By LINDA M. LINONIS
A strong faith enhanced by ethnic heritage built St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church.
That was the foundation a century ago and so it continues today.
Recently, the Rev. David Shortt, pastor since 1997; Sisters Leocadia and Bernarda of the Sisters of St. Basil the Great; Al Massullo, co-chairman of the anniversary committee; and Mo Daokot, JoAnn Stock, Helen Marie and Robert Vaclav and Dolly Vrabel, committee members, talked about the church and century mark.
“The church was and is a priority in our lives,” Sister Bernarda said. “It’s where we gather.”
“It has a powerful community and faith-filled spirit,” said Sister Leocadia. “It’s where we got our basic foundation and socialized. The church filled many needs ... for joy and sorrow.
“It is number one in my heart,” she added.
Those feelings reflect the fortitude of the congregation of 155 families who treasure their faith and the legacy of the church.
Robert Vaclav said his parents attended from the 1920s and they instilled in him a “heart for the church.”
The Sacred Heart Society, a longstanding organization, continues a first Friday devotion with Mass and reciting the rosary.
“It’s mainly spiritual,” said Helen Vaclav, a member since birth.
The society tends to altar linens and priest’s vestments. It has a banner in the sanctuary. The society also gives scholarships to altar servers and lectors.
The Byzantine Ladies focus on fundraisers as does the Greek Catholic Union Lodge 252. Fundraisers have been conducted to benefit Beatitude House and Second Harvest Food Bank, said Vrabel.
The lodge also has outreach programs to collect school supplies for Beatitude House and food for Neighborhood Ministries.
The church sponsors Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes for kindergarten through 12th grades. About 43 students come from the Byzantine and Ukrainian churches in the area.
The church also hosts the Maron Council of Knights of Columbus. The organization was formed in 1952 and includes members from St. Nicholas, St. Christine Church and Christ Our Savior Parish.
The council sponsors Right to Life efforts, Easter egg hunts and soccer matches.
“K. of C. has existed since the late 1800s,” Father Shortt said. “It was designed to keep men active in the church.”
“The families at the anniversary were a tribute to the founders,” Massullo said.
Stock added that “so many came to the anniversary and showed the heritage of families.”
Father Shortt said the devotion of founders is reflected in their gifts.
Though the stained-glass windows are not Tiffany, they’re close. “We believe they were done by a student of Tiffany,” he said.
St. Stephen of Hungary, Sts. Peter and Paul, St. John the Evangelist and St. Patrick are among saints depicted in the windows. Two round rose windows also highlight the sanctuary.
Icons, important elements in a Byzantine church, include St. Nicholas, patron saint of the Byzantine church.
The chandelier is from Porach, Slovakia. “It was donated by different villages,” she said, adding the villagers had family ties to St. Nicholas.
Other historical artifacts donated by parishioners include the vigil light, pulpit and Gospel book.
The sanctuary also features a baldachino, a structure to protect the altar.
The church hosted a St. Nicholas part in honor of patron’s Feast Day on Dec. 6. The nuns spoke about St. Nicholas and the tradition of children setting out their shoes for him to fill with little gifts.
Upon request, Father Shortt continues a custom of blessing houses in the new year.
In its early years, Stock said the church “grew quickly because immigrants came for jobs in the steel industry.” St. Nicholas is the mother church of St. George Byzantine Catholic Church on the West Side, St. Michael Byzantine Catholic Church in Campbell and Infant Jesus of Prague Church in Boardman.
Father Shortt said the church followed the Julian calendar until 1930 and services were in the Slavonic language until the 1950s.
Many returned for the century celebration. “It was good to see the church packed,” Massullo said. “We’re a church known for its singing.”
“There are so many memories here ... growing up,” Stock said. Daokot added, “I have many memories of the youth group and activities.”
Helen Vaclav summed up the feeling shared by others with the comment, “It’s like home here.”