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Chicago's Ukrainian Catholics

Marta Borodayko lights a candle following the prayer service at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Chicago
Marta Borodayko lights a candle following the prayer service at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Chicago
(Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

With the recent struggle between Russia and Ukraine in the headlines lately, sometimes we forget that there are many people affected by it in our own backyard. Catholics of many different ancestries exist in Chicago, and while it's common place to hear about Mexican or Polish immigrants, very rarely do we hear about Ukrainian immigrants. In spite of that, Chicago is actually home to one of the largest communities of Ukrainian immigrants in the world, and certainly in the United States. It's time to take a look at Chicago's Ukrainian Catholics, and that's what today's column is dedicated to.

The heart of Chicago's Ukrainian community is the “Ukrainian Village”, located in the “West Town” area. Appropriately, that's on the west side of Chicago's downtown. There have been four waves of Ukrainian immigration to Chicago, with the first immigrants arriving from 1870-1914. Many great Ukrainian Catholic cathedrals in Chicago date from 1913-1915, when the Slavic culture of the neighborhood became predominately Ukrainian after first being settled by Polish and Slovak immigrants Today, in the center of Ukrainian Village, you can find three Ukrainian churches located on one street, most being within a block of each other.

One of the best known and most prominent of these is St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral. Unbeknownst to many Chicagoans, the city of Chicago is actually the headquarters for the Ukrainian Catholic Church in all of the Midwestern and western United States. Those parishes report back to Bishop Richard Seminack in Chicago. The Cathedral is located at 2238 W. Rice St., and they have been holding special prayer services for the people in the Ukraine every day since Feb. 18, when the clashes between the then-Ukrainian president, Victor Yanukovych, and civilian protestors in Ukrainian turned violent. Similar prayer services have been scheduled at the other five Ukrainian Catholic churches in Chicago. These include Saint Joseph Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral at 5000 N. Cumberland Ave. in Chicago, Saint Michael Ukrainian Catholic Church at 12211 S. Parnell Ave. in Chicago, SS. Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church at 2245 W. Superior St. in Chicago, and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church at 8530 W. 131st St. in Palos Park, IL.

Ukrainian Catholics number around five million people worldwide. Ukraine is also home to the only Catholic university in the former Soviet Union: Ukrainian Catholic University of Lviv. There are around 50,000 Ukrainian Americans in Chicago today. The dominate religious affiliation of Ukrainians is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but there are also large numbers of Ukrainian Catholics. Many Ukrainian Catholics fled to the United States when the country was under Soviet rule, due to the way Catholics were harshly treated by the Soviets. There are an estimated 12,000 Ukrainian Catholics in the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saint Nicholas of Chicago.

So the next time you think of the Ukrainian conflict as something that's happening far away on the other side of the planet, remember there are thousands of Ukrainian Catholics right here in Chicago, many with family members overseas. The crisis in the Ukraine isn't just an issue that affects eastern Europe, it is an important struggle that affects all Catholics, whether directly or indirectly. Let's stand with our Ukrainian Catholic brothers and sisters!