OUR LADY OF FATIMA PARISH was established by Bishop EDWARD F. HOBAN on November 27, 1949 to serve the diverse assortment of Eastern Europeans as well as migrants from Appalachia who lived in the HOUGH neighborhood of Cleveland. Father Raymond T. Smith, the parish's first pastor, held the first Mass in the auditorium of Thomas A. Edison Elementary School. The parish purchased the Italian Ritrovo Club, formerly the Ball Park Movie Theater, at 6822 Lexington Avenue in March 1950 and refashioned the building into a church. Archbishop Hoban formally dedicated Our Lady of Fatima Church on November 11, 1951, even though the congregation had celebrated its first mass in its new church on October 1950. Father Smith and his assistant, Father Hugh H. Bode, moved into the parish rectory on Lexington Avenue in July 1951. The Sisters of St. Joseph conducted catechism classes at the church as part of the religious education program. By 1951, some 700 families belonged to the parish. Like many other Cleveland neighborhoods, Hough experienced dramatic demographic shifts during the 1950s that directly affected the membership of Our Lady of Fatima Parish. As increasing numbers of its original members left Hough, the parish welcomed the PUERTO RICAN immigrants who settled in the neighborhood. Since the new parish members wished to celebrate Mass in Spanish, as they had done in Puerto Rico, Archbishop Hoban heeded to their pleas and entrusted the parish to the care of the bilingual priests of the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity. At this time, Father Kevin Nugent succeeded Father Smith and renewed the parish's emphasis on social outreach.
By the late 1950s, however, the majority of Hough residents were AFRICAN AMERICANS and the parish faced the task of evangelizing among this growing non-Catholic population. The parish welcomed Father ALBERT KOKLOWSKY to the pastorate in August 1963. During his tenure at Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Father Koklowsky spearheaded the formation of the parish's youth council and HOPE (Housing Our People Economically) Incorporated, a non-profit organization that promoted the rehabilitation of area houses and apartment buildings. With the blessing of Bishop CLARENCE G. ISSENMANN, the SISTERS OF CHARITY OF ST. AUGUSTINE opened a mission at the parish in April 1965. During the week-long HOUGH RIOTS in July of 1966, Father Koklowsky and the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine struggled to remain a calming influence in the devastated neighborhood, offering consolation and assistance to those in need. Following the departure of Father Koklowsky in September 1969, the Diocese returned the parish to mission status and the Trinitarian brothers appointed Father Joel Bladt as administrator. Brother Anselm Deehr joined the mission a year later and founded OUR LADY OF FATIMA CENTER, which offered social services and recreational and educational programs for residents of the Hough neighborhood. The Diocese appointed Father Bladt as pastor in 1972, officially reinstating Our Lady of Fatima to parish status. Father Rudy V. Breunig succeeded Father Bladt in August 1977. Since the number of Catholics in Hough had been declining since the 1950s, the Diocese considered merging Our Lady of Fatima with the neighboring St. Agnes Parish, whose church was demolished in November 1975. On March 30, 1980, the two parishes formally merged to form St. Agnes-Our Lady of Fatima Parish located on Lexington Avenue.
Updated by Marian Morton
See also CATHOLICS, ROMAN.
Kaczynski, Charles R., ed. People of Faith: Parishes and Religious Communities of the Diocese of Cleveland. (Cleveland: Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, 1998).