ST. CATHERINE PARISH obtained parish status from the Diocese of Cleveland in 1898 and chose its name to honor the mother of Cleveland's third bishop, the Right Reverend IGNATIUS F. HORSTMANN. Monsignor Felix Boff, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Cleveland, dedicated the St. Catherine Church, located on the corner of Woodland Hills Avenue (now East 93rd Street) and Heath Street (now Heath Avenue), on December 18, 1898. After a fire destroyed its church on March 16, 1899, sparing only the baptismal font, the parish erected a temporary church that was dedicated by Bishop Horstmann, who presented the congregation with a personal gift in memory of his mother-a marble statue of St. Catherine of Alexandria.
The parish welcomed its first pastor, Father James J. Quinn, in January 1900. Father Quinn oversaw the construction of a wood-frame building, containing three classrooms and a meeting hall, on a frontage he had purchased on Haddock Avenue (now St. Catherine Avenue) in 1900. He recruited the URSULINE SISTERS to manage the parish school that served some 200 students at the beginning of the twentieth century. After the completion of a rectory in 1908, the parish constructed a two-story church building on East 93rd Street and Haddock Avenue in 1915 to better serve its rapidly expanding congregation. Father Quinn celebrated the first Mass in the new church with his parishioners on August 5, 1917. To commemorate the repayment of the church mortgage in 1929, the congregation commissioned an Italian marble altar for its sanctuary and invited Bishop JOSEPH SCHREMBS to consecrate its church on October 24, 1929. Following the death of Father Quinn in November 1932, Father Charles J. Moseley led St. Catherine Parish for a decade. In 1944, the parish converted the lower story of its church building into a social hall and donated the holy artifacts to the newly established St. Clare Parish in LYNDHURST. The parish also completed the construction of a new convent in 1960 that accommodated the Ursuline Sisters for nearly three decades.
As increasing number of AFRICAN AMERICANS settled in St. Catherine Parish during the 1960s, the congregation, led by Father Edward Nieberding, initiated a variety of outreach programs in an effort to forge a closer relationship with the growing African-American community on Cleveland's southeast side. The St. Catherine School was the most effective parish institution in bridging the cultural and religious gap between African Americans and the Roman Catholic Church. The congregation welcomed many black families into the Catholic fold owing to the growing number of black students attending the parish school as well as conversion classes held at the school at evenings. Nonetheless, the parish population declined perceptibly in the 1970s since the gains in black membership did not offset the exodus of white parishioners from the neighborhood.
The parish, placed in the hands of administrators by the Diocese throughout the 1970s, relied extensively on collaboration with neighboring parishes to deal effectively with the challenges of urban decay and declining membership. For example, St. Catherine worked together with Epiphany and Holy Name Parishes and Mount Pleasant Catholic School to start the St. Catherine Associated Teens Club (SCAT), an after-school program for teenagers. Father Gordon A. Yahner led the parish from 1979 until 1985 and Father John T. Burkley from 1985 until 1989. Despite the many challenges it faced, the parish community maintained its enduring commitment to serving those in need throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The parish assisted the Woodland East Community Organization (WECO) with the construction of a new playground at the Kingsbury Run Park in 1990. In 1994, Sister Mary Eunice Campbell reinstated St. Catherine's Food Pantry Program and Sister Mary Janeta Stamper launched Women's Hope, a cooperative that assisted women in selling their handicrafts at area boutiques and retail outlets. In addition to its community outreach efforts, the parish housed the National Catholic Bereavement Ministry and Iwo San, a crisis shelter for pregnant women with substance abuse problems.
The Diocese appointed Father Walter H. Jenne as administrator of St. Catherine Parish in February 1992. During the tenure of Father Jenne, the parish forged a close relationship with St. Basil Parish in BRECKSVILLE as part of the Church in the City initiative of Bishop Anthony M. Pilla. Father William R. Dickinson served as administrator of the parish from 1999 until 2006 before Father Jenne returned to lead the parish for two years.
On January 1, 2008, St. Catherine Parish merged with ST. TIMOTHY and ST. HENRY Parishes to create Holy Spirit Parish. At the time of the merger, each parish had about 125 active families and was in danger of closure by the Diocese of Cleveland. St. Catherine and St. Henry relocated the statuary and art from their sanctuaries to the former St. Timothy church at 4341 East 131st Street, which has since served as the home of the new Holy Spirit Parish.
See CATHOLICS, ROMAN.
Kaczynski, Charles R., ed., People of Faith: Parishes and Religious Communities of the Diocese of Cleveland (Cleveland, OH: Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, 1998).