Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church

May 04, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church is located in Hunter/Jewett Center, New York in the northern Catskills of Greene County. The beautiful church was built in 1962 using the traditional construction methods of the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountain highlanders. The church, constructed on lands donated by Dr. Ivan Makarewycz, was designed by sculptor Jaroslaw Paladij and architect Ivan Zhukovsky, and was built by master carpenter Jurij Kostiw. The interior of the church was decorated by two prominent Ukrainian artists, iconographer Petro Cholodny, Jr., and wood-carver/sculptor Mykhailo Chereshnovsky.

 

The tri-partite (three-frame) church, which measures 61 feet in height, was constructed using building techniques involving solid timber or logs. The logs were laid horizontally one on top of the other and secured with wooden pegs and various other systems of corner-joinings. There were no nails used in the church’s construction. The redwood cedar logs, measuring 7 1/2 feet by 12 inches, were imported from British Columbia. The roof shingles were hand split from the imported red cedar and were expected to last for 60 years before repairs were needed.

 

Photograph of the Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in the hamlet of Jewett in the northern Catskills.St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church (1)Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church is located in Jewett, New York in the northern Catskills. The beautiful church was built in 1962 using the traditional construction methods of the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountain highlanders. The church, constructed on lands donated by Dr. Ivan Makarevych, was designed by sculptor Jaroslaw Paladij and architect Ivan Zhukowsky and was built by master carpenter Jurij Kostiw. The interior of the church was decorated by two prominent Ukrainian artists, iconographer Petro Cholodny, Jr., and wood-carver/sculptor Mykhailo Chereshniowsky.

The church is located along Route 23A, six miles west from the village of Hunter and two miles east from the hamlet of Lexington. For more information about the church, its history and current events, visit their website at www.ukrainianmountaintop.org.

Photograph of the Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in the hamlet of Jewett in the northern Catskills.St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church (2)Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church is located in Jewett, New York in the northern Catskills. The beautiful church was built in 1962 using the traditional construction methods of the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountain highlanders. The church, constructed on lands donated by Dr. Ivan Makarevych, was designed by sculptor Jaroslaw Paladij and architect Ivan Zhukowsky and was built by master carpenter Jurij Kostiw. The interior of the church was decorated by two prominent Ukrainian artists, iconographer Petro Cholodny, Jr., and wood-carver/sculptor Mykhailo Chereshniowsky.

The church is located along Route 23A, six miles west from the village of Hunter and two miles east from the hamlet of Lexington. For more information about the church, its history and current events, visit their website at www.ukrainianmountaintop.org.

Photograph of the Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in the hamlet of Jewett in the northern Catskills.St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church (3)Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church is located in Jewett, New York in the northern Catskills. The beautiful church was built in 1962 using the traditional construction methods of the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountain highlanders. The church, constructed on lands donated by Dr. Ivan Makarevych, was designed by sculptor Jaroslaw Paladij and architect Ivan Zhukowsky and was built by master carpenter Jurij Kostiw. The interior of the church was decorated by two prominent Ukrainian artists, iconographer Petro Cholodny, Jr., and wood-carver/sculptor Mykhailo Chereshniowsky.

The church is located along Route 23A, six miles west from the village of Hunter and two miles east from the hamlet of Lexington. For more information about the church, its history and current events, visit their website at www.ukrainianmountaintop.org.

 

The interior of the church is adorned with hand-carved wood items including the altar, pulpit, tabernacle and processional cross, as well as a variety of artistic religious icons including the four Evangelists (symbolizing the Catholic church’s roots in the Gospel), the Virgin Mary with Jesus, the scene of the Last Supper and St. John the Baptist, patron saint of the church. The crosses inside the church were designed after those used in Ukraine 300-400 years ago. Carvings on the various tables in the church show sun rays, wheat, grapes, even dishes and utensils used in every day life by the Ukrainian ancestors of the church’s founders. The wooden chandelier, at 65 feet high, is suspended from the ceiling, and signifies the earth wherein the crops are grown. According to old traditions it is customary to stand during the service and while praying or meditating; and therefore there are no pews in the church, and only a few benches along the walls which can be used by the elderly, the sick and pregnant or nursing mothers.

 

As per the church website, construction of the church “was financed by Ukrainian post-World War II refugees and immigrants who realized the need for a tangible expression of their heritage and in the context of Soviet control of their country were constantly vigilant in the preservation and propagation of Ukrainian culture.” With this historic goal for the landmark church, it has certainly met its objective for over 60 years, remaining a distinctive example of Ukrainian culture and heritage.

 

The idea for the church began to form on August 14, 1960 at a meeting held at the home John Kobziar which was well attended by local Ukrainian-American residents. The group called themselves the “Temporary Committee for the construction of the Ukrainian Catholic Chapel in the Vicinity of Hunter, N.Y.” The church design was approved at the group’s May 21, 1961 meeting, and the group raised the money required. Construction of the church began in 1961 and was completed the following year in 1962.

 

The consecration service at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church was officiated by Right Reverend Joseph Schmondiuk (1912-1978), who would later become the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America. Twenty-four priests assisted in the service that was attended by over 2,000 people from across the country. Following the service, John Kobziar hosted a dinner for 270 people at his nearby Xenia motel. The dinner included a number of speeches by prominent Ukrainian officials, followed by a presentation of Ukrainian folk songs and entertainment by Ukrainian folk dancers.  

 

Photograph of the Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in the hamlet of Jewett in the northern Catskills.St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church (4)Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church is located in Jewett, New York in the northern Catskills. The beautiful church was built in 1962 using the traditional construction methods of the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountain highlanders. The church, constructed on lands donated by Dr. Ivan Makarevych, was designed by sculptor Jaroslaw Paladij and architect Ivan Zhukowsky and was built by master carpenter Jurij Kostiw. The interior of the church was decorated by two prominent Ukrainian artists, iconographer Petro Cholodny, Jr., and wood-carver/sculptor Mykhailo Chereshniowsky.

The church is located along Route 23A, six miles west from the village of Hunter and two miles east from the hamlet of Lexington. For more information about the church, its history and current events, visit their website at www.ukrainianmountaintop.org.

Photograph of the Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in the hamlet of Jewett in the northern Catskills.St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church (5)Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church is located in Jewett, New York in the northern Catskills. The beautiful church was built in 1962 using the traditional construction methods of the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountain highlanders. The church, constructed on lands donated by Dr. Ivan Makarevych, was designed by sculptor Jaroslaw Paladij and architect Ivan Zhukowsky and was built by master carpenter Jurij Kostiw. The interior of the church was decorated by two prominent Ukrainian artists, iconographer Petro Cholodny, Jr., and wood-carver/sculptor Mykhailo Chereshniowsky.

The church is located along Route 23A, six miles west from the village of Hunter and two miles east from the hamlet of Lexington. For more information about the church, its history and current events, visit their website at www.ukrainianmountaintop.org.

 

John (Ivan Volodymyr) Kobziar (1909-1977), organizer of the original group responsible for building the church, was born in the city of Lviv, Ukraine on January 19, 1909. He would begin playing professional soccer at the young age of 14 for the Lviv “Ukraina”, and became widely known for his “uncanny skills as a soccer player, including a booming shot that eventually became the nemesis of some of the best goalkeepers in Eastern Europe.” He played professionally through 1949, including from circa 1923 to 1931 for Lviv “Ukraina”, then the Ukrainian “Rus” team from Uzhhorod, Carpatho-Ukraine, followed by a second stint at Lviv “Ukraina”, and then for several years at the Regensburg “Sich” team in west Germany. He is regarded as one of the best soccer players in Ukrainian history, and was elected to the Ukrainian Sport Hall of Fame in 2017. With the arrival of communism, he was eventually forced to move to West Germany, and then moved to the United States in 1949. Soon after his arrival, in 1950, he became one of the first Ukrainian settlers in the mountaintop area of Hunter, New York. John and his wife Olga operated the Xenia tourist house at the intersection of Route 23A and Route 17 in Jewett Center for many years. John Kobziar was tragically killed in a car collision along Route 23A on August 15, 1977. He is buried at Saint Francis de Sales Cemetery in Elka Park, New York.

 

Dr. Ivan Makarewycz (1914-1999), who donated the land for the church, worked as a physician and surgeon for over 30 years in New York City. He owned a summer home not far from the church. Makarewycz, who also helped supervise the construction of the church, noted in 1969 what the church meant to him. “We constructed the church as a memorial to all the Ukrainians killed by the Communists in Russia and to preserve this special style of church architecture. We welcome visitors to stop so they can see what an old mountainside church looked like years ago in the western part of Ukraine.” (Times-Union. August 3, 1969.) Dr. Makarewycz passed away at 85 years of age on July 10, 1999 and is buried at Saint Andrew Cemetery in South Bound Brook, New Jersey.

 

Jaroslaw Paladij (1910-1977), who made the preliminary scale model of the church, was born on April 21, 1910 at Bukovyna, Ukraine, the son of Jurig and Maria (Smereshanska) Paladij. He graduated from the Academy of Art in Bucharest, Romania and taught sculpture for several years. He immigrated to the United States in 1949, where he worked as draftsman for the New York City Water District until his retirement in 1959. He had a summer weekend summer home in the Jewett area, and after his retirement he made his permanent residence there. Several of his works are featured at the Bukovina Museum of Diaspora in the Ukraine and three of his pyrographs are housed in the Vatican Museum in Rome. He illustrated the book “Abetka,” first published in 1973 by the Ukrainian Academy of Art and Science, which featured 33 illustrated letters of the Ukrainian alphabet, with each letter highlighting famous patriots and historic events from his Ukrainian homeland. Several of his paintings were used for Ukrainian Christmas and Easter greeting cards. One review of his works noted that “his perfect techniques of accomplishment are evident in his works “Zadumany” (“Meditating), “Portret druzhyny” (Wife’s Portrait”), “Avtoportret” (Selfportrait”), and his memorial project honoring Hetman I. Mazepa.” Jaroslaw Paladij passed away in 1977 and is buried at Saint Andrew Cemetery in South Bound Brook, New Jersey.

 

Ivan Zhukovsky (1901-1980), the church architect, was born on March 4, 1901 in Kitsman, Bukovyna. He studied in Prague in 1926 and graduated from Moscow Polytechnic, while at the same time studying conducting and composition at the Moscow Conservatory. He operated his own architectural firm at Chernivtsi, Ukraine from 1930 to 1941 and was the head of the Society of Ukrainian Engineers from 1931 to 1941. He emigrated to Germany and then to the United States in 1949, where he was active in Ukrainian community life. He was a professor and dean of the architectural department at the Ukrainian Technical Institute in New York from 1957 to 1961. He served as president of the Ukrainian Engineers’ Society of America from 1954 to 1980 and served as chairman at the Center for the Association of Bukovinian Ukrainians in the United States from 1954 to 1973. Zhukovsky published a number of books, including several versions of Ukrainian-German dictionaries. He also designed the Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Glen Spey, New York.

 

George (Jurij) Kostiw, the church master builder, was born at the city of Skole in the Ukraine on May 3, 1912, the son of Mykola and Maria (Palko) Kostiw. He was trained by experienced carpenters, including Komar, Koval and Mykhailiv, in his native Bojko mountain region of Ukraine. He served as an apprentice to church master builders and architects in Tseneva, Ukraine from 1927 to 1936. Kostiw came to the United States in 1950 and became a naturalized citizen in 1960. He married Daria Szczur on August 15, 1950. Kostiw also constructed the St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Catholic Church (1967) at Glen Spey, New York and the Sacred Heart Ukrainian Catholic Church (1977) at Johnson City, New York. Jurij passed away in 2005 and is buried at Saint Andrew Cemetery in South Bound Brook, New Jersey. An illustration of the Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church is pictured on his gravestone.

 

Petro Cholodny, Jr. (1902-1990), the church artist, was born in Kyiv, Ukraine and would become a well-known Ukrainian icon painter and graphic artist. He received his art education from the Ukrainian Studio of Plastic Art in Prague and the Academy of Fine Art in Warsaw, Poland from 1928 to 1934, and upon graduation worked at the Academy as an instructor. Before World War II Cholodny exhibited his work across Europe, including at Warsaw, Lviv, Berlin and Brussels. After the war, he immigrated to the United States and settled in New York. His artistic work can be found in numerous churches, including St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church (New York City), Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Volodimir (New York City), St. Andrew's Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church (South Bound Brook, New Jersey), St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church (Newark, New Jersey), and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Lourdes, France). In 2001, The Ukrainian Museum in New York City featured an exhibition titled "Three Generations of Cholodny Artists," which featured the paintings and icons of Petro Cholodny the Elder (1876–1930), those of his son, Petro Cholodny the Younger (1902–1990), and of Andrew Charyna (b. 1951), grandson of Petro Cholodny the Younger.

 

Mykhailo Chereshnovsky (1911-1994), the church wood-carver and sculptor, was born on March 5, 1911 in the village of Stezhyntsia in the Lemko region. He studied at the School of Applied Arts in Kolomyia and graduated from the School of Plastic Arts in Krakow in 1939. After the end of World War II, as a member of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, Mykhailo emigrated in 1947 to West Germany, and later to the United States, settling in New York City. He was described in 1958 as “one of the best sculptors of the younger generation.” In addition to his decorative wood carving, as seen at St. John the Baptist, he sculpted busts of a number of prominent Ukrainians and produced several monuments in bronze. He served from 1973 to 1994 as the president of the Ukrainian Artists Association, an organization founded in 1952 at New York.

 

Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church is located on a small hillside along Route 23A, six miles west from the village of Hunter and two miles east from the hamlet of Lexington.  Other buildings on the church complex include a bell tower, the parish hall (grazdha) and the parsonage. The Grazdha serves as the venue for the classical music concert series that is held each summer by the Music and Art Center of Greene County. The complex is also home to a Ukrainian gift shop, which offers a wide variety of Ukrainian artistic works and handcrafted items. For more information about the church, its history and current events, visit their website at www.ukrainianmountaintop.org.


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