Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church
The Ukrainian Catholic Church is the largest Eastern Catholic Church of its own law (Ecclesia sui juris). It belongs to the group of Churches of the Byzantine rite which are in mutual communion with the Roman Hierarch and acknowledge his spiritual and jurisdictional authority. In this context “rite” means the liturgical, theological, spiritual and legal inheritance. Names which are used to define the Ukrainian Catholic Church: Union Church, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Churc,; Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Byzantine rite, and Kyivan Catholic Church.
Through the Providence of God, the Ukrainian Catholic Church has been trusted with the great mission of becoming the synthesis between the East and West. After the fall of the Soviet Empire, our Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church is experiencing a new era. An era that has its own challenges, but also the freedom for which it had been prayed for, to flourish and renew the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church in the whole world. The first Ukrainians arrived in Detroit in the early twentieth century (around the 1910's). The small Ukrainian community founded their first parish on Cicotte Street on Detroit's west side. Where in 1911, Father Ewhen Bartosh arrived to become the first pastor of St. John's parish.
With the passage of time, more and more people began to move to the city's east side around Hamtramck. Recognizing the need for another church in Hamtramck, under the direction of Rev. E. Bartosh, our people began to organize the construction of a new church on Grayling street, in Hamtramck. The blue prints were drawn up by Maxim Harmatiuk.
The construction of this church began on November 15, 1913, and the cornerstone of the wooden church was blessed by Father Bartosh on December 25. The church on Grayling street was ready for occupancy on April 11, 1914. On Palm Sunday of April 12, 1914 the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Grayling Street Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church. As the year passed, the Ukrainians of Hamtramck were alarmed to see their children grow up without a Christian or national background. Father Bartosh, then decided to build a national home which could serve as a school and Ukrainian center; and on March 1 of 1914, the building of the Ukrainian National Home was under way.
The construction of Immaculate Conception Church, 1942
The national home was to cost $30,000. Although there was still a $10,000 debt on the church and there was no money in the treasury, the committee eagerly helped with the construction. The blessing of the hall took place on July 15, 1917. The parishioners generously pooled all their resources at this time to help pay the enormous debt. This building became the Ukrainian Cultural Center of Michigan. Soon this building housed the first Ukrainian grammar school, (later to become the Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Schools), the parish organizations, the parish dances, parish meetings, and all types of programs were held in the Ukrainian Cultural Center.
In October of 1917, the community bought a home for the sisters of the Order of St Basil the Great. This purchase was made by a generous loan from Jacob Boyko, a pioneer of the Parish. On June 1, 1936 Father Stephen Chehansky became Pastor of ICUCP. During his stay, our parish progressed to new heights. On September 1, 1936, he founded the Immaculate Conception Grammar School under the guidance of the Sisters of the Order of St Basil the Great. The spiritual and moral well-being of the parish progressed under the Brotherhood of the Archangel St. Michael and the Sisterhood of the Immaculate Conception. A church choir was also established at this time.
On October 18, 1936, a committee was formed for the building of a new Church. The outbreak of World War II delayed the parish building program. Years later, in July of 1946, a new pastor, Father V. Bilynsky arrived in Hamtramck. His assistants were Father Chomko and Father Jaroslaw Gabro (who later became Bishop of the St. Nicholas Chicago Eparchy). Father Bilynsky drew up plans for a school building and began a fundraiser for this new school.
From December, 1948 to November, 1956, Rev. Joseph Schmondiuk (who later became Metropolitan for the Ukrainian Catholics in America), served the ICUCP as pastor. In 1950 Father Schmondiuk issued the first Parish Bulletin. Under his guidance, the new school on McDougall Street was built. It was blessed on June 10, 1951.
A voting took place on January 24, 1955, for a change in the calendar. The results were: 927 votes for the new Gregorian calendar against 26 votes for the old Julian calendar. On March 4, 1955, a fund began for a new rectory for the priests and a Monastery for the Sisters. The members of the committee each pledged a sum of $100 and asked the parishioners to follow suit.
Rev. Stephen Knapp became the pastor of ICUCP in November, 1957. In February of 1958, Fr. Knapp bought the additional building for the future High School. The greatest contribution of Fr. Knapp was the founding of the first Ukrainian Catholic coeducational High School in the United States. The High School was opened on September 8, 1959. A fitting tribute and reward was given to this zealous pastor when Bishop Gabro instituted Father Knapp formally as a monsignor and a papal chamberlain in June 3, 1962. That same year the Apostolic See and Bishop Gabro decided to put the ICUCP under the guidance of the Order of St Basil.
The Basilian Fathers arrived in Hamtramck on August 1, 1962, and the new Pastor and Superior was Rev. Innocent Lotocky, OSBM. With the arrival of the Basilian Fathers, the new Church interior was completed to resemble a Byzantine Rite Ukrainian Catholic Church. Out of necessity, the dome was repainted with the painting of Christ the Teacher (Pantocrator). The dome was originally painted earlier by Mr. Mychailo Dmytrenko. Mr. Dmytrenko was also commissioned to decorate the entire church in icons depicting the life of Mary. His work included frescoes and paintings above the sanctuary and the celling. Soon after, a beautiful iconostas housing the royal doors to the sanctuary was installed by Mr. Berezowsky and Mr. Dmytrenko. On May 23, 1976 Bishop Gabro and Bishop Schmondiuk, blessed the repainted church dome and interior of the church.
Today our parish continues its educational ministry trough Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Schools. The parish has a wonderful choir, a youth prayer group “Youth for Christ”, Ladies Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and " The Fatima prayer Group" that makes major contributions to the life of the parish and its spiritual development. The Ladies from our 'White House' continue to make the most delicious Varenyky and have them for sale at the Parish rectory" the proceeds from the Varenyly are a major financial contribution for our Parochial Schools.