ST. TIMOTHY PARISH was established by Bishop JOSEPH SCHREMBS on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1923 in the Cranwood neighborhood of GARFIELD HEIGHTS adjoining the city of Cleveland. The parish's first pastor, Father Thomas P. Mulligan, held the first Mass on the Feast of Pentecost, May 20, 1923, in a public garage on Miles Avenue. A Sunday school program for children opened in September of the same year under the direction of the URSULINE SISTERS. On Christmas Day, 1924, Father Mulligan held the first services in the new $200,000 church at Cranwood Drive and East 131st Street that was erected in record time with generous financial support from the parish community. The Ursuline Sisters opened the parish grade school in February 1925. The parish membership reached some 2,000, with more than 800 students attending the parish school, by the late 1950s owing to the post-WORLD WAR II housing boom in Garfield Heights. The rapid growth of the community strained the available religious and educational resources of the parish, leading to the construction of a convent in 1951, a rectory in 1952, and a new church building in 1964 at 4341 East 131st Street. On June 13, 1968, St. Timothy Parish welcomed its new pastor, Father John F. Wilson. During Wilson's tenure, the Cranwood neighborhood of Garfield Heights, in which St. Timothy Parish is located, experienced a racial and economic transition following the out-migration of most white parishioners and the in-migration of increasing numbers of non-Catholic AFRICAN AMERICANS. Father Robert Wendelken succeeded Wilson, leading the parish from 1975 until 1977.
On July 1, 1977, Father Joseph H. Kraker took charge of St. Timothy, embarking on a long and fruitful career of community service and religious outreach. Recognizing the shifting demographics of the parish, Father Kraker initiated an extensive program of evangelization to bring African Americans into the Catholic fold. During a ten-year period (1977-87), over 100 neighborhood residents joined the church. In addition to the work of evangelization, Father Kraker forged a close relationship with the neighboring Shaffer United Methodist Church to provide the Cranwood community with free luncheons, adult educational programs, and home visitations, as well as to sponsor the formation of the Union-Miles Community Coalition and the East 131st Merchants Association.
In 1985, St. Timothy opened the Brendan Manor, a non-profit, non-denominational shared-living home for the elderly, located on the first two floors of the parish convent. The parish experienced a precipitous decline in membership during the 1990s: only some 150 families belonged to the church and some 160 students attended the parish school in 1993. The same year, the Diocese of Cleveland merged the parish schools of St. Timothy and St. Henry to create the Archbishop James P. Lyke Elementary School, named for the first black archbishop in the United States, located in ST. HENRY PARISH on Harvard Avenue.
Following the departure of Father Kraker in 1994, Father Austin Walsh led the parish for two years and Father Frank Godic briefly served as an interim administrator of the parish during 1996. On October 1, 1996, Father Michael Matusz assumed the pastorate at St. Timothy. During his tenure, the Diocese of Cleveland reopened the parish school as part of a collection of three schools, all named for Archbishop Lyke, in majority-black neighborhoods. The St. Timothy campus has provided children in the Cranwood neighborhood with quality middle school education (grades 5-8) since 1997.
The parish opened St. Timothy Manor, a non-profit, non-denominational shared-living home for low-income senior citizens, in 2004 to better serve the community's growing elderly population. The manor is composed of 35 apartments in a four-story brick and stucco building and another five apartments inside the attached rectory, and is managed by the Sisters of Humility of Mary. On January 1, 2008, St. Timothy Parish merged with St. Henry and ST. CATHERINE Parishes in Cleveland 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, 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. In 2018, it was 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).