Shortly after the turn of the century, a group of Ukrainians of the Lansdale area wished to have a priest minister to their spiritual needs with the Divine Liturgy and services in their own Byzantine rite. Details are sketchy, but a priest traveled from Philadelphia weekly. A parcel of land was offered which contained a building. This building was used as the first chapel. In those days the journey from Philadelphia to Lansdale was a long arduous task. The scarcity of priests, the travel conditions and the lack of sufficient families were contributing factors in closing the mission after a few months. Several other churches were started in the suburban Philadelphia area, but at that point in history the Byzantine people were never numerically strong enough to obtain a priest of their own.
As the decades passed and World War II brought new and big factories to the area, a few families moved from the depressed coal region of Pennsylvania to the Lansdale area for these new work opportunities. A few Ukrainian displaced persons made their home in Lansdale. A few families moved from Philadelphia to be in a suburban environment. Our people sought out churches of their own rite and became members of Bridgeport, Phoenixville, MontClare, Pottstown, Philadelphia, and Warrington parishes. The time was now ripe for a parish of the Byzantine rite in the late sixties.
In 1968 a wonderful coincidence happened. The Byzantine Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate opened a nursing home in Lansdale called The Villa of Divine Providence. After a short time the services of a chaplain were obtained. A retired priest, Rev. Michael Shorodinsky, became chaplain. In a few months, Rev. Stephen Kundra, a younger energetic priest from Europe became chaplain. With the help of Rev. (now Monsignor) Robert Moskal of Warrington, PA, a church unity Liturgy was celebrated at St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church, Lansdale, PA. Names were gleaned from various sources and recommendations were sent to the Metropolitan Ambrose Senyshyn of Philadelphia.
Officially a mission parish was established on February 2, 1969 with Rev. Stephen Kundra as first pastor. This date is the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord and hence the name. The origin of the feast is that according to the old Jewish law, a child was taken to the temple 40 days after birth to be presented to God. (A son was offered after 40 days; a daughter after 80 days.) A gift had to be offered. For the poor, like Joseph and Mary, the offering was two turtle doves. Jesus was presented 40 days after Christmas or February 2 and Simeon the Just uttered the canticle “Now dismiss thy servant…”
During the month of February 1969 the number attending Divine Liturgy was about eight every Sunday. Total collected for the month was $17.00.
Rev. Walter Wysochansky was assigned as the next pastor of the Lansdale Mission. He offered his first Divine Liturgy on March 2, 1969. Nine people attended. The entire first week was spent visiting homes of prospective families. An advertisement was placed in the North Penn Reporter, the local newspaper, stating that a new parish was being formed for Ukrainian, Ruthenian, Slovak, and Hungarian families of the Byzantine Rite. On March 9th, 31 people attended; on March 16th, 36 people came, on March 23rd, 50 people were present. By March 30th, the records show 68 people attended and the first baptism took place.
The first week in April 1969 was Holy Week. The front chapel was now too small for the needs of the parish. With the consent of Mother Vincent SSMI, the parish moved to the Villa library room in the back of the nursing home. Fifty chairs were ordered and delivered in time for Easter. Donations of liturgical items were received from various parishes. Rev. Demetrius Wysochansky of Hamtramch, Mich., Msgr. Stephen Sulyk of Perth Amboy, NJ, and Rev. Robert Moskal of Warrington, PA were among the first to donate vestments, cassocks, kadylo, crosses, chalices, etc. Because of the growth and because of the need, two Divine Liturgies were started on May 11, 1969. The early Liturgy was chanted in Old Slavonic and the later Liturgy in English. Working quickly, Father Walter organized a Men’s Society and a Ladies Society. The first social for the new parish was a “get acquainted” night on June 15, 1969.
The residence of Fr. Wysochansky was Sts. Peter and Paul Rectory in Bridgeport and then St. Anne’s in Warrington. With the many handicaps, such as no rectory, no church, no funds, no social hall, the work of the Lord went on. The dedication of Fr. Wysochansky is admirable. 1969 and 1970 were two years of constant organizing, constantly visiting families, and constant prayer. Father Walter writes: “By the time I was transferred at the end of January 1970, I made nearly 500 visits. As a result of constantly visiting prospective families, as a result of the Sister Servants and as a result of the wonderful pioneer families, and above all, as a result of the grace of God, Presentation of Our Lord parish solidified into a tiny nucleus of beautiful Byzantine rite families.”
Rev. Richard Seminack became the second pastor of Presentation of Our Lord Church on February 8, 1971. Father Seminack’s residence was at St. Anne’s Rectory in Warrington, PA. Father Richard continued searching out new members, teaching catechism, and supervising various fund-raising activities. His fund raising was successful and with Metropolitan Ambrose’s permission, a 15.2 acre site was purchased on Allentown Road. Shortly after the purchase, Father Seminack was transferred to become pastor of St. Anne’s in Warrington, PA.
In August 1972, Rev. John Beckage became the third paster of our Lansdale parish. He resided in the Warrington rectory, commuted to Lansdale to double as pastor of the parish and the chaplain of the Sisters and patients of the nursing home. During Rev. Beckage’s time the parish increased to 65 families.
Rev. Thomas J. Korpics was appointed the fourth pastor of the parish on December 15, 1973. Father Korpics chose to live among his parish and rented an apartment in Hatfield, PA.Through many fundraisers the parish was able to burn the mortgage on May 5, 1974 at the Easter Sviachena. More people joined the parish and became involved. In April 1975, Father Korpics started the annual custom of having visiting priests come on Palm Sunday evening. A sermon, an examination of conscience, and confessions are held by the visiting clergy. In September 1975 he met with the architect, Mr. Edward Laskey, of Feasterville, PA, and the building committee. Father Korpics listened to the wishes of the entire parish and gained a consensus of what was wanted. Plans were drawn up for a church-hall combination.
In 1976 and 1977 roadways were roughed in on the property and water and sewer lines were installed. By 1978 the property was ready for the building. Altemose Construction Co. of Norristown was awarded the contract. The Providence Association of Philadelphia held the mortgage. With great faith in Almighty God, the people of Presentation parish accepted the burden of this great debt. The faithful promised to donate, pray, and work to meet the debt. On May 22, 1978 the new building was started. On December 1, 1978 the building was sufficiently complete to occupy. The altar was installed, chairs were brought over, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in a new house of God. Only temporary lights were in the ceiling, the tile was not laid, the kitchen was not complete, but we were home. On May 6, 1979, Bishop Basil dedicated the first building.
Over the next two decades, the hard working parishioners of Presentation of Our Lord, hosted summer festivals, winter dinner dances, weekly bingo, made thousands of pyrohy to invite the community to the parish and work to pay down the mortgage on the building which combined the sanctuary and the social hall. With the guidance and support of our next parish priests, Father NIcholas Kostiuk (1982-1984), Father John Wysochansky (1984-1988), Father (now Archpriest) Michael Hutsko (1988), and Father (now Archpriest) John Fields (1988-2004), the parish grew and thrived in Lansdale.
In the early 1990’s after paying off the original building, plans were conceived of a church building in the traditional Ukrainian architectural style. Father John Fields was instrumental in obtaining the funding and the design of our beautiful church. The property was redeveloped and construction began. In December of 1997, the new church was consecrated by Archbishop Stephen Sulyk during our first Divine Liturgy held during the Christmas season.
The parish continued to grow in the community through prayer, donations, and hard work. The beautiful church with the glorious gold dome became a beacon to draw families to the parish. While the outside of the church was complete, there was much to do to finish the interior. In 2004, Father Vasil Bunik was assigned as our parish priest to continue the good work of the Lord.
In 2009, the parish commissioned a local master iconographer, Ms. Chrystyna Dochwat, of the Norristown area, to adorn the walls of the church with sacred icons and complementary colors and stencil work. She also oversaw the restoration and installation of an iconostas (sanctuary icon screen) that the parish had acquired from a St. Clair, PA church, St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic, which was closing. Ironically, this iconostas was the first that Ms. Dochwat had ever fashioned and painted.
On Sunday, January 31, 2010, the Presentation of Our Lord community marked the completion of extensive interior renovations to its church building. The blessing and dedication took place during a Pontifical Divine Liturgy celebrated by Archbishop Metropolitan Stefan Soroka. Rev. Vasil Bunik, the current pastor, and other priests of the Ukrainian Catholic Church concelebrated the services. A dedication banquet was held in the social hall where guests were enlightened about the history of our parish and entertained with traditional sacred and folk music.
The dedicated work continues at Presentation of Our Lord to spread the Word of the Gospel and sustain our beautiful parish. We invite you to join us and be enlightened!