ST. HENRY PARISH was established with the permission of Bishop EDWARD F. HOBAN in the Lee-Miles neighborhood of Cleveland in 1946. The Bishop appointed Father John A. Hreha to lead the newly established parish. The congregation of the new parish celebrated its first Mass on October 20, 1946 in the auditorium of Beehive School on Lee Road. Father Hreha continued to hold the weekly Eucharistic celebrations at Beehive School and traveled with his parishioners to St. Cecilia Church for baptisms, weddings, and funerals because the parish lacked the necessary funds to erect a church on the property it purchased on Harvard Avenue. After years of saving and planning, Monsignor John T. Ruffing of St. Cecilia broke ground for St. Henry Church in February 1950. The parishioners of St. Henry celebrated Mass in their new church at 18230 Harvard Avenue in October 1950 and Bishop Hoban officially dedicated it on May 25, 1952. The parish recruited the Dominican Sisters from Adrian, Michigan, to manage its school, which opened in September 1950. The campus of St. Henry Parish expanded further in the 1950s with the construction of a convent and a school annex in 1954 and an administration building in 1959.
As was the case with many other Catholic parishes in the City of Cleveland, St. Henry experienced a profound demographic shift in membership during the 1960s and 1970s. As the original parishioners left for the suburbs, a growing number of AFRICAN AMERICANS settled in the Lee-Miles neighborhood and many African-American families joined the church. Father Hreha worked tirelessly to promote interracial dialogue and cooperation among the white and black members of St. Henry as it gradually transitioned from a majority-white to a majority-black parish.
Following the resignation of Father Hreha in 1966, the parish welcomed Monsignor William M. Cosgrove as pastor. While the congregation celebrated the elevation of Monsignor Cosgrove to the position of Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland in May 1968, the parish encountered financial difficulties that required the closure of its convent. The City of Cleveland leased the vacant building from the parish and converted it into the Harvard Community Services Center.
The Diocese of Cleveland transferred Monsignor Cosgrove to the Conversion of St. Paul Parish in May 1975 and appointed Father Carl A. Uhler to lead St. Henry. During his tenure at the parish, Father Uhler labored to address the growing social problems in the Lee-Miles neighborhood and obtained a grant for an African-American youth ministry pilot project from the National Office for Catholic Missions among the Colored and Indians in 1978. Father William D. Karg, who had succeeded Father Uhler in June 1982, expanded the slate of social and community outreach programs offered by the parish to include the Autumn Leaf Circle, Bereavement Ministry, Operation Good News Retreats, prayer and Bible-study groups, Adult Coalition for Youth Development, and the Diocesan African-American Advisory Board.
Citing declining enrollment and rising costs, the Diocese of Cleveland merged the parish schools of St. Henry and ST. TIMOTHY in 1993 to create the Archbishop James P. Lyke Elementary School, named for the first black archbishop in the United States. The school was located in the former St. Henry school building on Harvard Avenue. The parish welcomed Father Robert J. Kropac to the pastorate in 1995. With the assistance of the parish's liturgy commission, Father Kropac developed a unique liturgical style that reflected and resonated with the mostly African-American membership of St. Henry Parish. Further reorganization of Catholic schools in majority-black neighborhoods by the Diocese of Cleveland followed in 1997 with the establishment of three campuses of the Archbishop James P. Lyke School in St. Henry (K-4), St. Timothy (5-8), and Our Lady of Peace Parishes (K-4, 7-8).
On January 1, 2008, St. Henry Parish merged with St. Timothy and ST. CATHERINE to create the 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. Henry and St. Catherine relocated the statuary and art from their sanctuaries to the former St. Timothy church at 4341 East 131st Street, which has served as the home of the new Holy Spirit Parish. This was the last voluntary merger of diocesan churches before the mandated mergers and closings proposed by Bishop Richard Lennon in 2009. The new parish adjoins the Middle School Campus of Archbishop Lyke School. In 2018, the parish is administered by the friars of the Order of Capuchin Franciscans.
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, OH: Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, 1998).