ST. JOSEPH PARISH
Among the early settlers of the Village of Lorain were Catholic families of Irish, German, and Polish descent, who soon joined together to form a mission church. In 1878, after five years of celebrating Mass in private homes, the community erected St. Mary of the Lake Church. When a fire destroyed the building in 1895, the German-speaking members of the community petitioned Bishop Ignatius F. Horstmann to establish a separate German nationality parish. On November 28, 1895, Bishop Horstmann appointed Father Charles Reichlin to organize the area's 70 German-Catholic families into a community.
Sacred Heart of Jesus
Made by Daprato Co., circa 1930s.
Plaster and horsehair with glass eyes.
Closely following Father Reichlin's progress, Bishop Horstmann officially established St. Joseph Parish on January 5, 1896, appointing Father Reichlin its first pastor. While the community made preparations for the erection of a church/school, it celebrated Mass in the chapel of St. Joseph Hospital. Once begun, work progressed quickly on the building, allowing Monsignor Felix Boff to bless the cornerstone in August 1896. With work completed on the foundation, the parish celebrated Mass in the basement until the upper church was completed early the following year.
On February 14, 1897, the St. Joseph community celebrated its first Mass in its new church. Along with its church, the parish also celebrated the opening of its school, in which teachers from the Sisters of St. Francis from Tiffin, Ohio taught the parish's 40 students. During the next decade, the parish completed its campus, opening a convent in 1903, and a rectory in 1908. At the end of the 1922-1923 school year, the Sisters of St. Francis left the parish and were replaced the following fall by the Sisters of Notre Dame.
In 1927, the parish purchased property on the corner of 23rd Street and Washington Avenue and drew up plans for a new church. The project, however, was postponed when Father Reichlin died of pneumonia on December 7, 1928. While the community's next two pastors, Father Julius Kilter and Father Jerome Rohner, attempted to keep their predecessor's dream alive, the advent of the Great Depression, and later the Second World War, foiled plans for a new St. Joseph Church. When plans were made public for Father Rohner's transfer, parishioners circulated petitions, calling for their pastor's retention.
Recognizing the bond between Father Rohner and the parishioners of St. Joseph Parish, Bishop Schrembs revoked the transfer order, allowing Father Rohner to remain pastor until his death in December 1962.
During the next 15 years, seven different priests served as pastors of the community: Father William Rooney (1963-1966); Father Andrew O'Boyle (1966-1967); Father Balthazar Koczah (1967-1973); Father William Snyder (1973-1974); Father Joseph Williams (1974-1976); Father John Fergus (1976); and Father Kenneth Retter (1976-1978). During these years, the parish experienced a number of changes. With its enrollment falling, the parish closed St. Joseph School in 1972.
Two years later, the parish welcomed transitional deacon Lawrence Martello, who was ordained a priest on June 8, 1974. A second transitional deacon, Stephen Dohner, lived at St. Joseph Parish during the summer of 1975 while he worked as a patient representative in a pilot program at St. Joseph Hospital. On July 1, 1978, Father Albert Kunkel became the parish's eighth pastor. Recognizing the need for a smaller facility in which to celebrate daily Mass, Father Kunkel authorized the conversion of the former seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms into a chapel. On January 30, 1979, Bishop James A. Hickey traveled to the parish to bless the new chapel.
With Father Kunkel's departure in October 1982, the parish welcomed Father William Gibbons. Prior to his appointment as pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Father Gibbons had served 16 years as a member of the Diocesan Missionary Team in El Salvador, where, along with his priestly duties, he worked closely with Father Denis St. Marie teaching natural family planning. In January 1983, the St. Joseph community, with the assistance of four other area parishes, began serving hot meals to the neighborhood's needy. Father Gibbons retired in March 1993.
With the retirement of Father Gibbons, the community entered a new era. Facing a shortage of priests, the Cleveland Diocese could not fill the vacancy at St. Joseph Parish. After meeting with the Parish Council, Auxiliary Bishop A. James Quinn, and representatives from the Diaconate Office, Bishop Anthony M. Pilla appointed a deacon, the Reverend Mister Luis A. Maldonado, pastoral administrator. Under the Reverend Mister Maldonado's supervision, the parish has improved its hot meals program, opening a kitchen pantry. On September 12, 1994, the parish welcomed Father Robert J. Reidy as its canonical pastor. The parish opened an overnight shelter in the winter of 1995, providing the neighborhood's homeless with a warm haven. As St. Joseph Parish begins its second century, its members remain steadfast in faith and service to their neighbors and each other.