A Brief History of the Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary (“St. Mary’s”) Parish
From May 24, 1911 until 1927, Vancouver was a center of missionary activity for Ukrainian Catholics in the surrounding area. In 1927, with the purchase of a parcel of land with a chapel and a residence on Fraser Street, the parish of St Stephen’s Greek Catholic Church was established. In 1937, the Order of St. Basil the Great began serving the pastoral needs of this community.
The community grew, and the parish purchased the Swedish Lutheran Church on Princess and Pender in 1944. The first Divine Liturgy in the new church was celebrated on May 7, 1944. The church was named the Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary now commonly known as St Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Parish. This property was sold and the last Divine Liturgy was held on August 4, 1968.
To accommodate the further growing of the parish, the present site at 550 West 14th Avenue in Vancouver, was purchased on June 15, 1962. The first Divine Liturgy was held in open air on September 9, 1962 with more than 1,500 parishioners participating. Of the several buildings on the site, a former laundry facility was retained and renovated in 1963 into the parish center. Initially used for Sunday services, the building was refurbished and modernized a number of times over the years. This building became known as the Ukrainian Catholic Centre. A monastic residence and a temporary church were built and opened in 1968.
After many years of fund raising, the present byzantine style church, designed by renowned New York City architect Julian Jastremsky was constructed and opened in 1982. Stained glass windows, icons and mosaics in the church, designed by renowned iconographer Boris Makarenko and his son Sviatoslav, were installed over a period of time. The temporary church was converted into a recreation center in 1983/84 and became known as St. Mary’s Recreation Centre. In 1973, a 90-unit senior citizen’s housing complex, known as St. Mary’s Gardens, was built on the site. It is operated privately by the St. Mary’s Ukrainian Senior Citizens Housing Society.
In 2002, the Parish community celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Parish being established, the 65th anniversary of the Basilian Father’s continuous service in the Parish, and the 60th anniversary of the existence of the parish choir. The parish has historically be the center of religious and Ukrainian community activities in the Vancouver Lower Mainland. Over the years, our community has been visited by the heads of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, including the most recent visit of the newly appointed Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk. His Beatitude’s visit to Canada coincided with the 100 year anniversary of the appointment of Canada’s first Ukrainian Catholic Bishop the Blessed Martyr, Nykyta Budka, and the 2012 Annual Synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops, held in Winnipeg