Church rebuilding, war on spirits as Arnold parishioners observe St. Vladimir’s Day

Understanding suffering was part of the message the Reverend John (Ivan) Chirovsky delivered Saturday to an audience in the social hall of St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Arnold.

Chirovsky, director of spiritual formation at Saints Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary in the Perry North neighborhood of Pittsburgh, showed up for the church’s observance of the Feast of Saint Vladimir, which was Friday.

Vladimir was the ruler of Kyivan Rus’. A political and religious figure, he Christianized the country in 988 and was declared a saint after his death in 1015, said Chirovsky.

“He brought faith to what later in history became the Ukrainian people, the Belarusian people and the Russian people,” he said.

Chirovsky, a son of Ukrainian immigrants, knows St. Vladimir’s small congregation has been hurting and searching for meaning since December, when a fire destroyed their church.

“It’s a price we pay for a community that revitalizes and renews itself,” he said. “They are excited to rebuild. It doesn’t come for free.

“It may take a while, but it looks like they are on the right track,” Chirovsky said.

Along with remarks from Chirovsky and food including stuffed cabbage and haluski, the event included a 40-50 donated basket raffle, silent auctions, and a 50-50 raffle. Proceeds will go towards rebuilding the church on Kenneth Avenue at McCandless Street.

The 74-year-old stone church was surrounded by a fence on Saturday, bits of burnt debris still littering its steps.

Reverend Yaroslav Koval said they estimate the church reconstruction will cost around $2 million.

Although he still needs to raise about $500,000, he said they expect work to start in October or November and take about 18 months.

The new church will be smaller than the one it replaces. Koval said the church has about 45 members and the new building will accommodate up to 80; it had contained about 400.

“We think we’re going to do it,” Koval said.

Among those at the party was Frances Szarnicki, who retired from Harmar, Florida eight years ago. She was baptized in St Vladimir in 1950 and married her husband, James, there in 1981. James Szarnicki died in January.

Szarnicki said she and her husband walked past the church after the fire.

“All we could do was watch,” she said. “It was just awful.”

But being at the social hall on Saturday with his son, Stephen, brought back many wonderful memories of them doing pierogis there with his daughter, Lynne Rau. His children continue this legacy through their food truck business, the Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck.

“We have spent many hours here making pierogi to support the church,” she said.

With the social hall adorned in the Ukrainian national colors of blue and yellow, the ongoing Russian war against their homeland was not far from mind.

In addition to fundraising efforts to rebuild the church, Lesya Jurgovsky of Forest Hills was selling Ukrainian-made embroidered shirts, jewelry, and belts. These proceeds will be used to support Ukrainians fighting to keep their country with things like food, medical supplies and clothing.

She also made eight baskets that were raffled off to support the reconstruction of St. Vladimir.

Jurgovsky, originally from Ternopil in western Ukraine, came to the United States in 2004. She is a member of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church on the South Side of Pittsburgh, also led by Koval. She still has a lot of family and friends in Ukraine.

“I need to help. I have to do something,” she said. “If I go over, I can’t help them. I can help them from here more. If I go over there , I am just another body.

Donations to help Ukraine are accepted at Saint-Jean between 8:30 a.m. and noon every Wednesday.

“I met a lot of wonderful people during these five months. I met amazing people,” she said. “Some of them live in my neighborhood and I’ve never met them before. We met and became friends.

Jurgovsky said she would continue to do whatever she could to help as long as there were those in need.

“It makes my soul, my heart feel better,” she said.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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