Saints Peter and Paul reflects on 100 years of Ukrainian Orthodoxy
GLEN SPEY, NY — “Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Glen Spey was established on June 17, 1971 by Ukrainians who emigrated to this country during World War II and wanted to continue to practice their faith,” says Nadia Rajsz, vice-president of the church board. “They particularly settled in the Glen Spey area as second homeowners because this area reminded them of the country they left behind due to the war and communist persecution… We are under the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Bound Brook, in New Jersey, [and] we’re celebrating [the] 100th year anniversary of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy in America—you’ll see the banner in front of the church if you drive by.” The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which follows the Julian calendar instead of the modern Gregorian calendar, will celebrate Christmas on January 7.
The Ukrainian community in Glen Spey blossomed with specifically-tailored events and summer camps, including a three-day Ukrainian festival hosted throughout the 1980s and ‘90s by the former Verkhovyna Resort; the resort’s owner at the time, the Ukrainian Fraternal Association of Scranton, PA, donated property for the parish. However, despite that history and focus, the church boasts parishioners from a number of backgrounds, including Belarusian and Russian. “We’re here every Sunday to worship together,” says Rajsz. “We provide assistance in any way that we can to our parishioners—if they need language interpretation, or sometimes they need transportation, because we know in Sullivan County that’s a huge issue. If somebody needs a ride to the store, to the doctor, if they need something done in their home—we don’t do it 24/7, but we try to do it when we can.
“The majority of our parishioners are a little elderly—I happen to be one of the younger ones, in my 60s—and then of course we have the younger ones, like my daughters, and their kids. We have a full spectrum of ages.” Rajsz describes the church’s constituency as “small but dedicated,” and that dedication can be found in formal activities as well: “In July of every year, we celebrate our Feast Day of Saints Peter and Paul with our traditional church picnic and festival, during which we sell our traditional foods like Ukrainian pierogies, stuffed cabbage, kapusta and kobasy. Our picnics are supported by the local community as well as Ukrainians from other parishes and communities.
“Years ago, we had over 600 families. If you looked up the last census—somebody was telling me that we were, percentage-wise, the sixth-largest Ukrainian community in the nation. But that’s percentage-wise, because Lumberland has fewer than 2,000 people. I’m not sure what our status is now, but we did hold that for a while....”
While the scope of the church has changed over the years, its priorities remain the same. “We had a very big Ukrainian community through the years—it’s kind of dwindling because of the economy, and people are passing on and not being [replaced] by newcomers coming in. So that’s where we are—but we do continue our traditions. It’s very important to us.”
Saints Peter and Paul can be found at 329 High Rd. in Glen Spey. For more, visit the church’s Facebook page at facebook.com/StsPeterandPaulGlenSpey/.