ST. THOMAS AQUINAS PARISH was established by Bishop IGNATIUS HORSTMANN in 1898 to serve IRISH and GERMAN Catholics in the HOUGH and GLENVILLE neighborhoods. Opening ceremonies featured an Irish play, “The Shamrock and the Rose.” Its first pastor, Father Thomas Mahon, served the parish until his death in 1939. The congregation worshiped in a rented schoolroom until its permanent building, designed in the grand Romanesque style, was completed at Superior Avenue and Ansel Road in 1905. Its sanctuary seated 1,400. The church added a chapel in 1921 and church bells on Easter Sunday, 1922. St. Thomas Aquinas School opened in 1899 directed by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, who staffed many local Catholic elementary and high schools. In 1929, the parish opened a 19-classroom building where nuns could do their practice teaching. The school population peaked in 1945 at 1,050 students.
In the post-WORLD WAR II years, the outward migration of white families and the neighborhood’s changed demographic composition meant fewer parishioners at St. Thomas Aquinas. By the 1950s, the school was predominantly AFRICAN AMERICAN. In 1975, the church building was condemned as structurally unsound. At its demolition in December, the Cleveland Plain Dealer lamented the loss of this “Irish Cathedral.” The St. Thomas of Aquinas congregation, however, continued to worship in a new chapel at 1230 Superior Avenue until this was closed in 1993.
St. Thomas Aquinas parish spawned three churches nearby: St. Philip Neri (1914), St. Aloysius (1902), and ST. AGATHA (1945). St. Philip Neri closed as a parish in 2008; St. Philip Neri Family Center, 799 E. 82d St., provided social services to residents. St. Aloysius and St. Agatha merged in 1974; in 2019, St. Aloysius-St. Agatha, located at the St. Aloysius site at 10932 St. Clair Avenue, was the last Catholic parish in the Glenville neighborhood. St. Thomas Aquinas School, having merged with St. Philip Neri School, remained at 9109 Superior Avenue. Most of its students received public vouchers. In 2018-2019, it enrolled about 200 students, K-8th grade.
See also 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).