Star-Peno Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church

15 km. north of Lamont or 28 km. south of Waskatenau

Lamont County (NE-28-56-19-W4)

Star-Peno, Alberta

The historical significance of this parish is that it is

  • oldest Ukrainian Catholic Parish in Canada (1)
  • associated with a divisive legal battle for control between Greek Catholic and Orthodox churches in Western Canada
  • In 1893, several families from the Kalush area, Western Ukraine, settled the Edna (Star) area. This area was also known as "Beaver Creek".

    Since there were no Ukrainian priests in the area, the settlers turned for assistance to Bishop Emil Legal (1849 - 1920), Roman Catholic Bishop in St. Albert, Alberta. In 1897, Bishop Legal brought Father Nestor Dmytriw (1863 - 1925) from the United States to visit the various Ukrainian settlements in Alberta and Manitoba. In addition, Father Dmytriw was the publisher of the Ukrainian newspaper "Svoboda" in New York City.(2)

    On May 2, 1897; Father Dmytriw helped the local settlers establish their parish. The land chosen for the church and cemetery is about 1.5 km. southeast from the current location(Star-Edna Holy Transfiguration Russian Orthodox Church). The land was obtained from the Canadian Pacific Railway. However, the land was registered under the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation. In October 1897, the parishioners began work on their church. (3)

    In 1898, Father Paul Tymkewych (a travelling Ukrainian Catholic priest) visited the area. He advised the settlers to obtain the title in their name and have the land title transferred from the Roman Catholic Diocese to the local trustees. In May 1898, the title was transferred. However, Father Tymkewych did not stay long in the area and returned to the United States.(4)

    Between 1898 - 1900; there were no priests to serve the community. Efforts were being made by Bishop Legal to try to resolve the priest shortage. He met in Europe with Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky, Metropolitan of Western Ukraine, to discuss the problem. (5) At the same time, the settlers read in the newspaper "Svoboda" about Father Ivan Zaklynsky. They wrote a letter to him asking if he was willing to serve them. He arrived at Star on July 20, 1900. Other settlers in the Wostok area wrote a letter to the Russian Orthodox Church in San Francisco asking for a priest to serve the area. On November 12, 1900; Father Iakiv Korchinsky arrived at Wostok. The settlers readily accepted him as he spoke Ukrainian.

    In December 1900, some money went missing from the Church treasury. Some of the parishioners accused Father Zaklynsky of the theft. For his part, Father Zaklynsky forced the election of a new Parish Executive. These events then split the congegation into two factions - the majority of membership supported Father Zaklynsky; the minority considered being served by an Orthodox priest. (6)

    Over the next few months, both factions were able to use the Church for their Liturgies. However the dispute over Church ownership erupted in April 1901 when both groups wanted to use the Church at the same time for Easter Services. The Royal North-West Mounted Police was called to maintain the peace. The Police did not let either group into the Church. Both groups had their Easter celebrations outdoors. This incident then led to a court battle over who owned the Church.(7)

    The first sitting was held in Star. The presiding judge ruled that this issue should be looked at in Edmonton. In 1904, the Edmonton Court awarded the Church to the Ukrainian Catholic group. The Orthodox group appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of the North-West Territories in Calgary. On January 18, 1905; the appeal was dismissed and the Edmonton court decision was upheld. The Orthodox group then appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa. In February 1906; The Orthodox appeal was upheld by a 3 to 2 decision. The decision was based on the application for a permit to cut logs for the construction of the church. The first application requested logs for a "Greek Orthodox Church".

    The Ukrainian Catholic group appealed this decision to Privy Council in London, England. In July 1907; the Privy Council dismissed the appeal. It based its decision on the application for the permit to cut logs. In addition, the Privy Council ordered the Ukrainian Catholic group to pay all the costs of the appeal. (8)

    This court decision had a devastating affect on the group. Many members left the congregation so as to avoid paying the court costs. From the original group, only half remained. There were instances where some remaining members had to sell their land so as to pay their portion of the costs.

    In 1909, the remaining members decided to build another church. Two parcels of land were donated for a church and a cemetery. The proposed second church was to be located across the road (1/2 km south) from the present site. In 1910, Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky visited the area and blessed the cross for the dome. The second church was completed in 1911 and was blessed in 1913 by the first Ukrainian Catholic Bishop in Canada, Nikita Budka. Also, the church was dedicated to the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

    On Holy Thursday, April 1922; fire destroyed the church. While many suspected arson, there was no proof to justify this claim. Several items (including the dome cross) survived the fire and can be seen in the entrance way of the present church. (9)

    In 1926; work began in the building of a new church. The site of this new building was located on the same location as the cemetery. The church was complted in 1927 and was blessed by Bishop Basil Ladyka. This new church was dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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    Oriented on the east-west axis, the church is designed on a central longitudinal cruciform plan following Byzantine traditions. The church has one dome. The site is surrounded by flat arable land, second or third-generation trees.

    One enters the narthex through a small vestibule under the choir loft. The narthex leads into the nave with north and south transepts and a chancel on a raised floor. Within the chancel there is the sanctuary that surrounds the altar. In addition, there one sacristy located on the north side with an individual entrance from the exterior. There is no iconostasis.

    A large drum fixture rises from the intersection of the roofs over the nave. The structure then supports a high octagonal (onion-shaped) dome. A large wrought iron cross sits on top of the dome.

    In 1970, the church was enlarged by extending the front porch, stairs and choir loft.

    The interior is heavily decorated with a variety of stenciling and icons. In 1930, Peter (Petro) Lipinski did all the artistic paintings and decorations for the Church.

    In 1949, a stone bell tower was erected by the church.

    In 1954, a cross was erected outside the church entrance to commemorate a mission event.