Wednesday, November 24, 2010

closures before lennonism

The closing of parishes in the diocese of Cleveland, outside the city itself was extra-ordinary, until Richard Lennon:

Saint Peter Claver 1945-1959 in Akron was created by the diocese for
African-American* Catholics in Akron. The parish had difficulty recruiting members. The tendency for the black population in Akron was to attend existing neighborhood churches, the pastor thought that right too. This storefront church was razed. The few members of Saint Peter Claver then went to St. Mary's. Items from the church began St. Albert's in North Royalton.

Saint Peter, Akron began as a Lithuanian parish 1919-1926. It continued to the end of 1989 as a territorial parish until I-76 and I-77 bought the property. Bit by bit, like several Cleveland parishes, the neighborhood disappeared.
The parish records went to St. Mary's.

The diocese thought population would expand near Vermilion. Our Lady, Star of the Sea, 1979-1981 held Masses until it became apparent, that only, a few people came. The parish was suspended, it could open some time in the future.

St. Mary Barberton (Polish) 1912 merged into Sacred Heart of Jesus (Slovene) in 2002, and the parish was renamed Prince of Peace. It was the first time the name of the resultant parish did not contain the former name. This event is used by the chancery as the start of the current re-configuration..

Those were all the parishes closed outside Cleveland before lennonism. It was not normally done in Cleveland, either. The tendency was to merge parishes. Even the names of parishes did not disappear readily. Not all parishes maintained parish status. Some fluctuated from mission status, or chapel and shrine. When numbers dropped far below to-day's standards, parishes (or missions, if that small) were kept open. Church communities spent years in flux. Some begging for a resident priest for years, but even without a priest they continued. Up until the first world war factionalism and strife, in certain parishes, existed. People had greater freedom to 'spout off'. People successfully had priests dismissed. Rome even dismissed the first bishop, Louis Amadeus Rappe.

In 1956, three new parishes were created in Parma (SS. Anthony, Bridget, Columbkille). They received the parish records of SS. Anthony
1880, Bridget 1857, Columbkille (Irish)1871-1957 of Cleveland. Anthony (Italian) and Bridget (Irish) merged at Bridget's from 1938 to 1961. The Italians marched in procession from the old church to the new with statues and banners and paintings. The old St. Anthony's became St. Maron's (Lebanese, Syrian) and is still there. Bridget became part of the inner belt highway, as had Columbkille. Old Columbkille migrated around the intersection of E. 26 and Superior; it progressed clockwise from the NW, to the NE, to the SE corner. The pews, and other stuff went to the new parmese Columbkille.
St. Bridget, Cleveland
In Cleveland, land that held many residences had buildings razed for industrial and commercial buildings, and also for the interstate highway system. SS. Bridget, Columbkille, Martin (Slovak) and Wenceslaus of Cleveland were razed for roadage. The phrase, 'urban renewal' was often used. St. Wenceslaus (Czech)1867-1963 had considered moving their parish to the mission church in Maple Heights, instead they remained and the mission St. Wenceslaus became a separate parish.

Now, St. Joseph (German and Franciscan) 1855-1986 was the temporary home for several ethnic parishes. It became an island amidst highways, which had eaten the entire neighborhood. The building was wanted for preservation, but the second fire started by bums in 1993 pushed it to demolition. It was sadly missed by many. Many of its tall windows were cut into arrangements for the short walls of St. Raphael's. Three windows are now behind the altar of St. Stephen's (German), Cleveland. The glass was made by the same studio in Munich. Some small windows are in St. Stanislaus (Polish, and Franciscan through most of its history¹), Cleveland; the high altar to St. John Cantius (Polish).

St. Ladislas (Slovak) burned in 1970. Mass was still said at the parish for over a year. Insurance disbursements went to the diocese, and a further disbursement was available if construction began before September 1973. On 28 August 1973, a $325,00 brick was laid in Westlake for the new territorial St. Ladislas. It is now one of the least attractive (ugly) churches in the diocese.

Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, the first African-American* parish 1922-1961, merged into St. Adalbert (Czech). Its building on E.79th was in poor shape. Adalbert was beautiful, but getting progressively smaller.
St. Agnes, Euclid Avenue Cleveland, O. (the campanile (bell tower remains) 
Superior Avenue had a herd of Catholic churches. Euclid Avenue had none. It was Millionaire's Row, and only 'decent' people were there. The city's eastern border continued to move. At one time it was E.55th (then Willson), and then E. 79th, and the Hough neighborhood was outside the city. Eventually there was a Catholic middle class and they wanted a parish. The first St.Agnes was built in 1893 on Euclid, and what became E. 82. In 1914 a grand new church was built. By 1960 Hough was a black neighborhood, and a devastating riot hit in the summer of '66. St. Agnes burned in 1973. St. Agnes merged into Our Lady of Fatima in 1980. 

St. Agatha, and later St. Joseph merged into St. Aloysius (Irish at origin). St. Agatha's had a short history. It began in 1945 as a mission of St. Thomas Aquinas in its east end of territory. By the 1960s the Glenville neighborhood was a black neighborhood, and few were Catholic. An attempt at evangelisation was made. In 1971, instead of being sent a pastor, the priest was sent as an administrator. He was told the parish was closing. The people came to Bishop Issenmann's residence, and he relented. The new bishop Pilla, merged the parish in 1975. In 1994 St. Joseph Collinwood became a part of Aloysius too. It became apparent that territorial parishes on Cleveland's east side had difficulty in sustaining their selves. Collinwood has four remaining parishes, three being nationality parishes. 
Cleveland's one French parish, Annunciation (
Église de l'Annonciation de Cleveland) 1868-1916 merged into St. Malachi (Irish), and the building went to St. Emeric (Hungarian§), which lost theirs to a fire. It was soon sold with a land swap to the Van Sweringen brothers for railroadage. Annunciation had so few Frenchmen, that the parish was enlarged territorially with Irishmen. It used to be difficult to extinguish a parish. There were many parishes that continued to exist with numbers far lower than those supposedly necessary now. What did happen, were parishes reverted to mission status or chapels until they became larger.

St. Edward (Irish)1871, (
African-American*)1943, merged with Holy Trinity (German)1880 in 1975. It lasted till 2004. St. Thomas Aquinas once grand church was condemned in 1975, the parish continued till 1993. St. Marian (Italian)1905 was made up of former residents of the village of Rionero Sannitico, Campobasso in Italy. Case Western took some of the neighborhood, the parish was closed in 1975. The records and parishioners went to the nearby Holy Rosary. The building became the Second Bethlehem Baptist Church. The neighborhood had early undergone racial turnover, and St Marian was the first parochial school to have black pupils. St. Josaphat's (Polish) 1908-1998 neighborhood residences (E. 33 between St. Clair and Superior) also disappeared, it has become an art gallery.
St. Mary's 1968 (German) Carroll & W. 30th
St. Mary's of the Assumption (German) 1854-1959, was absorbed steadily, and calculatingly by the Jesuits of St. Ignatius High. The church was razed in 1968. The campus now has a separate chapel. Part of the absorption involved St. Patrick's. St. Mary's became part of St. Patrick's (Irish).

Holy Family (Czech
) 1911-1988, chapel to1997; Nativity BVM (Slovak) 1903-1993; St. Benedict (Slovak) 1928-1993; St. Mary Czestochowa (Polish) 1914-1996 could not withstand demographic change. St. Benedict especially suffered racial strife. Transfiguration (Polish)1943-1992 was visited by the bush/quayle campaign in 1988, and experienced a fire two years later.

The first parish in the city of Cleveland was St. Mary's on the Flats (or Our Lady of the Lake). It was organised by Irish immigrants in 1826. The previous group of Catholics in northern Ohio had been the Wyandot to the west, part of French Huronia. The first resident priest, John Dillon, came in 1835. He died the next year, 29 years old. The first Mass said in a Catholic church in Cleveland was in 1839. St. Mary's was the cathedral from 1847 to 1852. Some records count it closed in 1848 as the new cathedral parish, St. John's, began. It held Masses for St. Mary of the Assumption, Annunciation, St. Wenceslaus and St. Stanislaus. The term, chapel-of-ease, would fit. The last Mass there was in 1886.

The only other major factor was racial. Antagonism between African-Americans* and other Americans was hard to overcome. The eastern and southeastern wards of Cleveland became unable to 'adequately' sustain parishes. There were attempts at evangelisation, with some success (St. Agatha), but overall the national and local Catholic population of African-Americans is about 3%. The Hough riots of '66, and the Glenville shootings of '68 did great damage to the east side. The desegregation of the public schools a few years later further precipitated 'white flight'. The crux outside of legalities was a turf war. It may have been a legal and political victory, but it was a social loss. To use a non-christian religious term, there was a lot of bad karma going around.

In 1975 a Puerto Rican personal parish was formed as San Juan Bautista (previously Puerto Ricans attended Masses at Our Lady of Fatima, and Conversion of St.Paul on the east side, many had moved to the west side). They, with the Chapel of Cristo Rey, became La Sagrada Familia with a new church built on Detroit in 1998.

Such were, I think, all the closures before Richard Lennon. The rule was to merge parishes, to keep something of their former status alive. An outright suppression (extinction) was rare. Generally, it took nearly complete depopulation and/or fire for a parish to close. Then came Lennon, slow walking, slow talking Lennon. Parishes have been extinguished not for any organic reason, not of necessity, and certainly devoid of charity since his appearance.

Cleveland has suffered change and decay, but where people wanted to really stay they stood. Our Lady of Mount Carmel-East was reduced in status from parish to oratory(chapel), and was financed by pasta dinners, and stayed "vibrant", though tiny, under the administration of one indefatigable parishioner, Rose Criniti. The neighborhood is part of a great swath of territory on the East Side that is impoverished, and depopulated of the original residents and parishioners. It was suppressed by Lennon on 20 June 2010 [his second of the day, St. Lawrence being the first], without even the courtesy of being listed in the diocesan closings.
nota bene: There is irregularity in dates, the official closing date and the last Mass said, are not always the same. It is very easy to find, e.g., 1958 or 1959 used for the same parish.

 *Negro was the term used before the 1970s. It is the correct historical term. The term 'colored' was also a correct usage. Now both terms are considered 'uncomfortable'.
  As St. Martin (of Tours) disappeared in Cleveland, St. Martin began in Maple Hts. 1960
Bohemian was used before. Bohemia is the largest Czech province.§Magyar was often used before.

addenda: ¹The Franciscans [Wisconsin Province] formally left at the end of June 2012.

essay expanded 18 January 2013 after seeing lines absent on Hough/Glenville/Collinwood
click for formal list 


  1. This is an amazing account of our Catholic History in Cleveland. Thank you for your hard work. Loved the part about St. Lads in Westlake.

  2. Thanks for this amazing work! I've often wondered about some of the old churches that have been lost. That we place little value on such beauty is hard to understand. I was lucky that as a kid my St. Anthony (Parma) parents used to take me and my siblings to many other churches, especially to many beautiful churches in the older neighborhoods. As a kid I used to wonder where the oldest pews at St. Anthony came from. The ones at the back of our gym-cum-church were clearly quiet old.

    We were so saddened last year to learn about St. Catherine's being torn down. That was the parish to three generations of my mom's family, and two of my dad's. So much history for us there. My grandmother had died the week before, so it all seemed extra sad. The small solace was finding candle holders from Reclaimed Cleveland made of wood from the church. I got them for my mom, her sisters and my dad.