The Ukrainians in Montreal hope to get the historic church in need of renovation

Maron Figol says he hasn’t missed a Sunday service at Montreal’s St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in decades.

“Every Sunday, even in summer,” says the 82-year-old, laughing next to his wife in one of the pews.

“We got married here. We baptized our children here. We also married her here.

The parish has existed for more than a century. The church in the Ville-Marie district has been open since the 1950s, but an inspection revealed serious structural problems.

The church estimates it would cost more than $400,000 to repair.

There is a big hole in the ceiling of one room. There is also the brickwork on the bell tower of the church which will need to be replaced within three years.

So far, attempts to raise the funds needed have fallen far short, raising the possibility that the community may eventually need to relocate.

“It threatens the survival of the Church,” said Father Yaroslav Pivtorak, speaking to CBC News through an interpreter.

Rowan Kennedy/CBC

Rowan Kennedy/CBC

Over the years, many longtime church members have left the congregation, but recently an influx of newcomers fleeing the war in Ukraine has breathed new life into the congregation.

“Membership has increased, but the new members, are they able to support the Church?” Said Figol.

A spokesman for the city of Montreal told CBC News that maintaining services is important to the Ukrainian community and they are closely monitoring the situation regarding the church.

“We hope to be able to continue for a while longer,” said Figol.

Rowan Kennedy/CBC

Rowan Kennedy/CBC

“The true heart of the community is the people”

Richard Bernier ministers at the altar during Sunday services and has attended church for several years.

“They were very welcoming when I first showed up, even though I’m still learning Ukrainian,” Bernier said.

“Although I am not Ukrainian myself, I found their way of praying – I should say our way of praying – in this place quite beautiful.”

Bernier and other members of the church say they are confident they will be able to get the money needed to repair the church. If they don’t, Bernier says he’s confident the communion won’t break up.

“Even if the community had to move, we don’t envision it, but even if it did, people really matter,” he said.

“The true heart of the community is the people.”

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