St. Helena Romanian Byzantine Catholic Church
Located on West 65th Street near Detroit Avenue, St. Helena Romanian Catholic Church marks the site of Cleveland's largest Romanian enclave during the early 20th century. St. Helena's was built under the guidance of Father Epaminonda S. Lucaci, the first Romanian priest to serve in the United States. Responding to requests from Cleveland's growing immigrant population, the Romanian bishop sent Father Lucaciu with instructions to organize a parish and construct a church - plans of which had been discussed within Cleveland's Romanian community since as early as 1902.
With about 2,000 Romanian immigrants, Cleveland was home to one of the largest immigrant Romanian communities in the United States during the early years of the 20th century. While the majority of Romanian immigrants were members of the Orthodox church, many belonged to the Catholic Church of the Byzantine Rite. Commonly referred to as "Greek Catholics", these Uniates acknowledged the role of the Pope as the head of the Catholic Church. While essentially sister churches, differences quickly arose between the two religious sects during meetings held in 1902 to discuss the founding of a Romanian church. This necessitated the construction of two separate churches. St. Mary Romanian Orthodox Church would be built on Detroit Avenue in 1908, claiming the honor of being the first Romanian Orthodox church constructed in America. Established three years prior, in 1905, St. Helena's was the first Romanian Byzantine Rite Catholic parish in America. The site was purchased on West. 65th to serve the Byzantine Rite Catholics, just blocks away from where St. Mary's would construct a church. While plans were developed and funds raised for the construction of the parish's new home, church services for St. Helena were held at St. Malachi Roman Catholic Church on West 25th Street. Taking four months to complete, St. Helena's was dedicated in 1906. This simple frame structure was the first Uniate Romanian Catholic church constructed in the western hemisphere.
Since its dedication, St. Helena Romanian Catholic Church has continued to serve Cleveland's Romanian Uniate Catholic community. The history of the structure reflects the aspirations and experiences of Cleveland's west side Romanian community. From its original minimalist design to the eventual resurfacing of the building with brick in the 1940s, changes to the structure reflect the transition of Cleveland's Romanian enclave from a transient immigrant community into a permanent settlement.