Pictures of St. Elias the Prophet Ukrainian Catholic Church before and after devastating fire. Before picture courtesy of St. Elias the Prophet Parish. After picture courtesy of Vanessa Santilli.

Brampton Ukrainian church feeling community's love after devastating fire

By  Vanessa Santilli, Catholic Register Special
  • April 8, 2014

BRAMPTON, ONT. - Dealing with the aftermath of the fire that burned down St. Elias the Prophet Ukrainian Catholic Church, the parish community has been overwhelmed by the amount of support it is getting.

“We have hundreds of e-mails, the telephone is ringing constantly,” said Irene Galadza, wife of pastor Fr. Archpriest Roman Galadza. “We’ve got two lines and a cellphone and they’re all going — at the same time sometimes.”

The fire that destroyed the Brampton-area wooden church — it was modelled after the 17th-century western Ukrainian Bokyo-style with five dome-shaped structures each topped with a cross — on April 5 left behind only parts of the main supporting posts and some low stone walls.  

Neighbouring churches, from several denominations, have offered their buildings for our youth, said Galadza.

“Today, a rabbi called. And the head of the Mormon church in the area came by to be with us.”

The parish has also had offers of about five benefit concerts.

“It is so uplifting. And to know that so many people are praying for us. That’s what gives us strength. Otherwise, we’d be in a deep depression.”

All that could be saved by firefighters were two Gospel books, “a cloth with relics in it with which the Divine Liturgy is served” and a chalice with hosts.

“On the liturgy of Holy Thursday, we always leave a piece of host that dries thoroughly and that is used in little bits for emergency communions,” she said.

Consecrated in 1995, the church cost $2 million to build after about two decades of fundraising. Fr. Galadza founded the congregation in 1976.

“There’s the tears, the shock,” he said. “The youth — especially the children — are embracing each other.”

But there are worse things in life, he added.

“There are other things that our parents and grandparents have gone through.”

The priest wondered what is God trying to tell us through the fire, before answering himself.

“He’s reminding me that people are more important than things and you realize that when a disaster like this strikes.”

For now, Sunday Eucharist will be held at the neighbouring St. Augustine Secondary School, where about 200 parishioners attended the first Mass April 6. Smaller liturgies will take place in the lodge-style parish house, which stands unaffected about 200 metres away.

Fr. Galadza said the fire marshals told him the fire was definitely not deliberately set.

“It was not a case of mischief of any sort,” he said. “It may be the wiring or it may be something to do with the previous evening service. Whenever there’s church fires, it’s usually after a service.

“But as precious as the building was to us, it’s gone but it can be replaced. But those that I love in my life are still with me and for that I thank God.”

Looking forward, there are many different possibilities for the future of the church, said the pastor’s wife.

“People are very tied to the earth here,” she said. “They’re tied to their place. And I think they really need to be here for Easter so we’re trying to find a way to do that. We’ll possibly put up a tent but we’re just exploring ideas.”

“You can’t duplicate it, but I’d like it have the same configuration, the same shape as much as possible,” added Fr. Galadza.

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