1901 ST. LAWRENCE, CLEVELAND
ARRIVING IN Cleveland during the 1880s, the Slovenian immigrants settled in the Newburgh neighborhood bounded by E. 80th, 81st, 82nd, Marble and Burke Streets. They first attended Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish on E. 53rd before the Slovenian parish of St. Vitus was established in 1893.
By December of 1901 the Slovenian community in 40 Newburgh had grown to 65 families. These families petitioned Bishop Ignatius F. Horstmann for the establishment of a Slovenian parish to serve their community. The Bishop responded positively and appointed Father Francis Kerze, the assistant pastor of St. Vitus, to be the founding pastor. The new parish was placed under the patronage of St. Lawrence and the people gathered together on December 11, 1901 for the first Mass.
The cornerstone for the combination church-school building was laid on May 11, 1902. The first Mass was celebrated in the new building on August 31, 1902. On September 4 of that year the Notre Dame sisters opened a school for eighty parish children. The Notre Dame Sisters would teach at St. Lawrence until 1906, when the Sisters of St. Dominic from Adrian, Michigan took charge of the school.
In 1909 Father Kerze was succeeded by Father Joseph Lavric. Father Lavric continued the decoration of the church and built a rectory. In 1915 Father Lavric died and on September 1 of that year Father John J. Oman was named pastor. Originally from the St. Cloud, Minnesota Diocese, Father Oman had accepted a call to minister to the much larger Slovenian community of the Cleveland Diocese. After three years of ministry at St. Vitus, he received St. Lawrence as a pastorate.
Concerned about the spiritual as well as material advancement of his parish, Father Oman began devotional confraternities and sodalities for his parishioners.
In 1917 he established catechism classes for Slovenian children living in Randall and Maple Heights. In 1920 the parish remodeled and enlarged the school building.
In 1923 the parish began the construction of a permanent church. They could only afford to partially build their church, so they constructed a basement church. This partially completed but enclosed building would serve as the parish church until 1940, when the present church was constructed. The Depression caused great hardship in the parish; a number of parishioners lost their homes. The parish still continued a ministry of religious education to public school children. By 1938 the parish financial condition improved and the parishioners began raising funds for the new church. George Voinovich was hired as the architect and the cornerstone was laid in September of 1939.
Auxiliary Bishop James A. McFadden blessed the new church and consecrated its altars on August 11, 1940. The 1940s saw the start of outmigration from St. Lawrence Parish as younger families moved to the suburbs. The parish and the school enrollments declined. Father (now Monsignor) Oman retired on June 14, 1962. His successor was Father Francis Baraga.
From 1964 to 1965 the parishioners added many necessary improvements to the school. In 1965 the Blessed Sacrament Confraternity of the Parish celebrated its golden jubilee. III health forced Father Baraga to resign the pastorate and Father Joseph Varga became his successor on March 12, 1968. A homecoming celebration to build the bonds of community between city and suburban parishioners and former parishioners was instituted in 1969.
The parish population continued to drop and the school was closed in 1973. Even though the population dropped the spiritual life of the parish thrived. The Slovenian people have had a great devotion to Eucharist and maintained their distinctive celebration of Corpus Christi with their neighborhood procession and construction of shrines in various part of the parish until recent years. Since 1979, until his retirement in 1997, Father Anthony Rebol has served as the pastor of the parish. The parishioners created a Volunteer Visitor Program in 1982 to check on the needs of elderly and homebound parishioners. The senior group supports social activities for the elderly. The parish council allows the parishioners to actively participate in the life of the parish.