The "history" of a parish is always a love
It is the story of a group of people that wish to express their gratitude
to God by building a home for Him in their midst.
The love story of Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church in Hillside, NJ had its "official" beginning with the signing of a document. That happened on August 27, 1957 when the Most Reverend Constantine Bohachevsky, Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Philadelphia, signed the document incorporating Hillside as a new parish.
At the same time, Fr. Myron Sozanski, CSsR was appointed Pastor. Theodore Shatynski and George Helock Sr. were named as Trustees to assist the pastor.
Please join us for a "trip down memory lane" as we review the parish community decade by decade.
The 1940’s ("The Vision")
During 1946, a group of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church (Newark, NJ) parishioners, residing in Hillside and Union, met with their pastor, Father Vladimir Krayewsky, CSsR and expressed their desire of having a church of their own. Eventually, St. John’s parish purchased the land where the church now stands - on the corner of Liberty Avenue and Bloy Street in Hillside, NJ.
The 1950’s ("A New Parish is Created")
During 1956, a Building Campaign was started. At a meeting in June 1956, planning began for the construction of the church building. At that time, the organizational work and fund raising efforts began in earnest. Some of the activities included the following:
- Sale of Christmas Trees
- Pyrogy (Pyrohy) sales began
The Sunday Liturgies were held in the Hillside Elks Hall. To accommodate larger audiences at the greater feast days, the Liturgies were held at the Hillside War Memorial Building.
Some important dates of the 1950’s include:
- August 27, 1957 - Document of Incorporation signed by Bishop Constantine Bohachevsky, OSBM
- February 14, 1958 - Bishop Schmondiuk, D.D. visited the parish
- March 1958 - First Holy Communion Classes taught by Father Myron Sozanski
- May 1958 - Solemn High Liturgy held at Bristol Myers Field in Hillside
- 1958 - Church Choir organized by Walter Sywanyk
The 1960’s ("The Building Years")
The basement and construction of the church shell were completed during this decade. Once the basement was completed, the Liturgies and fund raising activities were held on the premises. It was during this time that the parish was affectionately known as "The Underground Church" to the local Hillside residents.
Father Thaddeus Krawchuk, CSsR, became the pastor during August 1967. The parish was revitalized during this time through new organizations such as: The Rosary Altar Society, The Holy Name Society, Catholic Youth Organization and the Altar Boys Society.
Through a loan of $90,000 by the Providence Association of Philadelphia, the interior of the church was completed.
Some important dates of the 1960’s include:
- 1960 - Pyrogy (Pyrohy) Ladies were officially organized
- April 24, 1960 - Ground breaking ceremony
1961 - Basement of the church was completed
- 1966 - The shell of the church was completed
- Easter Sunday, April 14, 1968 - The 1st Liturgy was celebrated upstairs in the church proper
- October 20, 1968 - Archbishop Ambrose Sensyshyn, OSBM, Metropolitan for Ukrainian Catholics in the USA, solemnly blessed and dedicated Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church in Hillside
The 1970’s ("Progress and Tragedy")
The parish size averaged around 70 families during this decade. Despite the parish’s small size, the mortgage held by the Providence Association was paid off in 12 years.
During this time, the following improvements were made to the parish:
- Pews, carpeting, and air-conditioning were installed
- Artistically beautiful mosaics were executed indoors and outdoors
- The parking lot was paved
- A garage was built for extra storage space
- A new main entrance and doors were installed
- A Neo-Byzantine style Way of the Cross was commissioned
- Extensive landscaping and an automatic sprinkling system were installed
Besides the Pyrogy (Pyrohy) Ladies, the Bingo Organization must be recognized for their great efforts in providing financial support to the parish. The Bingo Organization was founded during the 1970's by Mary Maszera, Nancy Grohowski and Mildred Medvecky
During July 1974, the parishioners lived through the tragic experience of a church electrical fire. Fortunately, there were no casualties and no structural damage to the church building. However, there was heavy smoke and water damage. The expenses involved in the massive clean-up were covered by the Archdiocesan Insurance.
The 1980’s ("The 25 Year Milestone")
The parish celebrated its Silver Jubilee (25 Years) during 1982. On October 10, 1982, Archbishop Stephen Sulyk, D.D., Metropolitan for the Ukrainian Catholic Church in USA, celebrated the Liturgy at Hillside in honor of the Silver Jubilee. A dinner and dance was held on October 16, 1982.
Fr. Maurice Dzurmann was instrumental in spiritually and organizationally preparing the parish for the Silver Jubilee. Fr. Maurice motivated the parishioners to fully participate in the parish activities.
Under the leadership of Evelyn Spital, the Metropolitan Sheptytsky Prayer League was organized.
The Iconostas was installed and blessed during the latter part of this decade.
The 1990’s ("Rebirth despite Demographic Shifts")
A demographic shift in the northeastern New Jersey Ukrainian population accelerated during this decade. Many elderly parishioners moved to the Jersey Shore or to Florida. Numerous younger families moved towards South or West New Jersey.
Towards the end of this decade, the parish was comprised of approximately 40 families. This “declining membership” phenomenon was also occurring at the vast majority of the Ukrainian Catholic Parishes in the North Jersey area.
Ironically, the parish began to experience a rebirth in community spirit. A core group of younger parishioners, greatly supported by the senior parishioners, decided to develop new programs and activities for the parish. Specifically, the following events occurred:
On April 6, 1997, under the guidance of Father Frank Szadiak, CSsR and Mark Gnutel, the Young Adults Group of St. John’s and Immaculate Conception was formed.
During September 1997, the parish held its 1st Annual Picnic. Actually, picnics were held sporadically during the parish’s early years. However, the tradition did not survive the “early years”.
During December 1997, an effort was made to increase participation in the Annual St. Nicholas Program and Party. The redesigned format has been very successful.
During January 1998, an old tradition was revived again! The youth of the parish caroled from house to house and to nursing homes. The carolers (koliadnyky) especially tried to visit parishioners who were not physically able to attend Sunday Liturgy.
March 20 - 22, 1998, the Young Adults Group of St. John’s & Immaculate Conception and the Young Adults Group of Holy Eucharist (Toronto, Canada) held a weekend retreat at St. Alphonsus Residence in Whitestone, New York. The retreat was geared towards Ukrainian Catholic Young Adults energetically exploring and improving their leadership roles and abilities and applying them in the “Relationships of Their Life”! (i.e. in Work, Family, Love and With God).
On April, 19, 1998, the parish held its 1st Annual Easter Egg Hunt. Also, on this date, the parish launched its Cookies & Orange Juice with Babtsia & Dido program. The program is designed to increase the interaction between seniors (family & parishioners) and children.
On Sunday, May 10, 1998, the Young Adults Group of St. John’s and Immaculate Conception sponsored a Mother’s Day Liturgy at Hillside. Several Young Adults from Winnipeg and Toronto joined in the celebration. The Young Adults chose the music, sang, ushered and helped write the homily. The Young Adults treated the 200 attendees to a complimentary reception in honor of all mothers.
On August 1, 1998, the Young Adults Group of St. John’s & Immaculate Conception held their 1st Rafting Trip down the Delaware River near the New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey borders.
Year 2000 & Beyond ("The Rebirth Continues……")
The rebirth of the parish continued during 2000. Additionally, several new programs were added or modified including the following:
On April 30, 2000, under the direction of Odarka Polanskyj Stockert, “hahilky” (ritual spring dances) were introduced to the parish for the 1st time in its history. The children learned the steps and songs with great ease.
On September 10, 2000, the parish held its 4th Annual Picnic. Hillside extended an invitation to the St. John’s Altar Boy Society to participate in the Hillside picnic. The St. John’s Altar Boys participated in the Sunday Liturgy at Hillside and then enjoyed volleyball, baseball, soccer, fishing and hiking at the picnic.
On December 31, 2000, another new tradition was born. The parishioners offered a special Liturgy in honor of all previous pastors of the Hillside parish. Each living former pastor received a Christmas card with a note indicating that a Liturgy was being offered for their well being.
A Religious Education Program was designed to target children attending Grades 1 through 8.
During December 2000, work on a Website for the Hillside parish began. Thanks to the great efforts of Christina Brundage of St. Therese Byzantine Catholic Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, a web site design was initiated. The site launched during January 2001.
In the coming years, we ask God to continue to bless this parish. Being dedicated to the Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception parish will continue to strive to be more Christian-like and make the world a “little better” in the years to come. Mnohaya Lita!