Miracle on 1013 Fox Chase Road
September 21, 1976, began with gloom and a heavy rain. It did not look like the sun would come out at all on that day, and heavy precipitation and swift winds were expected to continue throughout the entire day. Yet, dark and gloomy, it was a double holiday in the lives of the believers, including for the believers and dreamers of St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church. For one, it was the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, a major holiday in the lives of Catholics—the birth of the Virgin Mary. It was also the arrival of their revered, cherished, respected, and sacred Guest—the Cardinal of the Catholic Church and the Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Josyf Slipyj. Although His Beatitude arrived in the U.S. on Monday September 15, he had to depart Philadelphia briefly due to other engagements, including his meeting in Washington D.C. with the 38th President of the United States, Gerald Ford.
Though Cardinal Slipyj’s arrival on September 21st to Jenkintown, PA was expected toward the end of the day, the crowd of dreamers and believers began to gather early in the morning. After all, the dreamers had their umbrellas, and no rain or any wind would prevent them from that holy meeting. Though the weather may have been depressing, there was neither depression nor gloom in any of the dreamers’ hearts. They were satiated; they were full of excitement and all kinds of anticipation.
At approximately 6:00P.M. nearly 1.5 thousand believers of Philadelphia, surrounding counties, and nearby states gathered on the premises of the Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great, on Fox Chase Road in Jenkintown, PA. The first person to greet the Cardinal was the Father Lew Liybinskij; following him was the first member of St. Michael’s Paraphialna Rada Ilarij Mazepa. Additionally, the Chair of Bratstwo of Ukrainian Youth Dr. Bolodymyr Protziuk welcomed the Cardinal with flowers while and the Chair of Sestritstwo of St. Ann, Alexandra Chubata, welcomed him with traditional Ukrainian bread and salt.
If it was still raining at 6:00 or even after, nobody noticed. What was noticed by everyone, however, was the miracle they would never expect or forget. If people dreamed for some miracle, and they certainly did, it did come true on September 21, 1976. As soon as the liturgy began, and the Archbishop raised two trikirions, somehow the sun began to appear from underneath the murky clouds. Not only did it appear in the sky, its golden and glistering rays began to spread into the direction of the altar, and there may not have been a single dry eye among the crowd. If their umbrellas protected them from the rain throughout the day, nothing could protect their eyes during that moment, perhaps one of the shiniest moments in their lives.
The tears of joy, prayer, and songs all blended in harmony during the liturgy. The St. Michael the Archangel chorus, under the Conductor Farion, was in fact so loud and melodious that it could be heard on the premises of St. Basil. The same type of joy and contentment filled the premises even more when their Revered Archbishop declared, “What a happiness and excitement that we gathered here in this beautiful place where we can build our new church.” When he asked parishioners, guests, and all attendees to pray, to believe, to raise their hearts, and to thank God, his words of wisdom, his prayer completely absorbed them. Tearful, loud, perhaps louder than ever, they conveyed the words, “I believe in One God,” and these words had a totally new meaning to them. Not surprisingly, hundreds of faithful, still tears in their eyes, formed extended lines to receive communion.
The culmination of the liturgy was not even the long-awaited meeting and liturgy service but the Archbishop’s proclamation, “Благословляється і освячується земля сія на якій здвигнеться храм Божий.” It was said back then that the Cardinal’s visit and the blessing of the newly acquired premises would always be remembered, and that it would be told and retold from one generation to the next.
Certainly, in the twenty first century, it is not clear whether everyone remembers Mykhailivka’s miracle or origin. It may be taken for granted by many. Many certainly cannot be blamed for not remembering. Modest about their accomplishments, some of the first parishioners may or may not have told their story to their children. Most of the people who fought for and built Mykhailivka are no longer with us. Some of those who heard the story may have forgotten it.
Yet, whether it is totally or partially forgotten, it must find its way and continue living. It still lives though because of the people like the secretary of Paraphialna Rada Dr. Bohdan Hevryck, who kept notes and Yuliana Koltyn who was responsible for the parish news at that time.
Though the archive folder of 1975-1979 is fading and full of grey dust and green mold, it is still readable. Some handwritten or typed on typewriter notes are already losing their color. Falling apart and turning brownish, these notes still manage to hold our past. In time, those dusty, ripped, and stale pages will lose both their odor and print completely, so it is everyone’s task to ensure that Mykhailivka’s founders and their sacrifices are not forgotten, especially since in the twenty first century it is not that difficult to turn hard print copies into electronic files and folders. Even more important than remembering old notes is to remember what was handed to us by our previous parishioners. We must also remember that the miracle like the one on September 21, 1976 can and will happen if we believe and dream, if we persevere, if we take a chance on something that is worth fighting for, even if that something is not accepted or popular at that time. With those types of beliefs, principles, and dreams, Mykhailivka on 1013 Fox Chase Road in Jenkintown, PA will experience many more and much more powerful and countless miracles.
To view the original notes based on which this story was written, please click on the link below.
NaSha and nASHA mYKHAILIVKA
The always peaceful setting of the rolling fields at St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic church on 1013 Fox Chase Road in Jenkintown, PA hide an active, lively, and vibrant community that is not always peaceful, calm, or without controversy. This contrast is the real beauty of our parish.
We often refer to St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church as Nasha Mykhailivka. Some of us do, and some of us do not even capitalize the word “Nasha” when they refer to Mykhailivka. Any version of “Nasha” or “nasha” Mykhailivka is acceptable, though.
Those of us who capitalize the word “Nasha,” they see it as a unique, proper noun that cannot be separated from the subject Mykhailivka. They look at it as a unique name for a unique, its own person, a person with its own identify, mind, thinking. They may even feel that by not capitalizing “Nasha,” it might be disrespectful to our church, our people, our history, and our traditions.
Those of us who avoid capitalizing the word “nasha” on purpose, feel that the word “nasha” already includes all of it. They deem that the adjective “nasha” earned its name, that it has already become part of our history, part of our identity. To them, “nasha” implies that Mykhailivka belongs to all of us, and that it should be part of people’s everyday vocabulary. To them, moreover, it means that just like we do not capitalize the word “people” in the middle of a sentence, we should not capitalize the designative nominalization “nasha” in Mykhailivka.
Yet, whether we employ a small or a capital letter in “Nasha/nasha,” it is certainly of a lesser importance. What is though is how St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church because “Nasha” and indeed “nasha” Mykhailivka.”
Mykhailivka’s journey began way before many of us, Mykhailivziv. Many of us were not even born yet, and many, if not most, of those who built and fought for it, are no longer with us. One of its founders, Roman “Munio” Lewyckyj, who passed away in 2018, played a major role in why it became Nasha and nasha Mykhailivaka.
Nasha Mykhailivka was founded on the principles of democratic and transparent system of governance, the system that would enable the church to belong to its people and to be governed by its people, not bureaucracy. Ukrainian people, people like “Munio” who were prosecuted in Ukraine and often had to leave their own country because of it, those people knew something about bureaucracy and bureaucratic form of governance. It is not surprising that “Munio” and others had a clear vision as to what kind of church they wanted to build for themselves and for all those who would eventually take over. They wanted their church to serve God, their community, their people, the future.
According the son of “Munio” Lewyckyj, Taras Lewyckyj Icon PR 2008_2-1, artist and the designer of our church’s Iconostasis, he himself “witnessed the history that created the principles, which guide our parish today” (“An Open Letter to the Parish Council of St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church,” par. 1).
When in the early 70s a Ukrainian community found itself diminishing, some of the leaders in our Archdiocese in Philadelphia understandably became concerned. Undoubtedly, they had the best intentions at heart. Like all of us, they wanted growth, expansion, prosperity, just like most everyday humans do. Not surprisingly, they determined that they had to act, and act they did. Rather than finding more creative ways of expanding their communities without compromising people’s principles, culture, and traditions, it was decided that “assimilating with the Roman Catholic church could stimulate growth” (par. 4). In fact, it was then that many of Ukrainian churches in the United Stated switched to the Roman calendar and English language liturgies.
Soon after the Julian calendar became “unacceptable by the archdiocese and our laity was left without a Ukrainian catholic church for services” (par. 5). Thus, our worshipers became powerless. They were left without their services, their church, and the support from above. Though we may not have received little or any support from above, we were not about to give up. We knew the power would come from the One in the Above. Even though we did not agree with those who wanted to control us, we believed in a much higher power, the power of our Heavenly Father. It may have been our Heavenly Father who gave us people like Fr. Zlochovski, an elderly retired priest who despite disapproval of the archdiocese, allowed us to hold our services and for several years in his church (par. 6), which eventually enabled our own first Parish council to be elected, and that is how St. Michael’s The Archangel Catholic parish was born. Because we fought for it for a long period of time, it is not surprising, our church proudly carries St. Michael the Archangel’s name.
As the 21st century residents, we now understand that our unpleasant, to some degree even turbulent past had to happen. It was sent to us by our Almighty. Our past descended upon us to test us on who we are and if we had what it takes to fight, to grow, and to keep what we wanted, perhaps in the same way God sent Michael the Archangel to fight for principles versus power. God did not really need Michael to fight and defend Him for He already Was, Is, and will always Be our Almighty. Just like God wanted his Angels to take a stand on principles, He wanted us to do the same. We clearly passed the test, and we are thankful for our past and for all of those who fought with us because without those fights, it is for certain that we would not have grown into Nasha and nasha Mykhailivka.
Though back in the seventies, many in the Archdiocese refused to support us, and even refused to accept and bless our newly bought property, eventually that blessing came “directly from Patriarch Josyf Slipyj,” who personally came from Rome to bless the new parish and property with his words, “A great Ukrainian Catholic parish will grow here” (par. 8).
It was not until 1980 that our Mykhailivka was officially recognized as St. Michael’s Parish as part of the Archdiocese. See official documents below.
After we were officially recognized, a 1985 Parish Council created a plan to build the church what it is now Nasha and nasha Mykhailivka. Its number grew significantly after Ukraine gained its independence in 1991. For thousands of immigrants who left their homes due to many reasons, including political prosecutions, economic situations, health conditions, and other countless reasons, St. Michael immediately became their home. Especially because Ukrainians follow the Julian calendar for holiday celebrations, they felt and still feel that St. Michael is their church because it supported and continues supporting them. It lets them practice their faith, traditions, exactly the way it was taught to them by their ancestors. That is perhaps the main reason why Saint Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in Jenkintown, PA has become and shall always be Nasha/nasha Mykhailivka. It is just up to all of us to keep it that way and not just for us, the 21st century residents, but for all yet to come after us.
To read the entire Open Letter by Taras Lewyckyj, please click on the following two links. We thank Taras Lewyckyj for sharing his documents with us and for his continual support of our parish.
about Our Mykhailivka's IConostasis
Our Iconostasis, the five-tier structure
with more than 65 Byzantine type icons and unique and complex wood carvings was designed by two Philadelphians, one of whom is of Ukrainian heritage Taras Lewyckyj, the son of one of our church’s founders Roman Lewyckyj, and the other, his partner Victoria Haslam. Both artists studied fine arts at Tyler School of Art at Temple University and earned their degrees in painting and sculpture. To read more information about the artists, please click on Icon PR 2008_2-1.
In addition to working collaboratively on the Iconostasis, both artists created, designed, and painted all Mykhailivka’s icons. The project began in 1995, and it was completed in 2001 with the help involving several other designers, painters, carvers, and even mill workers.
As an important part of architectural structures of any Ukrainian church, Iconostasis represents the “unique dual nature of visual perception which is characteristic in Easter Christian aesthetics” and features “traditional physical characteristics that make them less about the picture and more of a tool that leads one into a spiritual state of being” (Lewyckyj 2).
In its first phase, Phase 1 on the right column, the artists and designers Lewickyj and Victoria Haslam created a prototype icon of Michael the Archangel; that icon is a representation of the Byzantine style, from which the Ukrainian faith originated from. Later that prototype icon would become one of the main features in the Mykhailivka’s newly built parish hall, which was completed in 2017 Our New Hall History.
In Phase 2 of the project, a scale model was built , and removable Iconostasis design version were created for parishioners’ approval, discussion, and review.
The creation of Phase 3 enabled the parishioners to review the drawing and agreed upon. On September 9, 1999, via Phase 4 directly below
Taras prepared mechanical and architectural drawings, and further mechanical drawings were created for carving and milling.
Eventually Master Carvers, Ihor Bera, from the city of Ternopil, carved the doors and other decorative elements, while Yuriy Didach, from Lviv carved the more detailed decorative elements.
The engineering, constructional, and installation work was completed by Bob Schweitzer of Schweitzer & Son milling company from Mulmeville, Pa. For additional information about the completion of Myckailivka’s Iconostasis, please click on Icon PR 2008_2-1.
Our Iconostasis Today
Mykhailivka's Other Important Facts
Chronicles of St. Michael the Archangel’s Events from 1975-1979
April 27, 1975. Committee for the complete advocacy for faithful whose desires are to celebrate their religious holidays according to their Eastern Julian Calendar calls a general membership meeting. First Paraphialna Rada is formed, and Ilaria Mazepa is elected as the first chair of Paraphialna Rada. He goes out of his way to raise money and to expand parish.
September 21, 1975. Approximately 100 families become the owners of a very large 16-acre property with a beautiful and massive garden, a big stone building that includes 22 rooms and already constructed church” (Archive Chronicles 7).
November 9, 1975. Day to remember for every parishioner of Mykhailivka.
November 9, 1975. St. Michael the Archangel officially opens its services on the premises of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Sv. Pokrovy in Philadelphia. It is then that during his first liturgy Father Liybinskij declares that we should pray and save our souls according to the Byzantine calendar and traditions of our church. It may have been that sermon in particular that prompts parishioners to build their own church.
June 12, 1976. First communion is held, and three girls and one boy take their first communion. Their names are Maiyka Havryliuk, Malanka Turcheniyk, Lada Bilaniyk, and Romko Hevryk.
January 24, 1977. The day St. Michael’s officially starts celebration according to Julian Calendar.
April 3, 1977. Palm Sunday is marked as a historical day in the life of Mykhailivka. The first liturgy is held on the premises. The liturgy is dedicated to that purpose. People are delighted, and they declare, “It’s unbelievable that in such a short period of time, only a year and a half, very small parish of approximately 100 families became the owners of a very large piece of land with a beautiful and massive garden, a big stone building that included 22 room and also already constructed church” (Archive Chronicles 7).
April 3, 1977. Father Lew Liybinskij begins his liturgy, and people, hearing the chorus singing, cannot hold their tears. They cannot believe they are the owners of that massive land, though they are nervous and unsure as to what would that new ownership bring them. After the liturgy Sestritstwo of St. Anna arranges Easter Bazaar in one of the 22 acquired rooms where they are selling desserts, coffee, stuffed cabbage, pierogies, and ceramics. According to chronicles, Sestritstwo always goes out of their way to make sure that they prepare and deliver only the best products.
April 17, 1977. Sestritstwo organizes first swatchene in the building of the parish of Holy Pokrovy.
September 11, 1977. First fall festival is held. Nearly 1300 people attend the festival (festyn). They are entertained by the “Vyshyvanky” orchestra.
November 20, 1977. Mykhailivka’s celebrates its prasnyk of the parish. They are joined by a lot of parishioners and guests from other states, including Cleveland, Chicago, Washington D.C. Father I. Krotetz brings with him his all male chorus to sing during the liturgy. Following the liturgy is the banquet celebration in the dining hall.
December 5, 1977. Bratstwo Molody holds their own meeting where they discuss how to create unity and harmony of the the church.
December 11, 1977. Sestritstwo organizes pre-Christmas Bazaar to raise money to pay the parish loans.
December 18, 1977. General meeting of all parishioners is held and elects first nomination committee. Five numbers of the committee are newly elected, including Bohdan Hevryk, Ivanka Fedyk, Lecia Terlizka, Ivan Kyzemskiy and Yaroslaw Bobynskiy.
December 25, 1977. Sestritstwo has its meeting where they invite their parishioners and they deliver a lecture about St. Anna, local patron of Sestritstwo, who is considered the Sestritstwo’s ideal.
January 1, 1978. Sestriztwo organizes pre-Christmas dessert bazaar to raise money toward the church fund.
June 4, 1978. Two children of the parish receive their first communion: Hanycia Fladun and Romchik Luba. Celebration begins with breakfast and culminates in lunch organized by Sestritstwo.
January 13, 1979. New Year Celebration, featuring “Vinchuvannia,” “Pocivalnyck” and “New Kolomyiky,” performed by Mr. V. Doroshenko, zymbaly performance by Mr. Ivan Bons.
January 21, 1979. Parish Prosphora is organized by Father Liybinskyi, Chair of Paraphialna Rada Teodor Krochak and Mrs. Eugin Farion and Sestritstwo. They also organize and performe koliadky.
February 18, 1979. Celebration of the 87th birthday of our Archbishop Josyf Slipyi. Following liturgy, celebration gathering is held at the Sestritstwo’s dining hall.
March 4, 1979. General membership meeting is held. General state of the parish is discussed, and it is determined that the festivals organized by Sestritstwo are profitable and that they should continue. Festivals are called festyns at that time. Sestritstwo’s total profit as of March of 1975 is $27,085. Out of that profit, they give away $20,435 to pay for the parish mortgage and other expenses. Their bank account for the current year is $6,650.
June 3, 1979. St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church holds its first festival on its own premises.
To be Continued
NOTE to Our Reader
The history of Mykhailivka is vast, enormous, at times complicated. It is more than just Mykhailivka’s past. It is your country’s past; it is your origin’s past. It is the history of your grandmother and grandfather, your mother and father, your aunt, and your uncle, and maybe even your brother and sister. That history is rich; it is full of official historical documents, photos, literature, poetry, art. The Mykhailivka’s archives shelves are bending from different kinds of historical artifacts. Those artifacts hold more than just opinions and passions; they hold facts, truth. They retain unique engineering designs, drawings, photographs. They hide unique, irreplaceable art. To bring those artifacts, that art to life, you too can help. It is not only Mykhailivka’s story; it’s your family’s story as well. It cannot be completed or written by a single person or a few people. It can only be completed with your help, dear parishioner, guest, or an avid lover of history! Help us bring these artifacts to life and contact St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church if you would like to help in completing our, your story. Everyone can be a historian, so why not you? Please consider volunteering to put together all artifacts of our church’s past to tell the true Mykhailivka’s story and to the yet to come Mykhailivtsiv.
We thank Dr. Taras Lewyckyj for providing us with the details and description about the completion of St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church’s Iconostasis.
How Mykhailivka's Property was Acquired
The property, a massive garden with a stone building which included 22 rooms and also an already built small church was bought in 1975 for $300,000. Though at that time if was a lot of money, it was a fair price. The property, a beautiful orchard garden was bought from a widow who, inspired by Josyf Slipyj story at the Soviet Gulag, decided to sell the property for a fair and reasonable price, perhaps below the market value. Through personal donations and sales by the Sestritstwo, approximately 100 families were able to put a $100,000 deposit; the remaining of $200,000 was to be borrowed. Even though they acquired the two buildings, those buildings were in such a bad shape that they required immediate reconstruction or total rebuilding. Though at that time $200,000 was a lot of money, which they knew they could not afford, they had something more important than money—the belief that somehow they were doing the right thing, that somehow, they would prevail, that somehow even if they did not benefit from it personally because it would have been much easier for them to stay away from debts, they knew that even if they did not experience the reward, their children and their children’s children would. They were visionaries because that is exactly what visionaries are and do.
More about Our History
Out of Many One
Oksana's and Munio's Story and How Many Worked to Benefit One -- Mykhailivka
According to Oksana Farion, one of our current parishioners, former chairs of Sestritstwo, and also the daughter of the first chair of Sisters of St. Anna Olexandra Chubata, though every previous leader of Sestritstwo had different ways of doing things, they all had the same purpose—to work for the benefit of our parish.
Oksana Farion did just that; she and people like Roman Lewyckyj worked for the benefit of our parish. Oksana was just a young mother of three small children when she decided it was unacceptable for her to just give up on her principles, religious traditions, and culture. Certainly, she was not the only one, so were a few others, including Mr. Liybomyr Liyba, Dr. Stephanie Bereznytska, Mrs. Christina Turcheniuk, and Dr. Volodymyr Proziuk. Their advocacy for our parish began in 1972, and it all started as a small group of parents’ initiative, which started right after all the eight churches in Philadelphia area were about to switch from the Julian to Gregorian calendar for religious celebrations. With the realization that they were running out of options, they decided it was their time to shine. They knew well that nobody would shine for them, and indeed, they shined, but certainly their shining was not for the purposes of glorification. Perhaps they did not even notice their shining. They just did what they had to. Yet to us, the twenty first century readers, they shined. Their shining reveals itself best through their actions.
Rolling up their sleeves, these shiners held their first parents’ initiative meeting on October 29, 1972, which took place at the Creditivka building of “Samopomich.” Their other, more major consequent meetings were held at the Tryzub and at the church of Xrysta Tzaria, which was located on Cayuga Street in Philadelphia.
The October 29th meeting may have been productive overall. Yet, they understood well that the four or five of them did not have enough power to beat the odds against them; as a result, they decided that they needed to roll up their sleeves much higher if they wanted to attract more people and bring those people on their side. They desperately needed people, young people. If that meant going after college students, that was what they did. They also brought in several professors, including Prof. Labunskij. It was agreed upon on holding meetings at the hall of Sv. Xrysta Tzaria, which was ideal because they could express themselves freely and without any censorship. In addition to their meetings, they organized different types of events, concerts, and plays, including “For Sister,” which attracted more young people, and not only from Philadelphia area, but from different cities and states, and not just the close by cities and states, but cities like Chicago, IL, for instance.
Those types of events were producing results. By 1973, their membership expanded, and on March 4, 1973, they once again held their wider Patriarchate society meeting at the hall of Sv. Xrysta Tzaria, where at the end of the meeting Steven Protsik, a Deputy Chairman of the regional Patriarchate Council assistant chair, as requested by Dr. Bolodymy Protsiuk, asked all those attendees who wished to celebrate their religious holiday according to the Julian calendar to remain in their seats for a little longer. Those who remained, did learn that they indeed had some options, and that if they stayed together, they would prevail. It was then that the first initiative advocacy group was created, and they gained a few new leaders, in additions to the ones elected in 1972. The new leaders emerged, and they were engineer Roman Lewyckkyj, Teodor Hrytziv and Maria Labunska.
On the 25 of March 1973, another general membership meeting was held to elect their chair Dr. Volodymyr Protsiuk and secretary Dr. St. Bereznytska. By November 4 of 1974, they managed to retain both leaders and followers. In need to disseminate information faster, they created their own parish newsletter, which was printed either monthly or bi-monthly.
By 1975, they formed a committee for the full guardianship for their faithful, and on April 23, 1975, they held their first wide committee meeting at the Tryzub premises. Though the Tryzyb meeting was not exactly a success, it led to other more successful meetings and particularly to one of the most important and memorable ones—the November 9th meeting where they got their first priest Father Lev Liybinskij.
NOTE. We thank Mrs. Oksana Farion for all her sacrifices and contributions to Mykhailivka and what it has become today. We thank her for her grace, modesty, kindness. We thank her for going out of her way to speak and meet with us. We thank her for putting together and sharing information with us about herself and her mother Olexandra Chubata in her essay “My Mom Olexandra Chubata.” We thank her for continuing being our parishioner and for still devoting herself, opening herself to us even when she does not have to. We thank her most of all for indeed still working hard for the benefit of our parish.
We are additionally thankful for those who left us recently, people like Roman’s Lewyckij who died in 2018. We are thankful to him for his contributions to Mykhailivka and for keeping notes and for handing his well-documented material and files to our current Chair of Paraphialna Rada. Please refer to Roman Munios Notes.