History of the “Holy Protection” Sisterhood
of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church
The sisterhood of St. John the Baptist in Oshawa, Ontario, officially adopted the patronage of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos on August 17th 1937.
The first president was Mrs. Anna Huska. Under the protection of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary the work of our sisterhood fearlessly and sacrificially gave and continues to give help and unstinting support to the life and existence of our church community for the glory of God and the benefit and development of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada.
During 1938 they had 11 monthly meetings, one semi-annual meeting and 22 weekly meetings. They held 2 bazaars, one picnic, 3 luncheons, 2 carnivals (“pushchennia”), 16 parties and bingo during Lenten periods. From these events a large sum of money was realized. Already at this time the sisterhood accepted as its goal the acquisition of funds for the building of a temple of God.
They actively and with dedication contributed to the work, organizing parties, picnics, dances with various raffles, offering all kinds of prizes beginning with embroidered pillows, to a baked chicken, or ham, or a cord of wood. At this point it’s important to underline that all costs associated with events were covered in full from the personal funds of the sisterhood members who were responsible for the success of all these events.
Among our pioneers there is a saying: “our churches were built upon pyrohy and cabbage rolls”. But it’s necessary to be more precise and give proper place to hot dogs and hamburgers! At every dance or picnic hot dogs and hamburgers were prepared and sold. At all private anniversaries as well as at all community events and celebrations collections for the building of the church were always held. But the activity of the sisterhood was not limited to gathering funds for the church, they also performed charitable acts, sending Christmas gifts to “our boys” in the armed forces across the sea.
In June of 1945 we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the founding of our parish. On June 14th 1946 a reception was held for our soldiers who returned from the 2nd World War. The sisterhood presented them with gifts, music played, and everyone danced.
At the annual meeting of the sisterhood on December 26th 1948 the chair, Mrs. Drohomaz, suggested that the sisterhood hold a “Bingo” twice a month and that the proceeds from this
Bingo be designated in full towards the building of a new church. All present agreed with this proposal and a “Bingo Committee” was chosen. Likewise, it was decided to increase the membership fee from 10 to 15 cents per month. On such fees and profits our church was built.
The Second World War was over. The post-war Ukrainian immigration began to arrive in Canada. The sisterhood warmly welcomed the newcomers with snacks and coffee, and contributed with help in finding accommodation, with transportation, and other material needs. Many of the new immigrants joined our church community, a renewal took place, new influences were felt, new ideas proposed, and to a certain degree new problems appeared . . .
Many of the sisterhood members of this time have reposed in the Lord, but a great number of them even till today actively labour in our community continuing the noble work of the sisterhood-workers for their natal Church.
Many years have passed. . .
Numerous historic events have taken place: the celebration of the millennium of the Baptism of Rus’-Ukraine in the Holy Orthodox Faith 988-1988. Our community, like other communities, commemorated this event with a grand Jubilee Banquet on the 4th of July 1987, with a canonical visitation by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Wasyly, Metropolitan of Winnipeg and all Canada. The hall and church were filled with faithful and clergy and many members of the English and Ukrainian press were present. Our sisterhood prepared an especially lavish festive luncheon. The 100th anniversary of the first Ukrainian settlers’ arrival in Canada took place at our hall with the participation of all parishioners, the “Holy Protection” Sisterhood, U.W.A.C. “Barvinok” branch, and all parish organizations. But the biggest event of our time, about which all our forebears dreamed, took place on August 24th 1991 when Ukraine became a sovereign, independent, and free country.
Bearing in mind that our hall was rented very often it was time to renovate and modernize it. In 1999 it was decided that all income for a certain period of time would be dedicated to the renovation of the hall. In October of this year with great excitement the project proceeded forward, everyone began work, the cooks prepared meals, and members of the community and the sisterhood performed various tasks according to their experience and ability – we had workers who had never held a brush in their hands, but were now painting! We surprised ourselves! The atmosphere was joyful, there was harmony, we were much, much younger, full of energy and high-spirited.
Over the years the Sisterhood has donated many items to the parish, including altar cloths, vestments, various other coverings for the altar, both festive and Lenten, and the large Altar Icon of the Saviour which is hangs on the wall behind the Holy Table in the Sanctuary. Our sisterhood members care for the cleanliness and order in the church, prepare and decorate the Lord’s Tomb before Pascha, change the cloths, etc. The last costly project was in 2007, when we sponsored the re-paving of the parking lot for a cost of approximately $43,000. Through the hard work and dedication of our its members, over the years our parish sisterhood has donated over $1,000,000 to our parish!
A year after the 75th anniversary celebration of our parish in 2010 a sad and painful event took place. In October of 2011 the parish council informed the parishioners that due to the age and condition of the hall and kitchen, extremely costly repairs and renovations would be necessary to bring the hall up to necessary regulatory standards. Sadly, the hall had to be closed. On October 6th, after the last day of our Ukrainian food sales, our hall was closed. It was a sad and sorrowful change for us, as we were left without a hall or our traditional fund-raising opportunities. It was very difficult to accept this new situation, it was almost as if a beloved member of the parish had died. Our hall stood empty, quiet like a tomb.
And so in October of 2011 the Holy Protection feast day celebration was held in the Ukrainian Cultural Centre “Dnipro”. Since then other parish dinners and functions have been held there, at St. Mary’s Hall at Bloor and Ritson, and in our Fellowship Room beneath the Church as well.
Our sisterhood continues to hold our monthly meetings, no longer in the hall, but under the Church. At the beginning it was difficult, but we’ve gotten used to it, and in any case we’re still in our dear Church. At the present time we have 49 members, though some of them are either in senior’s homes or confined to their own homes due to age or illness.
The Sisterhood members continue to do what they can for the good of our parish and community, helping out at “Fiesta,” organizing a Lenten supper after “Passia”, the Holy Jordan Supper, the Blessed Paschal Meal (“Sviachene”), etc. Fund-raising is limited to smaller events such as fellowship hour after Liturgy or collections for flowers for the “Lord’s Tomb” on Good Friday.
Our younger sisterhood members help out as they are able, and their youthful energy, expertise, and hard work are greatly appreciated. And with the construction of a new, modern hall this year, the sisterhood members, both young and old, look forward to having a place where they might again organize various events for the benefit of our parish and community.
According to God’s grace in the life of a person it is accepted that we work in the first place for the coming generations, and it is the dream of our sisterhood members that our descendants be able to continue that which our pioneers began. May God grant that our children and grandchildren would have the opportunity to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of our sisterhood in 2037!
Sisterhood Presidents from 1937 to 2012:
1937: Anna Huska
1938: Pearl Kolebniak
1939: Maria Halas
1940: Julia Dubyk
1941: Anastasia Tymochko
1942: Dora Hercia
1943: Stephania Shchiban
1944: Anna Kuney
1945: Stephania Bilous
1946: Maria Smykaliuk
1947: Anna Kuney
1948/49: Maria Drohomaz
1950 – 52: Stephania Bilous
1953/54: Anna Manilla
1955: Anna Huska & Anna Manilla
1956: Julia Pidwerbecka
1957/58: Antonina Shoddy
1959/60: Anastasia Tymochko
1961: Anna Manilla
1962 – 67: Anna Stezik
1968 – 71: Anna Manilla
1972 – 87: Julia Pidwerbecka
1988 – 92: Katherine Simachowskyi
1993 – 2004: Anna Stezik
2005 – 2007: Katherine Simachowskyi
2008 – present: Tamara Nelipa