Just six weeks after a massive fire caused more than $4 million in damage to St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church, parishioners gathered for Divine Liturgy in the church social hall and devised a plan to move forward.

“You can’t stop this church,” said Susan Podolski, 68, a lifelong member of the Kenneth Avenue site. “It’s a little different now, but we’re surviving.”

Some might even say thriving.

Church leaders already have met with architects to consider initial plans to rebuild the city’s only Catholic church, a 74-year-old building left in shambles by a Dec. 4 blaze.

An online fundraising campaign is underway at donorbox.org/stvlads.

“I’m uplifted,” said the Rev. Yaroslav Koval, the church’s pastor. “From this tragedy, we might be a good example of rebirth.”

On Sunday, the congregation was joined by the church’s bishop, the Most Rev. Bohdan Danylo of the St. Josaphat Eparchy.

He delivered a powerful message to the 30-plus people gathered: “The church is us,” Danylo said. “The building is important, but it is not most important. We will rebuild.

“This is a chance to start anew,” Danylo said. “I ask you to use this moment to heal, come together and to build up your community.”

Oakland-based architect Walter Boykowycz was on hand to present three designs for the church’s future.

Blueprints reflect a smaller church that would seat up to 100 people. The former facility held about 400. There also are considerations for solar panels and other energy-efficient features.

Koval said it would be unwise to duplicate the church’s current footprint.

“We want to build to suit our community,” he said.

St. Vladimir was founded in 1894 by six immigrant families who attended services in a local home and later in a social hall. The original church was built in 1911 along Third Avenue before construction of a new church, school and hall along Kenneth Avenue.

At one time, there were upwards of 700 people who attended weekend services. Today that number is about 35.

But they are a hardy group. Less than a day after the fire, Koval presided over Divine Liturgy from a makeshift altar before a group still shocked and in mourning.

Services have continued at 11 a.m. each Sunday in the social hall, where relics rescued from the burning sanctuary mingle with bingo tables and an active kitchen.

Firefighters were able to save statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, the original pulpit, tall metal crosses, the tabernacle and decades-old shrouds.

The items appear untouched, other than the Book of Gospel, which sustained slight water damage.

“We can’t give up now,” said Joe Fedusa, who runs the pierogi and bingo committees. “If we do, the people who came before us and did all the work, the ones who are 6-feet under now, they would be rolling.”

The church’s pierogi committee never missed a beat, Fedusa said, turning out 600 dozen of the potato pockets each week, and bingo has drawn larger-than-ever crowds.

“It’s like a family,” said Kathy Young of Glenshaw. “When something happens in an old church, it’s a legacy that they want to save.”

Danylo preached to the small congregation about growth and perseverance. Perhaps the tragedy of the fire was a moment of awareness for someone, he said.

“Maybe someone will find faith because of our moment of trial and how we responded. We have to welcome them over and over,” he said. “We could’ve went to another church today where portions of the roof aren’t missing. But you said ‘No. This is our church, and we want to pray in our community.’ ”

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, [email protected]