Genealo-gists know that there is more to tracing ancestry than just finding family names. Locations are also very important, as are the landmarks that grew as the result of the pioneers’ arrivals.
One such landmark is the beautiful St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Yorkton. The dome is a recognizable detail of the Yorkton skyline, and encompasses a great deal of history.
It is a testament to the spirituality of the early pioneers that a church was one of the first priorities as they became settled in their new home. St. Mary’s church was completed in 1914, made of bricks from clay found very near the church. Over the years, the church was expanded into the complex that it is today.
The dome of the church is a stunning painting, done by Stephen Meush. In 1939, Stephen began the painting, a daunting task considering that the domes curves over sixty two feet, and is fifty five feet above the floor. Like Michelangelo, Stephen Meush painted for many hours at a time to take full advantage of his spirit of inspiration. The masterpiece was completed in 1941.
Another stunning piece of art in the church is the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, added to the church in 1964. The gentle expression of Mary gazes out over the church, a calming and inspiring presence to all who enter there.
The faith and devotion that prompted the pioneers to build this special house of worship is seen throughout the province, from magnificent churches like St. Mary’s, to the many tiny country churches that dot the countryside. Sadly, many of these churches are falling into decay or are gone, some now just a clearing in the bush, the decaying buildings slowly returning to the prairie now that their life on earth is done, some just a distant memory to some of the older family members.
No matter the size of the church; what is important is the size of the faith that built these very special places. The early pioneers faced a multitude of challenges as they began a new life in this country: building a humble home, clearing the land, surviving the biting winters and the blistering summers, trying to grow enough to feed their families… and yet they devoted their hearts and energy and time to creating their churches to give thanks to God for their many blessings. Materials must have been difficult to come by, often a sacrifice for the families who donated them. Yet somehow, the work became a labor of love, and resulted in churches that served as gathering places for the pioneers. They were the perfect place to share the joy of a marriage or a birth in the new land; the place where the community gathered to say goodbye to those who died.
Those tracing family roots will be interested to see this aspect of their pioneers in a stunning display at the Godfrey Dean Art Gallery on Smith Street in Yorkton. The exhibit is called “Memory Eternal: Secret Churches of West Central Saskatchewan”. There are amazing photos of many little country churches, perhaps some you may know, by photographer Ed Stachyruk. These photos will be on display until September 9.
Genealogy involves more than names: it is places and dreams that guided and inspired the pioneers. The Yorkton branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogy Society always welcomes new members; call Glenn at 782-7969 or Dave at 783-1093 to find out more about the next meeting date.
Every family has a story: discover yours with the Yorkton branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogy Society!