FOAM LAKE, Sask. — A celebration by the Roman and Ukrainian Catholic communities was held June 26 as two congregations celebrated their joint ownership of the Ukrainian Catholic Church building in Foam Lake, a town in East Central Saskatchewan.
Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon and Bishop Donald Bolen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon presided over the celebration, held in the building now shared by Christ the King Roman Catholic and Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic parishes.
Bayda welcomed Bolen with bread, salt, and a symbolic key. Bolen blessed stained glass that was brought from the former Christ the King building, before concelebrating divine liturgy with Bayda, along with Holy Eucharist pastor Rev. Jeffrey Stephaniuk.
Since January, both parishes have been using the shared facility. The arrangement developed after several years of discussion and discernment, when it became clear that the Roman Catholic church building would require major renovations. With input from the bishops of the diocese and the eparchy, the ownership agreement was entered into after much discussion about how to make the arrangement a workable reality.
A committee of parishioners meets frequently to manage concerns and parish business, while each parish operates as a separate entity within the building.
Before the celebration at Holy Eucharist, Bolen presided over two ceremonies to return Roman Catholic church buildings in the area to non-sacred status: first Sacred Heart Church in nearby Sheho, Sask. (closed some 12 years ago), as well as the former Christ the King building in Foam Lake. It was a bittersweet experience for parishioners and family members. Bolen commended the commitment, courage and wisdom behind the decision to leave behind buildings that can no longer adequately serve the community, while acknowledging the sadness experienced when leaving much-loved buildings.
“Leaving a church that you love and has been meaningful for you is never easy. The fact that you have gone through this process, building bridges, easing tensions, and doing so in a way that was life-giving for the community, is edifying and encouraging,” Bolen said.
Bolen removed the altar stones from the Sheho and Foam Lake churches. Representatives of the Roman Catholic parishes then carried the stones in procession to the joint celebration at the newly shared facility. Plans to insert the altar stones into the altar at Holy Eucharist were delayed, however, as they didn’t quite fit.
The adjusting and smoothing needed for the wood of the altar to accommodate the stones is an apt image for the kind of adjustments that the two congregations are making to fit smoothly together, noted Bayda.
“The unity which binds us together as Catholics, is always a unity characterized by diversity,” said Bolen. “Every parish, every diocese, every eparchy has its differences; it has its blessings and its gifts. In the Catholic Church we are blessed to have many rites. What a rich and a magnificent tradition the Byzantine rite is. How blessed our universal church is to have this diversity of rites.”
Bolen pointed to St. John Paul II’s description of the eastern and western traditions of the church as “breathing with both lungs,” adding: “But not many places in the world are lucky enough to breathe with those two lungs in one building. What you are entering into is not intended to be a sacrifice, but an experience of grace.”