CARVED HIGH ALTAR
The story of Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel is really a story of persons working together to transplant their religious heritage to a new country. As early as the First World War, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans migrated to Lorain, Ohio in search of employment.
A Mexican settlement, composed principally of men, soon formed along the edge of south Lorain. Over the next three decades, the fate of the community waxed and waned with shifting economic and political conditions.
1952 SACRED HEART OF
JESUS CHAPEL, LORAIN
The future of the Hispanic settlement finally was secured, when, in the wake of the Second World War, discharged United States servicemen from the Puerto-Rican towns of Lares, Coamo, San Lorenzo and Utuado settled in Lorain. By the early 1950s, these men had sent for their families.
Recognizing the spiritual needs of the community, the Cleveland Diocese established Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel in July 1952, securing the priestly services of Father Gerard Fredericks, ST. Soon after his appointment, Father Fredericks and Archbishop Edward F. Hoban selected a site for the community – the former Rebman Meat Market on Vine Avenue. Father Fredericks soon “became a constant visitor to the local business scene, seeking equal opportunity before it was the law. He was the interpreter at the courts defending and demanding the rights for people who understood little of the judicial system and were terrified of it.” In April 1953, three Missionary Servant Sisters-sister Marie Jean Daigle, Sister Carmen Teresa Rivas, and Sister Catherine Laboure joined Father Fredericks in serving the community. Along with its sacramental celebrations, the parish sponsored a variety of programs, including catechism classes and athletic teams.
When Father Martin Van Trieste, ST succeeded Father Fredericks in September 1958 the center of many men’s social life was still the area’s bars and clubs. In 195, Father Van Trieste and nine men of the parish attended a Cursillo in San Antonio, Texas, returning to Lorain inspired. Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel soon became the center of the Diocese’s Spanish-language Cursillo program. As the movement spread, it drew the attention of the national media. In the late summer of 1963, Father Van Trieste turned over the administration of the parish to his fellow Trinitarian, Father Kevin Nugent, ST. Under his direction, the parish reached out to the larger Spanish-speaking community, sponsoring La Capilla del Cristo Rey at the former St. Peter Church, and La Capilla de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe at the former St. John Church . Under the guidance of its next pastor, Father Albert Koklowsky, ST, who had previously served in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood, these efforts continued.
During the 1970’s, the parish underwent a variety of changes. In November 1972, it welcomed a new pastor, Father Robert Ward, ST. Two years later, a chapter of parish history came to an end, when preparations for a new housing project led to the demolition of the original Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel. Through the generosity of Mrs. Pauline Vukin, the parish secured a ten-acre site on Pearl Street for a new chapel. While work progressed on the building, the community celebrated Mass in the former Kohlmyer Hardware Store building. On April 20, 1975, Bishop James A. Hickey dedicated the new Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel. During the next eight years, the parish was served by two other pastors from the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity: Father Edward Molumby (1980-1982) and Father Timothy Lynch (1982).
On June 30, 1982, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland assumed responsibility for the parish, appointing Father Michael J. Schneid pastor. Father Schneid served the community for the next eight years, turning over the parish to his successor and current pastor, Father Robert Reidy, on June 1, 1990. Approximately eighty years after the first Spanish-speaking Catholics arrived in Lorain, Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel maintains the religious traditions of its Puerto-Rican, Mexican, Salvadoran, Dominican, Honduran, Cuban and Guatemalan parishioners. While maintaining its cultural and religious traditions, the community also has reached out to welcome Irish, German, Italian and African-American Catholics.