The origins of the Bellis Orthodox community pre-date the 1918 founding of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada. They can be traced to the establishment of a cemetery during the pioneer era on the North Bellis farm of Andrew Klymchuk, who subsequently became a founding member of the future All Saints congregation. On November 25, 1927, this cemetery was legally incorporated as the property of St. John's Ukrainian Orthodox Church, indicating that a more formal congregation had come into existence by this time.

Its members were served on an occasional basis by Reverend Timotei Horbay from 1926 to 1932. Religious services during these years were held in the newly built hall of the Ivan Franko Educational Society of Bellis (erected in 1926). This local Prosvita or "enlightenment" association had been founded in 1921. It provided an important focus for the development of Ukrainian cultural, political, and spiritual life in the district. Prior to 1926, some liturgies may also have been celebrated in the homes of area residents, since it is known that that Reverend Ivan Kusy visited Bellis as early as 1923. There is also a report that residents of the Bellis area travelled to the Wahstao area to attend a liturgy celebrated by Rev. L. Gherman of the UGOC in early 1921, several of whom gave confession for the first time in years.

The first documented election of a president for the Bellis congregation occurred at a meeting following a church service on January 25, 1931, when Anani Kovaluk apparently defeated two other nominees for the post. However, correspondence with the consistory in March of the same year indicated that Krizon Chornovliuk (Choronoluk) was the head of an executive comprised of entirely different members. Regardless, from that point on the Bellis congregation was in communication with the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox administration in Winnipeg.

 On January 5, 1932, the members of the Bellis hromada purchased land for a church from the CNR. Although the $100 they paid for the property left them with only 5 cents in their bank account, they boldly proceeded with construction of a sanctuary the following year despite the difficult economic circumstances accompanying the onset of the Depression. The structure was consecrated on May 5, 1933, by Reverend Ivan Mayba, who had succeeded Father Timotei Horbay as the Bellis community pastor. The historic date was inscribed on a cross that still stands in front of the eastern wall of the church. At the time of the church's blessing, it was dedicated to St. John of Suchava, after a popular Bukovynian saint whose feast day is annually commemorated on June 15th.

The Depression years were hard on the Bellis congregation. The briefly suspended holding services at the beginning of 1936 because members could not afford to pay for them. The situation was exacerbated by problems with the harvest later the same year, as on September 12 a heavy snow fell when most of the crop was still on the ground. Nevertheless, two weeks later a joyous event took place in the community, as on September 27, 1936, Hryhory Wasyliw was ordained as a deacon of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. He was subsequently consecrated as a priest in Smoky Lake two weeks later, afterwards assuming pastoral duties in the Smoky Lake District for the better part of a decade.

Sometime in the late 1940s St. Demetrius was adopted as the patron saint and protector of the church, though contradictory records exist concerning the official designation in the first decades of the congregation's existence. Be that as it may, on January 25, 1956, the Bellis Ukrainian Orthodox Church (as correspondence was frequently signed) requested that it henceforth be known as the All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Bellis, permission for this change subsequently being granted by the UGOC primate, Metropolitan Ilarion.

Among the proud achievements of the Bellis congregation was that it produced a priest for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. Father Ihor Kutash, the son of Bukovynian immigrants, Yuri and Anna Kutash (who settled in the Bellis area in 1924), was ordained as a priest in 1969.  

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The Cemetery 

Established on the North Bellis farm of pioneer homesteader Andrew Klymchuk at NE 9-60-15 W4, it was legally registered on 25 November 1927 as belonging to St. John's Ukrainian Orthodox Church. According to records of the Alberta Genealogical Society, a second cemetery was apparently established by the congregation at SE 3-60-15 W4, and is registered as belonging to All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In 1992 it had 39 burials. A third cemetery is listed as belonging to St. John’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the same site as the second, but the number of burials is given as 81 in 1992.

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GPS Co-ordinates: 54.143117, -112.148241
Cemetery GPS: 54.153133, -112.152434
Affiliation: Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada



All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Bellis, AB