Building Community in Cleveland

Article written by Johanna Cajina, Associate Director of FrancisCorps and National Conference Planning Committee Member.

Catholic Volunteer Network is pleased to be hosting its 42nd Annual National Conference on Faith-Based Service in Cleveland, OH! The 2019 National Conference theme, “Many Rays, One Rising” seeks to guide attendees as they look inward to develop new ways of building community and reach outward as a unified voice telling the story of faith-based service. To delve into the Conference theme, keynote speakers and workshop facilitators will share their wisdom and experience, and set the stage for impactful conversations on strategies and collaborations for the coming year.

In keeping with the spirit of building community among its member programs, the Catholic Volunteer Network is hosting a Mass at St. Peter Church, located within a short walking distance from the Crowne Plaza at Playhouse Square. Mass will be celebrated on Thursday, November 7th from 5:15pm to 7pm. St. Peter Church, founded more than 150 years ago to serve German immigrants in Cleveland, has today among its core value the shared responsibility that, “We all are accountable and empowered to be of service to one another and to the wider community.”

As we visit this historic church, which is one of only two documented pre-Civil War structures remaining in downtown Cleveland and the oldest church in continuous use in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, here is a brief timeline of St. Peter:

1852: St. Mary’s on the Flats, the first Catholic Church building in Cleveland, Ohio, is assigned to the Catholic Germans living in the area.

1853: As the Catholic Germans lived to widely separated from St. Mary’s; the pastor, Father John Luhr, proposes to purchase a site for a church on the corner of Superior and Dodge streets. Construction for St. Peter officially begins.

Late 1850s: The church and school are ready for occupancy and the German congregation grows rapidly. Within two years, additional property is acquired and plans for a new church are realized.

1870s:  A new school building is constructed and the Sisters of Notre Dame who had to flee Germany are recruited for girls’ faculty. The Brothers of Mary are enlisted for the boys’ faculty from Dayton, Ohio.

1920-40s: A 2-year commercial high school becomes a 4-year high school.

1962: Due to the commercialization of the area, the parish loses members and closes the grade school.

1971: St. Peter High School merges with the combined schools of Lourdes Academy and St. Stephen’s High School, renamed Erieview Catholic High School, in the former St. Peter building.

1992: Due to declining enrollment, the school closes.

Mid 1990s: Much of the ornamentation is removed from the sanctuary and nave, and chairs replace pews. Under the direction of Fr. Robert Marrone, the liturgy takes a unique style that includes gathering around the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer.

2007: Bishop Richard Lennon asks parishes to develop plans to close a minimum of 45 of the 231 parishes of the Cleveland Catholic diocese.

2010:  St. Peter closes under the diocesan consolidation plan. Several parish members develop a nonprofit organization to raise money, and continue to meet and worship together. The worshipping community invites Fr. Marrone to lead the community which organizes into an independent, intentional Christian community in the Catholic Tradition.

2012: Some members from the original St. Peter Parish appeal the Vatican to re-open the parish under the Diocese of Cleveland. The Vatican decrees arrived in March 2012. On July 10, 2012, Bishop Lennon announces the appointment of Father Robert J. Kropac as Pastor of St. Peter parish, and the parish officially re-opens on September 9, 2012.

To learn more about this welcoming and engaging parish, visit them at St. Peter Cleveland.

Click here to register for the 42nd Annual National Conference on Faith-Based Service.

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