Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church

The Organizing of Ukrainian Catholics in San Francisco

by Fr. Roman Bobesiuk
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The Organizing of Ukrainian Catholics

(1951-1957)

After the Second World War, during the years 1948 to 1951, several Ukrainian families arrived in San Francisco. They were well acquainted with national customs and nurtured a passion for the traditional Ukrainian church. In the summer of 1950, at the Belmont festival, a few of these newcomers had the opportunity to meet and bond with the older established generation. A united effort had thus begun with one goal in mind. Without a church of their own, this avant garde group sought out a temporary rental of a Roman Catholic Church and turned to archbishop Bohachevsky to appoint a priest. After protracted correspondence, the archbishop of San Francisco gave permission to celebrate Holy Liturgy in the Church of Saint Francis Xavier at 1801 Octavia Street. The Archbishop appointed Father K. Berdar from Los Angeles to celebrate liturgy here once a month.

On October 21, 1951, the first liturgy was indeed celebrated and the first church committee was elected which included Father Berdar, V. Kozak, S. Hrechanyk, M. Kis, Z. Zhyzhnomyrsky. At the first meeting 14 parishioners agreed to pay five dollars to the church cashier. M. Bachinsky, and I. Ewanchuk freely undertook the task of uniting scattered families to attend church. At each monthly gathering, the women prepared luncheons, arranged communal blessings and celebrated anniversaries. These varied activities enhanced the funds of the church committee. The recurring theme at monthly meetings consisted of two burning issues the purchase of a building and the acquisition of a priest dedicated to the San Francisco parish. Persistence and hard work resulted in tiny, incremental material growth that set the stage for future growth. In six years. the nest egg grew to $1,124.07.

Establishment of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception (August 3, 1957)

At the behest of parishioners, archbishop K. Bohachevsky, appointed the Very Reverend Canon Andrew Mykyta, S.T.D., S.E.O.L. the first and permanent administrator of the church community in San Francisco. After his arrival on June 25, 1957, a sharpened hope arose to purchase a building and work toward that goal began in earnest.

After three months of persistent effort, the committee agreed to acquire a building at 857 Girard Street, in the southern section of town, for $15,000. The parishioners contributed $8,000 with the most generous help of $4,500 from parishioner Panko Semkiw, and the balance was loaned by the Archdiocese.

Officially under the ownership of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the U.S., the newly purchased building was officially registered as the seat of the Ukrainian Catholic parish of the Immaculate Conception on September 3. 1957. The parishioners labored long and hard in converting and renovating the church and adjacent building. These parishioners included M. Bachinsky, M. Zarsky, J. Blyschak, S. Pidhirny, J. Nazaruk, J. Chato, S. Morozowski J. Iskiw, I. Ewanchuk, O. Hlynsky, S. Miszczanczuk, J. Pachołuk, M.Kis, S. Kochan, J. Krawchuk,, H. Schreier, P. Schreier, D. Miszczanczuk, W. Hluchyj, P. Kohut, T. Kulchycky, R. Kosovich, O. Kachmar, M. Potrohosh and V. Orenchuk. One model parishioner, John Iskiw, indicative of the deep love he felt toward the church, took three consecutive weeks of unpaid leave of absence to help convert our building. We are also grateful for the efforts of Ostap Hlynsky, in painting the church icons. The parishioners triumphantly celebrated the first liturgy on December 22, 1957.

The new building stood as a center of religious, cultural and community activity. The highly qualified pedagogue, Professor Z. Panasenko headed the newly thriving Ridna Shkola, or Saturday School. Financially, the parish status also grew and the remaining debt was fully paid within four years.

Immaculate Conception Church at 215 Silliman Street in San Francisco (April, 1968)

The parish continued to grow. Previously reticent members of the community were welcomed in the Girard St. Church and began attending regularly. Even neighborhood Americans of Italian descent participated in our dinners, dances and other social functions. The parish blossomed spiritually, culturally and now even financially and soon outgrew the existing facility. When an opportunity arose to purchase a Hebrew Temple and Hall with a capacity for 300 people the parishioners promptly decided to purchase the property at 215 Silliman Street in April 1968. In short order, an office and quarters were fashioned for Father Mykyta.

In the remodeling, the lions share of the effort was borne by J. Blyschak, S. Miszczanczuk, M. Kis, J. Chato, 1. Pacholuk, R. Kernytsky, B. Morozovsky, D. Miszczanczuk, H. Schreier, M. Zarsky, T. Kulchycky, R. R. Kosovich, M. Kochan, J. Krawchuk, M. Potrohosh, P. Kohut, and W. Hluchyj. S. Miszczanczuk donated various building materials while Myron Kochan built an extraordinary iconostasis decorated with paintings of the saints rendered by artist Lilea Wolansky Hornjatkevyc.

The church entrance was not only built by Mykola Kis and Jaroslav Blyschak but they also donated the necessary materials. The electrical wiring was placed by P. Mitcho, and M. Mykovich, Of no less importance was the generosity of the parish ladies who prepared countless meals under tedious conditions and in furnace-like heat: V. Kaculak, O. Schreier, K. Krawchuk, O. Chato, S. Kis, S. Kochan, D.Miszczanczuk, I. Bolzovsky., L. and S. Bolzovsky, P. Liskowacka, S. Halilovich,, O. Shyshka, V. Kosovich, P. Waszczuk, A. Miszczanczuk, and others. They were often helped by O. Hlynsky, L. Ewanchuk, T. Kulchycky, H.. Halilovich, B. Makarewycz, and others.

It was with tremendous pride that the new Immaculate Conception Church received a visit from Patriarch Cardinal Josef Slipyj on October 2, 1968.

In May 1982, a month before the 25th jubilee of the parish Father Andrew Mykyta was transferred to another parish. In his place Bishop Innocent Lotocky announced the appointment of Father Leonard Korchynsky. Father Korchynsky began celebrating the liturgy and conducting religious affairs in the Ukrainian language instead of Old Slavonic with the intent of attracting the younger generation. However, after two years, in May 1984, Father Korchynsky was transferred to the Cathedral in Chicago.

Father Andrew Mykyta then returned to the San Francisco Bay area. In June of 1984 he established the Mission of St. Andrew in Sacramento. Meanwhile, the Santa Clara Mission purchased a building for parish affairs. In the beginning of 1986 Father Mykyta left for the parish of San Diego.

The responsibilities of pastor of the church of the Immaculate Conception in San Francisco as well as the missions of St. Volodymyr in Santa Clara and of St. Andrew in Sacramento were assigned to Father John Lucas who had already been assisting Father Mykyta and lived in the apartment above the church hall.

Father John came to us from the Byzantine-Rus’ archdiocese of Van Nuys, California and celebrated liturgy in the Byzantine rite. When a new archbishop came to Van Nuys, Father Lucas returned to his original church in June of 1993.

Father S. Muth became administrator in Northern California on July 1, 1993. He abandoned the church after nine months leaving San Francisco on April 3, 1994.

From April 4, 1994 acting bishop Kir Michael Wiwchar of Chicago assigned the administration of church affairs to Father Deacon Ted Wroblycky who commuted from Sacramento. During that time, with the generosity of all parishioners and the assistance of Mykola Kis, the church roof was replaced in San Francisco. In April of the same year, archbishop Michael Wiwchar visited our parish.

Father Nicholas Zachariadis served the spiritual needs of the parish and mission from June 1994. He arrived from Australia having spent some time at the monastery of Mt. Tabor in Northern California.

On June 11, 1995, Father Nicholas left our parish to establish a monastery under the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Van Nuys.

Bishop Michael, responding to pleas from the parishioners, sent Father Oleh Romanenko to administer and preside over the San Francisco and Santa Clara churches on October 10, 1995. Coincidentally, Bishop Michael also elevated Sacramento into a free standing mission. However, Father Romanenko returned to Chicago on May 5, 1996.

For a short time, beginning in early June, the parish and mission were cared for by Father Richard Kirouac. Meanwhile, with the comings and goings of the above mentioned priests, our deacon, local priests of the Eastern rite or authorized Roman Catholic priests celebrated the Ukrainian rite liturgy.

Father Alexander Avramenko was assigned the administration of the parish church and mission on November 1, 1996. The priest’s quarters and the apartment above the church hall were redone. Likewise, the iconastasis was refurbished. The Immaculate Conception parish together with the Ukrainian Catholic parish of Los Angeles sponsored a West Coast retreat for young married couples initiated by Father Alexander. Also, under his direction, the San Francisco parish will celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Father Petro Dyachok was assigned in 2006.

Father Deacon Oleh Zatvarskyy was ordinated as a new deacon at our Church on April 14, 2024

Father Roman Bobesiuk was assigned on June 7, 2024.

Here are some pictures:

 

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215 Silliman St., San Francisco, CA 94134

ugccsf@gmail.com