Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada [Українська Православна Церква в Канаді; Ukrainska Pravoslavna Tserkva v Kanadi, or UOCC]. The major Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdiction in Canada. The church was known as the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada until 1990, when the word ‘Greek’ was dropped from common use. (Officially, its charter was amended by Parliament only in 1991.) Until 1918 the spiritual needs of the Orthodox Ukrainians in Canada, mainly immigrants from Bukovyna, were met by the itinerant clergy of the Russian Orthodox mission in the United States, subsidized by the Russian government. Protestants also tried to penetrate the Ukrainian community in the guise of Orthodoxy through the Independent Greek church, absorbed in 1912 by the Presbyterian church.

The formation in 1918 of a national Ukrainian Orthodox church resulted from a bitter conflict between Bishop Nykyta Budka, head of the Ukrainian Catholic church in Canada, and a nationalistically minded segment of the Ukrainian intelligentsia associated with the Mohyla Ukrainian Institute in Saskatoon and the weeklies Ukraïns’kyi holos and Kanadiis’kyi farmer. A range of controversial issues—the bishop's personality, parish property rights, a perceived Latinization of the Ukrainian Catholic church in Canada—led to a schism. In July 1918 a confidential conference of disenchanted lay Catholics from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta created a Ukrainian Orthodox Brotherhood to organize the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada. The church placed itself under the temporary spiritual jurisdiction of Metropolitan G. Shegedi of the Syrian Orthodox church in the United States, who accepted the new church's administrative body, the elected consistory.

The new church was a distinct Canadian institution, unconnected with any Ukraine-based church. It accepted the traditional dogma and church rite of Eastern Orthodoxy, including a married clergy. It also stressed that church property was to be owned by congregations (and not the bishop), and that the church was to be democratic and conciliar in organization. Theology classes were begun in Saskatoon in 1919, and the church's first three priests, Semen Sawchuk, Petro Samets, and D. Stratychuk, were ordained by G. Shegedi in 1920. Large numbers of Ukrainians who had formerly belonged to the Russian Orthodox church and the Ukrainian Catholic church joined the newly formed UOCC.

In 1924 Archbishop Ioan Teodorovych of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church, formed in Kyiv, became primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, and the church in Canada, with 14 priests, also accepted his primacy; the UOCC, however, insisted on retaining its administrative independence under Rev Semen Sawchuk as church administrator and president of the consistory. The Ukrainian Self-Reliance League, formed in 1927, became an effective lay arm for the UOCC and boosted its fortunes. By the end of 1928 the church had approximately 64,000 followers, organized in 152 parishes served by 21 priests. It was strongest in Saskatchewan (81 parishes in 1940), Alberta (55 parishes), and Manitoba (53 parishes).

Serious internal conflict broke out in 1935–40 between the consistory and a group led by Wasyl Swystun and centered around the church's designated cathedral parish, Saint Mary the Protectress in Winnipeg. The group questioned Ioan Teodorovych's leadership and his desire for a closer relationship with other Orthodox churches, and the parish seceded. Despite its problems the church opened a theological school, Saint Andrew's College, in 1946.

In 1947 Archbishop Mstyslav Skrypnyk, newly arrived from Europe, succeeded Ioan Teodorovych, but policy differences with the consistory led to his resignation in 1950, and the church came under the temporary authority of Metropolitan Polikarp Sikorsky of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church (UAOC) in Europe. In August 1951 Metropolitan Ivan Ohiienko was elected primate, and Archbishop Mykhail Khoroshy became bishop of Toronto. At the same time the church was reorganized as a metropoly with three eparchies and two bishops; a self-contained and independent church able to perpetuate its own church hierarchy was thereby created. By 1951 it had almost 300 congregations, 70 priests, and some 110,000 adherents. By 1963 the UOCC had four eparchies (Winnipeg, Toronto, Edmonton, and Saskatoon). Under Metropolitan Ohiienko (1951–72) relations with the Ukrainian Catholic church and the Protestant church improved. Ohiienko was succeeded by Khoroshy (1972–5), Andrei Metiuk (1975–85), Wasyl Fedak (1985–2005), John Stinka (2005–10), and Yurij Kalishchuk (2010–).

The quintennial councils or sobors represent the supreme decision-making body of the UOCC. Executive duties are shared between the council of bishops and the consistory, based in Winnipeg and composed of elected representatives of the laity and the clergy. The Ukrainian Self-Reliance League, with its component organizations, continues to play a leading role in church affairs at the local and national levels. In addition to Saint Andrew's College, the church is affiliated with three student residences: the Mohyla Ukrainian Institute in Saskatoon, Saint John's Institute in Edmonton, and Saint Vladimir Institute in Toronto. Its organ since 1924 has been Visnyk (Winnipeg). Since 1978 several parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox church in Australia have also been under the jurisdiction of the UOCC.

Data on membership are imprecise because many faithful have been classified as Greek Orthodox rather than Ukrainian. Historically, membership has been relatively stable, and has ranged between 20 and 25 percent of the total Ukrainian-Canadian population. In 1989 the church's estimated membership was 128,000, in 293 congregations with 99 clergy. Since 1960 the UOCC has been in spiritual union with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church, both of which were for a long time headed by Metropolitan Mstyslav Skrypnyk. In July 1990 the sobor of the UOCC ratified an agreement with the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople that established a eucharistic union between the two churches. In 1990 the church had three bishops. (See also Canada.)

Trosky, O. The Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church in Canada (Winnipeg 1968)
Yuzyk, Paul. The Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada, 1918–1951 (Ottawa 1982)
Mulyk-Lutsyk, Iu.; Savchuk, S. Istoriia Ukraïns’koï Hreko-Pravoslavnoï Tserkvy v Kanadi, 3 vols (Winnipeg 1984–7)

Oleh Gerus

[This article was updated in 2013.]

List of related links from Encyclopedia of Ukraine pointing to Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada entry:

A referral to this page is found in 25 entries.

Click Home to get to the IEU Home page; to contact the IEU editors click Contact.
To learn more about IEU click About IEU and to view the list of donors and to become an IEU supporter click Donors.  

©2001 All Rights Reserved. Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies.