ST. VITUS CHURCH, at E. 61st St. and Glass Ave., was the first Catholic church in Cleveland for SLOVENES. Later one of the largest Slovenian churches in America, St. Vitus's first service was on 6 Aug. 1893. The first priest was the newly ordained Vitus Hribar. The first services were held at ST. PETER CHURCH in Cleveland. By 1894 the new congregation had purchased lots on Norwood and Glass avenues; they first worshipped in a wooden church at the site on 4 Nov. 1894. By 1902 the church had to be expanded and a school and convent were built. The SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME were hired to instruct the growing parish school. A 1906 division of the parish into 2 churches proved unsuccessful. The new parish of Our Lady of Sorrows, in the western section of St. Vitus parish, could not sustain itself, and the parish was united the next year. In 1907 Rev. Bartholomew Ponikvar became the second pastor of St. Vitus. Under his direction, a new 3-story school building was started in 1912. Plans were made for a new church, completed and consecrated on 20 Nov. 1932. Designed by William Jansen in the Lombard-Roman style, it seated 1,500. In 1952 Msgr. Ponikvar died, and his successor was Msgr. Louis Baznik, a priest-son of the parish. A new auditorium-gymnasium of approximately 18,000 square feet was added to the school building in 1957, for a cost of $350,000. In 1984 St. Vitus remained the home of many Slovenian cultural and fraternal organizations. One of its priest-sons and former pastors, Most Rev. A. Edward Pevec, became an auxiliary bishop of Cleveland.
In 1993 St. Vitus undertook a major interior renovation that included restoration of religious artwork by artists from Slovenia. In 1995 Rev. Joseph Boznar served the congregation's 3,000 members. A new agreement was signed in 2003 between St. Vitus Parish, diocese of Cleveland, and St. Martin de Porres High School, leasing the school and auditorium buildings to St. Martin de Porres.
View image in Digital Cleveland Starts Here®
View more on Cleveland Historical
Papers of St. Vitus Church, Archives, Diocese of Cleveland.
See also RELIGION; CATHOLICS, ROMAN.