History of St. Stephen Ukrainian Catholic Church

 

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Inside the Church

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A November 1985 letter drew a flurry of activity in considering Ocean County as the site for a Ukrainian parish center. A meeting was scheduled
for March 13, 1986, with Rev. Msgr. Joseph Fedorek, Dean of Northern New Jersey, and Rev. Roman Dubitsky, of Ukrainian Assumption Church, in the home of Michael and Alma Stojka of Holiday City South. Other area residents attending were: John Bortnyk, George and Helen Chernego, Marie and Vera Glowa, Nicholas Horin, Walter and Nell Jubanowsky, Paul and Jessie Kaciuba, Barbara Mediuch, George and Justina Najdyszak, and Michael Stocko. This fledgling parish was off-the-ground as Rev. Dubitsky was assigned Pastor.

    Based on a 'hand-shake agreement' with Rev. Doctor Thomas White and the committee from St. Andrew United Methodist Church of Toms River, permission was granted to celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom at St. Andrew on March 30, 1986. Press releases were sent to various newspapers to announce the formation of St. Stephen Ukrainien Catholic Church.

    The blessing of Easter Paska, a 400-year old tradition came to life on March 29 at the Najdyszak home in Holiday City Berkeley, with over 60 baskets of Easter foods blessed. The parish family grew swiftly, with almost 70 souls attending the very first liturgy celebrated on Easter Sunday, March 30,
1986. The liturgy was celebrated by Rev. Roman Dubitsky. Nicholas Makar and James Newman served as altar boys and Cantor Paul Makar directed the congregational singing. A total collection of $855.55 erased any doubt of our parishioners' desire. Under oddly ecumenical circumstances, the
accommodations worked out very well for over seven years, with St. Andrew and St. Stephen coordinating schedules for liturgical services, traditional
festivities and fund raisers.

 

    With confidence and faith, future lay trustee. Walter Jubanowsky and Michael Stojka, immediately formed an ad hoc committee to search for a site for St. Stephen. It was a time of escalating land prices and large parcels were becoming fewer fast. Other parishioners were encouraged to join in the search. Providence led Fr. Dubitsky to White Oak Bottom Road the day Dr. John Romillo, M.D.,  (a pediatrician in Toms River) had erected his new sign "For Sale 5.4 Ac."

 

    A new Post Office Box, No. 5291 received the first envelope on April 24, 1986, containing a propitious omen - Michael Bykowsky's check of $l00. The first out-of-state letter, dated April 20, from Mr. and Mrs. John Zinsky of Scranton, Pa., also contained a donation of $100.

 

    What would fund raising be in New Jersey without a trip to Atlantic City? Julie Biri began the first of many trips on July 9, 1986 and continued to organize these social events for the Rosarians.

 

    On October 12, 1986 Rev. Dubitsky formally installed 32 women into the newly formed Rosary Altar Society. Elected as officers: President, Vera Glowa. Vice President, Alma Stojka; Secretary, Marie Glowa; Treasurer, Nell Jubanowsky. A Family Communion Brunch was then held in the church hall, with use of a brand new coffee urn. Walter and Nell had initiated weekly coffee hours beginning July 6th.

 

    Tables at the Craft Fair/Flea Market at Holiday City South were rented by Dolores Salabun, to benefit St. Stephen. With the assistance of Katherine Prowe, Ukrainian Christmas ornaments and hand embroidered items were assembled and sold like 'hot cakes'. The Rosarians participate in this annual event.

 

     The Choir "Boyan" from Ukrainian Assumption Church in Perth Amboy was invited to sing the responses to the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, November 23, 1986. A surprise luncheon was provided to warmly welcome our sister parish. Father Dubitsky, Pastor, was dubbed 'Circuit Rider Priest' as he commuted almost daily in his zeal to administer to our new parish, while maintaining his duties as pastor to the Perth Amboy parishioners.

 

     Before the end of our first calendar year the parish witnessed the 40th Wedding Anniversary of Methodius and Barbara Mediuch on August 10th. Catechetical instruction was begun by Cantor Paul Makar and Mrs. Anne Drotar to prepare First Holy Communicants of our parish family. Our sound system wasbrought to the church every Sunday by Paul Kaciuba.  An usher committee was announced including George Stycheck, head usher, Robert Bortnyk, Paul Kaciuba, Andrew Lukas, George Najdyszak and Dmytro Pyrih. Prior to this, Messrs. Jubanowsky and Stojka performed this important function.  

     St. Nicholas visited our first Christmas luncheon, prepared by the Rosarians, and presented the good children with gifts and treats. Soon after, Christmas carollers were organized - and it was a delightful way to become better acquainted with fellow parishioners and shut-ins.

 

     Munificent donations at 1986 year's end totalled $35,370.66, with 155 souls in regular attendance.

 

     On February 22, 1987, congratulations were extended to our first Lay Trustees, Walter Jubanowsky and Michael Stojka, elected, in accordance with the State Laws of New Jersey regulating Ca­tholic Church Corporations. Metropolitan Archbishop Stephen Sulyk and the Chancellor for our Archdiocese, together with Rev. Dubitsky, pastor, elected, congratulated and asked for God's blessings on them. Mr. Jubanowsky continued to serve from 1990 to 1993 along with Michael Platenyk and Omelan Romaniw. Elected in 1994 were Charles Kopcho and Peter.Hrycak.

 

    Before our first year had been completed, donations of specific necessary items began to flow, beginning with a new set of vestments donated in memoriam by Mrs. Ann Gabriel and family.

 

    Our Cantor, Paul Makar, Jr., was ordained a Deacon in the Ukrainian Assumption Church on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1987. Many from St. Stephen joined in his celebration. From the date of his ordination, Deacon Paul Makar took part in many liturgical services, and also continued to serve as cantor. Deacon Paul also held adult religious education classes.

    Our first Annual Easter Dinner, "Sviachene," was provided by the Rosarians on May 3, 1987, with Dr. Alexander Lushnycky as guest speaker. Anne Zarembski and Vera Glowa sold every ticket to a capacity crowd. No sooner was the Sviachene a fond memory, but Michael and Alma Stojka were making plans for our first Annual Picnic at Veterans Park in Bayville, NJ on July 19th. Their committee included Nick and Marge Bilinsky, Andy and Helen
Furik, Andy and Sophie Lukas, Medy and Barbara.Mediuch and George and Justyna Najdyszak. A job well done with $ l, 592.00 for St. Stephen. The
annual picnic became a test of endurance and perseverance as the ladies prepared the foods which were carted to the covered pavilion. Met with power outages, thunder, wind, rain and lightning, these first and second generation Ukrainians served hot food despite the difficulties. Each year a new chair­person found innovative ways to face and overcome the challenges, and Ukrainians came from near and far. All this helped to bond the new parish family. And each event has shown a measurable increase to the building fund. There were many firsts during those early years, usually
becoming first annual events. Our parish co-sponsored a golf tournament at Spring Meadow Gold Course in Howell, NJ. A 50/50 raffle was organized by Charlie Kopcho, with luncheon at the Old Time Tavern arranged by Olga Koropatnick. Olga K. also organized our first Chinese Auction at Bayvllle Firehouse No.1. No one person works alone, and the Rosarians and their husbands and friends all pitched in. A Flea Market was held in St. Andrew
with baked goods and pyrohy (then known as 'pierogi') available for sale. Whenever an occasion presented itself the ladies pinched and baked, Vera Glowa began an ongoing collection of Sanka and Campbell Soup lables to redeem for kitchen items. Frequent bus trips to various cultural affairs were very popular. Using two tour buses more recently was the August 11, 1991 trip to Sloatsbur, NY to attend the Holy Dormition Pilgrimage at St. Mary's Villa by Sr. Servants of Mary Immaculate at Table Rock.

    Although the pioneer parishioners met frequently to review progress with Rev. Dubitsky, the Building Committee was formally announced in the June 28, 1987 church bulletin, calling for a meeting July 2nd. Members then included: Terry Bazyewicz, Julie Biri, John Bortnyk, Lieda Boyko, Anne Dubas, Stephen Dzubaty, Vera Glowa, Walter Jubanowsky, Jessie Kaciuba, Leon Koropatnick, George Prowe, Omelan Romaniw, Dolores Salabun, Anna Stocko, Mike Stojka, and Mike Zaremba. As members moved away or were called to rest, others contributed their knowledge and talents, developing ideas for fund raising. Another question was:   What type of building would be suitable and acceptable? The need for an architect became apparent.

    A letter was drafted in English and Ukrainian, with a sketch of our land, directed to our friends, neighbors and parishioners for prayers and donations. Our very first pledge for the building fund was $5,000.00 from Trident Federal Savings and Loan association, with an initial payment of $1,000.00 on September 3, 1987 by Walter Zarycki, President. ($5,500.00 was actually donated).

 

     The Sunday Bulletin announcement indicated that land on White Oak Bottom Road had formally been purchased Friday, July to, 1987. A stream of
autos made a detour on the route home that day.

    On February 14, 1988 we welcomed our new Associate Pastor, Rev. Augustine Molodowitz. Father Molodowitz was assigned to assist Father Dubitskyby Archbishop Metropolitan Stephen Sulyk.

 

    Architect John Orosz, AlA, presented his credentials with an impressive portfolio of public buildings and churches bearing his functional creative designs. Following a review of our desires, wants and needs, and a study of the current local building codes, Mr. Orosz proposed a site plan to include an all-purpose worship center with a large vestibule connecting an office-efficiency apartment with a future church. His display model  brought appreciative comments when presented to our parishioners at the June 5, 1988 General Meeting.

 

    We joyously celebrated our Second Anniversary 'Sviachene' on Sunday, April 17, 1988 at the Bayville Firehouse No. 1. It was our most successful affair to that date. Vera Glowa coordinated the Rosarians who prepared and served the bountiful banquet. Our speakers, Sr. Thomas Hrynewich, Archdiocesan Chancellor, and Prof. Alexander Lushnycky remarked that they were very pleased to be a part of this joyous celebration. The Zaphoroze Dance Ensemble of the Assumption Church in Perth Amboy entertained to the delight of everyone, and Prof. Roman Lewycky performed on the bandura. It must have been then that Charlie Kopcho decided he would chair a Third Anniversary Dinner at this location. The Choir "Boyan," also from Perth Amboy, had sung the responses to the Divine Liturgy that day.

 

    With great anticipation our parishioners and Trustees welcomed His Excellency, Most Reverend Archbishop Stephen Sulyk as he honored our parish with the first Canonical Visit on April 23. 1989. Christine Bortnyk and Natalie Zaremba greeted His Excellency with bread and salt. Refreshments were served in the hall as our parish family became better acquainted with "The Archbishop" (as he is affectionately called), following a group photography session on the steps of St. Andrew.

 

    Subdeacon Michael Waak was ordained to the permanent Diaconate on June 24, 1989 at the Ukrainian Assumption Church in Perth Amboy, and he assisted Rev. Dubitsky during the period of 1989-91. He began an Adult catechism and Chant Class early in 1990 in Toms River, and prepared a 'Certificate of Completion' for those who attended all classes.

 

Beginning December 2, 1990, each family of St. Stephen welcomed into their home the Traveling Icon of Christ, Lover of Mankind, which was blessed by His Grace, Metropolitan Archbishop S. Sulyk, at the end of the Millennium Year.

    In January of 1991 a new team of ushers were selected: Petro Hrycak, Head Usher, Joseph Dazinski, Ihor Dworjan, Charles Kopcho, Wasyl paluga, and Michael Szarkewych.  Epistle readers were also selected in February of 1991. Michael Platenyk took the responsibility to schedule coverage; included were himself, Andrew Lucas, Charles Kopcho, John Bortnyk, Walter Jubanowsky, Roman Mykyta; and later Jessie Kaciuba, Stephen Dzubaty, and Dorothy Dworjan were included. Michael Hajduk was included for Ukrainian readings in April, 1992.

    At the Regular Meeting of the Dover Township Planning Board on April 22, 1991, the major site plan, preliminary and final plans, and conditional use application were approved. St. Stephen was represented by John Lord & Associates and John DeVincens, Esquire.  Several parishioners also attended.

     A contract was signed on July 10, 1992 with Pre-Structured Building Systems, Inc., General Contracter of Fair Haven, N.J., Loren Rabon, President. Work began in December of 1992.

 

In June of 1991 Marion P1atenyk began an exciting project for a cookbook. She asked each parishioner for four or five of their favorite recipes of all categories. With the assistance of Vera Gwiazda, a major production fund raiser began. Donations were made to get it off-the-ground, and by Christmas it was available. At our May 3rd 'Sviachene' a profit was announced of $5,202 from the First Edition of "A Ukrainian-American Potpourri" the 2nd Edition sold out December 13, 1992 with $5,550 profit and the 3rd Edition was in print. To date, a sum of $15,000.00 has been raised from this
project.

    In anticipation of our beautiful parish center, a Moleben to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and Groundbreaking ceremony was held on August 18, 1991. Participants were: Rev. Roman Dubitsky, Rev. Magr. Joseph Fedorek, Rev. Msgr. Casimir H. Ladzinski, Rev. Msgr. Archimandrite Victor J. Pospishil, Rev  Msgr. Anthony Borsa, Rev. Roman Mirchuk, Rev. Michael Wiwchar, Associate Pastor Rev. Augustine Molodowitz, Deacon Paul Makar, Deacon Arthur Dochych, Altar Boys:  Andrew Bortnyk, Robert and Peter Torstrup. The threat of an imminent cloudburst did not deter Rev. Msgr. Joseph Fedorek from turning sod with a golden shovel. The Banquet celebration followed immediately at Woodlake Country Club in Lakewood. The program for this eventful day is a cherished souvenir.

 

     Mr. Jubanowsky introduced the Buy-A-Brick Campaign at the banquet. Bronze bricks - $25.00, Silver - $50.00, Gold - S100.00 and Platinum -$500.00.A plaque will be inscribed with donors' names to be hung in the vestibuleof our worship center at a future date.

 

    Beginning December, 1991 orders were taken in advance for kolach, walnut, poppy seed and lekvar rolls and apple pies. Retired (?) baker Petro and Olga Hrycak have since accepted this massive undertaking on a more regular basis.

    Another first for St. Stephen's parish was the assistance of a young seminarian in the person of Slawko Dumec of Yugoslavia. He was 'Johnny-on-the-spot' whenever help was needed during his brief summer in the United States. Then in '93 we welcomed seminarian Slavko Koval of Ukraine, who proved to be just as helpful and caring. We wish them both God's Blessings' as they continue to serve Him.

 

    Anticipation is the word best describing our attitude in 1993, as we watched the contractors' equipment move onto 1344 White Oak Bottom Road. Our annual events continued; the Christmas Eve "Prosphora' Dinner was held January 10th, with St. Nicholas visiting the children; Lenten pyrohy sales;
Valentines Day Rosary Luncheon (with men of the parish invited); Lenten retreats; Easter "Sviachene" Dinner; Sale of "A Ukrainian-American Potpourri" at the Ukrainian Festival at Garden State Arts Center; Buy-a-Brick donations; Holiday City Flea Market; Parish Family Picnic; Pilgrimage to St. Mary's Villa  in Sloatsburg, N.Y.; A Golf Outing; Rosary Altar Society Communion at Holiday City South. And Finally: Our first 'Ukrainian Holiday Bazaar' in our new all-purpose hall; Christmas Caroling; and a spontaneous first New Year's Eve Dinner on December 31st, in the parish center.

    

    The parish Center was opened on Nov. 21 1992 with a Divine Liturgy of Thanksgiving, celebrated by rev. Roman Dubitsky and Deakon Paul Makar.As the pilgrims of Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts did not forget to thank Almighty God for their first bounfitul harvest in their new contry, so too the parishioners of St. Stephen Ukrainian Catholic Church, Toms River thanked God very kindly on that day.

 

    On Sunday, Dec. 12, 1993 a regular Sunday Liturgy schedule was set up: one liturgy in English and one liturgy in Ukrainian. Michael Platenyk has since served as Cantor for the English Liturgy. On January 9, 1994, Bohdan Woloshyn was named official parish Cantor. Hr. Woloshyn cantors the Ukrainian liturgy and other services as needed.

 

    The Rosary Altar Society sponsored a parish Kitchen Shower on January 26, 1994 to help supply the miscellaneous items needed in the new kitchen. All that equipment was soon put to good use. On Feb. II, 1994 the first Pyrohy Sale was held. Under the direction of Olga and Peter Hrycak the Pyrohy Program took shape. Pyrohy, as well as baked goods, were sold during Lent. The pyrohy sales proved to be very successful: in two months a profit of $12,000.00 was realized.

 

    Our Building Committee held its very last meeting on March 1, 1994 with the following in attendance: Rev. Roman Dubitsky, Anne Dubas, Vera Glowa, Petro Hrycak, Walter Jubanowsky, Jessie Kaciuba, Charles Kopcho, Michael Nowosad, Omelan Romaniw, Michael Platenyk, and Anna Stocko. The original estimates were compared to the overall expenses. Above and beyond the total cost of $1,105,777.33, thus far, The Rosary Society donated $30,000.00 toward special equipment for the kitchen. Anne Dubas had donated the sound and alarm system. St. Anne Ukrainian Catholic Church of Warrington, Pa., had donated their beautiful iconostas which adorns our chapel. The altar, tabernacle, crosses, candles and altar linens (the beautiful handwork of Sophie Paluga) were donated as well as miscellaneous kitchen equipment from other parishes.   Also discussed was the committment to Providence Association of Philadelphia, to repay three mortgages totaling $500,000.00. The benefits of having an Advisory Council to meet monthly were discussed.

    In addition to the Trustees, past and present, volunteers were sought for the Advisory Council. Most, if not all, who volunteered have served on
various fund raising committees - a total of 32 attended the meeting on February II, 1994. Plans are under way to publish a Calendar of Events so our annual events may not conflict with other parishes activities. St. Stephen will continue to have ad hoc committees, and surely the Rosarians will continue to be relied upon as the backbone for many of the fund raisers, especially pyrohy sales.

 

    This has been our history thus far. It actually is a beginning! We have not labored so, so that we may have a place to worship. No, not for us, but that our children and their chidren will propagate a cherished faith; to worship God in the way of our ancestors, since Christianity had come to Ukraine over a thousand years ago: with the culture and traditions of our forefathers; here in Ocean County, in Toms River, in St. Stephen Ukrainian Catholic Church.

 

    Father Dubitscky frequently has reminded us that people are the Church. St. Stephen Ukrainian Catholic Church has a firm foundation due to the inspirational leadership of our devoted pastor, Rev. Roman Dubitsky, and Associate Pastor Rev. Augustine Molodowitz; and it is richly blessed with devoted parishioners who inspire others and who continue to give of themselves.

    And, today is the first day of the rest or our lives!!!  As you believe so it will be!!!

 

Written by Jessie Kaciuba, 1994