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lic Church of

Католицька Церква

Historical sketch of St. Nicholas Parish
(on the 90th Anniversary of the laying of the church cornerstone)

St. Nicholas Parish started in 1894, but the present Church at Fillmore and Oneida was built 90 years ago, in 1919. What follows is a brief history of our Parish both before the building of the new church and then after.

Our people began to settle in Buffalo at the end of the 19th century, when the first immigrants came to the Black Rock area of the city around 1882. Their first church was built in 1894 on Ideal Street. The first pastor of this church was Rev. Mykola Stefanowycz (1895). This church was eventually taken over by the Russian Orthodox.  In 1905, the Catholics from the East Side, organized as the Brotherhood of St. Nicholas, constructed a little wooden church at 193 Central Avenue.

The lots for the church were purchased at a cost of $300.00 and $1,800.00 was spent on the construction of the building. Fr. Ivan A. Zaklinskyj blessed the church, while Bishop Charles H. Colton, the local Latin rite ordinary, presided. In 1910, the parish was honored by a visit from Metropolitan Andrew Sheptycky, when he was on his way to the Eucharistic Congress in Montreal, Canada. As the number of parishioners increased, it became evident that the church was too small for the worshippers.

Rev. John Ortynsky, in the church announcements of July 9, 1913, addressed the congregation by saying, "I remind you once again about buying the lots and I am asking every parishioner to offer something, according to his ability, for the purchase of the property. If we do not succeed, people would laugh at us by saying, ‘they started, but they have been unable to finish.’” The land mentioned above was located at the corner of Fillmore Ave. and Oneida Street. To the pastor and the parishioners, this location was more suitable for the construction of a church and, therefore, he encouraged the members of the parish to contribute toward the purchase of the land.

Even while preparing for the construction of the church, difficulties were experienced. Once again, the voice of the pastor could be heard in the church on November 16, 1913. He said, "I warn those who want to introduce disorder in the church that they will be sorry for their actions. Order must be kept until the matter is clarified."

Finally, the property was secured for the church. It was blessed on September 13, 1914 by Rev. Nicholas Voloshtuk. The ground breaking ceremony took place on May 20, 1917. On October 26, 1919, the laying of the church cornerstone was performed. The dedication of the church was on November 25, 1920. Rev. John Ortynsky was the pastor.

Plans for the church were drawn by W. H. Zawadzki. His fee was $2,000. The general contractor was Bellanca and Sorgi. Excavation was done by Frank Piekarski ($1,600); pouring the concrete for the basement was done by Butler and Mills ($2,000); plumbing by Thomas Park; and heating by A. Victor & Co. The lawyer for the project was Charles L. O'Connor.

The building fund campaign was started on February 8, 1917. Rev. John Ortynsky issued authorized certificates for the collectors in Ukrainian, English, and Polish. Parishioners Wasyl Rebizant, Theodore Skorobohatyj and Joseph Yakovenko began to pay visits to the members of the parish, asking for donations. In our archives we have a journal whose 81 pages are filled with these donations.

The idea of a new church was dear to the parishioners and they used every opportunity to collect funds. A few parishioners went even to other parishes and brought in donations from friends and relatives

Our churches cannot be mentioned without stressing the role of the cantors/diaks. They provided leadership in the liturgical services; they taught in schools, they organized plays, concerts, and other musical programs. Here are the names of the cantors (also called professors) at St. Nicholas: Michalczuk, 1911-1915; Iwan Popeluk, 1915-1916; Paul Lozinsky, 1916-1919; Luka Kaczor, 1919-1922; Joseph Zaremba, 1922-1932; Theodore Choptiak, 1932; Mrs. Anna Laptuta, 1932-1935; George Holowych, 1935-1953; Theodore Zajac, 1953-1954; Stephen Malutza, 1954-1958; Wasyl Makuch, 1958-1984. There were also choir directors: Roman Stawnyczyj, 1959; Jurij Lawriwskyj, 1959-1961; Myhajlo Procenko, 1961 until his death. Eternal Memory to all deceased cantors and choir directors.  Currently cantor/diak is Teodozij Pryshlak.

Since the cantors were responsible for plays and entertainment in St. Nicholas Church, they organized the "Dramatic Society of Ostap Nyzankiwskyj." Between 1921 and 1929, you could find in their repertoire the following productions: Manifest Ukrainy, Satana v Bochci, Natalka Poltavka, Darunky Kozaka Nevmyraky, Svekrukha, Svatannia na Honcharivci, Kapral Tymko, Icko Svat, U Nevoli Temnoty, Arendar u Klopoti, Kara Sovisty, Okh - ta ne luby dvokh; Maty Najmychka, Pan Pysar, Ne khody Hryciu na verchernyci, Kateryna, Vykhowanec, Bondarivna, Ukradene Shchastia, Predsidnyk Dushohuby.

The education of our children was a concern to the parishioners. To that end, the Dramatic Society published a booklet written by Rev. Kost Kuryllo in 1924. It was entitled "Our School, or, Words to Our Congregation." Problems of the youth and their schools were discussed.

In looking at a sketch of the proposed church and comparing it with the actual structure, one sees an example of an unfinished design. In spite of the generosity of the people, the collected funds were quickly exhausted. The parish was forced to borrow $25,000 from a local bank. Economic conditions, for many years, were not favorable. In the end, interest paid on the loan ($26,526.25) exceeded the face of the loan, itself.

The year 1918, just before the laying of the cornerstone of St. Nicholas, was disastrous for this small parish. The congregation lost 78 members to the Spanish Flu. Another catastrophe occurred in 1929 when the depression began. There was no possibility to meet all the needs of the church, so Mrs. Anna Laptuta, with her family, rendered many services without any remuneration.

World War II brought sadness to many parishioners. The first victim, Joseph Hriczko, a Ukrainian lad was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Other parishioners who paid the supreme sacrifice during World War II were: George Haskins, Michael Kopnak, Walter Kotlarski, Peter Sawchuk, Andrew Woloszyn.

Even during the war, the pastor and the parishioners were concerned with the education of their children. The Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate were invited to the parish in 1941 to conduct catechism classes.

After World War II, a refugee committee was formed in March of 1949. John Colomon was named its first chairman working with Rev. Alexander Steranka. They helped former countrymen who came here after their liberation by American forces in Germany. By July of 1950, a total of 450 Ukrainians were sponsored. They procured housing and employment. More than 2,000 families had been assisted when the program terminated in 1952.

With the arrival of the new immigrants after World War II, the Eparchy put more emphasis on organizing schools in parishes. Our first classes were started in September, 1958, in classrooms rented from Sacred Heart School. In 1959, property was purchased at 995 Fillmore Avenue. The price was $30,063.75. The parish school was built on that property in 1960, at a cost of $224,713.00.

The school was opened to every child in the parish. School buses provided transportation. The Sisters and lay teachers tried their best to mold the young souls according to the principles of Christian teaching, the American educational system, and the Ukrainian spirit.

We were honored in 1972 with the visitation of the late Cardinal and Patriarch Josyf Slipyj.

A new English Tudor Style rectory was built in 1986 at a cost in excess of a quarter of a million dollars. This project was financed by the dedicated Bingo workers under the leadership of our long time trustee Bohdan Hanuzczak, who just recently fell asleep in the Lord.

Millennium of Christianity in Rus'-Ukraine was very well planned, with many different activities such as: concerts by "Burlaky", "Prometheus" and trio "Verkhovyna"; banquet at Samuels Grand Manor, where Dr. Leo Rudnytsky gave the main address. The culmination was the Divine Liturgy at Convention Hall.

In 1989 and 1990, the old roof was taken off the church and was replaced by a semi-circular one, in the form of a cross. The services of a Ukrainian artist, Wolodymyr Bachynsky, of Saugerties, N.Y. were contracted for. He did a great deal of interior artistry in cut out form.

In 1992 three new banyas were added to the roof of the church. This project, under the leadership of Oris Pucak, certainly added a new dimension to the physical appearance of our church.

In 1994, we celebrated 100th Anniversary of the Parish and the 75th Anniversary of the Church. The celebration banquet was at the Hyatt Regency, downtown Buffalo. Bishop Basil Losten, as well as Bishop Edward Grosz, took part in concelebrating the Divine Liturgy.

In 1999, the Chapel and School Building at 995 Fillmore Avenue was sold. This meant our entire parish family was united again in the same building, although we continue to use both calendars, Gregorian and Julian.  In 2003, the parish kitchen was also completely renovated.

We were honored again in 2004 with the visitation of Patriarch and Cardinal Lubomyr Husar.

Here is the list of pastors who served St. Nicholas parish, following by the years in which they served:

Ideal Street:     Rev. +Mykola Stefanowich         1895

Central Ave.:   Rev. +Iwan A. Zaklynskyj             1905

                           Rev. +? Bednarsky                      1906

                           Rev. +Dmytro Dobrotwir             1906

                           Rev. +Nicholas Volensky      1907-08

                           Rev. +Lev Sembratovich      1908-10

                           Rev. +Anthony Bernatzky           1911

                           Rev. +Wolodymyr Dowhowycz   1912

                           Rev. +Iwan Ortynsky                   1913

Fillmore Ave.: Rev. +John Woloshtuk               1914

                           Rev. +Iwan Ortynsky              1914-21

                           Rev. +Nikon Romaniuk               1921

                           Rev. +D. Kulmatyckyj                  1921

                           Rev. +Myron Zalitacz                  1922

                           Rev. +Kost Kuryllo                 1922-25

                           Rev. +Oleksa Prystaj             1925-27

                           Rev. +Mychajlo Kuziw           1927-32

                           Rev. +Wasyl Merenkiw               1933

                           Rev. +Eustace Sydoriak        1933-38

                           Rev. +Francis Bonn                    1938

                           Rev. +Vladimir Kozoriz          1938-48

                           Rev. +Alexander Steranka    1948-57

                           Rev. +Nicholas Wojakowsky 1957-63

                           Rev. +Msgr. Paul Iwachiw     1963-85

                           Rev. Marianus B. Struc         1985-90

                           Rev. Marijan Procyk     1990-present

Assistants pastors who worked in our parish included: Rev. Wolodymyr Korchynskyj (1949); Rev. +Stanislaus Dasho (1950); Rev +Samuel Quartucci (1950-51); Rev. +John Litwak (1951-53); Rev. +Wolodymyr Maselko (1953); Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph J. Fedorek (1953-54);Rev. +Andrew Stasiuk (1954); Rev. Lubomyr Mudry (1955-57); Rev. Paul Prybyla (1967-68); Rev +Nicholas Ilewycz (1956-72). Other priests assistants are: Rev. Stephen Juli, Rev. Jeffrey Rodeghero, Rev. Olexander Bohun-Kenez, Rev. Basil Zawierucha, Rev. Andrew Czorny, Rev. Stephen Chmilar (now Eparch of Toronto), Rev. Mychajlo Bundz, Rev. Nicholas Regos, Rev. Roman Pankiv, and Rev. Robert Moreno.

At present time, Rev. Raymond Palko, serves as our visiting priest while being administrator in Niagara Falls, NY.

May God grant rest to the departed priests who served in this parish! The spiritual life of the parishioners, guided by these shepherds, produced many fruits such as: the Sisterhood of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the Holy Name Society, the League of Ukrainian Catholics, the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Junior Group in the School, the Senior Group in the Church, Boy Scouts, the Altar Boys Society, the Senior Citizens Group, and the Providence Association.

The Christian life of our communicants, their prayers and their understanding of the Gospels, resulted in vocations to the priesthood as well as to the religious life. Three brothers: Rev. Peter, Rev. Demetrius, and Rev. John Laptuta, members of the Redemptorist Order as well as Rev. Julian Osadca entered into their Eternal Reward. The Rev. Philip Bumbar serves in the Eparchy of St. Josaphat of Parma, Ohio.

The following women were called to the religious life: +Sr. M. Philomena (Rudyk) OSBM, +Sr. M. Vera (Herman), SSMI, Sr. Mary Caroline (Hriczko), Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Sr. Michaele Maria (Dolyk), T.O.R., St. Francis.

Let us not forget the special role of those who served St. Nicholas Parish as our trustees.  The men and women who worked diligently, out of love for our church, to ensure the efforts of the parish priests and parishioners would come to fruition.  Our current parish trustees are Elaine Nowadly and Mike Petryshyn, preceded by +Bohdan Hanuzczak, +Mary Hanitz, and Mike Liskiewiecz, Andrew Diakun, +Michael Makohon. While there have been many trustees throughout the history of our parish, the original trustees of the parish were: Bazil Rebizant, Teodor Skorobohaty, Hryhory Ciopyk.

We remember +Merill Nowosiadly and +Malyna Dziuba who served in the parish office for years, as well as many other volunteers wherever there was a need. We also thank those who do the Lord’s work for our church in countless ways, and all parishioners who have provided financially throughout the years and to those who continue to support our parish.

Our pioneer forefathers laid a solid foundation for our spiritual life. They instilled in our hearts a love and dedication to our faith. May the facilities provided by them for our benefit, serve us and generations to come, for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of our souls!