ST. MICHAEL'S Ukrainian Catholic church, one of Baltimore's new ecclesiastical landmarks, will be consecrated Sunday near Patterson Park.
The splendor of the church -- easily recognizable from its five onion domes in the 2400 block of Eastern Avenue -- hides a laborious and often difficult nine-year effort by some 400 parishioners to construct a sanctuary that would make their old homeland, Ukraine, proud.
Now that the $3 million project has been successfully concluded, nothing delights the parishioners more than their ability to consecrate the church at a time when Ukraine itself has regained independence and is experiencing a religious revival.
People unfamiliar with Ukrainian history often mistake St. Michael's for a Russian Orthodox sanctuary. Yet, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, with 7 million members worldwide and some 300,000 in the United States, has nothing to do with the Russian Orthodox denomination but looks to the Vatican for spiritual guidance. Under the Soviet rule in particular, its priests and believers paid a heavy price for this Western orientation.
Baltimore's St. Michael's parish dates back to 1893, when immigrants newly arrived from Ukraine gathered at St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church in Fells Point to hold their first Mass. It took almost two decades for a priest to be assigned permanently to Baltimore's Ukrainian community, which led to the construction of a sanctuary at 522 South Wolfe Street. Ground for the new St. Michael's was broken in 1984.
The new church "is not completed yet inside in accordance with our custom but the structure itself already is a landmark which pays tribute to the ethnic diversity of our city," writes Wolodymyr C. Sushko, one of the parishioners.
The consecration will also be a tribute to the tireless perseverance of Father Yuri Merkewych, St. Michael's pastor. As construction went on for nearly a decade, he was up on the ladders every day, checking even the most minute detail.