St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church in Irondequoit is celebrating its 100th Anniversary in 2009. The history of the parish can be traced back to the arrival of the first Ukrainian immigrants to the Rochester area in 1903. As more immigrants arrived, there developed a need to provide for the religious and cultural life of the people. In the early years, priests would travel St. Josaphat Church from Auburn, Buffalo, Elmira Heights and Troy, New York to administer to the spiritual needs of the faithful.
In 1908, the Benevolent Fraternity of St. Josaphat, a branch of the Ukrainian National Association, was organized. This benevolent society and its membership were the pioneers of organized Ukrainian life in the Rochester area.
On November 15, 1908 the first official meeting of the Ukrainian Catholic Community took place a t St. Stanislaus Church with the serious intent of organizing a parish. At a meeting held on June 28, 1909, ninety three parishioners agreed to contribute 3 days salary to construct a church. The sum of $417.50 was collected. Land was purchased on Remington Street and the first St. Josaphat Church was complete in 1910.
The church community soon outgrew the Remington Street location and in 1914 the church moved to Hudson Avenue purchasing a church from the Evangelical society. St. Josaphat Church remained on Hudson Avenue for the next 50 years.
In 1923, Father Basil Turula was assigned to St. Josaphat Church. Father Turula remained as pastor until his retirement in January of 1949. Under his leadership the parish paid off all debts, a church hall was constructed and an evening school where religion, Ukrainian reading and writing, Ukrainian church and national songs and Ukrainian history were taught was organized.
In September of 1941, two Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate arrived in Rochester to conduct an evening school. An all-day school was formally opened in September 1944 with an enrollment of thirty-one students. By 1949, the enrollment grew to one hundred ninety students in grades kindergarten to eight. The school remained open until 2001.
On January 20, 1950, Father Nicholas Wolensky was assigned as pastor of St. Josaphat Church. He served as pastor until his death on November 23, 1962. Under Father Wolensky?s leadership a complete renovation of the church and school took place including the installation of a new Iconostasis. In addition a chapel was erected in the convent for the sisters.
In 1957, nine acres of land and two homes were purchased on Ridge Road and Stanton Lane along with the founding of St. Nicholas Chapel on the same site. This would be the future home of St. Josaphat parish.
On December 28, 1962, Father Stephen Chomko was appointed pastor of St. Josaphat. Under his guidance a new school, rectory and convent were built on the Ridge Road property. The church on Hudson Avenue was sold and St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church moved to Irondequoit. In 1979, a new church was completed at the Ridge Road site.
St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church served as a focal point of both religious and cultural life for the Ukrainian community in and around Rochester, New York for the past 100 years. Divine Liturgies are offered in both Ukrainian and English. The school is used by local Ukrainian organizations and groups for a variety of events and meetings. The Heritage Center features various exhibits of art, information on the history of the parish and information about the first Ukrainian pioneers of Rochester. For over 25 years, the four-day St. Josaphat?s Festival provided greater Rochester with traditional Ukrainian foods, Ukrainian arts and crafts, and Ukrainian entertainment.
The parish will officially celebrate its Centennial November 13, 14 and 15, 2009. A St. Josaphat School Alumni Reunion will be held on November 13, 2009, a Jubilee Banquet on November 14, 2009 and a pontifical Divine Liturgy on Sunday, November 15, 2009.
Tags: DoR History