Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Ukrainian Catholic Church

<Building currently used by Bethesda Fellowship.

According to statistics, the greatest influx of immigrants to the United States was during the years 1905 to 1914, the period before World War I. Some of these newcomers landed in New York State and eventually in St. Johnsville, which in those years was a prosperous little village.

A group of Ukrainians came here in the years 1908-1910, mostly young men and women, only a small number of married couples. They found employment in the textile mills and the piano factory. They had difficulty in finding a place to live; the result was that some of the houses were overcrowded.

They missed their church because none of them understood the English or Latin of the existing churches (Eastern rite Catholics do not use Latin in their churches). A priest from Troy, New York, the Reverend R. Dwulid, came to St. Johnsville and helped to organize a church. During 1911-1912 services were held in the Opera House basement on Center Street. In 1914 the Opera House burned down. Before the fire, an undertaker by the name of Shafer, whose place of business was on Bridge Street, had lent the church a carpet, a table, some chairs, and other things, which were all destroyed in the fire. He wondered who was going to pay for those items. To this date, no one knows whether he received payment for his lost properties or not.

Unable to find another place to hold services,t he Ukrainians gave up their local church. In 1915 the Saint Michael Brotherhood Beneficial Society was organized. It met once a month, paid dues, discussed current matters, held dances for benefits, had a life insurance program. Membership gradually dwindled over the years until in 1937 a new organization was formed called the Ukrainian Progressive Club. This club was active with meetings, dinners, dances, picnics, and made many donations to worthy causes. World War II interfered with the club's activities, for many young people were in the Army. After the war, for lack of interest,the club ended its existence and everything the club owned reverted back to the St. Michael Brotherhood Society.

In 1948 President Truman and Congress passed a law to admit 205,000 war victims to the United States. Many of these refugees came to places where they had relatives or friends.

In 1949 a small group with a priest among them came to St. Johnsville. Being religious people, they missed their church. The main topic of conversation among them was the possibility of having their own place of worship. The priest, Father George Hnatyshak, approached the Rev. Michael Scully, priest of St. Patrick's Church and presented his credentials. Father Scully offered to let the Ukrainians use St. Patrick's for Sunday masses at 7:00 A.M. The offer was gratefully accepted and services were held regularly for some months.

In the meantime the Ukrainians continued to look for a place of their own. Michael Rapacz, a local businessman, told them they could use free of charge the Ukrainian Hall built on the former Englehardt estate at the foot of South Division Street, provided they took care of the building and arranged it so that it would look like a place of worship.

The offer was accepted with great enthusiasm, and with the help of former immigrants who donated time and money, the church became a reality. In the fall of 1949, the church was ready for use. The first high mass was celebrated just before the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so the church was named after her on December 9, 1949. In 1950, the church received its charter, and in 1975 noted its 25th anniversary with appropriate services. During its twenty-five years,the church has four times been visited by archbishops and bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Hierarchy. Trustees of the church in 1976 are Michael Rapacz, Volodymir Martyniuk, and Myron Martyniuk.

The future of the church is not very promising, for many reasons: the unfavorable economic condition of our town, the passing away of the the old parishioners, the acute shortage of clergy, and the loss of church members due to interfaith marriages.


Reverend George Hnatyshak
Reverend Iwan Mak
Reverend Vollodymyr Korshinsky
Reverend Konstantyn Tymochko
Reverend Onyfria Wolansky
Reverend Joseph Lukashewich
Reverend Roman Bialecky
Reverend Petro Lisowsky

The church was closed in 1982 because of lack of members and it merged with St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church in Little Falls. (Information from Mathew Rapacz)

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