At the turn of the 20th Century, migrating Ukrainians were attracted to job opportunities at the Steel Mill in Sault Ste. Marie. By 1916, a Ukrainian Community had been established in the Bayview area – walking distance from the Steel Mill. This hard working and faithful group initiated the construction of a Church even though they were without a regular priest. Others from the Polish, Croatian, Italian, French and English communities joined to help. The Church at 118 Pittsburgh Street was completed in 1917 and was shared with the Roman Catholic Community for 24 years until the first permanent priest, Father Chorny, arrived in 1942.
In the early 1950’s, another major wave of Ukrainian immigrants started to arrive and the local Catholic parish began to flourish. The parish grew to approximately 90 families and was always one of the busiest places in Sault Ste. Marie. The local parish community hosted many suppers and dances, picnics and other events to raise funds for the needs of the Church. Sunday afternoon as well as concerts for such occasions as Taras Shevchenko Day. Children attended Ukrainian language school, learned the art of Ukrainian dance, and studied their religion very hard under the supervision of the Ukrainian sisters of Christian Charity who came to the Sault every summer.
The women of the parish joined the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada in 1956. The women have been the backbone of St. Mary’s ever since its founding and continue to be the major support of the parish to this very day. Without the love of their Church and their self-sacrifice, St. Mary’s would never have been able to celebrate its Diamond Jubilee in 1992. Indeed our heartfelt gratitude goes out to each and every one.
In 1958 the parish had grown to such an extent that it was necessary to make some major renovations in the Church and hall. The Church was expanded, adding a choir loft, vestibule, a small basement and washrooms. As well the interior of the Church was refinished. The original Church did not have any domes; these were added at the same time.
The hall was raised and a full basement put under it , and washrooms were added. The original parish house was demolished and a new home was built next to the Church. All this work was done under the pastorate of Fr. Julian Habrusewych.
With all these improvements there continued to be many problems with the buildings over the years since flooding was an annual event in the Steel Plant Subdivision. Every spring the banks of the Bonney Creek would overflow to the point where many people had to take a boat to work. St. Mary’s was no exception. More than once it was so badly flooded that the only way into the Church for Easter Services was to balance yourself on benches placed in single file lined up to the back door to the Church.
After Father Habrusevych, Fr. Nicholas Siry arrived as Pastor of St. Mary’s. Because most of the young people at that time had to travel such a far distance to University, it made it very difficult, if not impossible, for them to be home to celebrate Christmas and Easter with their families. It was decided that a vote should take place as to which calendar the parish should follow. In 1968 it was decided that the Gregorian Calendar would be followed by the local Ukrainian Catholic Parish in order to better serve the needs of its faithful. This calendar has been in use ever since. In all, the parish was served by the following pastors from 1918 to 2006; 1942-1944 Fr. Nicholas Chorney; 1944-1948; Fr. Wasyl Humeniuk; 1948, Fr. Charney; 1948-1949 Fr. Wasyl Zwarych; 1949-1951 Fr. P. Belecky; 1959-1974 Fr. Nicholas Siry; 1974-1976 Fr. William Kondusky; 1976-1983 Fr. Theodore Palczynski; 1983-1985 Fr. Stephen Muth; 1985-1998 Fr. Anton Szymychalski; 1998 – to the present Fr. Jaroslaw Lazoryk.
In 1985, Fr. Anton Szymychalski was assigned to St. Mary’s with the request of Bishop Isidore Borecky to expand the parish. Under his leadership, plans for a new church were unveiled since the original church could no longer serve the Faithful. The majority of parishioners had moved away from the original subdivision “BayView” and the Church was in desperate need of repairs. Construction started in September of 1987. In April of 1989 the first Divine Liturgy was held in the basement. Then, on September 3, 1989 the New Church was Consecrated by Bishop Isidore Borecky. Finally, after 72 years, the Dream of the Founder of St. Mary’s was accomplished. A beautiful new temple was erected. Currently our parish has 95 registered families.
At a time when many churches face declining attendance, St. Mary’s has the added challenges of next to zero influx of Ukrainians to our community and at the same time an emigration of our educated and talented youth to larger urban centres in search of employment opportunities. Our church community, however, remains optimistic and proactive in its commitment to growth.
Centrally located, high on the top of a hill, St. Mary’s together with ‘its adjacent neighbours ( St. Basil’s Catholic High School and North America’s Tallest freestanding lighted cross) is a beacon of hope to the city below that God’s love is everpresent in our community. A community in which the profile of St. Mary’s has risen exponentially and instilled a pride and new confidence in our Parish. Visitors constantly compliment the design and beauty of our Church.
Our mission is to reach out to the community (Ukrainians and Non-Ukrainians) by offering a warm, welcoming atmosphere where the Faithful may worship and peacefully connect to God. The English Masses allow other cultures to experience and share in our rich traditional rites and customs. The Welcome Message on our weekly Bulletin is’ a Testament to Our Mission: “Welcome to Our Parish … Enter Expectantly … Breathe Prayerfully …. Worship Reverently … Relax Restfully …. Greet Others in Love …. Leave Touched By God, and Come Again Soon.”
Our reaching out is showing results. The percentage of other cultures attending our services is on the rise. Our hard working Multi-Cultural Kitchen Volunteers are known for their Perogies and Cabbage Rolls throughout the community. Their efforts have significantly reduced the Church Mortgage. In a similar vein, the very active Men’s Club Sponsors various Fund Raising Events. Their Monthly Brunches are often “Sold Out” and the Lobsterfest is a Social must in our Community. Their next project is the installation of a much needed elevator to accommodate those with disabilities.
We are also very proud of our close relationship with our Sister Satellite Parish-St. Gregory’s Mission in Wawa. Although separated by 250 KM of desolated and treacherous highway, our Pastor, Fr. Jaroslaw Lazoryk, makes time to visit once a Month.
We are also very appreciative and Thankful to the Priests from our Eparchy who volunteer to visit and assist our Parish when Fr. Jerry has other commitments. This is special to us who by distance are remoted, because it reminds us that we are a part of a Greater and Supportive Community. In turn, we assure you that we are committed to being here as a viable and dependable “Northern Star” for our Vast (Geographic) Eparchy.
293 St. George’s Avenue West
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, P6B 6E8
Pastor’s Phone: 705-256-1025
Sunday Divine Liturgy:
9:30 am – Ukrainian
11:00 am – English