ST. EDWARD PARISH was established in 1871 by IRISH Catholics and became the second AFRICAN-AMERICAN parish in the Diocese of Cleveland in 1943. Irish Catholics residing in the Woodland Avenue area formed the Holy Family Parish in 1871 and welcomed Father Jacob Kuhn to lead the congregation. The community pooled its financial resources to fund the construction of a church-school building at Woodland Avenue and Geneva Street (East 69th Street). Father James Conlan, Vicar of the Diocese of Cleveland, dedicated the church on August 16, 1874. The Ladies of the Sacred Heart opened the parish school on the lower level of the building a month later.
The growth of the Irish Catholic community in the area during the late nineteenth century necessitated the construction of a new church to accommodate the religious needs of the newcomers. More than 10,000 spectators packed Woodland Avenue for the laying of the church's cornerstone on April 27, 1885. Bishop RICHARD GILMOUR dedicated St. Edward Church at 6914 Woodland Avenue on February 1, 1886 and the parish was officially renamed St. Edward. Father Matthew A. Scanlon, who had led the Holy Family Parish since 1880, became the first pastor of St. Edward Parish. The Sisters of the Humility of Mary took over the administration of the parish school in June 1891. The parish community funded the renovation of the school and the construction of a pastoral residence a year later. Father William S. Kress, who succeeded Father Scanlon in February 1899, made St. Edward the headquarters of the Cleveland Apostolate, an organization committed to evangelizing among non-Catholics and dispelling anti-Catholic prejudices. He also spearheaded the parish's campaign to welcome new parishioners from neighboring African-American communities. During his tenure at St. Edward, Father Kress oversaw the construction of a new parish school and a new rectory, and the conversion of the former pastoral residence into a convent. Following the departure of Father Kress in 1920, the parish had a number of short-term pastors: Father Joseph F. Nolan (1921-25); Father John P. Kenny (1925-28); Father Kieran P. Banks (1928-32); Father J. E. Casey (1933-36); Father William Moseley (1936-37); and Father James E. Maher (1938-43).
The demographics of St. Edward Parish changed dramatically by the 1940s. As most of the original Irish parishioners left the Woodland Avenue area, African-American families moved into the parish. The Diocese appointed Father Melchior Lochtefeld, the pastor of the first African-American parish in Cleveland, OUR LADY OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT, to lead St. Edward in 1943. The Diocese designated St. Edward Parish as the second African-American parish in Cleveland the same year. St. Edward High School for Girls, offering a two-year commercial program, opened in September 1943 under the direction of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Father Werner Verhoff, who succeeded Father Lochtefeld in 1953, struggled with declining membership and rising costs during his lengthy tenure at St. Edward. The parish high school closed in 1958.
Father Charles McKoy led St. Edward from 1968 until 1971 and oversaw the merger of its elementary school with that of ST. ADALBERT PARISH. As the precarious financial situation of the parish worsened during the tenure of Father Raymond Schultheis, appointed pastor in 1971, the Diocese of Cleveland was forced to act. On July 1, 1975, the Diocese merged St. Edward Parish with the neighboring HOLY TRINITY PARISH, which was also struggling financially at that time, to create the Holy Trinity-St. Edward Parish. The long and storied history of St. Edward Parish came to an official if inauspicious end with the demolition of its former church building in 1976.
Updated by Todd Michney
See CATHOLICS, ROMAN.
Blatnica, Dorothy Ann. “At the Altar of Their God”: African American Roman Catholics in Cleveland, 1922-1961 (New York: Garland Publishing, 1995).
Kaczynski, Charles R., ed., People of Faith: Parishes and Religious Communities of the Diocese of Cleveland (Cleveland, OH: Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, 1998).