CORPUS CHRISTI PARISH, CLEVELAND, 1935
In the first three decades of the twentieth century, first and second generation Polish immigrants moved out of their original areas of settlement into new, less-populated areas of the City of Cleveland. This out-migration led many Polish residents of Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood to settle in South Brooklyn. In 1931, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis began teaching Polish-language classes at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish.
Three years later, Bishop Joseph Schrembs received a petition for a new parish from a group of South Brooklyn's Polish-Catholics: "We know that the only aid we can rely upon is the one that we will seek among our own people, through their willingness to contribute any amount of money towards such a cause; but that this may be carried on in a most legal and honest way." The Diocese informed the "Polish-Speaking Committee of Brooklyn," consisting of John Sroka, Raymond Adamski, Adam Slomkowski, John Elewski, and Stanley Kolis, that they should celebrate Mass at St. Barbara Parish on Denison Avenue. During the next few years, the Diocese and the committee continued to exchange letters. Responding to Bishop Schrembs's claim that the ongoing Great Depression prohibited any new parish construction, the committee argued that the neighborhood recently had witnessed the construction of a Polish National Home, which they claimed was a harbinger of a new Polish National Catholic Church community. While the Brooklyn Polish American community lacked complete unanimity of the issue of a new parish, Bishop Shrembs finally bowed to the wishes of the committee and, on August 9, 1935, established the Corpus Christi Parish, appointing Father Anthony Hemanski its first pastor.
Named in honor of the Seventh National Eucharistic Congress held in Cleveland that year, Corpus Christi Parish celebrated its first Mass in the Pearl Road Recreation Center on August 15, 1935. Receiving assistance from the Benedictine priests from St. Andrew Abbey on Buckeye Road, Father Orlemanski led a dynamic community which quickly called for the construction of a church building. On October 18, 1936, Auxiliary Bishop James A. McFadden and the members of the Corpus Christi community broke ground for a church. Work proceeded quickly on the building, allowing the parish to celebrate Mass in the new church on Christmas Eve 1936. Auxiliary Bishop McFadden returned to the parish on November 14, 1937, to dedicate Corpus Christi Church.
Throughout the remainder of the Great Depression and the second World War, Corpus Christi Parish sacrificed and prayed. In commemoration of parishioners who had served in the Second World War, the parish erected a granite statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. While many parishes had dedicated memorial plaques, Father Orlemanski and the 450 families of the parish believed that the statue would be a unique and more fitting tribute. As the military demobilized its forces, the population of Corpus Christi Parish increased, stimulating discussions of a new parish campus. In June 1951, the community debated a move to the area around Ridge and Biddulph Roads. While this plan was never realized, the Corpus Christi community witnessed the dedication of a new church and school on November 21, 1954.
To staff the new school, the Corpus Christi community secured the services of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis. After almost 36 years of service to Corpus Christi Parish, Father Orlemanski retired on July 1, 1971, and was succeeded by Father Edmund Gackowski. Father Gackowski served as pastor for almost three years before retiring in March 1974. Corpus Christi Parish's next pastor, Father Joseph M. Jarzynski, came to a community dealing with a number of issues common to Cleveland's urban parishes. Under his direction, the parish established a social concerns commission, which supervised a monthly food collection and volunteers for area hunger centers. In 1979, the parish's Holy Name Society began publishing The Harbinger, a parish newsletter.
With a decreasing numbers of vocations, Corpus Christi School converted to an all-lay faculty in 1989. Responding to the continuing shortage of diocesan priests, many members of the laity stepped into new roles in Cleveland's Catholic parishes. Corpus Christi Parish was no exception, celebrating the installation of David Lundeen and Charles Zawadzki as ordained deacons. In the summer of 1995, the parish's St. Vincent de Paul Society came to the aid of the victims of the Bader Avenue explosion, providing food, shelter, and monetary assistance. Under its current pastor, Father Ronald J. Szudarek, Corpus Christi Parish consists of a diverse population of Polish-, Slovenian-, German-, Irish-, Italian-, Filipino-, and Vietnamese-Catholics.