History of our Church
Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church is located in the heart of historic Morris County, five miles from Morristown, in the town of Whippany, New Jersey. Ukrainians from Lemkivschyna – then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – first settled here at the beginning of the twentieth century having found work at the McEwan Brothers paper mill. To fulfill their spiritual needs or to attend Divine Liturgy, many at first traveled to the various “Greek-Catholic” (as the Ukrainian Catholic Church was then known) churches in the area, particularly to Passaic. Periodically, the pastor, Fr. Eustakhiy Sydoriak, would come to Whippany and celebrate Liturgy outdoors for the growing Ukrainian community. By 1920, 27 Ukrainian families decided they needed their own church. Later that year, Michael Moroz and William Gwozdz formed a committee to collect funds and the sum of $610.00 was collected to build a church. In 1922, Dmytro Kicak and Maxim Fanok asked the owners of the paper mill for land and Richard and Hannah McEwan, the owners of the paper mill donated a two acre parcel of land at the corner of Route 10 and South Jefferson Road "for the sum of $1.00". Early in 1921 work commenced on a small wooden church (29 ft. by 16 ft.), which was solemnly blessed in the spring of 1922 by Fr. Lev Levytskyj, pastor of St. Nicholas Church in Passaic, N.J. The new parish was incorporated November 24, 1924 as “St. John the Baptist Ruthenian (Ukrainian) Greek Catholic Church”. In 1929, a parish hall was constructed.
The community was at first serviced by the Reverend Deacon Nicholas Woloschuk (c. May 27, 1922-March, 1923) and only in 1923 was the first pastor – Fr. John Dorohovych – appointed. He served August 1922-August 21, 1928 and March 27, 1939- November 20, 1944 and was then followed by
Rev. Eugene Bartosh (December, 1924-c. August, 1925)
Rev. Volodymyr Stech, OSBM (September 13, 1928-end of April, 1937)
Rev. Jacob DeBoer, CSSR (May 3, 1937-August, 1937)
Rev. Antonin Ulanitsky (October 1937-January 1938)
Rev. Michael Skrotsky (January 29, 1938-February 1939)
Rev. Stephen Malaniak (November 26, 1944-August, 1948)
None of these priests were in residence and there was no rectory. Most traveled to Whippany, usually from Passaic, while also serving other Ukrainian “Greek-Catholic” parishes with services being held only once or twice a month and on the major holy days. Sometimes the priest would also come once or twice during the week to teach the children catechism and Ukrainian. The first resident priest was Fr. Myron Sozansky, CSSR (August 29, 1948-July 30, 1949), a Redemptorist from Newark. Under his devoted leadership the parish and parish life began to flourish, so that soon a need arose for a larger church edifice. The work was started and completed by his successor, Fr. Theodore Pryszlak (July 31, 1949-April 21, 1951). The church hall was also renovated incorporating the old 1921 church building into the hall. The old wooden Malapardis school house was acquired and turned into the rectory. The new brick church was dedicated by Bishop Constantine Bohachevsky on July 23, 1950, while stained glass windows and a new iconostas were installed in the 1960s during the pastorate of Fr. Joseph Panasiuk (April 22, 1951-May, 1996). Fr. Panasiuk was instrumental in paying off the mortgage, building a beautiful new rectory, starting a Ukrainian Saturday school, an altar servers organization, a Marian Sodality, a church choir, and organizing many trips, concerts, picnics and dances. After 45 years, Fr. Panasiuk retired in December 1996.
Fr. Panasiuk was succeeded by Rev. Archpriest Uriy Marekwycz (January 1, 1996 – May 14, 2002). As the number of parishioners – especially the younger generation – grew, a need was felt for larger facilities both for worship space and community events. SUM (the Ukrainian American Youth Association), Plast (Ukrainian Scout Organization), the “Iskra” Dancing Group, the various civic organizations all clamored for space. A church building committee was formed so we could start searching for land and relocate the parish. In 2002, a seven acre parcel of land at 60 North Jefferson Road was purchased for the sum of $850,000.00.
On May 15, 2002, Fr. Uriy was succeeded by the Rev. Mitred Protopresbyter Roman Mirchuk. The Building project of the new church and Cultural Center was formally launched at a Gala Banquet November 16, 2002. Orest Kucyna was elected as the building project manager, Taras Dobusz was chosen as architect and Bjork Builders were selected as the construction company. Ground breaking was held April 25, 2004, with Metropolitan Stefan Soroka, Governor James McGreevey, Mayor Ron Franciolli and Congressman Frelinghuysen being in attendance; construction began in May of 2005. Unfortunately, because the price of construction proved more than had been envisioned, the decision was made to first build the rectory and the Cultural Center, with one part being exclusively devoted to being the temporary church. Finally, on November 10, 2006 the new rectory was blessed, on November 11, 2006 the Ukrainian American Cultural Center of New Jersey was formally opened, and on Sunday November 12, 2006 the temporary church was dedicated amid elaborate three-day festivities attended by hundreds of parishioners and friends.
In 2010 Fr. Mirchuk decided that it was finally time to complete the original project by constructing a new church. A building committtee was formed and despite a nearly $4M debt, a new building campaign was launched to collect the necessary $1.5M needed to erect the new church. Ground was broken in June 2011, construction began in the summer of 2012 and the new building was completed in September of 2013. The solemn consecration of the new church took place September 21, 2013 and the first Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was celebrated September 22, 2013.
Fr. Mirchuk celebrated his last liturgy with us on May 31, 2015. In order to fulfill a lifetime desire, Fr. Mirchuk departed for Ukraine on a mission to establish a new Ukrainian Catholic parish in eastern Ukraine.
He was succeeded by Rev. Stepan Bilyk, on July 1, 2015, who came to us after serving as Pastor in Phoenixville, PA.
Presently, the parish comprises some 230 families; has a Parish Council, Altar Servers Society, Prayer Group, Church Choir under the direction of the cantor, Mrs. Oksana Telepko, two Bible Study Groups and Parish Bingo. The Religious Catechetical program is held Saturdays during Ukrainian Heritage Classes (in Ukrainian) and after the Saturday evening Liturgy (in English). Divine Liturgies are celebrated daily at 8:00 A.M.; Saturday evening at 5:00 P.M. (in English) and Sunday morning at 8:45 and 11:00 A.M. (in Ukrainian); and on Holy Days at 9:00 A.M. and 7:00 P.M.