More Growing Pains

In 1901 a parish school was built where the Ukrainian language and Religion were taught, and which served the parish as a meeting place for its members. Many delightful plays were presented and enjoyed by the parishioners in the school hall. The school was a necessary antecedent to our parish church because of the desire of the church pioneers to preserve in their children those customs, ideas and language of the Ukrainian people. The pioneers were exceedingly proud of their national and religious heritage. As Ukrainians continued to emigrate from Eastern Europe, the parish found itself increasing in size to the point where its wooden church edifice became inadequate to accommodate the increased numbers of the faithful.

 By 1906 plans were being made for the erection of a new church which would be larger and more physically durable than the previous two churches. This third and completely new church was to be constructed of concrete, brick and steel.

 The old building was sold and moved across the street and converted to a private dwelling. The actual construction of the present church edifice was started in 1908 under the guidance and direction of Fr. Basil Hriwnak. Fr. Hriwnak began a collection campaign for building funds to which parishioners responded immediately and generously. The cornerstone of the present church was blessed by Rev. J. Sandecky. Inside the cornerstone is a special  niche which holds valuable documents and instruments relating to the construction of the church.

 Ceremonies of the grand dedication of the new church were held May 30, 1910. The Church was solemnly blessed by the Most Reverend Bishop Soter Ortynsky, assisted by twelve Ukrainian Catholic and four Latin Catholic priests. This was a glorious celebration attended by thousands of guests from near and far.

 In September of that year the parish was honored by a visit of Metropolitan Andrew Sheptitsky, Metropolitan-Bishop of Lviv in Ukraine and the highest ranking ecclesiastical hierach over all Ukrainian Catholics worldwide. He made a second visit to Olyphant in 1920 for one day only during which he celebrated the Divine Liturgy, delivered a sermon and then left immediately for a meeting in Wilkes-Barre.

 With the departure of Rev. Nicholas Strutinsky in 1905, whose tenure was three years, the parish was served by 9 different priests during the next 15 years, most of whom served from three months to one and one-half years at most, with the exception of Fathers Elias Kuziw (five years) and Michael Oleksiw (three and one-half years). During these years the baby boom of an average of over 150 children a year continued and a tragic death toll of 108 occurred in 1918, the year of the Great Flu Epidemic. In 1917, Fr. Michael Oleksiw organized the Apostleship of Prayer and achieved an immediate membership of 400.