Immaculate Conception Church
History of Immaculate Conception Church
In the early 1850s, Irish-Catholic families from the area of East 41st Street and Superior Avenue, celebrated Mass at the Chapel of the Nativity--a small frame building behind St. John the Evangelist Cathedral. The Diocese moved the building to a lot in the middle of the Irish neighborhood in 1856, renaming it Immaculate Conception Church. For the next ten years, the chapel served as a mission church and school, with the Ursuline Sisters as teachers. On May 1, 1865, Bishop Amadeus Rappe elevated the community to parochial status, appointing Father Andrew Sauvadet, a French- and Canadian - educated priest, first pastor. Following Bishop Rappe's resignation in September 1870, the Diocese transferred Father Sauvadet to Annunciation Parish, replacing him with Father Thomas P. Thorpe, who two years later oversaw the erection of a temporary frame church. In August of the following year, Bishop Richard Gilmour laid the cornerstone for the current Immaculate Conception Church.
With Father Thorpe's departure from Immaculate Conception Parish, supervision of construction became the responsibility of the community's third pastor, Father A. R. Sidley. Tension soon developed between Father Sidley and the parishoners, resulting in a drop in contributions and delays in the church's completion. In the fall of 1880, Father Sidley called a general meeting in which the issues dividing the community were settled. By 1882, the church's shell had been completed. With Bishop Gilmour in Europe, Monsignor Felix M. Boff dedicated the Gothic-style church on May 31, 1885. Father Sidley went on to serve the parish for another eight years. Upon his death, the parish welcomed its former pastor, Father Thorpe. Work on the church continued through the turn-of-the-century, with the erection of a bell tower (1898), the installation of an eleven-bell chime (1899), and the completion of a clock tower (1901). Sixteen years after being made domestic prelate, Monsignor Thorpe died on March 17, 1907. For the next two years, the Immaculate Conception Church benefited from the pastoral care of Father Patrick Farrell. On October 28, 1909, Monsignor George Murphy began his thirty-three-year pastorate, in which the parish erected its present school building (1916). This school became an observation and teaching training facility for the Sisters' College of Cleveland (1928). As growing numbers of its members being called for military service, the community welcomed a new pastor, Father William T. Moran in 1942. As northeastern Ohio became more suburbanized in the immediate postwar period, Immaculate Conception Parish struggled with a variety of problems common to the Diocese's urban parishes. During these difficult years, the community was led by a number of priests: Father Leonard Wheatley (1945-1956); Father Caspar A. Heimann (1956-1958); Father James L. Hernan (1958-1961); Father Bernard A. Blatt (1961-1964); Father Joseph V. Butler (1964-1967); Father Bernard J. Tierney (1967-1969); and Father James Fortman (1969-1976).
By the time Father Albert Mackert became pastor in 1976, the parish was suffering from falling membership and a deteriorating campus. Recognizing the interest in traditional celebrations of the Eucharist, the Diocese permitted Immaculate Conception Church to celebrate weekly Tridentine Latin Masses in 1989. Three years later, Sister Roberta Goebel, OSU and the remaining Ursuline teachers left Immaculate Conception School, turning it over to an all-lay faculty, which currently is lead by principal, Dr. Marlene Matis. On September 1, 1995, the parish welcomed its sixteenth pastor, Father Michael J. Troha. While it began as a community of Irish-Catholic immigrants, Immaculate Conception Parish today is a multiethnic congregation with a school population that currently speaks sixteen different languages. From People of Faith: Parishes and Religious Communities of the Diocese of Cleveland by Charles R. Kaczynski, Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland; Cleveland, OH, © 1997. pp.76-77