SAINT LAWRENCE PARISH was founded in 1901 in the NEWBURGH area of Cleveland by Father Francis Kerze. The parish was established after members of the growing SLOVENIAN population residing in Newburgh petitioned Bishop IGNATIUS HORSTMAN for the establishment of a church to serve their community. Bishop Horstmann agreed, and appointed Father Kerze as its founding pastor. It celebrated its first Mass in December 11, 1901, and by May of 1902 the cornerstone for a building that doubled as a school and a church was laid on what would become E. 81st street. Shortly afterwards construction of a wooden structure was completed and the first Mass in the new building was celebrated in August of that year and the school was officially opened only a few days later in September. 

Education was initially handled by the NOTRE DAME SISTERS, but by 1906 the Sisters of St. Dominic from Adrian, Michigan, took charge of the school. Father Kerze was succeeded by Father Joseph Lavric in 1909, who focused on continuing to decorate the church and expanding the parish through additional projects including the building of a rectory. After his death in 1915, Father John J. Omah took his place.  He worked vigorously to improve the parish. He formed devotional confraternities for his parishioners, established catechism classes for the Slovenian children in 1917, remodeled the parish in 1920, and also began the construction of a new brick church in order to replace the original wooden structure in 1923.

The late 1930s and 1940s saw a decline in financial stability and membership at the parish. The Great Depression brought serious economic troubles to many of the families residing in the parish, with some losing their houses. While these financial issues seemed to have been resolved by 1938, the outmigration of several younger families from the parish caused both the size of the community and the number of school enrollments to dwindle. Following Father Oman’s retirement in June of 1962, Father Francis Baraga became the new pastor. During his time in St. Lawrence, the school was improved and the Blessed Sacrament Confraternity of the Parish celebrated its golden jubilee. By 1968, however, health problems had forced Father Baraga to retire. In May of that year, Father Joseph Varga became pastor. The parish held a homecoming celebration in 1969 with the intent of building relationships between neighborhood parishioners, suburban parishioners, and former parishioners. However, the number of people in the parish kept dropping, and by 1973 the school had been closed. Despite this, spiritual life in the parish still thrived, and the Slovenian people residing in the area continued their celebration of Corpus Christi through neighborhood processions and the construction of shrines. By 1979, the pastor in charge of the parish was Father Anthony Rebol. During his tenure at St. Lawrence, the parishioners founded a Visitors Volunteer Program in 1982 in order to assist the elderly as well as homebound parishioners. Father Rebol officially retired in 1997, however the parish continued functioning well into the 2000s. In the early 2000s the Catholic population of Cleveland dropped significantly and a new bishop, Richard Gerard Lennon, was tasked to close a number of inner-city parishes. St. Lawrence was among them and on June 20,2010, after holding its final mass, the parish was closed.

Alberto Cabrer

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