History of Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Church
IN THE BEGINNING...
A missionary from the Basilian Order was sent to West Islip in 1945. Finding so many Ukrainian Catholics in the area, he arranged with the pastor of St. Joseph’s R.C. Church in Babylon to offer services in the library of their parochial school. After six months, the former Episcopal Church on Montauk Highway was purchased by the Basilian Order and the parish of the Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Church was established. The first Divine Liturgy (Holy Mass) was offered in the church on March 3, 1946.
The Catholic Church has a number of rites (forms of worship), but the two largest rites are the Latin or Roman rite, commonly called the Western rite, and the Greek or Byzantine rite, commonly called the Eastern rite. By “rite” is meant the special manner of conducting services for worship of God and sanctification of man. The outward form and manner of offering the liturgy differ among the rites differ, but both rites recognize the Petrine Primacy.
The Church in early times permitted the Divine Liturgy to be offered in many native languages. Today there are millions of Catholics who are permitted to continue the use of ancient languages in the Liturgy. The Greek or Byzantine rite derives its name from Constantinople (also called Byzantium) which became known as the New Rome after it had been made the seat of the Imperial Roman Government.
The Byzantine rite is used here at Holy Family Church. It is often called the Greek rite and the Ukrainian Catholics are usually called Greek Catholic because they offer the Greek Liturgy. Today, the language in the Divine Liturgy and sacred services is often Ukrainian. Some churches still employ Old Slavonic, as some Western rite churches still employ Latin. However, these are, unfortunately, few in number.
As a nation, Ukraine accepted Catholicism in A.D. 688 through the efforts of King Vladimir the Great. However, there were many Christians among the Ukrainian population before that year. In the text of a treaty dated A.D. 910, between the ruler of Kiev and the emperor of the Greek-Byzantine empire, is contained a clause which obligated the Ukrainian delegates to either swear an oath on ‘sword and fire’ if they were pagans, or on ‘Cross and Evangel’ if they were Christians. Evidently, a portion of the noblemen were Christians seventy-eight years before the official baptism of Ukraine. Since King Vladimir the Great married a sister of the Greek emperor of Constantinople, he sought the help of priests in Constantinople. Thus, the Byzantine rite was introduced in Ukraine.
Sixty-six years later, a schism arose which split the East and West. At first, it had no effect upon Ukrainians who remained in union with the Apostolic See at Rome. But, over time, political pressures caused a break with the Pope. Over four, successive centuries union and separation with the Holy See occurred. In A.D. 1595, a number of bishops and priests, along with a large group of the laity, again entered into union with the Pope, and their faith in all particulars is the same as the Universal Church.
Pope Pius XI stated the following: “O Rutheni (Ukrainians) mei per vos Spero Orientem convertere.” [“O, my Ukrainians, through you I hope to convert the Orient.”] Therefore, let us pray the time which our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ foretold will be soon at hand, and there will be one fold and one shepherd.
Reprinted, revised & edited from Holy Family Church’s 50th anniversary journal