BELFIELD, N.D. – The Ukrainian Cultural Institute of North Dakota posthumously honored two cantors and a priest in the North Dakota Ukrainian Hall of Fame. The induction was held October 17 at the St. Bernard Parish Center in Belfield. Father Michael Martyniuk and cantors Nick Romanyshyn and Paul Patrick were honored for their service to the Ukrainian Catholic Churches in the years from 1912 to the present.
News of America reached the village of Bezbrudy, south of Lviv in western Ukraine, where Nick Romanyshyn was teaching and serving as cantor.
The good news was that anyone age 21 or older could obtain 160 acres free. One only had to build a house, live in it and within five years, break 40 acres of land to farm. This was unbelievable to Nick as in Ukraine farms were only three to five acres. First, Nick married his girlfriend, Anna.
By reading a Ukrainian newspaper, Mr. Romanyshyn learned of the need for a cantor in St. Demetrius Ukrainian Catholic Church near Belfield, N.D. Homesteading was available. Nick and Anna decided to accept the Cantor position and homesteaded at Section 4-Township 143-Range 98 in Billings County, known as the Snow community.
Alex Gayda, a farmer-carpenter built a one-room frame house. The inside was plastered with gumbo, straw and horse dung. Later they whitewashed the walls. The floor was made of four-inch boards. Only the necessities filled the one-room house.
They bought a team of horses, a cow, a walking plow and some tools. Only enough sod was broken the first year for a garden and a few acres for wheat. The seed was covered by dragging a homemade barrel over the seeded land with a team of horses.
Nick and Anna Romanyshyn were the parents of Julia (born in Bezbrudy), William, Eugene, Tena, Mercy, Steve, Catherine, Michael, Marie, Joe and Philip.
Mr. Romanyshyn served as cantor in Belfield from 1911 until he retired in 1963.
In our world of musical voices, certain people are gifted with singing voices. Paul Patrick of Wilton was born with a tenor voice, brought from Ukraine by his father, Jacob Patrick.
Jacob Patrick was born in Borshchiv, the same region of Ukraine as most of the Ukrainians who migrated from Ukraine and homesteaded in North Dakota. Jacob and Anna Patrick homesteaded in Mannhaven, then purchased a tract of land northwest of Wilton, where they settled as farmers.
The new immigrants moved their church building from north of Wilton to its present location in Wilton. Jacob Patrick became the first cantor of this new Ss. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church. He served as a cantor for the church for over 36 years. He died in 1952.
In the church choir was Jacob’s son, Paul Patrick. He had begun singing in the choir with his father, beginning in his high school years. The pastor at this time was Father Karmazyn, a priest who fled the war in Europe. The pastor guided the promising young cantor, teaching him the songs, rituals and traditions of the Ukrainian Church.
On February 21, 1952, Paul Patrick was named cantor of Ss. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church. His responsibilities were numerous: weddings, funerals, baptisms, blessing of homes each new year, Sunday and holy day liturgies.
The Rev. Michael Martyniuk
The first symbol of faith erected on the prairies of North Dakota was a hand-hewn cedar cross. It was placed on a high hill marking the gravesite of the first deceased immigrant.
In the new land, faith united the people. It was manifested in the establishment of a cemetery today known as St. Mary’s Cemetery. Less than a decade after the first immigrants arrived, they began to build a church. Constantine Kordonowy donated 40 acres of his land for the new church and cemetery. German carpenters were hired to construct the church with the Ukrainians assisting. They named the church St. Demetrius.
This original St. Demetrius Church and rectory burned in 1929. The fire also destroyed all the church records with the exception of one book.
Father Michael Martyniuk arrived in 1930 and began rebuilding the church and rectory. This time it was the Ukrainian people who served as the designers and construction crew. People donated money to purchase the essentials for celebrating the divine liturgy. The Holy Gospel was purchased with a donation by good parishioners Alex and Anna Krivoruchka, farmers in Ukraina, N.D.
While the rectory was being rebuilt, Father Martyniuk lived near Gorham. He served both parishes in western North Dakota, St. Demetrius and St. Josaphat.
It took Fr. Martyniuk three years to rebuild St. Demetrius Church and the rectory. The historic cedar cross came down the hill into the church yard.