History of Our Parish
The story of St. Nicholas Pro-Cathedral really begins in late nineteenth century in Ukraine. A sharp increase in population in rural areas of Ukraine made it very difficult for those people of the land to survive financially. Some of those Ukrainians were perceptive enough to realize that economic advantages lay westward, in the Americas. Since the United States still had an open door immigration policy, great masses of Slavic people immigrated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These hard working farmers soon found many jobs in mines and factories, settling in the great industrialized cities. Though many did not originally intend to stay in America, the economic opportunities and political freedom proved enticing convincing many to stay and send for the rest of their families. This was what occurred in the city of Cleveland at this time. Many Ukrainians settled in the west side of Cleveland, or eventually in the Bird's Nest area of Lakewood.
Most of these Ukrainian people were members of the Greek-Catholic Uniate Church. Wishing to pray and celebrate in the manner to which they were accustomed, and which was precious to them, a group of these Greek-Catholics started a parish they named St. Gregory's Greek Catholic Church on Quail Street. Unfortunately, these pious people soon became divided between the so-called Carpatho-Russians, and the Ukrainians from Galicia. Aside from differences stemming from diverse political and nationalistic points of view, there was also a divergence in the chanting tradition and some liturgical customs. These tensions proved irreconcilable inducing a small group of Ukrainian Galician Greek-Catholics to begin having Divine Liturgies celebrated in various private homes in 1914. A Ukrainian priest from Lorain traveled weekly to Lakewood each week to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in private homes, one of which was on Halstead Avenue, until they could either build or purchase their own edifice.
Many different priests came to serve this small group of faithful people in 1914 and 1915. The parish itself was organized at a meeting of the Brotherhood of St. Basil, a branch of the Ukrainian Workingmen's Association, Number 40. The current property was purchased for $1,600.00 on February 17, 1916. The original officers were: Wasyl Momrik, President; Wasyl Chuhran, Secretary; Peter Drach, Treasurer; and Michael Martyniak. Various people loaned the money for the purchase of these lots on Quail Street. The men of the parish excavated the basement by hand in the summer of 1916. Carpenters were hired to erect the temple, but they were helped extensively by the labor of those first parishioners. Wasyl Momrik purchased $2000.00 of lumber from the Lakewood Lumber Company. A loan was made upon completion of the original temple so that no encumbrances would remain.
These loans were repaid by 1919. The deed for St. Nicholas Greek-Catholic Church was filed on October 7, 1916. The first pastor was Father Hrynylovich who served the parish for eleven years.
During the ensuing years, the various articles needed for the parish were built or donated. St. Nicholas continued to grow and thrive. However, problems arose due to the infringements on the ancient traditions of the Ukrainian Church by directives from Rome. It was hoped that the installation of a Ukrainian GreekCatholic Bishop in 1924 would alleviate these encroachments. However, it soon became clear that the loyalty of this bishop was to Rome, and not to his Church or people. The imposition of clerical celibacy and incorporation of Church properties to the Diocese proved to be the final violations which led the parish to
reject the pernicious union with Rome, and return to the Orthodox Church they had wrongly forsaken in the 16th century. On April 15, 1932, the three parish trustees, Wasyl Momrik, Andrew Siliko, and Dmitro Potazny, petitioned that the parish be incorporated as St. Nicholas Greek-Catholic Independent Ukrainian Church. Though enlarged and rebuilt with the present brick exterior. The Parish Rectory was also built at this time on the property adjacent the parish temple where festivals and picnics had been held up to
In the spring of 1962, a fire broke out caused by overloading electrical circuits in the basement. This fire destroyed much of the interior of the temple. All the faithful of St. Nicholas under the guidance of Fr. Lev Opoka and Church Committee President John Maleski rose to the occasion and the interior of the temple was completely renewed and re-dedicated on May 16, 1963.
The parish celebrated its Golden Anniversary on October 16, 1966.
On October 8, 1978, a parish meeting voted to enter with their pastor, Fr. Stephen Posakiwsky, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America in union with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, then under the archpastoral guidance of Archbishop Andrei Kuschak. In 1980, another extensive remodeling began. A new dome, front porch, mosaic of St. Nicholas over the front entrance, expansion of the sanctuary, addition of a new kitchen, addition to the garage, and remodeling of the hall and interior of the temple were added. These projects were completed by the end of 1984.
On December 13, 1987, the parish reiterated its allegiance to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch. At his Archpastoral Visitation on December 20, 1987, Bishop Vsevolod bestowed the honor of Pro-Cathedral on St. Nicholas Parish.
On October 2, 1988, in connection with the parish commemoration of the Millennium of the Christianization of Ukraine, Fr. Dennis Kristof was installed as the first Dean of St. Nicholas Pro-Cathedral.
St. Nicholas hosted the 12th? Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America in 1990.
The parish celebrated its Diamond (75th) Anniversary in October, 1991. The profits made from that celebration were earmarked to develop the Parish Church School under the direction of Pani Matka Barbara Kristof.
In November, 1996, St. Nicholas was involved in the historic unification of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA. For the first time in history, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church outside of Ukraine was universally recognized and united under the omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
In 1997, the parish rectory was converted to an office and Church School facility. The parish also has a small library.