The Basilian Fathers Museum is owned and operated by the Order of St. Basil the Great, commonly known as the Basilian Fathers.
In 1902, a small group of missionaries from this Ukrainian religious order of priests and lay brothers came to Canada to work among the Ukrainian settlers. Their first mission was established at Beaver Lake, Alberta, a few miles from present-day Mundare. From this centre, the Basilians served Ukrainian communities across East Central Alberta, and eventually, across Canada and the United States.
The Basilians lived among their people, ministering to their spiritual needs and helping to build schools, churches and community institutions. The Beaver Lake mission was the site of their first monastery and chapel.
Over the years, the Basilians established a printing press and built Mundare’s Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic church, monastery, novitiate, grotto shrine and museum.
In 2011, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recognized the Beaver Lake-Mundare Ukrainian Catholic Mission as a place of historical and cultural significance. The 1902 mission marked the permanent establishment of the Eastern rite Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada and paved the way for the appointment of Canada's first Ukrainian Catholic Bishop.
The first Basilian missionaries*to Canada were led by Father Platonid Filias, who established the first mission at Beaver Lake. The group included:
Father Sozont Dydyk, who was assigned to Rabbit Hill
Father Antin Strotskyi, who served the Star settlement
Brother Yeremiia Yanishevskyi
The Basilians were accompanied by four Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate: Sister Ambrozyia Lenkevych, Sister Izydora Shypovska, Sister Emiliia Klapoushok and Sister Taida Vrublievska.
The missionaries left L’viv on October 6, 1902. They travelled to Hamburg by rail, and set sail for New York on the Moltke on October 10. From New York, they took a train to Montreal. There they were met by Oblate Father Albert Lacombe, who arranged their rail journey across Canada. The group arrived at Strathcona on October 31, 1902.
* The spellings used here are transliterations of the missionaries' Ukrainian names, as they were recorded in the Basilian chronicle kept by Father Filias.
Vasyl’ Eleniak and Ivan Pylypow were the first Ukrainian immigrants to Alberta. They arrived in 1891. By the turn of the century, Ukrainians had settled on more than 1,500 homesteads spread over some 30 Alberta townships. This was the parish of the first Basilians.
First Monastery Chapel
Scores of faithful attended the first church service at the Beaver Lake mission on July 12, 1903—the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Father Platonid Filias celebrated mass in the Basilians’ first home, which did not yet have doors, windows or a floor. When this building was completed, it served as the mission chapel, school and living quarters.
A larger chapel was built later. In 1987, it was moved to Mundare and now forms part of the museum complex.
Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church
A grand domed church was constructed in Mundare town in 1910. The cornerstone was laid by Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier on August 7, and the church was consecrated by Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytskyi on October 23. More than 5,000 people assembled for this solemn feast. Many came by rail from as far east as Vermilion and as far west as Edmonton.
The 1910 church served the community until 1968, when the present Sts. Peter and Paul church was opened for worship. To this day, thousands of faithful come to Mundare for the annual Sts. Peter and Paul day pilgrimage.