According to historical records of the time, the first attempts to organize a Ukrainian Catholic parish in the Trenton, NJ area took place in 1913. A group of Ukrainian immigrants, known as the first wave, gathered and organized an effort to form a church parish committee and begin to collect dues and donations. The committee organized under the name of "Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Trenton". Unfortunately, the first attempt failed due to several factors. One of the main reasons was that the conditions in which the Ukrainian immigration, in the area, lived. Their were also deep rifts within the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church and the faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Church due to differing opinions and tradition.
The Beginnings of St. Josaphat's Parish
In 1948-49 during the wave of the "Great Immigration from the Ukrainian lands", also known as the "second wave", a group of settlers found a colony in the Trenton area. Many of the first wave had dissipated into the influence of the Muscovite-Orthodox Church parish, the Roman Catholic Church parishes, the newly organized Ukrainian Orthodox Church parish, the Trans-Carpathian Catholic and Orthodox parishes, or some went to other various worshipping sects. In June of 1949, two brothers, Ukrainian Catholic priests, Reverends Teodosij and Josyf Atamaniuk came to the Trenton area. The existing situation presented them with a sense of missionary duty. The two brothers gathered a group of newly arrived "second wave" immigrants and began the foundation St Josaphat's parish. Bishop Konstantyn Bohachevsky of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States, was informed of the group's intention to form a parish. Bishop Konsatntyn entrusted Revs. Teodosij and Josyf with permission to proceed and named them pastor and curate of the new parish. A temporary committee was formed to help. Thanks to the assistance of the Rev. Andrew Sakson, pastor of the Roman Catholic parish of Sts. Peter & Paul, and also Rev. Desiderius Simcoe, pastor of Saint Mary's of the Assumption Greek Catholic Trans-Carpathian Church, the Revs. Atamaniuks were able establish themselves materially and continue in their mission. Parishioners began attending regular services which were held on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and were held at the parish of Sts. Peter and Paul, located on Second St. in Trenton. The catechist of the Saturday Ukrainian School also began.
The parish of St. Joasaphat's was incorporated on November 30, 1950. A fund drive to purchase land intensified. After considerable investigation, a piece of available realty, that was located at 1195 Deutz Ave. in Hamilton Township, NJ was selected. On June 10, 1951 the parishioners agreed to purchase the land. A Building Committee was formed and charged with remodeling and refurbishing the existing buildings into a chapel, priests residence and a Ukrainian school house/church hall. The blessing of the chapel took place on July 13, 1952 and regular liturgies began taking place at this location. Many community activities began to flourish including social dances, the first feast-day celebration of St. Josaphat on November 29, 1952 and also the first visit by St. Nicholas to our parish children on November 30. The year 1953 was memorable due to the first mission which took place at our parish between March 8-15, the first group of children for Holy Communion on July 7, the official visit of now Archbishop Konstantyn on August 30, and during the Christmas season, the first home visits by our own church choir carolers. On January 6, 1954, Ukrainian carols could be heard on the radio airwaves of WBUD thanks to Rev. Tedosij's efforts. Also, in 1954, plans were prepared to build a new church and hall. On August 7, 1955, Archbishop Konstantyn again visited the parish and submitted complete admiration and praise to the Revs. Atamaniuks and the entire parish community. The blessing of the foundations for the church and hall took place on October 13, 1955, performed by Rev. Oleksander Treshnewsky and assisted by 13 various priests. Due to all the tireless efforts and generous donations, our parish debt was completed paid off by the end of 1957. On February 2, 1958, a mortgage burning ceremony was held. Through the beginning years, the parish celebrated the Birth of Christ according to the Julian Calendar (Jan. 7), but in 1957, a group of parishioners appealed to Rev. Teodosij to celebrate services according to the Gregorian Calendar (Dec. 25). To avoid a schism within the parish Rev. Teodosij announced that the parish will continue to retain the Julian Calendar but that pertinent services would be offered to those that wished to celebrate in the Gregorian Calendar. In March 1959, now Metropolitan Konstantyn again had visited the parish. The commemoration of the 10th Anniversary took place on November 29, 1959, directed by the Rev. Ivan Bala with participation of various clergy from the Eparchy.
In February of 1960, the parish committee determined that the current chapel was far too small for the rapidly growing congregation. Architect Julian Jastremskyj was commissioned and prepared plans to erect a new church building that would accommodate 300-350 people. In April, 1960, the Metropolitan See accepted and approved the plans for a new church. On August 21, 1960, Bishop Ivan Prashko with the assistance of various clergy, blessed the land on which the new church would be built. Rev. Teodosij had also addressed Metropolitan Konstantyn to seek permission to conduct religious services in a chapel that was built within the Ukrainian settlement of "Cherche", (in Cream Ridge, NJ) which was located approximately 15 miles from Trenton. The chapel was funded and built by Mr. Josyf Humenniuk, a parishioner of St. Josaphat's. On June 29, 1960 permission was granted and beginning on July 7, weekly services were performed in "Cherche" under the territory of St. Josaphat's parish. There was an energized effort by the church committee and other related organizations, such as the Sisterhood, organized various fund raisers, and solicited donations to help fund the new church building. On November 26, 1961, Metropolitan Ambrosij Senyshyn with assistance of various clergy, blessed the cornerstone of the new church. In 1963, a liturgy of the Ukrainian Catholic rite was offered for the first time in a Roman Catholic church of the Trenton Diocese, attended by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Trenton, George W. Ahr. Also, in this year, the Julian Calender was substituted for the Gregorian Calendar. In 1965, parishioner Maria Lesyk took her vows and entered the monastery of the Basilian Sisters at Fox Chase and parishioner Rev. Jurij Markevych offered his first Divine Liturgy. In June of 1968, at the request of Rev. Teodosij, the Metropolitan See assigned Rev. Edward Levandusky as curate of St. Josaphat's. On July, 25 1968, Archbishop Major and Cardinal, His Beatitude Patriarch Josyf VII visited our parish. He was accompanied by Metropolitan Ambrosij and Bishop Basil Losten. Patriarch Josyf bestowed Rev. Teodosij with the title of honor "Kryloshanyn". In 1969 Rev. Markevych served our parish as Pastor. Rev. Markevych began the renovation of priest's residence and the re-painting of the church.
On February 20, 1970, Rev. Josyf Atamaniuk entered eternal rest at the age of 70. His mortal remains were interred at the front, left side entrance to the church. Funeral rites were performed by Metropolitan Ambrosij and countless numbers of clergy. A monument was erected and paid for by his brother Rev. Teodosij. Also, in January of 1970, Rev. Volodymyr Hrabec was assigned as pastor of St. Josaphat's. In Rev. Hrabec's tenure, the parish house renovation was completed. On April 6, 1975, the official opening of the Parish Center/Hall took place. On June 8, 1975, our parish celebrated it's 25th anniversary. An Archiepiscopal blessing of the church and the iconostas was conducted by Bishop Basil Losten and other assisting clergy. It was at this time that Rev. Teodosij retired from active parish life. Also, in 1975, Rev. Hrabec along with Rev. Mykola Haleta of St George's Ukrainian Orthodox Church concelebrated in the blessing of the Ukrainian National Home located on the historical site of the Bow Hill Mansion. At the end 1975, Rev. Ivan Bura became pastor and served until 1976 when the Very Rev. Teodor Danusiar became pastor and also served as Dean of New Jersey. Rev. Jaroslav Fedyk became pastor in May of 1977 and served until 1979. With the departure of Rev. Fedyk, the long standing tradition of celebrating Mass at the chapel in "Cherche" ended. In May of 1979, Rev. Msgr. Basil Makuch became pastor.
On December 15, 1980, Rev. Teodosij Atamaniuk entered eternal rest at the age of 81. He was interred next to his brother, Rev Josyf. During the 1980's Rev. Msgr. Makuch tended to the rehabilitation of the parish properties. Major projects included the installation of a central air conditioning unit in the church and also the installation of stained glass windows depicting icons of venerated Saints of the Ukrainian Catholic Church (St. Antonij Pechersky, St. Teodosij Pecherskij, St. Volodymyr Vylykij, St. Olha, St. Boris, St. Hlib, St. Michael The Archangel and St. George). The parishioners continued to serve the greater Trenton area by actively participating in religious and civic events such as The Heritage Days in Trenton and numerous festivals located in the tri state area. Unfortunately, the late 1980's saw a slight downturn in parish activity due to the aging population of the parish and relocation of many of the youthful parishioners due to economic stagnation in the Trenton area. In March of 1988, Rev. Msgr. Makuch along with other clergy and faithful of various Ukrainian Christian denominations concelebrated in the blessed celebration of the 1,000 anniversary of Ukrainian Christianity "The Baptism of Holy Kyivsky-Rus" by Saint Volodymyr Vylykij. A commemorative monument and sitting area was erected at Veterans Park in Hamilton, NJ.
Between 1946 and 1989 the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church was the largest banned Church in the world. It was, at the same time, the largest structure of social opposition to the Soviet communist system within the USSR. Despite relentless persecution, Church life continued underground through the work of an elaborate system of clandestine seminaries, monasteries, ministries, parishes and youth groups. The Church also actively continued it's activities in the Ukrainian Diaspora. The Church was again legalized in Ukraine, on December 1, 1989. St. Josaphat's, along with other parishes in Ukraine, and around the Globe, celebrated this historical and joyous event. Archbishop Major and Cardinal, His Beatitude Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky, leader of our Church, ceremoniously returned to Lviv, Ukraine on March 30, 1991 and reclaimed his pastoral seat at the Cathedral of St. George.
The 1990's experienced a resurgence in parish life primarily due to the newest wave of immigration of Ukrainians into the Trenton area. On September 26, 1993 Rev. Msgr. Makuch entered eternal rest at the age of 77. A Requiem Funeral Liturgy was celebrated by Bishop Wolodymyr Paska and other assisting clergy. Rev. Msgr. Makuch was laid to rest in St. Mary's Cemetery located in Langhorne, PA. Rev. Frank Patrylak, pastor of St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Bristol, PA assisted the ailing Rev. Msgr. Makuch, and later agreed to replace him as pastor of St. Josaphat's. Rev. Patrylak served only a brief 7 month period from September 1993 to February 1994 but managed to refurbish the interior of the rectory. In February 1994, Rev. Ivan Davidowych became pastor and served in this role until his retirement in April of 1996 at the age of 86. In April of 1996 Rev. Vasyl Kharuk became pastor. Rev. Kharuk was responsible for the modernization of the rectory furniture and the introduction of our parish into the "Age of the Computer". Parish financial bookkeeping and parishioner indexing methods were computerized. Also, the initial printings of the weekly church bulletins began. On February 23, 1997, on a pastoral visit to our parish, Metropolitan Archbishop Stefan Sulyk, with the assistance of various clergy, celebrated a Pontifical Divine Liturgy. In October 1997, Rev. Msgr. Myron Grabowsky was assigned pastor of St. Josaphat's while also serving as pastor of St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Bristol, PA. Rev. Msgr. Grabowsky served in this post until November 1998 when Rev. Vasyl Pavlo Repela became our pastor. In Rev. Repela's tenure, the initial repainting and the decorating of the Church ceiling began. Also, in 1999, St. Josaphat's celebrated its 50th anniversary. In December of 1999, Rev. Repela returned to pastoral duties in Ukraine, and Rev. Vasyl Putera became our pastor.
In 2002 the repainting and the decorating of the Church ceiling was completed. The center piece of the ceiling above the Nave, features a depiction of "Christ The Pantocrator" and is surrounded on the four corners with the Evangelists "Mathew, Mark, Luke and John". Above the Sanctuary is a depiction of "The Holy Spirit" in the image of a White Dove. Rev. Putera continued to serve and strengthen our parish. In late 2002, Rev. Roman Pitula was assigned as our pastor. Rev. Pitula brought a new page into our parish history. Also coming from Ukraine, he was the first married priest to serve at St. Josaphat's. His dedication to his pastoral duties, as well as his family (Wife Tanya, Daughter Sophia and Son Petryk) gave many of us a new and refreshing perspective. Rev. Pitula re-opened the School of Ukrainian Studies at St. Josaphat's. He also began the project of updating the parish hall. On November 12, 2004, on a pastoral visit to our parish, Metropolitan Archbishop Stefan Soroka, with the assistance of various clergy, celebrated a Hierarchal Divine Liturgy. On Palm Sunday, March 20, 2005, Archbishop Major, His Beatitude, Patriarch Lubomyr Husar, on a private visit to the United States, visited our parish and celebrated Divine Liturgy with the assistance of Rev. Pitula and Rev. Msgr. Peter Waslo.
In December 2005, our current parish administrator, Rev. Volodymyr Popyk was assigned to St. Josaphat's. Rev. Popyk is also married (Wife Natalia, Daughter Veronika and Son Marian). He has adopted a consistent, systematic and exact approach in organizing and creating a team approach, along with the Sisterhood and Church Committee, to advance the spiritual and communical life of our parish. The parish school continued until 2007 when it was merged with the School of Ukrainian Studies at the Ukrainian National Home of Trenton, NJ. Father Volodymyr continues to instruct religious and catechism classes for our parish youth at the UNH School. He has also enhanced the "weekly parish bulletin "and added a section that concentrates on morality. The parish calendar has continued with annual events such as the Shevchenko Concerts, the St. Nicholas Visits, the Christmas Bazaars, the New Year's Eve Zabavas, the "Easter Egg Hunt", Prosphora, Sviachenyia, blessing of the graves at St. Andrews Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery in South Bound Brook, NJ, the Second Annual Memorial Day Weekend Services at Our Lady of Sorrows Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, the blessing of the graves at St. Mary's of the Assumption Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Hamilton, NJ, and other local cemeteries where our departed parishioners rest in peace and other special events that are hosted at St. Josaphat's. With the blessing of Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka, On December 2, 2006, the Apostolic Prayer Society at St Josaphat's was formed. Bishop Ivan Bura returned to his former parish for the time as the Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia on December 2, 2007 and celebrated a Divine Liturgy, with the assistance of Rev. Popyk and Rev. Andriy Rabiy, to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the establishment of the Apostolic Prayer Society at St Josaphat's. Rev. Popyk has initiated and managed several sorely needed projects in our parish. This included the complete renovation of the entire lower parish hall, the installation of a modern industrial kitchen to support our many parish events, the purchase of new tractors and facility maintenance tools, the installation of a handicap accessible ramp into the church, the repair of the main steps of the church, the installation of exterior flag poles, and repair of the air conditioning units in the church and parish hall.