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Історія Церкви | History of the Church


Anyone finding himself at the corner of 31st Avenue and 30th Street in Astoria will certainly stop for a moment to look at an edifice that could be the pride of any parish. This majestic structure is the new Holy Cross Ukrainian Catholic Church, a dream come true for the Ukrainian immigrant settlers in Astoria. This House of God is proof of inborn love of the Ukrainian faithful for their religion and customs. Many are wont to overlook the labors of these pioneers in establishing a Ukrainian Catholic Eastern Rite community. In order to pass this heritage on to our younger generation, who in due time will replace their forefathers, it is justifiable to unfold the past history of this parish, and in this way, impart to our present members the respect due the pioneers of this community.

The first settler of this area was an Englishman, William Hallett. As recorded in old documents, Governor Stuyvesant granted Hallett 160 acres of land in December of 1652. Other families settled around him and formed a colony of farmers. On April 12th, 1839, the colony was incorporated as a residential unit. In order to give the place a fitting name, one of the founders of the settlement proposed the name ASTORIA after the name of the noted colonist John Jacob Astor. Astoria grew rapidly in population and in the late 1800's was noted as a summer resort for the wealthy of New York. As the years went by, it became a very important addition, politically and economically, to greater New York.

According to the records of the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church, we know that some Ukrainians lived in Astoria before 1900. More Ukrainan Catholics settled in Astoria, noticeably after 1910, when the Subway Line was extended into Long Island. Lacking a parish of their own, they became parishioners of St. George's Church in Lower Manhattan or Holy Ghost Church in Brooklyn.


As the Ukrainian Catholic community grew in Astoria, the need for a local parish was recognized and a committee was formed for this purpose. However, with the outbreak of World War II, their plans met a temporary setback.During the war, the Basilian Fathers were assigned to the St. George Parish and energetically undertook, the task of administering to the widespread Ukrainian Catholics under their jurisdiction. Realizing the need for a parish in Astoria, they bought Castle Hall at 37-09 31st Avenue. Within a few month, the faithful transformed the upper floor into a house of worship. Thus Holy Cross Parish began with the blessing of temporary church on October 22nd, 1944. As reported in "The Way," Very Reverend W. Lotowycz officiated at the High Mass with Reverends Superior M. Markiw, Paul and Peter Hewko, and S. Kollar, OSBM, as celebrants. St. George's Choir, under the leadership of Professor Theodore Onufryk, sang the responses. This occasion was a turning point in the lives of the parishioners, as the church became their focal point in their religious, social, cultural, and educational activities. Reverend Sylvester Kollar was assigned as the parish's first pastor whose task it was to bring together a scattered fold. A committee was organized to help him in his work with Mr. Walter Wrublewski as its secretary as well as the Church's cantor. The members of this board took upon themselves the duty of visiting the Ukrainian families in Astoria to inform and convince them of their obligation to become parishioners of the newly formed parish and to support it. Reverend Kollar, in due time, organized the Apostleship of Prayer and the Sacred Heart League. These societies did much to promote the growth of the parish. A bulletin was started by the Sacred Heart League and the first edition was well received by the members of the young parish. The church choir was officially organized on May 20th, 1951, under the First Mass of one of the sons of Astoria - Reverend Father Jerome Barnych, OSBM. A Catholic War Veterans' Post 1619 was organized. Their guard duty at the Holy Sepulchre was and still is always impressive. The CWV St. Nicholas parties brought joy to all the children of the parish. Other events sponsored by the Church organizations were concerts, dances, outings, picnics, and other types of entertainment which helped to keep the young and old in the Ukrainian spirit. In August, 1951, Reverend Kollar was transferred elsewhere. Reverend Soter S. Holyk, OSBM, was assigned as pastor in his place. Under his guidance, the parish enlarged. During his tenure, an Iconastasis was installed to beautify the Church with the Eastern Rite spirit.

On October 23rd, 1955, the parish celebrated its Tenth Anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, a banquet was held at which many dignitaries, religious and secular, were present and an anniversary journal was published. After serving six years as pastor of Holy Cross, Reverend Holyk was appointed pastor of St. Nicolas Parish in Chicago, Illinois.

In January of 1957, Reverend Bessarion Andreychuk, OSBM, replaced Reverend Holyk as Pastor of Holy Cross and soon organized the New Church Building Fund Committee from the representatives of the various parish and secular organizations in existence. One of the first decisions made by this committee was to buy additional property for the future church. The suitability of the proposed site was questioned and the committee was given one year's time in which to select another location. However, after considering several other properties, in and around this vicinity, the committee finally agreed on the original site purchased and work was begun. One of our own parishioners, Mr. Apollinare Osadca, A.I.A., was commissioned to design the new church and rectory. The building contract was awarded to J. Baranello and Sons of Ozone Park and the ground breaking took place on June 11th, 1964, with local clergy in attendance. Each phase of the building program brought about new problems, but with the cooperation and diligent efforts of the building fund committee, and the generous contributions of our parishioners, we have finally realized our dream of a new church in Astoria. On Sunday, August 1st, 1965, the cornerstone was blessed by the Most Reverend Joseph M. Schmondiuk, D. D., in the presence of the Honorable Mario J. Cariello and many other civil and religious dignitaries. The interior of the church and rectory were finally completed and the church was opened for all church services on June 18th, 1967. The official blessing and dedication was held May 19, 1968 with a parade, solemn services, a banquet and the publication of a journal. The Silver Jubilee of the parish was observed the weekend of October 4-5, 1969. The late Bishop Joseph M. Schmondiuk presided at all the foregoing events.

Early in this pastorate, Father Andreychuk recognized the need for additional help of the adult laity and organized a group of young married women who chose to be known as the Rosary Altar Society. He renewed the publication of the monthly parish bulletin in its present form and the first issue went to press in October 1958. With the assistance of qualified instructors, the weekly Ukrainian Saturday School was elevated to a very high standard. To foster Ukrainian culture among our youth, facilities were provided for the Moloda Dumka, Plast, SUMA, Ukrainian School of Folk Ballet and the Ukrainian Dancers of Astoria, in addition to the Holy Cross Youth Choir. Early in 1971, Professor Lysko retired and Mr. Osyp Dlaboha volunteered his services to become the new director of the Church Choir. All parish organizations were activated to a high degree and all parishioners were united in the single purpose of building a new church. Artists were engaged to paint sacred images and execute new furnishings during the Memorial Campaign. Maestro Jaroslaw Baransky and his staff were commissioned to paint the icons on the Iconostasis and design, produce, and install the stained glass windows; indoor and outdoor mosaics; and mosaic tablets depicting the Passions of Christ. Master Woodcarver Stanley Kira produced the altars, tabernacle, Iconostasis, candelabra, and other wooden furnishings. Gold Chandeliers were imported from Athens, and many other church appointments were added. Two plaques were placed in the Church vestibule to commemorate the contributions of donors to the building and memorial fund. Father Andreychuk spearheaded fund raisers to beautify the new church, remodel the parish hall, and reduce the church debt. To this end parish dinners, picnics, concerts, bazaars, etc. were sponsored and all helped to strengthen parish ties and achieve set goals. Father Andreychuk was conducting a campaign to raise funds for the painting of the church when he died suddenly on February 20, 1978.

On March 6, 1978 Reverend Christopher Woytyna, OSBM officially assumed his duties as the new pastor of Holy Cross. Under his guidance the artistic paintings of the church was begun by Maestro Borys Makarenko and staff and, in that first year, the Sanctuary and Choir Loft were completed. While visiting the homes of parishioners with traditional holy water blessing, Father Christopher conducted an intensive campaign to raise funds to complete the painting of the church. The Apostleship of Prayer and Altar Boy societies increased in membership and a parish chapter of the League of Ukrainian Catholic Youth was organized. The parish was imbued with a new spirit of cooperation and many major and minor repairs were accomplished with voluntary help. Coffee and Cake socials and take-out pyrohy sales were conducted every Sunday and Friday. Participation in local street fairs helped raise funds and publicized our Ukrainian community. Early in 1980, the artists resumed painting and, in due time, completed the decoration of the church ceiling and side walls with beautiful symbols and ornamentation. An icon of the Pantocrator, two additional mosaics, a new sound system, and new side lighting fixtures were installed. The Sanctuary furnishings and Iconostasis were rebuilt and marble was installed on the lower side walls of the church and vestibule. New carpeting was installed in Sanctuary, center aisle and priest's sacristy. Stained glass panels were inserted in the doors to the church and a third plaque was hung in the vestibule to honor those who contributed to the painting and decoration fund. On Sunday, May 2, 1982, Most Reverend Basil H. Losten blessed the Iconostasis, mosaics, stained glass windows, and interior church decoration during a Pontifical Divine Liturgy. A formal dinner followed the church services, during which the completed church mortgage was burned. After the completion of church proper, attention was turned to the conversion of the basement into an auditorium-hall. The plans called for new lighting, a drop ceiling, stage, kitchen, and air conditioning. On October 25, 1986, Father Woytyna celebrated the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of his ordination to Priesthood. To mark this occasion a Divine Liturgy of Thanksgiving was celebrated, which was followed by a banquet. In addition to the participation of parishioners, Bishop Basil of Stamford and local clergy, over fifteen members of Father's family were present for the festivities.

In 1988, Holy Cross Parish celebrated the Millennium of Christianity in Ukraine by joining the Ukrainian Catholics of New York City and environs in a Pontifical Divine Liturgy of Thanksgiving celebrated by Bishop Basil Losten, on May 29, in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan. In July, a group of parishioners went with the pastor to the Millennium celebration in Rome, Italy. While returning some pilgrims continued on to France to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. In August of that year Father Woytyna was transferred to the pastorship of Saint Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church in Warren, Michigan. At that time Father Alexander Hawkaluk was appointed the new pastor of Holy Cross Church. In the mid 1980's the Basilian Fathers appealed to the Ukrainian Catholics of the United States to build a fund for the education of Basilian priests for this country. Almost every parishioner of Holy Cross responded over the years with larger or smaller donations. The year 1990, brought a sad change to the parish. On November 22, Thanksgiving Day, Stella Shamen, secretary for thirty one years, died. Her funeral services were attended by many parishioners, friends and clergy. During Father Hawkaluk's pastorate, work on the church auditorium hall continued and was brought to a finish. In March, 1991, Fr. Cyril Iszczuk, became temporary administrator. August 1992, brought the present pastor, Father Philip Sandrick, to Holy Cross. At that time a new assistant, Father Hilario Opaski, was assigned. In the fall of that same year the Ukrainian School was moved to the new church hall. Classes of religion and Ukrainian language were given to the children of the parish. With this came a renewed interest by the young families of the parish. The parents began sponsoring concerts, dances, and other activities. In the fall of 1993, a Ukrainian Dance Group was started.

In February 1994, the church sustained water damage from a pipe bursting during a cold spell in the Northeast. Much restorative work had to be done to prepare the church building for the celebration of our Fiftieth Anniversary. A marble floor was installed in the sanctuary in June and a new granite floor in the nave and vestibule. Mrs. Maria Podolsky kindly funded this work. The frescos in the main section of church were then restored by the original artists - Borys Makarenko and his son Sviatoslav. A new sound system was also installed and funded by one of the original pioneer parishioners - Mrs. Mary Gretchyn.


Since July 1, 1966, Holy Cross has been the home of the Provincial Superior of the Basilian Fathers.  At present the parish consists of approximately 250 active individuals or families. Currently active church organizations include the Rosary Altar Society, "Mothers in Prayer" Prayer Group, Holy Cross Ushers, as well as Holy Cross Catholic War Veterans Post #1619.

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