Ukrainian church attracts parishioners, tourists alike

April 13, 2012 10:00:00 PM PDT
The ultra-modern architecture of St. Joseph the Betrothed Ukrainian Catholic Church makes it as remarkable to view from the air as on land. And that's how plenty of people get their first glimpse.

"We just happen to be on one of the major flight paths to O'Hare Airport so often times, when people land at O'Hare and rent their car, the first thing they do is they stop by the church that they saw from their window," said Andres Durbak.

It has thirteen domes -- one representing each of the twelve disciples and a larger one in the center representing Jesus Christ.

"They are fiberglass domes and they're painted gold," Durbak said. "When we did have them painted we had to be careful not to paint them too bright, because the reflections would interfere with the pilot's ability to see clearly on approach to O'Hare. So the domes look gold, but faded gold on purpose."

Inside the center dome is a depiction of Christ. There is also a wall of icons and more in the sanctuary --- many of which are being restored.

"An icon is not a painting," said St. Joseph archivist Julian Hayda. "A colloquial term would be a window into heaven. ((butt 28:11)) red represents divinity, white blue or green represents humanity and gold as a liturgical color which is found in backgrounds of icons and as halos represents heavenliness."

But as compelling as many may find the church's structure and decor, leaders say it is its people and traditions that truly make it unique. Because the parish is home to many newer immigrants, there is a demand for the church to follow the older religious calendar still recognized in the Ukraine -- in addition to the one that's more universally accepted.

"They have two Christmases for example, December 25 and then January 7," said Father Mykola Buryadnik. "You have to do two Easters, which is very complicated."

And that's not the only element that differentiates this Ukrainian Catholic Church -- which is independent but in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

"Our priests can be married," Father Buryadnik said. "I am a married priest. I have a wife and a son. Also, we're expecting our daughter this month."

St. Joseph the Betrothed Ukrainian Catholic Church has been named one of the ten most unique churches in the world by a popular internet site.