After a three-day spring rain, the sun smiled on parishioners and guests as they emerged from the Descent of Holy Ghost Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Hafford where a service marked the 75th anniversary of the parish June 19.
Presiding at the Pontifical Divine Liturgy was the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada's national spiritual leader, His Eminence Metropolitan Yurij Kalistchuk.
The three-hour service, conducted with spectacle and tradition, held special meaning to the parishioners, former parishioners and supporters who attended, said Ron Tkachuk, congregation president.
Within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, many traditions and rituals have developed over the years, he said, not unlike the myriad of rituals that have grown up around the British royalty. Each one is meaningful and has its roots in the church's long history, he explained.
To have Canada's metropolitan in attendance at the anniversary celebration was a great honour, Tkachuk added, explaining the service would go on as long as the congregation had requests to be fulfilled, such as prayers for loved ones. None would be refused, he said. For the older congregation members, the opportunity to take part in a service like Sunday's, with an archbishop in attendance, is cherished, Tkachuk said.
The visit was indeed a spectacle. The parish's pastor, Fr. Taras Udod, said the visit of a bishop or archbishop is an occasion for pomp and circumstance. The archbishop, Metropolitan Yurij, elected to his national position in November of 2001, was brought to the churchyard gate in a vintage convertible (with the roof up in case of rain), greeted with the traditional welcome of bread and salt, as well as roses presented on behalf of the youth of the parish. Rose petals were strewn on the path leading to the steps of the onion-domed landmark, the oft-photographed Church of the Holy Ghost.
While the parish has only 37 members, and only about 20 active enough to organize the event, more than 200 people gathered in Hafford for the celebration.
A blessing of water took place Saturday, and Sunday the Divine Liturgy was followed by a banquet and program at the Hafford Communiplex.
The program included music by the Lastiwka Choir of Saskatoon, who had sung during the service as well. It's been many years, according to Tkachuk, since Hafford's church has had enough members to maintain their own choir.
Young dancers also performed traditional Ukrainian dances.
A slideshow of photos was also presented and photos, including the construction of the church, were on display.
Fr. Udod was pleased former parish pastors were represented at the celebration. In fact, one of the two living parish priests was able to attend and was among the clergy conducting Sunday's service. Fr. Jakiw Rebalka, now of Prince Albert, served the parish from 1958 to 1962.
The other remaining pastor still living, Fr. Slawomir Lomaskiewicz, now of Regina, was unable to attend, but his brother, Fr. Michael Lomaskiewicz of Prince Albert attended, also assisting with the service.
Fr. Udod also said Halyna Zuzac, the widow of Fr. Stephen Zuzak who served the parish from 1962 to 1966 and again from 1970 to 1975, was also able to attend.
Since 1936, the parish has had 13 parish ministers, the most recent Fr. Taras Udod who has been serving the parish since 1999. Fr. Slawomir Lomaskiewicz was his predecessor, serving the parish from 1990 to 1999. Fr. Slawomir's predecessor was Fr. Udod's own father, the late Fr. Hryhory Udod, parish minister from 1988 to 1990.
Today Fr. Udod presides over services at the Hafford church about twice a month. His responsibilities also include the North Battleford parish and the Glaslyn parish, as well as several cemetery districts in the area.
Fr. Udod said there have been Ukrainian Orthodox followers in the Hafford area from as early as 1907 or 1908. The first church built for their worship is now to be found on the grounds of the Western Development Museum, relocated as part of the Ukrainian pioneer history display there.
The present church was built in 1936 within the town of Hafford.