Saint Elijah the Prophet Lennard, Manitoba
(Reproduced from Historical Anniversary Album 1929-1979, The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, Jackson, Michigan, 1979).
The beginnings of Sfantul Prooroc Hie go back to Easter Sunday, 1902, when a group of Romanian and Ukrainian pioneers held religious services in the open air, and afterwards set to work building a sod church on the prairie, which was finished the next year and served the farmers’ needs until 1908. In that year, on two acres of land donated by Hie Burla, a finished lumber and plaster church was raised in the rounded style of Bucovina, and the little building decorated with icons brought from the homeland. It was given its patron name in honor of the first settler and giver of the property, and with this the parish was officially founded by twenty members on July 1, 1908. Voting members rose to thirty-one by 1910, and to fifty ten years later, which was about as high as the parish would go, maintaining a membership of never less than thirty nor more than fifty from then on. The church was blessed by Bishop Policarp in 1936, at the time when Father Glicheric Popa was pastor. On an additional acre given by loan Paulenko, Father Popa and the parishioners put their funds together in 1939 and built a comfortable country-style parish house a few yards from the church.
In the early 1950s the new generation of Romanians in Lennard, seeing that the old church no longer suited their needs, moved toward construction a new one, and in 1952 laid the foundation of their present building, to be 30 feet by 60 feet in area, with a basement hall for dinners, religious school, and choir rehearsal. Parishioner Peter Gaber designed the plans, which were then executed by the members themselves in collaboration with the Saint Lazar contractor P. Dupont. Eventually the complete cost of the work amounted to $20,000 for materials – however, if the parishioners had not done most of the job themselves, this figure would have been doubled.
These hardworking farmers did not have great sums to invest, and thus the construction of the church, in order to completely finish, equip, and decorate the building, was spread out over a period of ten years, until 1962. The basic framework, though, was ready to be blessed in 1954 by Archimandrite Daniel Maxim and Fathers Glicherie Popa and Petru Tatoiu. In the years which followed, every member of Saint Elijah took part in gathering the needed monies for their parish building program. The Ladies Auxiliary, especially, put on a whole series of dinners, parties, bazaars, while the men helped with carpentry and masonry in their free time, so that bit by bit the finished church took shape. Some days were spent on another very important project. In true Romanian fashion, the original 1908 church was not razed, but moved to the side in the church yard, where it is now a revered shrine, and may one day, hopefully, be a museum. It is not far from the cemetery laid out on the grounds, separated from the new church by a tall stand of trees.
The church contains fourteen large pews with seats for 116 persons, with room for another 150 in the choir and standing. The basement hall also holds about 150. The iconostas was made by Providence Church Goods Company in Winnipeg, but some of the early icons were transferred from the old church. These were mainly prints. Since then new oil paintings were done by artist I. Gaspar from Winnipeg. With the exception of the shapes of doors and windows, the church exterior is quite close to the design of Holy Trinity in MacNutt, Saskatchewan.
In the time when Archimandrite Martinian Ivanovici pastored Saint Elijah (1955-1966), the parish increased in numbers substantially. Records show eighteen members who began the building program in 1952. This had grown to fifty-two by 1961. Father Peter Avram served the parish from 1967 to 1970, followed by Father Constantin Turcoane (1970-1971), Father Panteleimon Stanciu (1971-1972), and Father John Fleser (1972-1976). Lennard’s most recent pastor has been Father Mirone Klysh, born in New York state in 1932, and a graduate of Saint Andrew’s Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary in Winnipeg. He also studied at Western Reserve University and the University of Manitoba. Ordained on August 28, 1960, by Metropolitan John of the Ukrainian Church, he pastored a number of Manitoban parishes for seven years between 1962 and 1969 before coming to administer Saint Elijah. Under his guidance, the parish has known continued success, and because of its location and relatively large sized facilities, it is the center of Orthodox religious life in the region, serving also non-Romanian families. Nevertheless, Romanians remain well represented, with about one hundred twenty-nine of them in the area, carrying on a tradition of seventy years of active parish life. Today the thirty-six members and seventy-five communicants look forward to the future. A new pastor has been obtained, for Father Klysh’s duties in Winnipeg have called him away.
As of December 15, 1978, Rev. Nicolae Marioncu became parish priest at Saint Elijah. Father Marioncu is from the Banat of Yugoslavia, a graduate of Saint Sava Theological Seminary in Belgrade, and was ordained August 21, 1949, by Bishop Visarion in Belgrade. He came to the United States in 1965, after sixteen years of service in Yugoslavian churches. Parishes in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Hollywood, Florida, were under his care until 1972 when he was accepted into the Episcopate and served a number of years at Saint John the Baptist in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
Thus, Saint Elijah goes on confidently, the new beside the old, an island of Orthodoxy amidst the vast reaches of Manitoba.