passed down to a new generation of Manchester’s Ukrainians.
To accommodate these various group activities within a growing parish, a church hall was constructed by the parishioners in 1930, during the administration of Fr. Athanasius Cherepanyak. In addition to rediscovering their cultural roots, Manchester’s Ukrainian community began to celebrate their national heritage as well. They commemorated national holidays such as the November 1st declaration of independence in 1918 of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the March 9th birthday of Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine’s most famous poet and literary figure. These events were celebrated with the entire parish gathering to enjoy speeches, plays, the singing of patriotic songs, and the reading of some of Shevchenko’s works. Clearly, this was quite an evolution for a people who had little idea what to call themselves less than two decades before.15
In 1930, the Manchester Ukrainian community formally announced the opening of the Ukrainian-American Citizens Club. Manchester’s Union Leader newspaper gives the following account of this event:
“At a gathering of Ukrainian American residents of this city yesterday afternoon at the Henry J. Sweeney post headquarters, a new organization, known as the Ukrainian American Club, was formed and plans were started for an active program of events.
The purpose of this club is to aid the Ukrainian immigrants in New Hampshire in becoming Americanized and to guide them in their quest of becoming citizens.” 16
The club helped to settle in the scattered immigrants who came to Manchester between the two world wars as well as the immigrants who arrived after World War II. It also became a locale for many social events such as weekly dances which were attended by young and old alike. In 1938, three hundred club members and guests attended the banquet dedicating the Ukrainian-American Club’s headquarters. Many prominent New Hampshire citizens were present at the dedication indicating the growing prestige of the Ukrainian community in American eyes.17
The fact that the Ukrainian community in Manchester was now in a position to organize its own club to aid newly arriving immigrants spoke highly of the economic progress that had been made in just a few short decades. By the 1930s, most Ukrainians in Manchester had purchased their own homes, and were beginning to enjoy a bit of prosperity just as the Great Depression hit. However, these were hardworking and thrifty people who for the most part managed to hold on to their piece of the American dream and survived the lean years of the depression relatively unscathed.
By the outbreak of World War II, the children of that very large generation of young people who had emigrated from western Ukraine just prior to World War I were reaching adulthood.18 When war came, the parishioners of St. Mary’s responded to their adopted nation’s call to serve. Approximately fifty young men and women from the parish went off to war and their names are immortalized on a Roll of Honor plaque which is visible to this day in the vestibule of the church. The parish will never forget the service and sacrifice these young people gave in defense of America during World War II and the Korean conflict. In recent years, more young men from our parish have volunteered to serve America in the armed forces including tours of duty during the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The war years marked a turning point in the parish’s history because although not many of those who went off to war were killed, few of them returned to Manchester. The war had changed their lives and their departure marked a dramatic change for the Ukrainian community of Manchester. After the war, the community which had been highly insular and had revolved around church activities, family traditions and cultural memories began to show signs of fracturing. The most notable change was the mass exodus of Ukrainian youth. Part of the reason for this departure was the fact that Manchester did not experience much of an economic revival after the war as had occurred in many other cities. With little opportunity for jobs and careers, many young people departed for other cities to find their fortunes. Their departure was hastened not only by a lack of economic opportunities, but also by the loosening of cultural ties as Ukrainian spoken in the home was being displaced by English spoken everywhere else, and the war had caused many to see what life was like outside of Manchester and outside of the tightly knit Ukrainian community. Census figures confirmed this exodus with records showing 600 Ruthenians (Ukrainians) living in Manchester in 1916, but that number dwindling down to 113 by 1960.
This cultural decline and stagnation was further exacerbated by the fact that few new Ukrainians immigrated to Manchester after World War II. These so-called “displaced persons” settled in other cities across America where there were thriving Ukrainian communities and more economic opportunities. This new wave of immigrants was better educated, highly nationalistic and acted as a revitalizing force in the communities into which they settled. They brought with them professional skills, a deeper knowledge of their culture, literature, history and heritage, and they evoked a very strong political fervor and consciousness. They formed many youth organizations including scouting camps and athletic clubs. They reawakened an interest in folk music and dance and they brought the Ukrainian language back into the churches and clubs.19 Sadly, this new wave of post World War II Ukrainian immigrants all but bypassed Manchester.
The decades following World War II saw Manchester’s Ukrainian community begin to adapt to the changing times and to reach out more into the local public arena as a way of ensuring the parish’s future viability. In an attempt to keep its younger parishioners actively involved in parish life, one Divine Liturgy was offered entirely in English each Sunday. Under the leadership of Fr. Roman Dyky, a well-educated man with a strong sense of nationalism, who came to Manchester in 1952, the parish undertook different forms of activity.20 The parish began to participate more in various intercultural and ecumenical events that involved other ethnic groups and churches in the greater Manchester community.
In 1958, the parish observed its golden anniversary with a Pontifical Divine Liturgy which was celebrated by Bishop Ambrose Senyshyn of the newly created Ukrainian Catholic Stamford Eparchy and was presided over by Roman Catholic Bishop Matthew Brady of Manchester who also preached at the service. The festivities included a pontifical procession from the parish house to the church with Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus in attendance. A new tabernacle, a gift from the parishioners, was blessed at the end of the service, and a gala banquet was held afterwards to mark the occasion.
Throughout the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, the parish shared its Ukrainian culture by participating in events such as the Fellowship Dinner of the World Fellowship Association of the YWCA in 1963; the jubilee celebration of the Manchester Catholic diocese in 1966, in which the principal Mass was celebrated in the Ukrainian Byzantine Rite at St. Joseph’s Cathedral with Fr. Roman Dyky as its principal celebrant; international Christmas festivals, and intercultural arts festivals held throughout the city. Beginning in 1963, the Ukrainians community regularly participated in Captive Nations Day ceremonies held in Manchester remembering those peoples still living under Communist regimes.21 Each of these community events afforded the Ukrainians the opportunity to showcase their culture, heritage, folk arts and traditions to the general public in the forms of native costumes, traditional foods, richly decorated Ukrainian Easter eggs, and colorful cross stitch embroideries.
The diligent and dedicated work of Fr. Dyky in the community was recognized by the local Manchester clergy in a testimonial dinner which took place in May of 1979. In attendance were many priests and dignitaries including Most Rev. Odore Gendron, Roman Catholic bishop of Manchester, Most Rev. Robert Mulvee, auxiliary Bishop of Manchester, and Rev. Msgr. Thomas Hansberry, Vicar General.
Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, the parish began to see a slow but steady decline in the number of active parishioners as older members began to die out and younger families and singles left the area or became disinterested in parish activities and fell away from the church. Nevertheless, the parish managed to retain a core group of individuals and families that ensured the spiritual and cultural heritage of this parish would survive into the foreseeable future. Despite declining numbers during these decades, the parish community of Manchester continued to express its support for many worthy Ukrainian causes by financial and other philanthropic gestures that were disproportionately generous relative to the size of their small community. For example, the parish contributed financially to the support of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University, and in the construction of the Taras Shevchenko monument in Washington D.C. One of the first book collections donated to the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard came from Manchester.22
In 1983, the parish entered into a transitional period with the passing of Father Dyky which left the community of faithful without a permanent priest for a number of years. Over the course of the next several years, a number of visiting priests served the needs of this parish. The visiting priest with the longest tenure at St. Mary’s during that time was Fr. George Gallaro of the Melkite Catholic Church who was a part of the parish community on a semi-regular basis from 1983 until 1990. During this period, the parish commemorated its 80th anniversary in 1988 with a Pontifical Divine Liturgy which was celebrated by Bishop Basil Losten of Stamford and was followed by a gala banquet. In that same year, parishioners from St. Mary’s traveled to Hartford, Connecticut to participate with other Ukrainian parishes from the Stamford Eparchy in commemorating the Millennium of Christianity in Ukraine with a Pontifical Divine Liturgy which was celebrated at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral.
The 1990’s began a new chapter for our parish. Deacon Joseph Lazor who had been appointed administrator shortly before Fr. Dyky’s death traveled to Ukraine in 1990 and was ordained to the priesthood in secret by Metropolitan Volodymyr Sterniuk at the Metropolitan’s kitchen table. This act of secrecy was necessary because the Communists were still in control and the Ukrainian Catholic Church only existed clandestinely in Ukraine at that time. This ordination was a fulfillment of a lifelong dream for Father Joseph who upon his return from Ukraine continued to serve St. Mary’s parish for many years until his retirement in 2003. Under Father Joseph’s administration some much needed repairs and improvements were made to the physical buildings including the re-roofing of the rectory and belfry, the repainting of the church interior, the placement of a permanent sign in the church yard, and the restoration of the gold gilded crosses atop the church roof and belfry. Much of this work was made possible through a magnanimous donation from the Ukrainian Associates of Manchester.
During the late 80s and early 90s, events on the world stage touched the lives of St. Mary’s parishioners. In 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the beginning of the end of Communist control in Eastern Europe, which for Ukrainians culminated on August 24, 1991 with the declaration of a free and independent Ukraine as well as the reemergence of the Ukrainian Catholic Church from underground. Father Joseph Lazor as well as many parishioners who still had ties with Eastern Europe and with the Ukrainian homeland were caught up in the excitement of those heady days, and were interviewed by the local media to gauge their reactions and opinions of these historic events. Father Lazor and several parishioners expressed their indescribable joy at the news of an independent Ukraine in which people were now free to worship God as they chose. In an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Father Lazor stated that it is hard for Americans to truly grasp what these new freedoms mean to Ukrainians and others because if you have always had freedom, you can’t understand what it means to finally have it in your possession.23
Throughout the 90s, the parish continued to remain active in various community events and even reached out to help a newly immigrated family from Ukraine. Since the rectory was not occupied at that time, the family was allowed to stay there for a while until it could get on its own feet. In the late 90s, a Ukrainian language school was organized and offered language and cultural lessons to young and old parishioners alike who wanted to learn about their heritage and get back in touch with their roots. In 1998, the 90th anniversary of the parish’s founding was commemorated with a Pontifical Divine Liturgy celebrated by His Excellency Bishop Basil Losten and was followed by a festive banquet.
In 2001, the parish was honored with the visitation of Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Slavomir Miklos from Croatia who was on a tour of the United States and stopped into Manchester to visit his relatives who were parishioners of St. Mary’s at that time. This was a happy event for the parish as it demonstrated the unity of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the States with its sister Church in Croatia.
The dawning of the new Millennium, however, also brought new challenges to the parish. In 2003, Father Lazor retired due to ill health, and several months passed with a number of visiting priests attending to the spiritual needs of the faithful before a permanent priest was assigned to St. Mary’s parish. In July, 2003, Very Rev. Zbigniew Brzezicki was assigned as administrator. During his tenure, the parish received many generous donations from parishioners and friends of the parish in the form of a new chalice set as well as several sets of new vestments. He also instituted a new tradition in the parish, namely, the decorating of a special Christmas tree by the children of the parish with handmade decorations the children had made themselves as gifts for the Christ Child.
In August of 2004, the Boston Deanery was honored with the visitation of Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church when he came to Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic parish in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, to raise funds for the building of a new Sobor in Kiev. Several parishioners from St. Mary’s in Manchester made the trek down to Boston to pay their respects to the Cardinal. Three children from our parish were chosen to greet His Beatitude with flowers upon his arrival.
In the fall of 2005, Rev. Peter Gronski was assigned as administrator of St. Mary’s parish. His arrival in our parish marked the assignment of the second “permanent” priest to St. Mary’s in less than three years. The parish was searching for stability and leadership and began to struggle once again with its identity as it had done so many decades ago. New non-Ukrainian speaking parishioners were asking for more English to be introduced into the Divine Liturgy so that they could participate more fully while some Ukrainian speaking parishioners steadfastly demanded that the Ukrainian language be retained in the Divine Liturgy. Most parishioners were willing to compromise and find a middle ground that would satisfy both groups.
This Divine Liturgy language dispute was the setting that greeted Rev. Robert Smolley when he arrived in November, 2006, to assume the role of newly appointed parish administrator. Father Smolley immediately set out to unite the parish and worked out a compromise solution to the language dispute by offering two Divine Liturgies each Sunday, one completely in Ukrainian and the other totally in English. This solution worked for a while but proved to be problematic as it basically split the parish into two factions. In the end, the solution that worked for most parishioners was to offer the Divine Liturgy each Sunday as a combination of both English and Ukrainian languages with one Divine Liturgy being celebrated completely in Ukrainian on the fourth Sunday of each month.
With the arrival of Father Smolley, the parish has once again regained a sense of permanence and stability. Under his leadership, many new projects have been undertaken including the painting of the church interior and hall. Parish activities are once again taken on with new enthusiasm including traditional Easter and Christmas dinners known as “Svyachene” and “Yalynka”, respectively. St. Nicholas always drops by the parish in December around his feast day to hand out treats to all good girls and boys. Christmas bazaars and yard sales are organized on a regular basis to help raise funds for the parish. Parish picnics held on the farm of one of the parishioners always bring the parish together during a warm sunny summer Sunday as one large family.
The ladies of the parish came together in the summer of 2007 to make pyrohy (Ukrainian dumplings filled with potatoes and cheese) which were also sold to help raise funds for various worthy projects. The summer of 2007 also saw a first for our parish. An exchange student from Japan came to live with one of the parish families for a period of one month. During this time, the student fully participated in all the activities of the host family which included learning to pray the Our Father and how to bless herself in the tradition of the Byzantine Church. The exchange student also regularly attended the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and was made an honorary member of St. Mary’s parish before returning home to Japan.
In December, 2007, the oldest Council of the Knights of Columbus in New Hampshire announced their official affiliation with St. Mary’s as the Council’s new parish home. The parish is deeply honored to be affiliated with such a benevolent organization which strives to live out the message of the holy Gospel not only in their words but more importantly in their actions. Father Smolley has also been honored by being named co-chaplain of the Knights of Columbus Council 92. We welcome the Knights of Columbus and their families into St. Mary’s parish family.
As we enter into our second century as a parish community, no one knows with certainty what the future holds for St. Mary’s parish. There is little doubt, however, that many challenges, difficulties, opportunities, joys, successes and failures lie ahead for us. Nevertheless, if the past is any indication, our tenacity and perseverance as a parish community will continue to serve us well as we enter into our second century of praising God and helping our fellow human being. We, the parishioners of St. Mary’s must never forget that we are the architects of this parish’s destiny, and that we have a sacred obligation to preserve, cherish, nurture and perpetuate our traditions, language, customs, rituals and all that makes us unique in the Catholic faith for the future parishioners of this holy church while promoting our parish as a living and vibrant beacon of Christ’s message to the world through our words and deeds. If we fulfill this sacred calling, then those who come after us will remember us as good and faithful stewards of this sacred house of God and all that it has stood for over these first one hundred years and beyond. May Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother Mary, our Protectress, help us and those who come after us to fulfill this sacred mission.
Praised be Jesus Christ! O Most Holy Mother of God, Save Us!
Researched by Dr. Kenneth Komisarek
Written by Mr. Jaroslaw Maksymowych, Parish Cantor
August 2008 A.D.
1. Lazarus, Emma, “The New Colossus”, New York, 1883.
2. New York Times (February 13, 1888), page 2, column 1.
3. Krawczeniuk, Dr. Osyp, “The Ukrainian Church In America: Its Beginnings”, (The Ukrainian Millennium Committee of Detroit, 1988), page 2.
4. Ibid, page 3.
5. Ibid, page 9.
6. Webber, Sue Ellen, “Perceptions of the Homeland: An Oral History of the Ukrainians of Manchester, New Hampshire”, (Harvard College, 1986), page 24.
7. Lazor, Rev. Joseph, “St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church 1908-1998 Celebrating 90 Years”, (Manchester, 1998), page 1.
8. Ibid, page 1.
9. Webber, Sue Ellen, op.cit, page 34.
10. The Union, Manchester, New Hampshire, October 19, 1908. Reprinted with permission of the New Hampshire Union Leader Corporation
11. Weber, Sue Ellen, op.cit, page 32.
12. Ibid, page 35.
13. Ibid, page 36.
14. The Union, Manchester, New Hampshire, October 12, 1933. Reprinted with permission of the New Hampshire Union Leader Corporation
15. Weber, Sue Ellen, op.cit, page 44.
16. Manchester Union Leader, November 24, 1930. Reprinted with permission of the New Hampshire Union Leader Corporation.
17. Weber, Sue Ellen, op.cit, pages 45-46.
18. Ibid, page 46.
19. Ibid, page 49.
20. Ibid, page 49.
21. Ibid, page 49.
22. Ibid, page 50.
23. New Hampshire Union Leader, December 2, 1989, page 10.