By Theodora MacLeod - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on November 2, 2023.
For years the congregation of Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church had been shrinking, and with it the income from donations and tithings. Now, having opened their doors and hearts to new Canadians, they’re hoping to raise funds with a dinner, silent auction, and magic show.
Opening in 1920, Ss Peter and Paul amalgamated with the parish of St. Volodymyr the Great in 2010 and since have been the only Eastern Catholic Church south of Calgary.
Despite being the lone church of its denomination for approximately 200 kilometres, it wasn’t until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Feb. 2022 that the parish began to see their population grow as an influx Ukrainian refugees and immigrants joined the congregation.
“Because the parish had been dwindling, fundraising and tithing had been going steadily down,” says fundraising coordinator, Ryan Tarnava. “Now the church is full, but with a large population of immigrants who don’t have the ability to donate and need support.”
Tarnava estimates the church has welcomed roughly 200 new families from Ukraine and says,
“When COVID restrictions were lifted, we’d have somewhere between 20 and 40 people a Sunday, and then to go from that to over 10 times.”
As many of the newcomers moved with haste, the church has been helping to provide necessities, such as furniture.
“Some will get a house, but it will just be an empty rental. They won’t have beds, so mom, dad and two kids are trying to sleep in a twin bed,” explains Tarnava. In addition to material goods, the parish has been helping new members find jobs and arrange competency tests for those wishing to continue the career they trained for in Ukraine in Canada.
Tarnava says he has had time to get to know the new parishioners and that while they are grateful to be in Lethbridge, it’s still hard.
“Some of them will be returning to Ukraine eventually-hopefully,” he explains, adding that many of those who have already returned have kept in touch. “Some of them want to set roots here and stay permanently. We want to be a place where they can have community, go to for support.”
The fundraiser, which will be held on Nov. 18 at Paradise Canyon Golf Course, is set to feature a performance by Lethbridge born magician and entertainer, Ben Price.
In addition to the dinner and show will be a silent auction, already full of exciting items to be won. A discovery flight with Excel Flight Training, a night at White Buffalo Tipi camp, and gift certificates from Luigi’s North are just a few of the things up for sale. The event is open to the public, with tickets available at a cost of $75.
“We’re trying to get our finances as strong and bolstered as they can be so that we can be there to support these families,” Tarnava says, explaining that this is the first fundraising event of this size. “Our goal is to be around for another 100 years.”
For more information and to purchase tickets visit: https://linktr.ee/sspeterpaul