Parish History

For the most part, St. Nicholas Parish, Lorain, Ohio, counts its formal organization from the completion and dedication of the church edifice on September 14, 1914. On that date, the first Byzantine Catholic bishop, Bishop Soter Ortinsky dedicated the one-story structure of St. Nicholas church. The pastor at that time was Father Basil Beretz. This is the occasion that we commemorate today as the founding of the parish.

The people who were members of St. Nicholas Parish in September 1914, had initiated plans for a parish of the Byzantine Rite Catholics a number of years before that time. Founders of this parish emigrated from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, today the most eastern section of Czechoslovakia, to the environs of Lorain in the last part of the 19th century and the beginning of the twentieth century. For a few years they attended St. Michael Hungarian Byzantine Rite Catholic Church on Wood Avenue; and for a brief time services were held in Kohlmyer's Hall on Pearl Avenue in Lorain, Ohio.

From 1900 to 1914 might be categorized as the formative years of St. Nicholas Parish. In 1905 a committee of Byzantine Rite Catholics of Rusyn origin sought the advice and counsel of the late Bishop Joseph Schrembs, Bishop of Cleveland. In 1907 the faithful of the future St. Nicholas Parish solicited funds for the purchase of lots on Toledo Avenue, Lorain, the former site of the church and rectory. The parish would then relocate in 1982 to 2711 W. 40th Street, the present site of the St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic church complex. An historical mural retained in the old church for many years contained the list of the following contributors for the lots: Andrew Kakos, Andrew Ksenich, Andrew Karahuts, George Ksenich, Michael Lascisky, Michael Rusinko, George Demchik, John Danko, George Vajda, Vasil Pavelvach, Peter Yureck, John Kocak, Joseph Kokinda, Peter Kekel, John Taraka, Stephen Lascisky, Elek Ksenich, John Kvasnak, Nicholas Ksenich, Vasil Teleha, Peter Hazlak, Mike Rericky, Peter Hrinda, George Maczik, Mike Kizak, Jacob Andraska, John Jeresko. Stephen Ksenich, Joseph Suster, John Moroznak, George Tomcso, Frank Kablinka. John Szalag, Daniel Demjanovich, Mike Koscs, Mike Koczak, Joseph Szasz, Joseph Gluvna, John Naaymik and John Maylik. The purchase of the aforementioned lots was consummated through the Cleveland Chancery in the name of Bishop Schrembs and held by him in trust for the St. Nicholas Parish. In this manner St. Nicholas Parish was constituted as a Catholic parish under a Catholic bishop.

The priests who served St. Nicholas Parish from 1914 to 1989 aided the material progress of the parish, but principally in their vocations as priests of God brought God's grace to his faithful. In 1914 to 1989 the material progress of St. Nicholas Parish is evidenced in the following brief resume.

In 1919, the pastorate of the Father Jason Kovach, the rectory on Toledo Street was constructed. During the pastorate of Father Nicholas Duda a contract was signed with T.J. Hume Co. of Lorain, Ohio on Nov. 3, 1927 for the construction of the second story addition to the former St. Nicholas church located on Toledo Avenue. This project was completed during the pastorate of Father Constantine Auroroff. The upper part of the former church edifice was dedicated on July 16, 1928, by Bishop Basil Takach, the first bishop of the Byzantine Rite Catholic Exarchate of Pittsburgh, Penna.

In 1941 at the direction of Father Demetrius S. Darin, the church on Toledo Avenue was redecorated by the Subbert Company of Buffalo, N.Y., and M. M. Reznik, artist. The church mortgage of $33,000.00 was liquidated in 1946.

During the pastorate of Father Paul Barnyock in 1954, the church auditorium was renovated.

During the pastorate of Father Andrew Pataki, later the bishop of Parma, a giant step was taken towards assuring the future of St. Nicholas Parish. On Dec. 7, 1958, ground was broken for the construction of a parochial school. Cornerstone dedication followed on  Sept. 20, 1959. Because of a fire originating in the altar servers' sacristy in the church in March of 1960, the church on Toledo Avenue was renovated by the Nobis Decorating Company of North Canton, Ohio. A festive dual observance took place on Sunday, June 12,1960. Bishop Nicholas T. Elko blessed the newly renovated St. Nicholas church and the new St. Nicholas school.

In September of 1962, the first sisters from the Order of St. Basil the Great came to Lorain to begin teaching at the school. A small house was purchased on Toledo Avenue and remodeled by parishioners as a convent.

In 1963 Father Felock was appointed pastor of St. Nicholas Parish.

A golden jubilee celebration was held on Dec. 14, 1964, in honor of the parish's 50th anniversary. Bishop Nicholas T. Elko officiated at the pontifical Divine Liturgy assisted by the former pastors Fathers Andrew Pataki and George Simchak.

As the years went by our parish struggled with the mounting repairs and the deterioration of the church. By the late 1970s there was a ground swell of opinion expressed around the parish that now was the time to consider construction of a new church. A questionnaire was sent out and this opinion was verified. A new committee was formed and a request was made to all parishioners to support this opinion further by making cash contributions to the newly-formed building fund. In a relatively short period of time, the building fund had accrued over $170,000; there was no question that the parishioners of St. Nicholas wanted a new church.

The Building Committee set out to interview several architects and in the late winter of 1980 they chose the firm of Landig, Wycoff and Associates. The committee specified that a church, rectory, convent, school and hall complex be designed and preliminary plans and a model were made. The cost estimate of this new complex was over $100,000,000 and it was clearly obvious to all that no construction could begin until a considerable amount of additional money was raised.

Consequently, all of our properties were put up for sale, including some of the excess land that we owned on West 40th Street, and by fall of 1980 we had a breakthrough. The Walter G. Nord Center agreed to purchase our school for $326,000 and we quickly completed the appraisal and preliminary paperwork. The deal was not to be consummated until a year later when we received the funds in December 1981, but the sale buoyed our spirits. A hall was rented from St. John Ukrainian Parish in South Lorain and our school children began to attend classes there. In the meantime the plans for the new complex were finalized, with major revisions to cut costs. Harry Fior was hired as our general contractor and an application was made to the City Bank Company for a $500,000 loan. When it was obvious that we would still be $100,000 short of our goal, a breakfast was held on Oct. 12, 1980 at the St. Nicholas School auditorium and another appeal was made to the parishioners for support. On that late Sunday morning, close to $90,000 was donated in the form of cash and pledges to the building fund. It was a beautiful testimonial to the generosity and the love that our parishioners have for their church.

After the holidays, a ground-breaking ceremony was held on Sunday, Jan. 25, 1981. It was a simple ceremony, attended by Father Felock, local city officials, the Building Committee, and a small group of parishioners. As the first shovel of dirt was turned over, the sound of axes could be heard ringing from the nearby woods. The St. Nicholas wood-chopping crew had a lot of land to clear and they did not have time to attend the ceremony. It was obvious that the parishioners of St. Nicholas were ready to work. Early in 1981 a $100,000,000 contract was signed with Harry Fior, the general contractor. We anticipated a final balance of $700,000 in the building fund from the sale of the school, donations and interest on our savings, and we had loan approval from the City Bank Company for $500,000.

The contract did not provide for church furnishings, the parking lot blacktop, finishing the interior of the convent, the stained glass windows and many other items. A call went out for volunteers to buy the windows and a month later, all the stained glass windows had been purchased by specific donations of various parishioners. To further save money, an informal construction crew was formed headed by the president of the Holy Name Society. This hearty band of volunteers worked throughout the year of 1981 and painted the entire interior of the complex, laid all the floor tiles (estimated at over 10,000 tiles), sanded and stained all the woodwork and contributed thousands of cost-free hours of labor. As a result of their physical contribution, the interior of the convent was finished as well as many other items that were not in the original contract.

In early 1982 the Building Committee was successful in selling the convent and rectory on Toledo Avenue to the Walter G. Nord Center for $83,000. They wanted these buildings to supplement the excellent work they had begun at our old St. Nicholas School. In March 1982 the Building Committee was further successful in selling the old church on land contract for $70,000 to the Antioch Baptist Church. Downpayment was $10,000 and possession date was Easter Sunday, April 11, 1982. All of our Toledo Avenue properties were now sold.

By early spring, the new complex was nearing completion and an appeal was made for volunteers to purchase the pews, certain kitchen items and the appointments in the church. The response was overwhelming. The parishioners of St. Nicholas, the Greek Catholic Union Lodge, the Russo-Slav Club and other fraternal organizations associated with the church had come through once again. We were ready to move in.

The last service to be held at the old St. Nicholas church was on Palm Sunday, April 4,1982, and many a tear was shed as the last song was sung. Finally, on Holy Thursday evening, April 8, 1982, Father Felock blessed the new altar and church and the first service was held.

On Sunday, Oct. 10, 1982, the faithful gathered together for the solemn blessing and dedication of their new church complex. Bishop Emil J. Mihalik, (now deceased) bishop of Parma, and Bishop James A. Griffin, Episcopal Vicar, Western Region of the Diocese of Cleveland for the Roman rite, concelebrated a
4 p.m. pontifical Divine Liturgy; a festive banquet followed.

The interior of the church and sanctuary were renovated under the pastorate of Father David Hannes in 1994. The renovation included painting the ceiling and walls of the church, installing the icon screen and adding ceiling icons of St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom and the Protection of the Theotokos. Since then, a few seraphim and cherubim have been added to the ceiling surrounding the existing icons and the addition of an icon of St. Helena and an icon St. Macrina.

During the pastorate of Father James Batcha, 1995-2003, there was an upgrade of the computers in the school. This was part of the parish outreach program and evangelization. He also established a Web site for both the Academy and Saint Nicholas Parish. The site includes links to the Parma Eparchy's Web site, the Byzantine home page and Saint Nicholas Academy home page with an alumni section where former students from Saint Nicholas Academy may register. This page was removed after the closing of the Academy in 2007.

He also established a Father Michael Felock Memorial Fund in memory of the pastorate of Father Michael Felock, who served Saint Nicholas Parish from 1963-1987. He passed away on May 12, 1997. This fund was established on Oct. 4, 1997 in order to raise funds for building maintenance and future construction.

On Oct. 15, 2003, Father Batcha began a new pastorate at St. John Chrysostom Parish, Columbus, Ohio, and Father Nicholas Rachford became the new pastor of St. Nicholas Parish.

In December, the first organizational meeting for a parish youth/young adults group took place. At a meeting in January, the members elected officers. There was an officers’ workshop in February and the first event was planned.

The month of May saw the formation of a Building and Maintenance Council. Its purpose is to review the needs of the physical properties of the parish, make recommendations for repairs and improvements and assist in carrying them out.

Sadly, declining enrollment at St. Nicholas Academy resulted in the closing of the school at the end of the 2006-2007 school year.

Over the next years the parish worked to implement its first three-year plan. At the end of that period, in 2008, the Parish Pastoral Council undertook an evaluation of parish life based on the parish mission statement. From this evaluation arose the 2009-2011 three-year plan. This plan called for improvement in the liturgical life of the parish, further outreach to the parish youths, outreach in service to the surrounding community, various avenues of education and formation for adult parishioners and a revised ECF program structure.

In 2011, the three-year plan for the years 2011-2014 was formulated after evaluating the progress of the parish during the previous three-year plan. The Parish Pastoral Council also discussed and planned monthly events to take place from Sept. 14, 2013 to Sept. 14, 2014, the 100th anniversary year. These events were open to the public.

© Copyright 2008