Monday, August 14, 2017

St. Demetrius Ukrainian (Greek) Catholic Church. Fairfield, North Dakota

This is St. Demetrius Ukrainian Catholic Church which is outside of Fairfield, North Dakota.  The church is over a century old and gives testament to the enduring Ukrainian presence in the prairie states and provinces of the West.

This is one of several Ukrainian Catholic churches in western North Dakota and its the first Ukrainian Catholic Church to be featured here (a prior entry on the topic of the Ukrainian Catholic Church referenced a biritual priest then in Lander Wyoming.  People with a casual familairity with the Catholic Church tend to believe that all Catholic Churches are "Roman" Catholic, but this is far from true.

Just as Catholic as "Roman" (Latin Rite) Catholic Churches, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to give it its full name, is one of a collection of Eastern Rite Catholic Churches.  The Catholic Church features three major groupings of Rites based on this initial early transmission of the faith. These are the Latin, Antiochian, Alexandrian and Byzantine, with the Byzantine having derived from the Antiochean.  All still survive in spite of the rift created by the Great Schism which caused separate churches that are not in communion with Rome, typically called "Orthodox" churches, to also come into existence which also descend from all but the Latin Rite.  From these four groups come something on the order of twenty three Rites, of which the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is one.

The history of this particular Rite is not well known to me and it is difficult to fully know it without an in depth study.  This is part made confusing because it is one of the two major churches of the Ukraine, both of which use the Eastern Rite liturgical form, but only one of which is in communion with Rome.  The other major Ukrainian Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, is an Eastern Orthodox Church (usually called "the Greek Church" by native Ukrainians) which is regarded as a self governing church by the Russian Orthodox Church, but only by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church has an ancient history dating back to the Christianization of the Ukraine itself.  Because of the Ukraine's close association with Russia there has always been some tension between its status and that of the Russian Orthodox Church and this was greatly increased during the life of the Soviet Union as the USSR suppressed and drove underground the Ukrainian Catholic Church while favoring the Russian Orthodox Church.  Today the Ukrainian Catholic Church is claimed to have the allegiance of a minority but growing percentage of the population of the Ukraine, at the expense of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but frankly telling what is what in regards to this history is difficult.

This church predates the establishment of the USSR, of course, and reflects a strong late 19th Century and early 20th Century Ukrainian migration to the prairie regions of North America.  Coming from a wheat growing region and stemming from a population of independent small farmers, Ukrainians were reestablishing that pattern of life on the North American prairie.  It's perhaps telling that so many Ukrainian Catholic Churches are present in this region, rather than Russian Orthodox, and that either says something about the populations that migrated or the allegiance of Ukrainians at that time.

The Ukrainians have proved to be enduring as a culture in North American in these regions, which these churches show.  In terms of their organizational structure, while fully Catholic (any Catholic is free to worship at any Catholic church, irrespective of Rite) they are subject to their own jurisdiction. Therefore, they are not part of the Diocese of Bismarck, but rather the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saint Nicholas of Chicago, which covers over half of the United States and all of the western United States.

Indeed, in recent years the Ukranian nature of this Eastern Rite church, together with the Slavic and Eastern nature of the second major Eastern Rite Catholic Church in the United States, the Byzantine Catholic Church (sometimes called the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church) have increased.  In the late 19th Century the Church in the United States had a Latinization policy in an attempt to unite all Catholics in North America more fully under the belief that this would help incorporate Catholics into society more ably, but this has been reversed.  At the present time the Catholic Church has sought to preserve the Eastern Rites wherever possible and this has lead to a de-Latinization process and a revival of practices that never diminished in Europe.

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