The earliest beginnings of St. John the Baptist Cathedral date back to 1878 with the arrival of Carpatho-Russian immigrants from the western part of Galicia known as Lemkovstchina. These early settlers began holding services in the Stec home, located directly behind the present Cathedral. Shortly thereafter, they rented an inactive Baptist church and immediately converted the interior to resemble an Orthodox Church. In 1888, the Brotherhood of Saint John the Baptist (which is still in existence) was organized and plans were implemented to build a new church. This initial building was a wooden frame structure and was constructed in 1891 in design according to the style to which these people were accustomed. The original name given was the Russian Greek Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist.
By 1896, the faithful had built a parish home and school building which also contained a social center for church affairs and the community. The people independently supported a priest and choirmaster. The peoples’ foresight and energy are exemplified by such accomplishments as the establishment of a food cooperative store, the parish drum and bugle corp., Boy Scout Troop #85, a library, the Russian Hose Co. (present day Mayfield Hose Co.), and many other organizations. Toward the turn of the century, more Greek Catholic churches were founded in the area. As a result, the initial apathy of local Roman Catholics evolved into overt hostility against theses Christians of the Eastern Rite. The Roman Hierarch demanded that the faithful of Saint John’s adopt a new charter and sign their property over to the Roman Catholic Church. The parishioners vehemently resisted these pressures and became determined to reunite with their Orthodox faith that they did not even realize they had left.
In 1902, Fr. John Olshevsky petitioned Archbishop Tikhon (now Saint Tikhon of Moscow) to accept them under his Omophorion (spiritual protectorate). By 1903, the parish was officially accepted into the Orthodox Church by the celebration of a Hierarchal Divine Liturgy with Archbishop Tikhon. In 1905, the parishioners of St. John’s played an integral role in establishing Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery and Orphanage in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. During the following decades, the parish was a prime financial supporter of the monastery and orphanage, as well as offering food to help sustain the inhabitants.
In 1907, St. John’s was honored by being chosen as the site of the First Orthodox All-American Sobor (council) which was held on February 20-23, 1907 and was presided over by Archbishop Tikhon. By the late 1920’s, the size of the old wooden church was not enough for the parish’s needs. In 1930, the old church was moved onto Maple Street and was used until the new church was completed. The Cornerstone of the new church was blessed by Archbishop Appolinary and Archbishop Adam (Phillopovsky) in 1930. The new Church was first used on February 22, 1933 and consecrated on September 4th (Labor Day), in 1933 by the Rev. Bishop Adam (Phillopovsky), under the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Antony (Krapovitsky) of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, as noted on the official document of the Act of Consecration. This feat was made all the more miraculous because the fund-raising and building of the church occurred during the height of the Great Depression. St. John’s was constructed and paid for solely by the donations of parishioners.
In 1951, the parish council petitioned Metropolitan Leonty (Turkevich) for acceptance into the Metropolia. This action came about as a result of circumstances which happened several years earlier. On February 10th, 1959, a fire erupted in the church. As smoke and flames spread, parishioners formed a human chain, removing sacred articles from the church. The parish hall was used as a temporary place of worship until arrangements could be made to repair the church. With the help of the Good Lord, the church was re-blessed and the new Altar was consecrated on May 29, 1960 by His Grace Bishop Dimitri (Magon). Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new hall (now called St. John’s Center) took place on Sunday May 7, 1966. Dedication of the new church hall took place on October 27, 1968 with Bishop Kiprian (Borisevich) presiding. The new parish center picked up where the old hall left off and provides ample facilities for the continued growth and development of the parish. In June of 1976, ceremonies were held for the groundbreaking of the new rectory and plaza area. On Sunday, June 5th, 1977, one year later, Archbishop Kiprian (Borisevich) came to Mayfield for the dedication.
On September 20, 1981, Saint John’s celebrated the 90th Anniversary of the parish. The faithful, on that occasion, erected a plaque in the vestibule of the church, quoting from Archbishop (later Patriarch and now Saint) Tikhon during his historic visit to Mayfield when he presided over the First Orthodox All-American Sobor. Archbishop (Saint) Tikhon proclaimed: “Our North American Orthodox Church considers itself to be the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church, embracing all nations, languages, and the world, as the first to proclaim the Orthodox Faith here in America.”
In the winter and spring of 1982, parish meetings were conducted to address certain decisions which were made by the Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America (the former Metropolia). The issues concerned would greatly affect the Orthodox practice of the Liturgical life within the parish, chief among them was the OCA’s changing over to the Revised Julian Calendar (new-calendar). Parish meetings were held to clarify the issues for the faithful and on February 14th, the faithful voted overwhelmingly (in excess of 98% of those present) to retain the Old Style Calendar. As the spring and summer of 1982 passed, the faithful were made aware that their decision to retain their Liturgical traditions according to the Old Style (Julian) Calendar was denied by their Diocesan Bishop, as well as by the Synod of Bishops of the OCA. On August 22, 1982, a gathering of parish faithful voted overwhelming (151-1) to disassociate the parish from the Orthodox Church in America and to petition Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) and the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia for acceptance under their Omophorion (Spiritual Protectorate).
During the same time, Fr. John D. Sorochka, because of deep feelings about these same issues, felt it necessary to resign as pastor under the Orthodox Church in America and he petitioned the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to accept him as a priest. His Eminence, Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesenky) accepted St. John’s Parish and Fr. John almost simultaneously and immediately re-assigned Fr. John as the pastor of St. John’s. A letter dated August 29, 1982 was delivered on behalf of the parish to the Diocesan Bishop of the OCA giving notice of the parish’s disassociation.
This was the start of some difficult years in the life of Saint John’s parish because of Civil Court action initiated by the OCA. An attempt was made by dissenting parishioners, as well as the OCA Bishop, to seize control of the church and all related property from the exorbitant majority of the parish faithful. During the next six plus years, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth, Superior, and ultimately State Supreme Courts consistently upheld the decisions of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas being in favor of the vast majority of the faithful. By the Grace of God, the issue was finally brought to rest on March 1, 1988. You can read the final decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court by CLICKING HERE. Aided by constant prayer, Thomas Pavuk, Fr. John, and the Church Council, worked countless hours with Attorney Gene Goldenziel to bring this matter to a close. Gratitude is also expressed to Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) and Bishop Mark (Arndt), who clarified to the court the particular questions about church history, and to Andrew Sabric, Andrew Paserp, Rose Telep, Fr. Vladimir Shishkoff and Brother Isaac Lambertsen, who actively aided in the court proceedings, as well as to the S.O.C. (Save Our Church) organization, which was formed to raise the necessary funds to cover the expenses incurred, and all those others too numerous to name.
In 1994, St. John the Baptist Church was selected as the host parish for the Canonization of St. Innocent and St. Nicholas of Japan, in addition to the celebration of the 200th Anniversary of Orthodoxy in America. Faithful from all across America flocked to Saint John’s for these two events. In 1997, St. John the Baptist Church was elevated to Cathedral status by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. In December 2008, Archimandrite George (Schaefer) was elevated to the episcopacy with the title “Bishop of Mayfield, Vicar Bishop of the Eastern American Diocese”. St. John’s is the Cathedral of Bishop George. In April 2015, Bishop George’s time in Mayfield came to an end as Vladyka was named Bishop of Canberra, Vicar Bishop of the Australian & New Zealand Diocese, where he remains to this day.
St. John’s continues to witness the Orthodox Faith in the Up-Valley of Northeastern Pennsylvania under the Old Style Julian Calendar with a full Liturgical schedule of services in English and Church Slavonic.
Pastors of St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral
Rev. Theophan Obushkevich 1891-1902
Rev. John Olshevky 1902-1904
Rev. Hieromonk Arseny (Chahovtsev) 1904-1908
Rev. Michael Skibinisky 1908-1911
Rev. Basil Vasilieff 1911-1912
Rev. Iona Milasevich 1914-1917
Rev. Joseph Feoronko 1917-1920
Rev. Basil Repella 1920-1936
V. Rev. Philip Pechinsky 1936-1952
V. Rev. Andrew Vanyush 1952-1958
Rev. Hieromonk Hilarion (Madison) 1958-1959
V. Rev. Basil Stroyen 1959-1961
V. Rev. Dimitri Ressetar 1961-1967
V. Rev. Andrew Vanyush 1967-1968
V. Rev. Dimitri Oselinsky 1968-1970
V. Rev. Mitred Archpriest John D. Sorochka 1970- Present
Saint John’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral Academy has its beginnings dating back to the earliest days of the existence of the parish. The educational programs) have always taken into account the pressing needs of the parishioners at their particular moments in history.
Currently, parish children, young, adults, as well as adults participate in the religious education classes of St. John’s Academy. Religious education classes are held every Monday night of the school year at 6:30PM at St. John’s Center across the street from the church.
Saint John’s Cathedral would not be what it is today without the church societies of the past and present. Through our societies, we both strengthen the bonds between the members of our parish and reach out to the community in love and faith
Currently, there are four active societies:
Saint John’s Society
Saint Mary’s Society
Saint Barbara’s Society
Saint Seraphim’s Society (our youth society)