History – St. Nicholas Parish

St. Nicholas Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Carvel, Alberta

By Nick and Joan Washylk

In 1929, the Ukrainian people of Carvel and vicinity decided that a church was needed to maintain their religious traditions. The first meeting was was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Washylk, with ten families present to discuss the preliminary plans. The committee decided that Carvel was the best place for the church site. Carvel was located next to the railway, which provided regular passenger service. As a contribution to the project, Mr. Frank Askin donated six acres of land in Carvel, which was purchased from Mr. R. C. Howat for the sum of two hundred and ninety-four dollars. The records available indicate that the parish of St. Nicholas was established in 1930.

The second meeting was held on the 19th day of December, 1930, at the home of Mr. Harry Sheigec, with twenty-four members present. The newly elected executive was as follows: Theodore Tyrkalo, president; Fred Washylk, finance secretary; Alex Sabadaska, treasurer; Stephen Andruschyshyn, recording secretary; Sam Borynec, Joseph Proch, Anton Turkalo – auditors; Harry Sheigec and Yurko Capp – elders.

Yearly membership dues were assessed at twenty-five cents per acre on each farmer’s holding. In the majority of cases, it averaged out to $40 per family.

In the spring of 1931, the congregation consisting of forty-six families proceeded with the building of St. Nicholas Church in Carvel. In order to cut costs, it was agreed that all members would assist the carpenters during the construction of the church. The contract was awarded for the sum of $1,700 dollars to Wasyl Dorosh of Edmonton, and the builders were Steve and John Hrudey. The uniqueness of the plan for St. Nicholas Church was its construction in the form of a cross. Its dimensions are sixty-two feet in length, forty-eight feet in width, with a total height of sixty-four feet. The nearest lumber yard, Armbruster Lumber of Stony Plain, could not supply the required fir lumber, so it was ordered and delivered by carload from the mills in British Columbia. The cost of the lumber was $2,000 dollars, while the freight charges were $22 dollars per carload. The car was detached and left on the Carvel side track. The members unloaded and hauled it in by horses to the building site. The balance of the lumber that was needed was trucked in by William Pawlyk. Upon the completion of the exterior of the church in the fall of 1931, Mr. Dorosh donated $100 dollars towards the church.

The interior of the church was begun with the hand-carved altar by Roman Veryn. Many of the articles within the church’s interior were donated by various members. The donations were as follows: a large reproduction of the Virgin May was donated by Mr. and Mrs. William Mudry; two church banners were presented by Mrs. Ann Pawlyk; two candle holders and two church banners were given by Mr. and Mrs. John Ronsky; the large steeple cross, the altar damask and four large candle holders were purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Isodor Yasinski; two candelabras were provided by Alex Sabadaska; and the Gospel was donated by Dmytro Danylowich.

Since there was no resident priest, and one had to come from Edmonton by bus or train, the Divine Liturgy service was held only four times per year. The priest has to stay overnight at designated homes, which were as follows: T. Tyrkalo, W. Markewich, A. Sabadaska, H. Shaigec, and later, William Pawlyk. Some of the fathers that officiated were as follows: Father Dydyk, Father Kaminsky, Father Dobko, Father Shewchuk, Father Hannas, Father Slota, Father Chemay, Father Martinyk, Father Zolkewych, and others.

Even though they did not have a regular priest, the people of the community came to church every Sunday. The local cantor led the people in religious song. For the cantor services, the committee rewarded him by not collecting his yearly membership fees. The cantors were: Alex Bordaney, Schichkare, Alias Arkewich, and W. Mudry. The elders that assisted the priest at the altar were George Capp, Fred Wasylkiw Sr., Mike Chruszcz, Mike Tautchin, and John Ronsky.

Approximately four years after the church was built, a good many people of the former members did not pay their dues as the depression of the hungry thirties set in. This cause a great burden for the few members that were left. In order to raise funds to pay the debt of the parish, numerous functions such as social gatherings, Christmas caroling by men and women, bazaars and raffles were held.

A cemetery was incorporated in the year of 1933. It consists of two acres of land, which is adjacent to the church building. The first burial was for the late +John Sabadaska Sr., on October 7, 1933, followed by the burial of the late +Mike Shaigec on October 24, 1933.

In 1933, the first marriage took place when Martin Miketyn and Mary Markewich were united in the crowning of marriage.

The official blessing of St. Nicholas Church in Carvel took place in May, 1936,  with his excellency Bishop Ladyka and Father Dydyk officiating.  During this period, Bishop Ladyka of Winnipeg was the only bishop and shepherd for all Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in Canada. For the blessing, the church was decorated with green spruce boughs, flowers, and blue and yellow ribbons. To greet Bishop Ladyka, seven riders escorted him on and a half miles, forming a procession to the church. The horses were decorated with tassels, yellow and blue ribbons, while the riders carried the church banners. After the ceremony, the Bishop, the priest, and the whole congregation enjoyed a festive dinner at the Carvel hall.

Despite all the hardships, the people of the community enjoyed the annual Easter “haivky,” which were held Easter afternoon on the church grounds. It is an occasion when the ladies and young girls take part in dancing and singing the traditional songs of Ukraine. While singing songs, the ladies join hands, making a bridge over which the young girls walk in mid-air over the joined hands of the ladies. It was a challenge and an honour to be selected to perform this activity as it took good balance to walk on the shaky bridge of hands for one complete round of the church. There were also other songs and games such as dropping the hankerchief and flowers.

Among some of the festive days celebrated was the Great Feast (Holiday), i.e., Pentecost Sunday. for this day, the interior and exterior of the church was decorated with green birch branches. Green is the colour that represents life, and the Holy Spirit is the “Giver of Life.”

During the summer months, Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate would come to teach catechism, Ukrainian reading and writing, to a class of approximately forty children. The class lasted for a period of one month. A grand ending performance in the form of a concert was held in the local hall.

On September 1, 1974, residents of the Carvel community had the honour and pleasure of attending the Divine Liturgy, which was officiated by Father Joseph Tyrkalo O.S.B.M., the grandson of the late Theodore Tyrkalo, who was one of the original founders of this church.