Frankford, the northeastern section of Philadelphia was once comprised of forests and farms.The first inhabitants of Frankford were Germans. They settled in the southern part of Frankford on the Delaware River, and created there their religious center — All Saint’s Parish.Later the Poles began to settle in an area apart from the Germans and established St. John Cantius parish.It is said that the first Ukrainian settlers who came to Frankford in 1888 were Antin and Anna Soletzki from Pidkarmin county of Brody, Western Ukraine. More Ukrainian settlers began to come here at the turn of the 20th century. Most of them stemmed from the following villages: Krywe, Dibshche, Kozowa, Koziwka—of the Berezhany region of Galicia—Western Ukraine. They came to the United States in order to make money. Many of them returned home after they had made a limited sum. The settlers were profoundly religious and closely affiliated with their church. The Ukrainians could not live without a church and services. Therefore, there was often talk of organizing a religious life and the creation of a parish. Most effort was exerted in this respect by the now departed Michael Diakiwsky and Prokip Moshiondz. Following the advice and receiving the blessing of the late Bishop Soter Ortynsky, they called a meeting of the faithful on the 20th of May 1913. This meeting chose the first parish committee that was composed of the following members: Mykola Diakiwsky, Prokip Mosiondz, Petro Wojtowski, Semen Halasa, Vasyl Leskiw, Ivan Petrishyn, Danylo Danyliuk, Jakiw Gramiak, Maksym Soltys and Mykola Ostapchuk. The task of the committee was to assume the responsibility of organizing a parish and to establish for it its own church.At first the Ukrainian Services were held in the old St. John Cantius Church in Bridesburg. The pioneers chose St. Josaphat, a Ukrainian martyr for union, as the patron of the parish. The first vespers for the parishioners of Frankford was chanted by Rev. Oleksander Pyk on January 1, 1914. Further services were held by priests of the Cathedral parish at 816 N. Franklin St. The first priests, who for a short period of time took care of the parish were: Rev. Joseph Dzendzora and Rev. Lew Chapelsky. Rev. Volodymyr Petriwsky was named the first pastor of St. Josaphat’s church in February, 1915. Father Petriwsky deserves great acknowledgement for the growth and development of the parish. He established various church-affiliated organizations. Among them were the Brotherhood of the Sobriety of St. John the Baptist, and the Reading Club — Prosvita. He likewise organized an evening school, a course for the illiterate, an English language course, and an Amateur Club, in which the amateur stagings were directed by Prokip Mosiondz, Dmytro Krawczuk and the local cantor-teacher Andrew Melnyk. For the cultural enlightening needs of the parishioners, rooms were rented in private homes. There the parishioners gathered and discussed problems, which pertained to the organization of the parish and the purchase of a church. Collections, stagings and other parish activities raised funds for the building or purchasing of a church. In March of 1916 a Methodist house of prayer was purchased together with the rectory for the sum of $15,000.00 dollars. In June of 1916 Father Petrivsky transferred the Most Blessed Sacraments to the church, which was blessed by Rev. Ivan Rubinovych in September 1916, at the corner of Orthodox and Tacony Streets. Now the life of the religious-social nature of the Frankford parish began to develop even more actively. In 1916 the Society of the Ukrainian Sichowi Strilci was established. The Mykola Lysenko orchestra, under the supervision of Mychailo Bahlay was also founded in the same year. On August 19, 1917 the blessing of the new bell took place. The bell was named at the blessing after Bishop Stephen Soter. An unusual day for the St. Josaphat’s parishioners was on November 25, 1921, for on that day the parish was visited by the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, Servant of God. It was a great and to this.day an unforgettable occasion. Rev. Petriwsky left the parish in an expanding state in June of 1924. Until September the priests from the Cathedral served the parish, and on Septebmer 28, 1924 Rev. Stephen Vaschyshyn became pastor,. To the historic and unforgettable parish events we must, add the first visitation of the parish on November 30, 1924 of the Most Rev. Bishop Constantine Bohachevsky. Rev. Stephen Vaschyshyn departed from the parish on October 30, 1925. Then again the parish was in the care of the Cathedral priests. On March 12, 1926 Rev. Michael Koltutsky came to the parish. During his pastorship the building of the hall took place. The hall’s cornerstone was blessed by the Most Reverend Bishop Constantine Bohachevsky on September 27, 1926. In October of 1927 a choir under the direction of Paul Bahlay was organized at the parish. All the parish youth participated in the activities of the choir. This participation of youth had a positive influence on the religious and national awareness of the parish. The choir was named after Rev. Markiyan Shashkevych, the Galician enlightener. The choir became known by giving concerts in Philadelphia and its vicinities. On January 30, 1929 the Most Rev. Bishop Constantine Bohachevsky blessed the completed parish hall. Two large rooms in the parish hall were given for the use of the parishioners.During the building of the parish hall, under the influence of external agitation, misunderstandings arose among the faithful and some parishioners without a firm faith left the faith of their ancestors by leaving our church. Rev. Michael Koltutsky was the pastor until February 25, 1929. Rev. Basil Maniosky took over for a short time, and from August until November 1929 Rev. Oleksander Pyk and Rev. Paul Prochko from the Cathedral church commuted to our parish.
Constant changes of the pastors, misunderstandings and splittings could not positively influence the growth and development of the parish. During such a critical time, an energetic and fully dedicated Rev. Roman Krupa took over the pastoral duties of the parish on November 27, 1929. With his tactfulness, managerial and economical ability he gained the hearts of the faithful and with their help he triumphed over all difficulties and brought back the parish to its usual condition. He brought together the youth in Church Organizations and Sport Club. He taught in the evening school, organized a mission, and paid up the debt for the parish hall. As a reward for his work, the parishioners celebrated the 25th anniversary of pastoral activity of their beloved pastor. Rev. Krupa left the parish on November 12, 1942 with grief and with fondest memories of his flock. For a short period of time, Rev. Wolodymyr Obushkevych was the pastor in Frankford and was succeeded by the Rev. Myroslaw Lishchynsky. During Father Lishchynsky’s pastorship a mission was conducted with great success by the Redemptorist priest Father Wolodymyr Krayewsky from February 28 to March 7, 1943. Father Antonin Ulanytsky became pastor in April of 1943. He worked hard to raise funds for the new church. He prepared parish sponsored activities and concerts and visited parishioners and non-parishioners to raise the needed funds. During his pastorship the calendar was changed (which the parishioners accepted by voting) on December 25, 1943, and a separate distinguishment of the parish’s 30th anniversary was held on November 26, 1944, the feast day of St. Josaphat. The then Auxiliary Bishop and the current Archbishop-Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States, the Most Rev. Ambrose Senyshyn, OSBM, honored the ceremony by his presence. In connection with the Parish Jubilee a memorial book was issued. On February 17, 1946 the Ukrainian Catholic War Veterans, Post 471 was established, and on November 17th of the same year the Most Rev. Bishop Constantine Bohachevsky blessed the flags of the veterans. Father Ulanytsky, on his departure from the parish, left $22,323.84 for the building of the new church. It is apropos to mention that Rev. Ulanytsky’s wife, Mrs. Stephanie Ulanytsky exerted much effort in educating the youth of the parish, by teaching them in the evening school, and by preparing various parish stagings.
On March 1, 1849 Rev. Bohdan Izak became pastor. He took care of the immigrants in a very personal way, helped them financially, was instrumental in bringing over immigrants, and by doing so enlarged the parish. Very helpful in this work was Maria Karacz, who was rightfully called “The Aunt of the Immigrants.” During a short stay in the parish, Father Izak gained the love and admiration of the parishioners, and was sincerely missed after his departure. On December 15, 1949 Rev. Myroslav Charyna was appointed the pastor of the parish. His pastorship created a separate chapter in the history of St. Josaphat’s parish. During his pastorship the building of the new church took place, 1951-53. The installment of the iconostasis into the church, 1955; the adornment of the church with stained-glass windows, 1957; the Stations of the Cross, 1958; and the painting of the church in 1960-61 also occurred under his guidance. Abstracting from the income and expenses incurred by the building of the church and its Byzantine Rite furnishing, a school building and a convent were purchased. The day school began its operation on September 9, 1957. A building near the school was purchased in 1964 for the use of the parish. Much attention was focused on church-affiliated brotherhoods and organizations that concentrated on the spiritual refinement of its members. The Altar Boy Society, a League of the Ukrainian Catholic Youth, and a Ladies Auxiliary of the Ukrainian Catholic War Veterans were established. A Home and School Association, the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, an Altar Boys Society, School Choir, and the Children of Mary Society were likewise organized at the school. Up to the time of the opening of the day school, Maria Charyna was helpful in the teaching of the evening school. She also reorganized the Amateur Group and prepared stagings with the school children. Afterthe opening of the day school, the Sisters of St. Basil the Great assumed the guidance and teaching of the parochial school. Assisting in the pastoral duties were Rev. John Moda (1956), Rev. Michael Pyrih (1957-59), and Rev. Jaroslav Zachariasevych (196164), Rev. Wolodymyr Buk, and Rev. Stanislaw Dasho (in the school chapel).The parish suffered a great loss when the long time cantor-teacher Andrew Melnyk, a person of unquestionable character, full of dedication for his church and nation, passed away. In the chronicle of St. Josaphat’s parish, it should be mentioned that in 1955, Most Rev. Archbishop Constantine Bohachevsky ordered an expansion of boundaries of the parish. Thus, the eastern boundary of the parish became Front Street and the southern boundary Allegheny Avenue. From that time on, it was stated that membership of the parish is to be built upon the territories of the above mentioned boundaries. In 1962, the territory of St. Josaphat’s parish was divided and a partof the territory was made into a mission of the Sacred Heart, in the Fox Chase Section. The mission nonetheless is affiliated with St. Josaphat’s parish. In 1967, a new auditorium was purchased for the school. In 1974, on the parish’s 60th anniversary, and also on the silver anniversary of Rev. Monsignor Charyna as pastor and the 350th anniversary of the death of St. Josaphat, all the church buildings were renovated and air-conditioning and electronic bells were added for the church. After the jubilee, carpeting was installed in the church, and chandeliers, pulpits and an episcopal throne were ordered from Greece. Monsignor’s Charyna’s golden jubilee of priesthood was celebrated in 1986; he retired the following year.
In 1989, the parish (under Rev. Stephen Hutnick) observed its diamond jubilee; the interior of the church was renovated and repainted. After the transfer of Msgr. Martin Canavan in 1991, the lack of a pastor had a negative effect on the life of the parish throughout the 1990s. In 2000, Rev. Vasyl Sivinskyi reactivated the Apostleship of Prayer and the Parish Council. The parish’s 90th anniversary was marked in 2004 with performances by the school’s students; over the decades, the school had its students participating in countless parish events. Due to excessively high maintenance cost required by the church and residency, the Archeparchy decided to sell these buildings and transfer the parish to the school premises. This occurred in 2007. Divine Liturgies were celebrated temporarily in the school chapel while a small church was built from part of the auditorium. The new premises were blessed on November 2, 2008 by Most Rev. Metropolitan Stefan Soroka. Under the spiritual and administrative leadership of Rev. Ihor Bloshchynskyy, the parish life flourished with various spiritual and social events, such as: church dinners. Christmas “Prosfora,” Easter “Sviachene,” St. Josaphat feast day “Praznyk,” Christmas and Easter bazaars, Mother’Day brunch, Father’s Day BBQ, Valentine’s dinner, making and selling of pyrohy, etc. In 2010, two major events were intitiated by Iryna Ivankovych: the Solemn Holy Communion (May 2) and after twenty-two years, the Alumni Reunion of 1962-2002. The event took place on Saturday, January 30, 2010, gathering over 150 graduates of four decades. The evening was opened by the Solemn Divine Liturgy celebrated by His Grace, Most Reverend Stefan Soroka, Metropolitan-Archbishop of Philadelphia, who delivered a deeply moving, bilingual homily as he welcomed all those gathered for the celebration of St. Josaphat Alumni Reunion. The main theme of Archbishop’s homily was the gift of God’s love for each of us reflected in the joy of celebrations. His Grace illustrated it by the examples from the Holy Gospel: celebration of the Father upon return of His Prodigal Son; celebration of the Shepherd when He finds the Lost Sheep; joy of the woman who finds the lost coin. All loses and failures in our lives are only due to our foolishness and carelessness, but “God seeks us. God is there to meet us; He is ready to forgive us and celebrate with us”, emphasized Metropolitan Stefan. His love, continued His Grace, is present here, at St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic School, whose loving and caring Administration and Faculty have dedicated their efforts to teaching generations of students about this precious gift of our Heavenly Father. Archbishop Stefan Soroka expressed words of his gratitude to Rev. Ihor Bloshchynskyy, Pastor and School Administrator, and members of the Reunion Committee for their dedication in organizing the event; Mrs. Christine McIntyre, Principal, and teaching faculty for their assistance in preparations of the Reunion; and especially to the Parishioners of St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic church, who initiated and generously sponsored the joyous celebration.Upon the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Rev. Ihor Bloshchynskyy expressed his gratitude to Archbishop Stefan Soroka for his spiritual leadership, professional advice and steady support of St. Josaphat school. All those present had an opportunity to take a group picture with the spiritual leader of the Ukrainian Catholics in the USA. Opening the official ceremony, Rev. Ihor Bloshchynskyy, Parish and School Administrator, welcomed Archbishop Stefan Soroka, as well as a former School Administrator, Msgr. Peter Waslo, Archbishop’s Chancellor, Sr. Laura Palka, Provincial of the Basilian Sisters, accompanied by Sr. Maria Rozmarynowycz and Sr. Diya Zahurska from Ukraine, long-term member of the teaching faculty – Mrs. Justine Kunderewicz, school’s current Principal, dedicated and very professional Mrs. Christine McIntyre, who has actively participated in preparation of the event, and all alumni present at the Reunion. When sharing his personal observation of a long-planned festivity, Fr. Ihor said, “When the Committee started planning the event some 8 months ago, there was much excitement, but even more concerns and doubts. I am glad that of the three only excitement reverberates among us this evening.
Life is what happens to us while we are busy planning other things. We can plan for tomorrow, but we cannot guarantee that tomorrow will be there for us to enjoy. Many of our friends did not live to this moment, many Sisters, teachers, supporters of the school departed to the eternity. There is no certainty in the future; the only moment in time we can be absolutely sure of is NOW – TODAY – THIS MOMENT. Live in the moment, treasure it, savor it, wrap yourself and those you love within it and hold on tight.” As a conclusion of his speech, Fr. Bloshchynskyy wished all those present a memorable and pleasant evening, filled with most unexpected surprises and cherished moments, and encouraged them “to get together again”. Mrs. Christine McIntyre, Principal, extended words of her gratitude to the parishioners of St. Josaphat Church, who with their dedication and enthusiasm have enabled Alumni with a great chance to reconnect with their fellow classmates, to share their life stories and enliven the memories of their joyous days spent in the walls of our school, and especially to the Committee members and contributors of the event: parishioners of St. Josaphat Church ($225, Desert Table); Rev. Ihor Bloshchynskyy and Family (Cosmetic Gift Basket); the Dubenko Family (Movie Night Basket); the Iwanowicz Family (Basket of Cheers contribution of various restaurants, and All About Angels Basket); the Ryskalczyk Family (Video); Olga Halas Ade $25; Sophia Halas-Pryszlak (Advertising costs); Parish Apostleship of Prayer (Taste of Italy Basket), Fletcher-Nasevich Funeral Home (FLYERS Tickets), Ukrainian Selfreliance Federal Credit Union ($250); Linda Beerley $50; David Wisniewski (Hair Care Products Gift Basket). She emphasized the great assistance of the Home and School Association in serving attendees at various parts of the event. Sr. Laura Palka, Provincial of the Sisters of St. Basil the Great, greeted the alumni on behalf of all Sisters who used to teach generations of St. Josaphat students. For decades, the Basilian Sisters instilled Christian and moral values, passed the Ukrainian heritage and equipped thousands of students with good education. Mrs. Sophia Halas-Pryszlak, dedicated member of the Committee, delivered an emotional speech of a former Alumnae and present supporter of the school. She emphasized the value of the traditions the school has kept for so many years, introduced those present with the problems and concerns it deals today, and shared her observations of numerous changes the school has experienced over the decades. Mrs. Halas-Pryszlak extended her gratitude to the hard-working members of the Home and School Association, who with the support and numerous fundraising projects, have been assisting school with solving many financial difficulties. With the opening prayer, His Grace Stefan Soroka blessed the food and invited everyone to the evening of joy and celebration. Throughout the night, those present had an opportunity to watch the slide show presentation (contribution of Stephen Fartuszok and John Kusen), took group pictures (photographers: Karen M. Cheung, Stephen Fartuszok), participate in the 50/50, the happy winner of which, Roman Iwaskiw, donated $203 to the school, and Raffle Auctions, took a tour of the school and dance to the Ukrainian-American music played by DJ: Jerry and Roman Mykijewycz. Reunion is a good time to look back and celebrate. It is also time to reignite the passion and look forward to the future for ourselves and the school. We can only hope that St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic school will continue its noble mission, that is to instill the love of God, neighbor and self, and to have all students strive and accomplish their own level of academic excellence. The Generations of Faith progam, a worthwhile bilingual classes for all generations of faithful to get to know their faith, was successfully conducted by Lola Dubenko.This greatly fortified the parish as one common family and strengthened ties with the parish school..With God’s help, many of these events were financially profitable, and the earnings were used to pay off major maintenance expenses, purchase stained glass windows in the new church, and for special projects, such as preservation of some valuable paintings from the old church by artist Petro Andrusiw, and also saving the historic “Stefan” bell from 1917. Starting in 2009, the Apostleship of Prayer each year organizes numerous participants for the pilgrimage trip to the annual Dormition of the Holy Mother of God Pilgrimage sponsored by the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate in Sloatsburg, New York. Due to the difficult economic situation in America, the school was closed in 2012. Although rental of the church hall for bingo generated a healthy income for the parish, Church authorities decided (subsequent to the school closing) to sell the school and church at the end of 2013. Since February of 2014, the faithful have been temporarily utilizing the old Maternity BVM Roman Catholic Church on Bustleton and Winchester Ave. Undoubtedly, “a house is not a home,” and the lack of appropriate facilities has halted almost all of these parish activities. They still managed to organize the next pilgrimage trip to Sloatsburg in August of 2014. Also, in April of 2014, the Apostleship of Prayer managed to conduct a very successful fundraiser to help their brethren in Ukraine. They matched the collected contributions and $912 was turned over to the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee, which is designated by the Ukrainian World Congress as the official collector of humanitarian aid for the Maidan pro-democracy movement in Ukraine in these historic times.
On November 16, 2014 the 100th anniversary jubilee was celebrated. Its main purpose was to thank Almighty God for all His graces, bow heads in gratitude to the pioneers and past generations for their labors, and to pass the baton to the younger generation. The parishioners of St. Josaphat Church firmly believe that with God’s help the present unhappy circumstances shall pass and that they will again be able to renew their church activities. One of the most precious gifts St. Josaphat parishioners received on that festive day were relics of their patron Saint, generously donated to the church by President of the St. Sophia Religious Association of Ukrainian Catholics in Rome, Very Rev. Marko Yaroslav Semehen. It is worth mentioning that the parish has produced two priests (Revs. Peter Leskiw and Richard Muckowski) and one bishop (Most. Rev. Richard Seminack). The strong and unshakable faith of the first pioneers, their fervent love of their Church, language, traditions, native customs — these treasures of the souls enabled them not to perish far away from their native land, helped them endure often the most trying times, and to pass on their heritage to future generations.