In the late 1800s, the tide of immigration of Eastern Europeans to the United States rose to an all-time high. Among them was Mr. John Maharidge, who arrived in Cleveland from Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1895 and was able to unify the Russian settlers there. They then meet to establish a parish at the home of John Maharidge. Eventually, Bishop Nicholas sent Fr. John Nedzelnitzky to visit Cleveland at regular intervals to celebrate the Divine Liturgy for the budding community in the home of John Nestor.
The first church was built in 1896 and located at Literary Road and West 6th Street. It was the first Orthodox Community in Cleveland and served the needs of the various ethnic Orthodox Christian groups. That same year, the Orthodox Church in Russia canonized Theodosius (Uglitsky) a saint. Although the Cleve- land community had desired St. Nicholas as their patron, Archbishop Tikhon prevailed upon the people to name the church after the newly canonized Theodosius.
In 1902, Father Jason Kappanadze was assigned, finding a community of 15 families. The parish continued to grow and soon needed a new home.
The Convent of St. Joseph, of the Augustinian Sisters, was located at the foot of Starkweather Avenue, extending from Professor Street to West 7th Place. This 30-acre property was purchased for $30,000, made into an allotment, and had St. Tikhon and St. Olga Streets cut through it. It was then sold (in plots) to the parishioners where they built homes and helped the church pay for the land. After organizing a school and looking after many needs of the people, Father Kappanadze returned to his native Georgia in 1908.
Father Vasili Vasilieff served from 1908 to 1909, followed by Father John Chepeleff. Father Basil Lisenkovsky became the pastor in 1910. It was un- der his leadership that the present Cathedral was erected. With a constant increase in parish enrollment, a parish assembly was convened in May 1911, and authorized the design and construction. The Construction Committee consisted of: Father Basil Lisenkovsky, John Stofan, John Ferencz, Peter Kormos, Wasil Rusynyk, Andrew Sudyk and John Zayatz.
St. Theodosius Cathedral was modeled after the Church of our Saviour Jesus Christ in Moscow. Father Lisenkovsky furnished photographs to Mr. Frederick Baird, a Cleveland architect and he collaborated with Mr. Baird in de- signing this unique and beautiful church. The Cathedral is built in the shape of a cross and is surmounted by thirteen crosses and cupolas, represent- ing Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles. The cornerstone was laid on Sep- tember 23, 1911. Bishop Alexander consecrated the church in 1912.
Father Lisenkovsky was succeeded by Father Petrowsky, Father Alexan- der Kukulevsky and Father Jason Kappanadze, who returned to Cleve- land in 1922, for a pastorate that would end in 1957. The church’s debt of $40,000 was quickly paid off as the interior was receiving its initial decoration.
In 1936, the Fifth All-American Council of the Church was held at Saint Theodosius. It was at this Council that Metropolitan Theophilus was elected to lead the Church in America. In 1946, St. Theodosius was the site of the historic Seventh Council of the Church in America, November 26-29. By a vote of 187 to 6, the Church voted to petition the Patriarch of Moscow, Alexis, to accept the North American Metropolitinate under his spiritual leadership. The resolution specified autonomous status was the right to self-government” were to be retained and that the All-American Councils were to continue to be the “Supreme Legislative and Administrative body of our Church.” The “autonomy” had been proclaimed earlier in response to developments in the Orthodox Church in Russia, at that time existing under the country’s Communist rule.
In the early 1950s, extensive renovation of the Cathedral included re-coppering of the cupolas, erection of new stainless-steel crosses, the replacement of window frames and stain glass icons, and a new electrical system. Redecoration followed. From numerous applicants, Mr. Andrei Vasilevich Bicenko, a renowned Russian artist, was selected and commissioned to beautify every inch of wall space in the Cathedral, comparable with the pattern of the famous St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. Metropolitan Leonty, Archbishop John of Chicago and Archbishop Benjamin of Pittsburgh rededicated the Cathedral on October 13, 1954.
During the pastorate of Father Kappanadze, several priests were assigned as assistants, including: Priestmonk Nicholas (Shambura), and Fathers Michael Kostyk, Nicholas Vansuch, Andrew Chernushin and Alexander Marciniuk. Father Kappanadze retired to “Pastor Emeritus” status in 1957.
January 1, 1958 saw the beginning of the short-lived pastorate of Father Peter Bohush, with Father Marciniuk as associate. This began the transition to worship in English, with the advent of two Divine Liturgies each Sunday – one in Slavonic, one in English. Choir Master Wasily Baranow formed an English Choir in addition to the existing Slavonic Choir. Father Bohush became ill and fell asleep in the Lord on July 20, 1959. Father Igor Tkachuk became pastor and Father Stephen Jula the associate on October 1, 1959. Father Sergius Kuharsky was pastor from 1964 – 1976.
Father Stephen Kopestonsky became pastor in 1976, followed by Father Jason Kappanadze in 1988. As the 100th anniversary of the parish approached, the roof of the cathedral was completely recovered, and water damage to the frescos was repaired. The Slavonic text of biblical prophecies and verses, which adorned the walls, was translated into English so that they could be read and understood by the assembled faithful. Father John Zdinak became the rector in 1999. Under his leadership, a $500,000 restoration of the cathedral took place. The frescos and interior of the church had become covered by layers of soot from the steel mills that the church overlooks, as well as years of incense and candle smoke. This was cleaned away and the frescos were restored to their former brightness and beauty. The project also included: the replacement of copper roofing on four main arches and the lower domes, the upgrading of the lighting and electrical systems, the refinishing of pews, the removal of the old carpet and installment of tile and new carpet, the construction of a new stairway and an ADA wheelchair ramp for the front entrance. All this was followed by a rededication of the cathedral with a consecration to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the building of the cathedral.