Sts Volodymyr and Olha
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Sts. Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Cawaja Beach
Sts. Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Cawaja Beach


The history of Sts. Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church at Cawaja Beach started with the first Ukrainian settlements not only at Cawaja Beach, but along Nottawasaga Bay from Wasaga Beach to Tiny Concession 18. In 1959 two employees of the Massey Ferguson plant in Toronto, Ivan Bochnewych and Nicholas Maryn bought lots at Cawaja Beach. They both built cottages the following year and subsequently invited many others of their Ukrainian friends to visit them and encouraged them to also buy property and build cottages.

Both Ivan Bochnewych and Nicholas Maryn were born in the Lemkivshchyna region of Ukraine and were active members in the Canadian Lemko organization, inviting many of their fellow members to Cawaja Beach as well. The community grew and developed into a holiday resort. In those early years, several priests visited, among them Rev. O. Zolkewych and Rev. I. Mykytyn. They celebrated Sunday Liturgy outdoors on the properties of the first settlers.

Blessing of Sts. Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Cawaja Beach
Bishop Isydor Borecky conduct Blessing and Ground Breaking ceremony, 1987

In the 1970's, two well-known Ukrainian-Canadian businessmen from Toronto, Mr. M. Gerus and Mr. M. Dejnega bought farmland for development at Ardmore Beach. Mr. Gerus received zoning approval in 1985 - 1986 and subdivided the farm into lots, built roads, and donated two lots for a church. He also organized a building committee, which included Mr. Bohdan Kramarchuk, Mr. Mykola Bilchak, Mr. Fred Radecky, and Mr. George Malaniuk to assist him in this project. In the meantime, Sunday Divine Liturgies were celebrated by Rev. J. Lewycky on Mr. Gerus' property and attended by about 100 persons. A discussion on the building project usually followed.

The question of whether to build a chapel or a church building was discussed. A vote was taken and a decision to go ahead with erecting a church was made. Mr. Gerus invited Toronto architect, Mr. Ihor Stecura, to design a Hutsul-style wooden church. In 1987 Bishop Isydor Borecky blessed ground for church.

Blessing of Sts. Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Cawaja Beach

A fundraising campaign was put into gear. Mr. Gerus arranged for the "Four Seasons" prefab company to build sections of the church, and ordered the materials. The cost, excluding the roof was estimated at $75,000. The foundation and septic tank cost $36,000. The Church dome was contracted to Mr. Taras Haras of St. Catherines, and the electrical work was to be done by Mr. S. Holyk. The residents agreed to assemble the prefabricated church building themselves.

The fundraising campaign got off to a slow start with not enough money to pay "Four Seasons." Mr. Gerus extended a $90,000 loan, however, as work progressed, enthusiasm and excitement grew. Mr. Bilchak, in his position as treasurer of the church building committee, went from cottage to cottage to collect funds either with Mr. Gerus or Mr. Bochnewych.

Sts. Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Cawaja Beach

The community construction force was headed by Mr. Fred Radecky and assisted by Mr. Ivan Rozylo, Mr. Jaroslaw Wojtowych, Mr. George Malaniuk, Mr. Ivan Bochnewych, Mr. Mykola Bilchak, Mr. Dmytro Smochylo, Mr. Fedir Halushka, Mr. Nicholas Maryn, Mr. Myron Tarapacky, Mr. M. Vitiuk, Mr. V. Butkevych, Mr. V. Kalenij, Mr. M. Zholkevych, Mr. Ivan Burda, Mr. F. Kopestynsky, Mr. M. Vatral, Mr. Wasyl Kalynin, Mr. R. Dankevych, Mr. Myron Gerus, and others. Mr. M. Karpynec completed the plumbing and Mr. P. Ohorodnyk built the tabernacle. In general, the community's cooperation and and dedication were impressive. The goal was to complete the roof and erect the dome before winter arrived. With a little additional help, the church exterior was finished on time.

In the spring of 1989, the interior work was started and proceeded quickly. Concelebrating with many priests, Bishop Isydor Borecky officially blessed Sts. Volodymyr & Olha at Cawaja Beach in July. The celebrations continued with a banquet in Midland. Among the guests was the "Zoloti Kluchi" ("Gold Keys") Ensemble from Ukraine with the famous singer, Nina Matvienko and her husband, in attendance.

Bilchak, M