Parishes, schools and religious congregations dedicated in his honor.
Pope Francis wrote that “the carpenter of Nazareth was able to turn a problem into a possibility by trusting always in Divine Providence.”
In honor of Mary’s spouse and Jesus’ earthly father, the pope announced that the Church is observing a year dedicated to St. Joseph from Dec. 8. 2020, to Dec. 8, 2021. He also released an apostolic letter, “Patris Corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”), to mark the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as patron of the Universal Church.
In the letter, he describes St Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father, a father who is creatively courageous, a working father and a father in the shadows.
With the COVID-19 pandemic as a backdrop, the pope said we can see more clearly the importance of ordinary people who exercise patience and hope on a daily basis, much like St. Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence” and who played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”
In the Diocese of Cleveland, four existing parishes and one all-girls high school are named in honor of this beloved saint. There also are four religious orders with a dedication to him that serve in the diocese.
One of the oldest parishes in the diocese, St. Joseph in Cuyahoga Falls was established in 1831 — 16 years before the Diocese of Cleveland became the first diocese carved from what is now the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The parish, located in Summit County, even predates the county, which was formed in 1840.
Father Jared Orndorff, seventh pastor of the parish, was eager to share its history. “Original parishioners were farmers and those working on the Ohio and Erie Canal. Many were Irish,” he said. In the early years, circuit-riding priests on horseback made the rounds to care for the spiritual needs of Catholic families. The first long-term pastor, Father John Nolan, arrived in 1906.
In 1887, St. J of Sackett and Second streets was purchased for the first church, which was completed in 1887 at a cost of about $2,000. It was dedicated to St. Joseph on June 19, 1887, and served about 20 families. Due to growth, fundraising began soon after to build a larger church, which was dedicated on Sept. 13, 1913. At least four other nearby parishes grew from St. Joseph’s as area population increased after World War II. The parish school opened in 1923.
Today, Father Jared said the parish community is thriving with about 1,100 families and a school enrollment of about 200 as it looks forward to its bicentennial.
• Visit saintjoe.org
• 1761 Second St., Cuyahoga Falls (church address)
The Civil War was raging when St. Joseph Parish in Amherst was founded in 1864. Father Tim O’Connor, who leads St. Joseph and nearby Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, said sandstone quarrying and farming were the two major occupations in Amherst then.
“Many of the people were German, so the priests had to be bilingual,” he said. In the parish’s early years, one visiting priest traveled by railroad hand car to minister to parishioners.
Land at the corner of Tenney Avenue and Forest Street in downtown Amherst and sandstone blocks for the foundation were donated for the first church, which was dedicated on Aug. 15, 1868. The first pastor arrived in 1874 and lived with parish families until the rectory was built in 1877.
In the early 1900s, a struggling local economy meant the loss of parishioners. As the things improved, the parish grew again. The school opened in 1924. Dramatic growth occurred after World War II; a new church and school opened in 1956. Overcrowding prompted construction of a new rectory-administration building, convent and a larger church, which was dedicated in 1971. A church enhancement project recently concluded, Father Tim said.
There are about 2,000 families in St. Joseph Parish and about 155 students in the school. He compared St. Joseph and BVM parishes to the Holy Family, explaining they complement each other and do many things together.
• Visit stjosephamherst.com
• 200 St. Joseph Drive, Amherst (church address)
Bishop Edward Malesic will help St. Joseph Parish in Strongsville celebrate its 75th anniversary with a Mass in June.
The parish was founded in 1946 during the post-World War II population boom. Its first pastor, Father Joseph McGraw, was a former Army chaplain. Current pastor Father Joe Mamich, the sixth pastor, said the parish is an offshoot of St. Mary Parish in Berea. Parishioners petitioned Bishop Edward Hoban for a new parish in Strongsville because of the growing population. The first Mass was June 30, 1946.
The first Mass in the parish church — an old Army Quonset hut — was on Christmas Day 1946. The school opened in 1950. In 1978, after St. John Neumann Parish was established in Strongsville, they agreed to operate a joint school, SS. Joseph and John at St. Joseph.
Ironically, St. John’s was Father Joe’s family parish. “I grew up there and now I’m pastor here,” he said.
A new church was built on the parish property and dedicated in 1964. On Palm Sunday — April 11, 1965 — a deadly F4 tornado roared through the city, severely damaging the old church and school, but sparing the new church.
Renovations in 2012 included painting the church and restoring the electronic controls on the bells. Two years ago, the organ was rebuilt and rededicated.
Currently, the parish has about 2,800 families. A 75th anniversary celebration is being planned for 2022.
• Visit sjohio.org
• 12700 Pearl Road, Strongsville (church address)
In 1949, St. Joseph Parish in Avon Lake was formed as an offshoot of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Avon. Until construction of the first church in 1951, Masses were celebrated in the old Avon Lake Theater. The school opened soon after.
St. Joseph School, which has about 250 students, celebrated its 70th anniversary last year. The parish has about 1,900 households.
Father Ron Wearsch, who was installed in 2013 as the sixth pastor, is an Avon Lake native who grew up in the city’s other parish, Holy Spirit.
“On the parish’s 50th anniversary, ground was broken for a new, larger church. The first Mass was the Easter Vigil,” Father Ron said. The original church was remodeled and now serves as the parish hall. Over the years, pastors have left their touches. One capitalized on the parish’s proximity to Lake Erie and added nautical touches, which are evident in a stained-glass window and the former tabernacle, which resembled an ark. The old tabernacle was moved to the parish adoration chapel.
Father Tim O’Connor, who preceded Father Ron as pastor, has the distinction of moving from St. Joseph Parish in Avon Lake to become pastor of another St. Joseph Parish — in Amherst.
The parish is mission-focused and uses its hospitality ministry to help connect parishioners and the community. Father Ron, a former chef, said St. Joseph is known for its Lenten fish fries.
• Visit stjosephavonlake.org
• 32946 Electric Blvd., Avon Lake (church address)
More than 18,000 women are alumnae of Saint Joseph Academy, the only all-girls Catholic high school in Cleveland. Current enrollment is about 700.
A ministry of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, the academy was founded in 1890. It moved to its current location, overlooking the Rocky River Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks, in 1898.
Early on, there also was an elementary school. The academy operated in part of the motherhouse until 1928, when classes moved into the newly constructed school building on the spacious campus in Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood.
Cathy Knittel, a 1967 graduate and longtime faculty member, said Founder’s Day is celebrated on Oct. 15 to mark the establishment of the congregation. “We also celebrate St. Joseph’s Day in Lent,” she said. Students sing the song “Joseph, Father” for special celebrations, including graduation. The school mirrors the charisms of the sisters and offers a unit for students that focuses on them: service to the dear neighbor, personal integrity, emerging wisdom and empathetic justice, Cathy said.
A large statue of the Holy Family greets those entering the grounds. In the circle between the old motherhouse — gifted to the school by the sisters — and the school building, is a large statue of St. Joseph. Knittel said many students and alumnae will visit the statue to touch his foot and often to pray.
“He is our father,” she said.
• Visit sja1890.org
• 3470 Rocky River Drive, Cleveland
DID YOU KNOW?
St. Joseph High School, an all-boys’ school, operated 1950-1989 in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood until it merged in 1990 with nearby Villa Angela Academy, 1878-1989, to create the coed Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School at the St. Joseph site.