MHS Centennial Organization: Ukrainian Catholic Parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Manitoba’s cultural mosaic is illustrated by the diversity of churches in communities around the province. The Ukrainian Catholic Church in Portage la Prairie was established by people who emigrated to Canada between 1896 and 1914 from a part of the Austrian monarchy called Galicia. Initially, church services in Portage were held in private residences, building on a tradition of “reading clubs” that had been an educational and cultural feature of Galician village life. The need for a larger gathering place was soon felt so land was acquired and the first church for the Ruthenian Catholic Mission was erected in 1906. Incorporated in 1916 and given a canonical decree by Bishop Basil Ladyka in 1930, it was known originally as the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Parish of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

A second, larger church was erected in 1927 under the supervision of Father Phillip Ruh, a German Roman Catholic priest who had been assigned to work in Ukrainian missions in Canada, despite his different rite and language. His expertise in designing and supervising the construction of churches has earned Ruh widespread recognition. He was responsible for other “prairie cathedrals,” among them the impressive Ukrainian Catholic Church at Cooks Creek. The Portage church was described as “a striking example of traditional Byzantine religious art transplanted to the Canadian west. But, beyond that, it was a monument to the immigrant community which built it, and to its spirit of self-reliance.” The building was eventually demolished in 1983 to be replaced by the present structure, joining a hall was erected in 1967 to commemorate Canada’s centennial year.

The church has responded to the spiritual, cultural, social, and educational needs of its parishioners over its 100 years of activity. Its work has been supported by a Ladies League, a Men’s Brotherhood, and UCY for youth. It hosts a choir, catechism classes, plays, parties, Ukrainian dance classes, and bingos, among many other functions. In 2006, parishioners Effie Strilec and Mary Kohut prepared a book of church history, entitled “Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Church of Assumption, B.V.M., in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada 1906-2006.”

An MHS Centennial Organization Award was presented to Effie Strilec on behalf of the Ukrainian Catholic Parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 28 April 2007.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Sixth Avenue NW, Portage la Prairie)

Page revised: 25 February 2016