Saints Peter & Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church on West 7th Street and College Avenue projects a somewhat ghostly vibe—an impression that this handsome building and nearby parish house were more vibrant in some bygone era. The church’s stained glass windows are covered by semi-opaque protective glass. Landscaping is minimal. A forlorn wrought-iron fence separates the sidewalk from the hilltop church. The area almost seems asleep, as if it were a scene from “Sleeping Beauty” or perhaps “Rebecca.”
The reality, however, is that Saints Peter & Paul is very much alive. Congregants recently celebrated the structure’s 105th birthday, as well as the 40th anniversary of the installation of Father Dennis Morrow. Every September, the church grounds are particularly effervescent, with a Ukrainian Carnival that features games, concessions, raffles, and ethnic foods and beer. The somber yellow-brick church on the hill lives on.
A branch of the Ruthenian (East Slavic) National Association, the Brotherhood of Saints Peter & Paul was founded in 1902, when Ukrainian Byzantine Rite Catholics from Galicia withdrew from Saint John the Baptist Byzantine Rite Cathedral. Located in a part of Tremont that was largely Ukrainian, the new congregation’s first Holy Liturgy was held at the German Association at Jefferson Avenue and West 10th Street. Saints Peter & Paul’s current facility on West 7th Street was completed in 1910. It was designed by architect Stephen Paliwoda and originally featured a single central tower topped by an onion dome. The building’s style is somewhat Byzantine, although semicircular arches and a front rose window suggest a Romanesque influence.
Throughout most of the 20th century, Saints Peter & Paul served the community, offering adult education, fine arts classes and Ukrainian language lessons. Numerous renovations also were undertaken: Murals depicting scenes in the life of Christ were installed in 1943. A new convent was built in 1953. The onion dome was replaced with a bell tower during a 1956 renovation that also included major renovations to the facility’s interior. More renovations were undertaken in 1978. A highlight of this makeover was new stained glass windows commemorating the Millennium of Ukrainian Christianity.
Like most parishes in the Tremont area and throughout Cleveland, the congregation of Saints Peter & Paul is smaller than in previous decades. But despite its sleepy appearance, the church continues to serve the community. In fact, it is the mother church of three area parishes: Saint Mary's in Solon (originally on Kinsman Rd.) and Saint Josaphat and Saint Andrew in Parma. According to one recently interviewed congregant of Saints Peter & Paul, “We love attending liturgy at this parish. [The] sermons are interesting and thought provoking. The parishioners are wonderfully friendly and supportive, like a large family who always welcomes someone new.”