St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church was established in the late 1960’s by a small group of Egyptian families. The church has since had the blessings of growth, development, and the Miracle of the Holy Oil to occur within her walls.
History of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Cleveland
In 1968, six Coptic Orthodox families came from Egypt, settled in Cleveland, Ohio, and made it their new home. The settlers wished to organize and establish the first Coptic Orthodox Church in Ohio. His Grace the late Bishop Samuel, Special Assistant to the late Pope Kyrillos VI of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, advised the group to contact Fr. Marcos Marcos, a pioneer priest in Toronto, Canada.
Fr. Marcos responded to the group's call and came to Cleveland to celebrate its first Divine Liturgy in September 1968. He continued his services to the small Cleveland congregation by holding the Divine Liturgy every three months and, later, on a monthly basis.
After joining forces to establish the Coptic Orthodox Church of Cleveland in 1970, the families committed time, talent and financial support. Each of them at one time or another served on the Board of Deacons, instructed the first Sunday school children, and some studied to become deacons.
Under their leadership and the guidance of Fr. Mikhail, who was ordained priest over the congregation at the time, St. Mark's in Cleveland developed a legacy such that the greater Cleveland community recognized the church as the official representative of the Egyptians in Cuyahoga County. Cleveland was soon declared sister city to Alexandria, Egypt, as was announced during the first Papal visit to Cleveland by the late Pope Shenouda III, successor to Pope Kyrillos VI.
The parish constructed a church complex over three acres in the city of Seven Hills, a suburb of Cleveland, with an additional four acres for future projects aimed at serving the parishioners and the community. The church building, completed in October 1988, was designed according to Coptic architectural tradition.
Stainless steel domes adorn the church tower and main church. The church interior is richly ornamented with icons on each wall, in chronological sequence of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ from the Annunciation through the Pentecost. All icons are original works that follow the tradition of Coptic iconography.
The stained glass windows of the nave are graced with marble that begins at their base and covers the floor. The baptistery embodies a ﬁne piece of art carved with intricate design from a single marble slab. The late Pope Shenouda III consecrated St. Mark's one year later on October 1, 1989.
On May 15, 1990, on the feast of St. Athanasius the Apostolic, St. Mark's was blessed by the Miracle of Holy Oil seeping from two icons, one of our Lord Jesus Christ and the other of the Holy Virgin Mary.
This miracle has reoccurred on several occasions and witnessed by thousands of pilgrims to the church, including TV stations and newspapers. Foremost of the visitors was the late Pope Shenouda III, who, after personally seeing the icons, declared the phenomenon a miracle in January 1991.
A tremendous increase in church membership made it close to impossible to serve the entire parish with just one priest in one building. In 2004, Pope Shenouda III appointed Fr. Marcos Ghali to serve in the Cleveland Parish with Fr. Mikhail, who was a greatly welcomed addition. On August 16, 2005, Pope Shenouda laid the cornerstone for the new Koinonia, a Coptic-Greek term that means fellowship, Center. The new center was to consist of a new chapel dedicated to St. Athanasius the Apostolic and St. Cyril of Alexandria, the Pillar of Faith.
Two years later, on August 21, 2007, Pope Shenouda consecrated the new chapel's altar and icons. The original church (the nave) can accommodate up to 500 people. The additions to the building include a social hall, numerous Sunday school classrooms, a library, several offices, and a guest suite.
St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church of Cleveland today offers many services to her parish and the local community and continues to grow in both faith and numbers.
The Chapel of Sts. Athanasius & Cyril of Alexandria
The icons of the new Chapel of St. Athanasius the Apostolic and St. Cyril, the Pillar of Faith, were written by the Iconographer Ashraf Fayek Gerges. All of these icons, as well as the altar, were consecrated by H. H. Pope Shenouda III on August 21, 2007.
The Miracle of Holy Oil
On May 15, 1990, His Grace Bishop Tadros was visiting our church. He prayed the Vespers service and then gave a sermon. The sermon was the life of St. Athanasius the Apostolic, whose feast was that day. Then he told us about the miracle of healing which had happened recently in his diocese of Port Said, Egypt.
After the sermon, His Grace led the congregation in praises and doxologies for the Virgin Mary and our other saints, specifically St. Athanasius the Apostolic. During the singing of the praises, a deacon noticed some oil on the icon of the Virgin Mary and went over to tell Fr. Mikhail E. Mikhail, who then told Bishop Tadros. After the praises were finished, His Grace went over to examine the icon and then announced it to the congregation, who immediately went up to see it. The oil appeared in straight lines from the neck of St. Mary. His Grace began anointing everybody with the oil from the icon.
Oil began to seep again from the icon of the Virgin Mary on Sunday May 20, 1990 after the Divine Liturgy. Oil also started to seep for the first time from the icon of the Lord Jesus Christ that same day. The oil poured from the forehead and eye, then it began to pour downwards to the right hand of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oil seeped on several other days throughout the month of May and June, 1990. Many people, including Fr. Mikhail, have noticed the presence of incense in large amounts on some days, even though no ritual services, including the Raising of Incense had been performed those days.
Oil also seeped again in August of 1990, during the Egyptian Festival. A good amount of oil had seeped from both the icons of the Virgin Mary and the Lord Jesus Christ. Many people attending the festival witnessed it including a reporter who wrote an article in the Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer.
After the newspaper article was published, thousands of people from all over came to the church to see the oil and be blessed by it. The Plain Dealer published several other articles about he matter. as well as a number of religious magazines and other newspapers including the community paper, The Parma Sunpost. Local television channels as well as the national channels, NBC and CNN, gave the matter great attention. Radio stations also broadcast many programs about it.
Oil again began to see throughout September and October of 1990. It was witnessed by a number of bishops including His Grace Bishop Thomas of Koussia, Egypt. As many as 60,000 people, from various denominations and religions, came to the church over a 15 months period from all over the United States to see the seeping oil from the icons. A number of miracle healings were experienced by Copts and Non-Copts alike. One of the healings happened to Francis Picarek who regained his sight after all hope was lost.
After receiving several reports from the bishops who had seen the icons as well as Fr. Mikhail himself, H. H. Pope Shenouda III came himself to see the icons on January 19, 1991. Then after reviewing all the reports of the bishops and of those who had experienced miraculous healing, H. H. Pope Shenouda III issued an official papal declaration regarding the matter. He declared that the phenomenon of the seeping oil from the icons was an official miracle. The papal declaration was dated May 15, 1991, the first anniversary of when the miracle first happened.