Greek Orthodox church celebrates 75 years

The Greenleaf Orthodox Greek Church members gathered at the country church to celebrate its 75th year on August 11.

The congregation members met at the church to do some clean-up of the grounds, followed by a potluck lunch and a celebration cake. The special cake was made by Iris Nelson of Tisdale.

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"On behalf of all Greenleaf Cemetery committee members, I would like to thank and welcome everyone who has been able to be present here today," said Lorraine Shewchuk executive committee member. "The 75th anniversary celebration of Rusally Greek Orthodox Congregational Church known today as the Greenleaf Greek Orthodox Church is a special day. I am very happy and honoured to be part of this celebration," she stated.

A title was obtained on February 25, 1916 for approximately two acres of land donated by Mike Antonowicz in remembrance of his invalid son, and it was to be recognized as Greenleaf Cemetery, said information from the committee. It was named Green Leaf because of the natural leafy, tree-filled boundaries bordering the three-sided property.

Green Leaf Cemetery was without a church until 1939 when the first committee of Mike Antonowicz, Nicolia Tome and John Boychuk formed and made the decision to start the building of The Rusally Greek Orthodox Congregational Church.

With the help of many volunteers the construction began on 1941. Numerous gatherings, such as house dances, pie socials, Ukrainian Christmas carolling and New Year's Eve events were held to raise money for finishing expenses on the church. The church was finally completed in 1943 with the first service held on July 12, officiated by Rev. Tokariuk.

The church held many services with special services held every year during Green Holidays (a service held six weeks after Easter) and featured an outdoor dinner with people gathered from across the area.

"The church’s final service was a funeral service held for Mary Mastrachuk in July 1966,” Shewchuk said. “Since its closure the building has been vandalized, losing the chandeliers and many pieces of interior furnishings.”

A new committee was formed in 1980 to care for the church and cemetery, she said. Many volunteers helped maintain the cemetery yard.

The church roof was re-shingled and painted in 1994. The exterior of the church was repaired and repainted in 2011. In 2017, the church's roof was repaired and replaced with metal roofing. The committee is also planning on replacing the badly deteriorated siding on the church in the near future.

"For several family generations, wonderful memories of worship and fellowship have been passed on of the Greenleaf Greek Orthodox church,” said Shewchuk. "The heritage sanctuary of worship was built with the persistence of dedicated hard work and generous hands of our family ancestors.”

On June 2013, the church was registered with the University of Alberta research program on Religion and Culture in the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies.

A plaque was constructed to commemorate the 75th anniversary.