top of page



In 1907 the present large Motherhouse building was dedicated. One section of it included St. Joseph Academy with its classrooms and boarders' dormitories. This large building had been secured after 35 years of struggles and sacrifice on the part of the sisters. The old frame building on the front of the property became a Boys' Boarding School until 1919 when the school closed. After this, the sisters used it as a novitiate for many years. 

The Sisters of St. Joseph continued to staff parish schools. In 1909 they were administering St. Joseph Academy and 13 elementary schools. In 1912 St. Agnes High School, the first parochial high school in the diocese, was opened. St. Colman's High School opened in 1923 as did St. Therese Academy in Lakewood, owned by the community. 

The must significant building addition at the Sisters' property on Rocky River Drive was the new St. Joseph Academy building dedicated on September 1, 1929 and facing on the Motherhouse building. It provided for 600 day and boarding pupils. Bishop Schrembs, in his address at the dedication, expressed his gratitude, encouragement and support for the community of 200 sisters who had erected a "center of Christian culture" in a rapidly growing residential district. Unfortunately, the Great Depression had just begun and the community knew what real poverty was as teachers' salaries were often unpaid, music lessons declined and a large debt had been undertaken. Difficult years followed as' educational needs became greater and teacher training requirements became more rigid. 

The period of the 1940's saw the sacrifices as well as the enthusiasm of Americans in World War II. The great expansion of Catholic schools in the diocese after the war led to the community taking on more schools especially south of Cleveland in the Parma area. These included St. Bridget's, St. Anthony's and St. Columbkille's. In 1950 the Sisters of St. Joseph were teaching 13,260 pupils in 26 schools, including St. Joseph Academy. To meet the demand for more Catholic high schools, the community built Nazareth Academy in Parma Heights in 1957. This was also a period of growth in vocations as 188 women entered the community between 1950 and 1962. 

The 1960's brought many changes to the community in the form of the Sister Formation movement, Rededication periods of renewal for professed sisters and greater demand for advanced education degrees. These factors paved the way for the Vatican II Renewal Chapter of 1968. Sr. Brigid Griffin, the new Superior-General, was about 35 years younger than the Mother-General she succeeded. Through a year of community preparation, the General Chapter of 1968 permitted such changes as a contemporary style religious habit, flexibility of daily schedules and prayers, openness to a broader view of the apostolate, annual vacations for sisters and relaxed family visitation rules. 

In 1973 the community changed its government structure to an Executive Team of three sisters elected by the General Chapter. They then appointed directors of personnel, community life, the apostolate and finance. The term of office was three years. In 1973 this term was extended to four years, and 1988 to five years. The present Executive Team of Sisters Marietta Starrie, Barbara,Green and Donna Hawk, is the sixth one to be elected, since 1973. Collaboration and shared leadership involving the whole community at some level are characteristics of this style of governance. 

From the 1980's down to the present, issues and concerns which have challenged the community are: 1) the establishment of new ministries such as pastoral and campus ministry, adult religious education, retreat and spiritual direction, hospital chaplains and various ministries to the poor. No longer are Sisters of St. Joseph working only in schools. 2) The right of each sister to choose her ministry in consultation with the community criteria of being a reconciling presence. 3) Spirituality as linked with justice concerns. 4) The acceptance of laywomen and men as co-members who share our spirit. 5) Greater participation with laity in parishes, schools, and in neighborhood and ecumenical endeavors. 6) Exerting pressure for change of unjust systems for change of unjust systems through advocacy and support of organizations which have a similar Christian agenda. 

In 1997 the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cleveland celebrated 125 years of service in the Diocese of Cleveland. The community is proud of the contributions it has made to education on all levels, to renewal in the Church, to new ministries which serve the broader community and the needs of the times, and its efforts to promote the social justice agenda of the Church. May such dedication continue for years to come. 


MOTHER ST. GEORGE Bradley founded the Sisters of St. Joseph (C.S.J.) in the Cleveland Diocese in 1872 when she and two other sisters were invited by Bishop Richard Gilmour to staff St. Mary's School in Painesville. In 1880 the sisters established their Motherhouse on Starkweather Avenue in Cleveland. In addition to the Select School there, they were teaching at St. Augustine School and St. Wenceslas School in Cleveland, as well as at St. Joseph's, Ashtabula, Ohio and at St. Ann's in Fremont, Ohio. In 1890 Mother St. George built a rather large stone structure on Starkweather which housed the sisters as well as St. Joseph Academy, newly chartered by the State of Ohio. 

Mother Theresa Fitzmaurice was elected the third Superior-General of the community in 1895. Her primary concern was to find a new location for the Motherhouse, as the community grew larger. In 1898, the community purchased 52 acres of property in the "wilderness" of the Rockport Hamlet on a mud road called Riverside Road (now Rocky River Drive). There were two farmhouses on the property. The first sisters moved into one of the farmhouses in 1899. The new Motherhouse and temporary Academy were dedicated in 1899 by Bishop Horstmann. There were 85 sisters in the community at the time, many of them living at various parishes. In 1900 the sisters were teaching in 12 schools, both in Cleveland and surrounding towns. 

bottom of page