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Center-South | A Ukrainian church on the brink



The institution, which helps refugees from Ukraine, is unable to fund emergency work.

Struggling with serious problems of degradation of its facades which require immediate work, the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Saint-Michel-Archange on rue D’Iberville is unable to pay the bill. So much so that its leader, the priest Yaroslav Pivtorak, fears its closure.

However, Saint-Michel-Archange is the last Ukrainian church in Montreal helping refugees from Ukraine arriving in Montreal, he said. A few months after the start of the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian community of Montreal concentrated donation deposits there.

“Ukrainian refugees come to seek help here every day. Every day, 20 to 40 people come to see us,” said Mr. Pivtorak, interviewed in the nave of the church where hundreds of boxes of non-perishable food and other products are stored and where the temperature is kept at 16 °C for economy.


The Ukrainian Catholic Church of Saint-Michel-Archange, in the borough of Ville-Marie

But all that could change. Because an inspection made at the request of the insurer on April 6, 2022 by the architectural firm Minicucci resulted in a devastating report on the condition of the building. Especially on the south side where the two bell towers are located.

“Overall, the facades of the bell towers are in poor to dangerous conditions, [ce qui est] mainly due to the age of the building and the deterioration of its components. Immediate work is required,” reads the report dated May 11, 2022.


One of the bell towers of the Saint-Michel-Archange church. Several stones are loosened.

Water infiltration, contamination of the external wall, degradation of the mortar, humidity, cracked joints are part of the report. The inspection firm recommended immediate interventions to “ensure the safety of the public”, in particular an enlargement of the security perimeter, delimited by fences, outside.

When the snow has melted in the spring, we will prohibit access to half of the parking lot.

Priest Yaroslav Pivtorak, of St. Michael the Archangel Church

The consultant also draws up a list of work to be done in the short term (0-3 years) and in the medium term (3-5 years).

Crowdfunding campaign

Mr. Pivtorak, who has been practicing for 26 years, including the last nine at St. Michael’s Archangel (not to be confused with St. Michael’s and St. Anthony’s Church in Mile End), is overwhelmed. While trying to help his parishioners, he doesn’t know if his church will stay open and his search for funding has little success. He has done some emergency work, but must entrust the essentials to specialized workers whom he is unable to pay.


Damage attributable to infiltration is clearly visible inside the building.

The total cost is between $400,000 to $500,000, he says. In November 2022, the church launched a crowdfunding campaign on the GoFundMe platform. Goal: $200,000. To date, only $2265 has been raised.

“We also sent letters to the members of the parish and collected between $4,000 and $6,000,” says the priest whose words are translated by one of his sons (marriage is authorized among Ukrainian Catholics).

Located at the intersection of rue Hochelaga in the borough of Ville-Marie, the building belongs to the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada.


Definition: “Civil and territorial circumscription corresponding to the diocese, in the Eastern Churches. »

Source: Online Dictionary Le Robert

“They have no money to help us,” said the priest. A call to the eparchy offices in Toronto went unanswered.


Boxes of non-perishable food for Ukrainian refugees

The City of Montreal became aware of the situation following our call.

“Although the order to establish a security perimeter was dictated by the insurance company without informing the borough of Ville-Marie, the latter’s teams immediately got in touch with the management of the church in order to obtain a state of the situation and follow this situation closely, indicates Catherine Cadotte, press secretary for the mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, who is also mayor of the borough of Ville-Marie. The maintenance of the activities of this church is important, as is the safety of the facilities and the people who are there. »


The interior of the Saint-Michel-Archange church

For its part, the borough of Ville-Marie points out that the responsibility for the work rests with the owner, but that the City undertakes to accompany him in order to obtain a permit. “It should also be noted that financial assistance programs for renovation could be accessible to the owner,” we add.

Since 1911

Founded in 1911, the parish of Saint-Michel-Archange bought land for the construction of the church in 1913. The current building dates from 1954.

Ukrainian refugees arriving in Montreal come here to seek food and basic necessities, stored in the nave and the adjacent community center. If the church were to close, the community would relocate the refugee center, said Michael Shwec, president of the Quebec chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.


Of Ukrainian origin through their father, sisters Doris and Janie Smaha have been volunteering for a year at the community center of Saint-Michel-Archange church.

Ironically, the church has seen a resurgence in attendance since the arrival of the refugees. “Before, we had 50 to 70 faithful at Sunday mass. Now there are 150, and even more for the most important feasts,” says the priest.

“And Saint Michael the Archangel? Does he help you, Mr. Pivtorak?

“I send her prayers every day!” »

Learn more

  • 14 baptisms, 1 wedding and 5 funerals
    These religious events were celebrated at the Saint-Michel-Archange church in 2022. Two baptisms were celebrated there in 2023.

    SOURCE: Yaroslav Pivtorak

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