Until World War II there were very few Ukrainians living in Victoria. Although some settlers came from Ukraine via Western Europe after the war, many others came from the prairies as military personnel or seeking jobs. Many new arrivals initially took work in the forestry or fishing industries or in city maintenance.
In 1947, Ukrainian Catholics sent a request to Bishop Neil Savaryn of Edmonton, asking that a priest be sent to Victoria to minister to the fledgling community. On August 29, 1948 the following year, the Bishop celebrated Liturgy in Lake Hill and promised to send a priest if the community could support him. A Parish Committee was formed; the name St Nicholas the Wonderworker was chosen; and Fr George Zydan, OSBM, began commuting from Vancouver for Sunday liturgies.
The first resident priest, Fr Theodore Pryjma (1950-1), worked from the Chinese Catholic Mission on North Park St while fundraising for a church. He purchased the Anglican Church of St Barnabas and the adjoining empty lot for $6,500 for his new parish. At that time the church stood on the site of our current car park. He was replaced in 1951 by Fr Demetrius Hnat whose job it became to adapt the church to meet the needs of the Byzantine Rite. All the work was completed by parishioners and on Easter Sunday 1952, the doors of St Nicholas the Wonderworker were opened for services for the first time.
Over the next several years, priests who served the parish were Fr Peter Kachur (1953-56); Fr Stephen Chehovsky (1956-66); Fr John Makuch (1960-69; 72-75) who, with his wife Kataryna and three sons Stephan, Nestor and Andrij, was the first married priest to serve Victoria; Fr Clayton Barclay (1970-71) and others who substituted while Fr Makuch served in Port Alberni and the mission in Chemainus.
In 1968 the parish was honoured with a visit by Patriarch Joseph Cardinal Slipyj. Through the efforts of Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Slipyj had recently been released from eighteen years’ imprisonment in Soviet labour camps.
In 1975 Fr Makuch was replaced by Fr Joseph Senkiw (1975-83) who set about renovating the church and hall as he was a skilled carpenter. He also introduced English to the liturgy for the first time, and appointed Syl Shumka as Director of Services to the youth of the parish.
When Fr Senkiw became seriously ill in 1982, the parish was served by a succession of temporary replacements until the appointment of Fr Stephen Wojcichowsky as pastor. Fr Wojcichowsky (1983-89) was accompanied by his wife Maria and their three children, Mark, Hania and Andrew. A gifted educator, Fr Wojcichowsky was the Principal of St Andrew’s High School and introduced many innovations to the parish especially in the area of catechesis.
In 1986 the parish was honoured with a visit by the Patriarch Myroslav-Ivan Cardinal Lubachivsky.
Following the departure of Fr Wojcichowsky, Bishop Jerome Chimy appointed Fr Kenneth Olsen (1989-96) to the position of pastor. Fr Olsen was Chair of the Parish Planning Committee which was finalising plans to build a new church in the style of a traditional Ukrainian church. In 1991 work began on the new building and the basement was constructed on the vacant lot on the corner of Cook St and Caledonia Ave.
Following the death of Bishop Chimy in 1992, work on the new church had to be abandoned. Instead, the old church was eventually lifted onto the foundations of the proposed new church and refurbished.
Fr Ken Olsen was then appointed administrator of the Eparchy until Most Rev. Severian Yakymyshyn, OSBM was chosen as the new bishop in 1995. This entailed frequent absences and so he was assisted by a series of supply priests.
Deacon Murray Thompson served with both Fr Stephen Wojcichowsky and Fr Ken Olsen over this period. Other priests in residence at this time included Deacon (later Fr) Robert Masters and Fr Valdy Kuchta.
Fr Roman Trynoha (1996-99) replaced Fr Ken Olsen in August 1996 and presided at the opening of the newly refurbished church. He was replaced by Fr Paul Szczewczuk (1999-2001) and after his departure, Fr Myroslav Cryviac (2001-02) served on a temporary basis by attending on the weekends.
The next priest, Fr Allan Wizinsky (2002-05) served both this parish and his own parish from his home in Nanaimo until the full-time appointment of Fr Ed Kwiatkowski (2005-10). Fr Ed was replaced by Fr Brian Kelty originally from Australia who served from February 2010-November 2011.
Fr. Theo Machinski was appointed in November 2011 and replaced Fr. Brian Kelty who was called back to serve in Australia.
Fr. Joe Ostopowich was appointed an administrator of the parish from March-August 2015.
Then Fr. Walter Kostiuk served the parish from September 2015-January 2016 until Fr. Yuriy Vyshnevskyy was appointed a pastor on 17 January 2016.