CLEVELAND THE HISTORY OF ST. CATHERINE Parish may be summarized best in a statement made by one of its former pastors, Father Gordon A.Yahner: "Life is like a coin: one side is adversity... the other is opportunity.... At the same moment we are both dying and being reborn." Organized as a mission of Holy Name Parish by Father John T. Carroll, St. Catherine Church was dedicated by the Diocese's Vicar General, Monsignor Felix Boff on December 18, 1898. Located on the corner of Woodhill Road and Heatf-Avenue, the community was named in honor of the mother of Cleveland's third Bishop, the Right Reverend Ignatius F. Horstmann.
1898 -- ST. CATHERINE PARISH,
On March 16, 1899 a fire completely destroyed the building, sparing only the baptismal font. Within several months, however, the community constructed a temporary church. At its dedication ceremony, Bishop Horstmann presented the mission with a personal gift in memory of his mother—a beautiful marble statue of St. Catherine of Alexandria.
Father James J. Quinn, who received his ecclesiastical training at the Irish College in Paris, became the community's first pastor. With his love of learning, Father Quinn directed his first efforts toward the development of a parish school. In 1900, the parish constructed a wood-frame building which contained three classrooms and a meeting hall. After the building's completion, three Ursuline Sisters administered to the educational needs of the community's 200 students. This building served the parish until 1926, when the current school was opened.
On August 5, 1917, St. Catherine Parish celebrated its first Mass in its current church. The building originally contained both an upper and lower church. By 1929, through their generous financial contributions, the parishioners retired the church's mortgage. In celebration, they commissioned the construction of an Italian marble altar which was installed before the 11 church's consecration in October 1929. When the lower church was dismantled and converted into a social hall in 1944, the parish donated the furnishings and Stations of the Cross to the newly established St. Clare Parish in Lyndhurst, Ohio. Eleven years later, St. Catherine Parish embarked on a capital campaign for the construction of a new convent. Replacing the sisters' home on Laisy Avenue and East 93rd Street, the new building was completed in 1960 and served the needs of the Ursuline Sisters until their departure from the parish in 1989.
Cleveland and St. Catherine Parish with racial tension frequently escalated into violence. Under the pastorate of Father Edward Nieberding, the parish created a variety of outreach programs in the hopes of forging closer ties with the neighborhood's African-American community. One of the most effective parish institutions in this effort was St. Catherine School. Through its day-school and converts programs, the community welcomed many students and their families into the Catholic faith community. Unfortunately, their numbers never matched those of St. Catherine parishioners moving out of the neighborhood and the parish population began to fall.
Between 1975 and 1979, St. Catherine Parish welcomed a number of temporary administrators and continued to struggle with the challenges of urban decay and falling parish membership. One way St. Catherine Parish addressed these issues was to cooperate with other area parishes. Starting in 1977, Sister Catherine Walsh, CSA began supervising the adult catechesis program, Scripture studies, and prayer meetings at both St. Catherine and Epiphany Parishes. Under the direction of Father Joseph Romansky, St. Catherine Parish cooperated with Epiphany, and Holy Family Parishes, and Mount Pleasant School to form the St. Catherine Associated Teens Club (SCAT). These three parishes, along with Nativity Parish, also sponsored an annual Corpus Christi procession.
During the 1980s and 1990s, the parish has continued to serve the area's poor and hungry. In 1990, St. Catherine Parish and Woodland East Community Organization (WECO) helped in the construction of the new Leathers Playground for the Kingsbury Run Park. In April 1992, Father Daniel Nealon became the parish administrator. In addition to its other ministries, the parish sponsors two neighborhood food projects—programs modeled after the earlier work of Brother Anthony Ratti. Sister Mary Eunice Campbell, OSU reinstituted St. Catherine's Food Pantry program in 1994, serving an average of 200 area households every month. That same year, Sister Mary Janeta Stamper, SND came to the parish and opened Women's Hope, a cooperative which assists women create andsell handcrafted items at area boutiques and retail outlets. In recent years, St. Catherine Parish has housed the offices of the National Catholic Bereavement Ministry and Iwo San, a crisis shelter for pregnant women with substance abuse problems.
Father Walter H. Jenne, pastor of St. Catherine Parish since February 1992, received a new assignment as pastor of St. Basil the Great Parish in December 1994. He quickly petitioned Bishop Anthony Pilla, asking that he also be allowed remain administrator of the St. Catherine community. The Diocese granted his request. Looking to forge closer ties between the two communities, parishioners from both parishes formed the St. Basil-St. Catherine Joint Planning Committee. With its links to other diocesan parishes, as well as, the residents of its neighborhood, St. Catherine Parish looks forward to its hundredth anniversary in 1998, and to many more years of service and faith.