ST. NICHOLAS UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC SCHOOL
“September 7th, in the Year of Our Lord, 1949, school begins at Saint Nicholas,” so reads the recollections of Sr. Rose Olisky, SSMI, first principal of St. Nicholas School.
In reality, the history of the school began some twenty-eight years before, in the autumn of 1921. That year construction of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Parochial School was begun. Rev. Oleksa Prystay, pastor of the growing parish at the time, shepherded the project. Money was borrowed from banks and church members to complete construction of the solid, three-story, brick building located at 212 President Street that still stands and functions as the parish school today.
Although originally intended as a day school, it functioned as an evening school. At the time child labor laws were non-existent and often children as young as seven years old labored long hours to supplement the family
income, leaving only evenings for education. Secular teachers as well as the pastor were enlisted to educate the children in their Ukrainian culture, music and Eastern Catholic worship traditions.
By 1939, Rev. Emil Ananevech was pastor and Rev. Myron Plekon his assistant. That same year St. Nicholas parish began its first association with an order of nuns of the Ukrainian Catholic rite – the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate (SSMI). The Sisters Servants were founded in Zhuzhel, Ukraine in 1892, and were missioned to Canada in 1902 to begin their work among the Ukrainian people. In the Sisters’ recollections of June 18, 1939, Sr. Markiana writes that Sr. Theodora, Sr. Antanazia, and she arrived at St. Nicholas parish in Passaic, New Jersey, to each catechism in preparation for First Solemn Communion and Eastern Christian worship traditions on Saturdays. It was a long journey to Passaic, New Jersey, by way of Canada, but the Sisters were eager to begin their teaching and made every effort to gather students from among the parish families. Their reward came in May of the following year, on Pentecost Sunday, when thirty-nine children received First Solemn Communion.
In 1964, the former Daughters of Miriam Home for the Aged, located on President Street, across from the existing school, was purchased and refurbished for that purpose. This new school housed the younger grades, indergarten through grade 4. The older students remained at the original edifice. The students flourished under the tutelage of their devoted teachers.
Today, from the original beginning of construction of our school ninety-seven years ago, St. Nicholas School has grown and been a stabile institution in the Ukrainian community, educating our children well into the 21 century. It remains a vibrant school and the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate continue to teach our children.
Secular teachers have come to play an integral role in the effective operation of Catholic schools. Over the past 50 years, the number of religious men and women, who sustained the Catholic school system, has declined considerably, with many of those remaining moving into other apostolates. Secular teachers have become the ackbone of the Catholic schooling system.
Their professional duties have extended beyond formal teaching. Outside of the classroom teachers have accompanied students on field trips, supervised study halls, helped with the organization of school functions, and served as supervisors for extracurricular activities. Many of these talented and dedicated individuals have served St. Nicholas parochial school over the years, beginning primarily in 1959. These teachers, through their enthusiasm and love for their profession, have shaped the lives of many students. Not only do they facilitate student learning, but also they empower students to take on new challenges and live productive lives driven by ethics and knowledge.
In spite of ever-increasing operational costs, dedicated parents and parishioners continue in their efforts to support the school through financial means such as the Annual Alumni Appeal, and creative fundraisers such as Monte Carlo Casino night and the Annual Beefsteak Dinner. In the true Ukrainian pioneer spirit, the parish pyrohi volunteers commit all of the earnings from the weekly sale of pyrohi and holiday breads to the support of the school.
This spiritual and economic commitment of parents, students, and parishioners to St. Nicholas school brings to mind the sentiments expressed in the special greeting from the alumni on the occasion of the parish 75th Jubilee: “To the youth of our parish, our heartfelt desire is that you may lead wise and virtuous lives, advance in the true faith and be pillars of (our Ukrainian) Catholic Church… And to you the future parents, that you make the sacrifice to carry out the obligation of educating the young in the Ukrainian Catholic tradition, giving them true values and attitudes that will mold their minds and lives and ensure the future of our Ukrainian Catholic Church, to carry the Light of Faith, to meet life and the future ahead and attain the sublime end for which they were created.” And so they have and so they continue.
Today, St. Nicholas School is only one of four remaining Ukrainian Catholic day schools within the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of the United States. Thus, St. Nicholas parish and school enter into the next century with the fondest hopes for a growth filled, prosperous, and successful future for our Ukrainian Catholic community.
Address: 223 President Street Passaic,
New Jersey 07055
E-mail: [email protected]
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