Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church

Story and photos by Kris Leonhardt

Keeping Ukrainian Heritage Alive

On the corner of County Line Road and Bruce Mound Road in the township of Withee sits a quaint little church. A hall sits to the church's left hand side and a cemetery sprawls out behind it. A fence borders the church's boundaries with gates creating access to those who have come to worship or visit. The church and its grounds are in great condition for its 86 years in existence. Built in 1921 by a group of Ukrainian emigrants, the church has been well taken care of by its originators and their descendants.

The countryside church sits on the corner of Bruce Mound Road
and County Line Road surrounded by trees

In the early 1920's the United States saw a huge influx of Ukraine emigrants emerge in the states.  Between the years of 1920 and 1921 approximately 15,000 Ukrainians left the Eastern European country to settle in America.

As this massive immigration occurred the emigrants began to build local communities in which they could maintain their Ukrainian identity.

Early Members
Founding members Phillip Figura and Max Tyznik

"They were pioneers that came from Europe. They wanted to have it as it was there," says Mike Gwiazda, whose father helped build the church.

So the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church was born. Land was donated by Max Tyznik and a group of mostly farmers led by Walter Tyznik constructed a church. The group sawed their own lumber and did all of the work on the building themselves.

Three years later a hall was added to accommodate church gatherings and events. Church organizers taught reading, writing and singing in Ukrainian and later built a stage for plays and singing performances.

The "99 Hall" sits in the foreground as the church steeple looms behind

In 1960 the stage was removed and a kitchen was built to serve dinners. The hall was affectionately named the "99 Hall" as "99 out of 100 will be there" for events.

The church operated without modern conveniences for approximately 60 years. Prior to telephones members would be alerted when someone passed by the ringing of the church bells. Heat was provided by a wood stove and lighting by kerosene or gas lamps.

In 1986, church member Joseph Kudingo willed his inheritance for improvements on the church including: wall to wall carpet, electric lights, a heating system and ceiling fans.

In the early days the church held three or four masses during the summer months as their low budget did not allow for a full time priest. Today the church still maintains masses a few times a year.

A view of the handcrafted altar inside of the church

"We can't afford to have one every week. We have mass several times a year. Otherwise we worship in our homes or attend other churches," says Gwiazda.

The church currently has a dozen families in their membership -- a number that dropped after a discrepancy in the direction the church would take.

"Many years ago a lot of the families wanted the church to be Orthodox National and some wanted Catholic.  So they split up," says Gwiazda.

The church currently holds mass in part English and part Ukrainian. The next mass at the church is scheduled for September 15, 2007.



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