St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church (Diane Armstrong)

Diane Armstrong

During the first 20 years of the Porcupine Gold Camp, people from all walks of life and from every continent, arrived seeking jobs and careers.

There were Finns, Croatians, Italians, Germans, Ukrainians and of course many of British heritage. The language and religion they brought with them, continued to bind them together.

By the early 1930s, Timmins had a strong Romanian presence. Some came from other provinces and others left their home country to make a better life in Canada. When the rest of the country was in a depression, Timmins had jobs and opportunities.

Names that are familiar even today carry on the legacy of those early residents. Curik, Ursulak, Krakana, Popescu, Avram, Stoian, Neamtu, Sarafinchin, Hancu, Blahey, Moskal, Tokar, Stanutz, Stefan and Vuksanovitch are but a few.

At the heart of these families was the Eastern Orthodox Catholic faith and as such, they desired to have their own church. A meeting was held in 1933 and the following letter was sent to those who might help:

“To whom it may concern: Please will you take notice of the Romanian people from Timmins have constituted in a Romanian Orthodox Legal Parish. We have a number of 85 members so far and we intend to build a church which will cost about $80,000. Our church will serve all Orthodox nationality from Timmins who have no church or priest such as Greeks, Sirian, Ukrainian, Serbien and others.

“It cannot be possible to collect the whole amount from our members and we need other people from Timmins to help us. We beg everyone to give us a donation for our church. We will be very thankful for it.”

This appeal was signed on July 25, 1933, by Rev. G. Moraru, George Varteniuk, Dumitru Krakana, Alex Krakana and Zaharie Pinciuk.

The townspeople donated. Their contributions of money, materials and labour resulted in the building of the new church which was consecrated on September 1, 1935.

St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church has stood at the corner of Maple and Eighth Street for more than three-quarters of a century and has only had four priests in all that time.

The first was Fr.Gligeria Moraru, the second one was Fr. John Pescaru followed by Fr. Teophile Maxim and since 1961, Fr. John Zivku, who arrived that year “temporarily”, to perform Christmas services. Half a century later, Father Zivku still holds services every Sunday morning at ten o’clock.

The bells at St. Mary’s, as well as all the icons and sacred furnishings for the church came from a Romanian Orthodox Church in Creighton Mines, near Sudbury. The bells were forged in West Troy, NY in 1918 and were a part of the Creighton Mines church until it closed during the Great Depression.

Some of the members of St. Mary’s church had come to Timmins from Sudbury and saw to it, that the bells, icons and furnishings from their old church came here.

This beautiful little church has seen 77 years of baptisms, weddings, funerals and has been honoured by special services conducted by Bishops and other Church hierarchy, most notably the first Bishop of North America, Policarp Morusca.

As in most churches of the twenty-first century, membership has declined somewhat, but there is still a core of faithful followers at St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church in Timmins. They make up the multicultural mosaic of our city and carry on the traditions of their predecessors.

That’s my view from Over the Hill.

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