History of St. Stephen Ukrainian Catholic Church
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. 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 Ukrainian Catholic Church.
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.”
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.
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. 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.
The Sunday Bulletin announcement indicated that land on White Oak Bottom Road had formally been purchased Friday, July 10, 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.
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 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.
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 bountiful harvest in their new country, 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. Mr. Woloshyn cantors the Ukrainian liturgy and other services as needed.
Our Building Committee held its very last meeting on March 1, 1994. 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. Also discussed was the commitment to Providence Association of Philadelphia, to repay three mortgages totaling $500,000.00.
On June 3, 2001, the occasion of the Parish 15th Anniversary, Metropolitan Archbishop emeritus, Stephen Sulyk blessed a new outdoor Shrine to the Mother of God.
Sunday, June 6, 2004, will be remembered by the parishioners of St. Stephens as a very unique event celebrating the blessing of the newly installed Cupolas. The uniqueness is due to the way the blessing was performed by Fr. Roman Dubitsky. Fr. Roman got a surprising airlift by three young volunteers of the Silverton Fire Company No. 1.
As if on cue, rain and clouds gave way to a gorgeous sunny day on, April 22, 2007 to welcome the Archbishop Stefan Soroka to the St. Stephen Ukrainian Catholic Church, when he visited to bless the foundation of its new rectory building. The new parish house, to be completed later this year, will serve as the home for the Rev. Ivan Turyk, the Pastor for the last two years. Prior to the Sunday Divine Liturgy, the Metropolitan was welcomed at the entrance to the church by the Rev. Turyk and the parish trustees, John Dzera and Wasyl Chech. Little children dressed in Ukrainian attire presented the honored guest with the traditional Ukrainian bread and salt. Then, the anxiously waiting congregation witnessed a unique event where the Metropolitan-Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia co-celebrated the Divine Liturgy with Father Ivan for the first time. Following the Sunday Divine Liturgy, the congregation participated in an outdoor ceremony in which the Metropolitan consecrated the cornerstone of the future home of the Parish Priest.
On Sunday, October 18, 2007, Bishop John Bura, Rev. Robert Hitchens rector St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Washington, D.C. and seminarians joined Fr. Turyk for a ceremonial dedication. After Liturgy the clergy and congregation made a short procession outside to the rectory’s front door, where Bishop Bura conducted a traditional blessing accompanied by hymns.
May 15, 2012 was a fortuitous day for St. Stephens. We opened our doors to the community at large, and they responded enthusiastically. Every Tuesday evening, an average of 100 bingo aficionados come early to sample home cooking in a fully operational Ukrainian Kitchen, and thereafter enjoy a game of chance in the company of good friends and associates. Bingo has become a good fundraiser for the New Church. It is our hope that it will help us pay off the church mortgage well ahead of schedule.
Plans for a New House of Worship have begun!
The original founders of this parish had always intended for a church to be standing on this site. On Sept. 15, 2009 Fr. Ivan Turyk sent a letter to Archbishop Stefan Soroka requesting permission to hire an architect in order to determine the cost of a new church construction and subsequent ability of the parish to support the whole complex. Later that month, Archbishop Stefan approved the project. Subsequently, Fr. Ivan informed the parishioners that he is being transferred to the Perth Amboy parish. As we welcomed our new parish pastor and administrator, Fr. Oleksandr Dumenko, the planning continued.
Early on in March, 2011 five architects were interviewed to determine architect fees, design and blueprints. At the time, the project team consisted of members of the Church Council. We started to interview builders to get a more solid cost figure and discovered that we needed a zoning variance to be able to build. In June, 2011 a meeting was held with Archbishop Stefan Soroka to present all building proposal documents and cost estimates and get approval for signing a building contract. The following people attended that meeting: Archbishop Stefan Soroka, Monsignor Waslo, Fr. O. Dumenko, John Bortnyk, Luba Bonczek, Walter Krynicky and Walter Powzaniuk. Six builder proposals were presented and reviewed.
Late in December of 2011, a parish meeting was held – with Archbishop Soroka in attendance, where a variance issue and church finances were discussed. As we all know, beauracracy takes its toll on time and so it was that no real progress was made in the year 2012.
In early February, 2013 we received the Zoning/Development approval document. A ground breaking ceremony with placement of the cross occurred on Sunday, March 3, 2013.
It was in September, 2013 that the Building Committee, headed by Walter Powzaniuk, entered into a construction agreement with the 3D Group. Construction groundbreaking began around January, 2014 and a final Building Permit was received on March 4, 2014.
St. Stephen Ukrainian Catholic Church in Toms River, NJ held its corner stone blessing ceremony on Sunday July 13th, 2014 for its new church. The ceremony was officiated by His Grace Stefan Soroka, Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States. His Grace was joined by former pastor of the parish Fr. Roman Dubitsky, Fr. Deakon Paul Makar, and Fr. Oleksandr Dumenko, current administrator of St.Stephen’s as well as over a hundred parishioners and guests.
The stone specially imported from India was donated by New St.Stephen Church Building committee chairperson Wolodymyr Powzaniuk and his wife Oksana. The foundation charters of the new church written in the Ukrainian and English languages were signed by Metropolitan Stefan Soroka and Rev. Oleksandr Dumenko. Building Committee members and St.Stephen Church’s activists Wolodymyr Powzaniuk, Raymond Bonczek, Walter Krynicky and Stepan Dziaba carried the cornerstone and time capsule to the New Church. The stone and time capsule were laid in a special place earmarked for the corner stone in the presence of devotees.
A long-awaited goal was achieved by the St. Stephen Ukrainian Catholic parish on October 12, 2014, when its newly-built church building was blessed and consecrated by the Archbishop-Metropolitan Stefan Soroka of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
The solemn ceremonies began with an outdoor service, during which the outside walls of the new church building were blessed. His Grace, Archbishop-Metropolitan Stefan, was welcomed at the entrance to the church with the traditional Ukrainian bread and salt as well as greetings by the parish activists Zenia Brozyna and Walter Krynicky, in Ukrainian and English, respectively. Altar boys and other children added their own welcoming chant.
Subsequently, the clergy and the assembled parishioners and guests entered the magnificent new church building for the first time, filling its pews to capacity. The rite of consecration continued with the clergy cleaning the altar and then sealing the holy relics of St. Josaphat into it. Events at the altar were simultaneously displayed on two large video screens. There followed a solemn Mass with Metropolitan Soroka as the main celebrant, joined by concelebrating priests – the Very Rev. Joseph Szupa, Chancellor, the Very Rev. Taras Lonchyna, Protopresbyter of the New Jersey Deanery and pastor of the St. Josaphat church in Trenton, N.J., the Rev. Ivan Turyk, former pastor of St. Stephen’s and present pastor of the Assumption BVM parish in Perth Amboy, N.J., the Rev. Oleksandr Dumenko, the present parish administrator, and other invited clergy. The Rev. Paul Makar served as the master of ceremonies for the consecration program.
The official proclamation on the founding of the St. Stephen church was read in Ukrainian by the Rev. Turyk and in English by the Very Rev. Lonchyna. Metropolitan Soroka delivered a homily, in which he remembered the former pastors of the St. Stephen church, especially its founding pastor, the Rev. Roman Dubitsky, the immediately preceding pastor, the Rev. Ivan Turyk, who had initiated the planning for the new church, and the present pastor, the Rev. Oleksandr Dumenko, “who made that vision a reality”. The Metropolitan bestowed high praise upon the parishioners of St. Stephen for their dedication, hard work and generosity, which could serve as an example for other congregations.
The solemnity of the occasion was enriched by the sonorous voices of the choir of the St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic church of Trenton, N.J., under the direction of Roman Kucharsky. Serving as the cantors were R. Kucharsky (in Ukrainian) and Roman Mykyta (in English). The epistles were read by Christina Risniy (in English) and Orest Dachko (in Ukrainian). Multiple chants of “Mnohaya Lita”, sung by the entire congregation, concluded the divine services.
To arrive at this glorious occasion, it took the Ukrainian Catholic community of the Toms River area almost three decades of dedicated efforts and generosity. When the St. Stephen parish was founded in March 1986, with the Rev. Dubitsky of the Ukrainian Catholic Assumption church in Perth Amboy, N.J. as its pastor, it had no home of its own. For the first seven years, it enjoyed the hospitality of the St. Andrew United Methodist church in Toms River. By 1993, the Parish Center of St. Stephen was built, a section of which had been dedicated for divine services until now. Construction of the new church was initiated by the Rev. Turyk in September 2009 and pursued with great energy by the Rev. Dumenko, who succeeded him as pastor in September 2010. The building process required more than five years of hard work, the brunt of which fell on the Building Committee, chaired by Wolodymyr Powzaniuk, with its members – the Rev. Dumenko, Luba Bonczek, Irene Humeny, W. Krynicky and Matthew Lecorchick. Important components of the project comprised the Fundraising Committee, chaired by Z. Brozyna and the New Church Event Organizational Committee, chaired by Oksana Powzaniuk.
Following the three-hour program of consecration services, the congregation moved into the adjoining church hall, beautifully decorated for the festive occasion, for a cocktail hour and the dedication banquet. The banquet program, emceed by the Very Rev. Szupa, began with the singing of “God Bless America’ and the Ukrainian National Anthem, followed by an invocation by the Rev.Turyk and a blessing by the Most Rev. Stefan Soroka. There was a proclamation from the Ocean County, N.J. recited by the Freeholder Director Joseph Vicari as well as greetings from the Hon. Thomas F. Kelaher, the mayor of the Township of Toms River. M. Lecorchick, a parish activist, proposed the toast.
During the banquet entertainment was provided by a children’s dance ensemble “Tsvitka”, directed by Andrij Cybyk, the violinist Innesa Tymochko-Dekajlo and the piano soloist Martha Cybyk. A monologue-medley was offered by a special guest, the Rev. Edward Evanko. Mr. Powzaniuk spoke about the travails of the Building Committee, which he had chaired. In his pastoral remarks, the Rev. Dumenko thanked all those parishioners who made this celebration possible either by serving on relevant committees or by contributing in other ways. The dinner program concluded with a benediction by the Very Rev. Lonchyna.
Those attending the banquet received a copy of the Commemorative Book – a pictorial history of the St. Stephen parish in Toms River, expertly prepared by the Committee composed of Z.Brozyna, chairperson, Rev. Dumenko, I. Humeny, C. Rishiy, George Shevchuk, Jessies Kaciuba, Jessica Marcus, Halyna Mizak.
This has been our history thus far. It actually is a beginning! We have labored so, that we may have a place to worship. Not only for us, but that our children and that their children 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.