Many people struggled to survive during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
But the Ukrainian pioneers who settled in Brooklands in the early 1900s needed a church where they could worship in their own language and continue to uphold the cherished customs that were an integral part of their faith.
And so it was, as Mary Pankiw, a lifetime member of this parish tells us, "With hope in their hearts and prayers on their lips, they set out on the greatest of journeys, paved with pennies, nickels and dimes to erect the symbol of their faith."
And now, this same tiny church built on the corner of Ada Street and Logan Avenue in 1932 will celebrate its 80th anniversary in 2012.
Alex Pankiw, grandson of Mary and also a member of the parish, says Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church is "Winnipeg's last Ukrainian Catholic pioneer-built parish."
"I just think it's such a fascinating little church with such a personality," says the 16-year-old great-grandson of one of the pioneer founders of the church. "My great-grandfather helped to dig out the basement with his horses," Alex says.
At that time, the area was known as the Village of Brooklands.
"One of my friends, his grandfather, was the head carpenter who worked on the church," says Andrew Pankiw, president of the parish and Alex's father.
The small white wooden church with blue trimming has three domed towers designed in Cossack Baroque style. It was built at a cost of $4,000.
The interior of the church is warm, cosy, inviting and richly decorated. Tradition is important here and many items originate from when the church first opened.
Icons and other artwork were painted in the 1940s by the multi-talented Ukrainian artist Jacob Maydanyk.
"He was known for his icons and church artwork and he also had a Ukrainian comic strip that was quite popular," says Andrew. "He had a general church goods store on Main Steet where the new Youth for Christ (building) is now. He did the artwork in quite a few Ukrainian Catholic churches in Manitoba."
Maydanyk, who was born in Western Ukraine in 1891, came to Canada in 1911 at the age of 19. He studied to be a teacher and later established the Providence Church Goods store in Winnipeg. He not only did his own iconography, he hired artists such as Theodore Baran and Leo Mol.
Some of Maydanyk's work, such as silvery stars on a blue ceiling and other designs, were painted over in the 1980s.
"It was about the time of the 50th anniversary," says Andrew. "I was only 16 at the time and when the church executive was contemplating the preparations, they were either going to build a new church or renovate this one... I'm not sure why they did it. I was disappointed."
Fortunately, much of Maydanyk's artwork has survived. According to Alex, the richly coloured icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Christ and the icon of Christ/King of Heaven are both by Maydanyk as is the icon depicting the Pentecost on the back wall of the sanctuary and the four evangelists on the ceiling.
Stained glass windows that feature a huge gold cross in each window were installed in the 1980s.
Two side altars contain many framed icons of the Mother of God and Christ.
The small parish only has about 25 members today but Andrew stresses: "It was a community effort to construct the parish and that co-operation and effort continues to this day with the community."
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Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church is located at 40 Ada St.
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