Saturday, 30 July 2022

Coventry Ukrainian Catholic Church at 60

Timeline by Bohdan Mandziuk
It has been a very traumatic year for Ukrainians worldwide. A number of celebratory events had to be postponed after Russia’s war in Ukraine intensified, in February. Communities and organizations across the globe focused on aid to Ukraine and welcoming refugees. Some were still able to commemorate significant milestones in their histories. A stained-glass window remembering Ukrainian-Canadian servicemen and women in Britain was hallowed at St. James's, Sussex Gardens, in London, on 8 May 2022. As well, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Bradford marked their 70th anniversary. Today, I discovered that St. Volodymyr’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Coventry is also marking their  60th on Sunday, 31 July. As a tribute to my dear friends from that community, I thought to compose a brief history of this church, taken mainly from my manuscript of the History of UGCC in Britain “This Family in Exile”, which is currently in editing.

Following the Second World War, 30,000 Ukrainian Displaced Persons immigrated to the United Kingdom and were settled in 500 towns, cities, refugee and workers' camps across the country. About two-thirds were Greek-Catholics from Western Ukraine (Galicia). Church authorities dispatched missionary clergy to serve the scattered flock and Bishop Ivan Buchko (Archbishop from 1953) was given jurisdiction over them, as well as all Ukrainian DPs in Europe.

As the refugees were scattered in hundreds of settlements, the clergy had to set up missionary bases, from which they could travel to the surrounding settlements. Six pastoral zones were established at the end of 1947, each served by two priests. They were re-divided into seven zones in May 1949. At first, Coventry was served from Ely because a larger number of refugees were located in camps and hostels in Cambridgeshire. The first priest to serve that area was Father Josaphat Jean. In a letter to Archbishop Godfrey of 22 August 1947, he mentioned Coventry among the places where the faithful were located. Jean was assisted by Father Modeste Gnesko, in the Summer of 1948, and then by Father Petro Diachyshyn, who visited Coventry and 26 camps and hostels, from March to April 1949.

With the arrival of more clergy, the pastoral zones were modified again in August 1949. Father Emanuil Korduba was transferred to Coventry, which was quickly becoming a Ukrainian centre. He was given charge over Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, and Worcestershire. Korduba was assisted by Father Yuriy Spolitakevych. When hostels in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex were closed, two priests were no longer needed in the area. In September 1950, Korduba was transferred to Manchester. Spolitakevych and Diachyshyn volunteered for a mission in Australia, and newly-ordained Father Mykola Matychak was sent to Coventry in January 1952. Matychak changed his base to Wolverhampton in 1953 and was assisted in Coventry by Father Petro Lisovsky. In November 1954, Father Stefan Vivcharuk, who had been serving in Paris, took over the Coventry pastoral zone but made his base in Birmingham. Four years later, some of his territory was included in a new Bedford pastorate, assigned to Father Ivan Hasiak. For three months in 1959, Father Alexander Baran assisted Vivcharuk while waiting to emigrate to Canada. Father Volodymyr Dzioba replaced Vivcharuk in December 1962, when the former was appointed chancellor.
Archbishop Buchko, Coventry 1956
In the 1950s and 1960s, Ukrainian religious leaders visited Coventry: Mitrat Malynovsky assisted with Lenten Confessions in March 1951. Archbishop Buchko made a first brief stop to Coventry on 18 July 1952, and a solemn visitation was organized in July 1956. After the formation of the Apostolic Exarchate, the new Vicar General, Paul Maluga, visited and preached a mission from 13 to 16 March 1958. Bishop Augustine Hornyak visited in 1962, 1965, 1969. Missions for the twentieth and twenty-fifth anniversaries of UGCC in Britain were preached by Basilian Fathers Maksym Markiv, on 22 May 1967, and by Athanasius Pekar, on 25 November 1972. The most important visit to the congregation occurred on 22 May 1970, when Cardinal Slipyi (known as Patriarch Yosyf from 1975) visited and celebrated the Divine Liturgy.

Ukrainian Catholics in Coventry first worshipped at Christ the King RC church in Coundon. In 1948, Canon Raymond Walsh welcomed them to Saint Elizabeth RC church. After his appointment, the lively Father Vivcharuk began looking for a larger building for worship. In January 1956, he acquired a new domivka: a church residence and national home at 482 Foleshill Road. This building was blessed and opened by Archbishop Buchko in July.
Vivcharuk’s ambitious projects were aided by Vicar General Maluga. At a meeting in February 1961, Maluga told the assembled clergy that they needed to increase collections in order to acquire new church buildings in Nottingham, Coventry, and Bolton. In August of the same year, Cardinal William Godfrey, the first apostolic Exarch for Ukrainians, made a token monetary contribution toward the purchase of a temporary church for Coventry.
In July 1961, Father Vivcharuk acquired land at Broad Street and Stony-Stanton Road complete with an old wooden Methodist hall. The first church house was sold while the Methodist hall was repaired and turned it into a “temporary” church, until the congregation could raise funds to build a new structure. The church, rechristened Saint Volodymyr the Great, was blessed by Bishop Hornyak on in March 1962. At the same time, a mosaic icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour was installed Saint Elizabeth’s, bearing the inscription: “Gift from Ukrainians of Coventry in thanksgiving for use of Church of St. Elizabeth 1948–1962.” A plan to build a new church in the Hutsul style (Vivcharuk was a Hutsul) was never brought to completion.
            In the 1950s, Coventry became one of most vibrant Ukrainian communities in Britain. The Ukrainian Catholic congregation, numbering 700, began to increase as Ukrainians from Wales and Northern England settled in town. In 1953, the first branch of Brotherhood of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (OLPS) was established by visiting Redemptorist missionary, Bohdan Kurylas. Members of this confraternity undertook to care for the church and clergy residences, and also took part in church singing and carolling. In the 1950s, other chapters were set up in larger centres, such as Edinburgh and Bradford, due to the efforts of energetic pastors. With the arrival of Father Maluga, the brotherhood became active in organizing church events. Coventry OLPS hosted a reception for the parish praznyk of the Protection of the Mother of God, on Sunday, 18 October 1959. During Maluga’s tenure, Coventry was considered one of the most vibrant branches.
Coventry’s other Ukrainian organizations were also very active. Among these were: a male Choir, Verkhovyna, under the direction of Marian Kostiuk (1926-2000), which performed across the country; drama and dance troops; and a Saturday school, with qualified teachers. Kostiuk’s choir sang the responses at a Divine Liturgy on 24 May 1959, at the Ukrainian church in Saffron Hill, London, in the presence of Exarch Godfrey. They also sang at a commemorate concert in Godfrey’s honour, held at Westminster Cathedral Hall. Verkhovyna sang the Divine Liturgy celebrated at the Lourdes Grotto of Hednesford Shrine, during the annual Ukrainian pilgrimage in July 1961. Over a thousand Ukrainians attended. On 30 June 1968, the choir led one of the Divine Liturgies during the opening ceremonies of the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile. Kostiuk emigrated to Australia in 1975, where he continued to establish and work with Ukrainian community choirs.

Cardinal Slipyi, Coventry, 22 May 1970

No comments: