History of St. Colman's Parish
St. Colman Parish was founded in 1880 by Msgr. Eugene Mary O’Callaghan, formerly Pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish on Bridge Avenue, to serve the growing Irish immigrant population of Cleveland's West Side. The original Church was a modest house at 6600 Pear Street, which was the site of the first St. Colman's Mass on July 25, 1880.
The first Church building was constructed later the same year on Gordon Street, (later known as West 65 Street) and the rented house became the home to St. Colman School. This was replaced in 1885 with a frame School building also on Gordon Street.
In 1886, Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ) came to St. Colman's and the first Convent was built. The Sisters began a long history of service to the people of the Parish and to the neighborhood. A new rectory was constructed in 1889 and in 1904, a red brick Schoolhouse was built, with 12 classrooms on the lower two floors and meeting rooms on the third floor. The basement had a 1,000 seat auditorium used for meetings and theatrical productions and also served as an auxiliary chapel.
In 1914, the present Church building was begun on the grounds and was completed in 1918 under the second Pastor, Fr. James O'Leary. Fr. O'Leary traveled to Italy to buy marble for the interior and had it sent to Dublin, commissioning sculptors there to carve the Baptismal Font (Edmund Sharpe, sculptor), Pulpit (unknown artist), and the Communion Rail (unknown artists). The altars and statues were done in Italy It was important to Fr. O'Leary that some of the work was done by Irish craftsmen since, in the early part of the 20th century, Irish immigrants (like many other immigrants) were looked down upon. The eight paintings that hang in the nave were painted by Cleveland artist Dollie Bond.
The other buildings on the grounds today were built soon after the Church was completed: The Convent (c. 1921), the second School Building (c. 1930) at the corner of West 65 Street and Madison Avenue which served as a Business High School for girls from 1930 to 1936, and the Rectory (1930).
In 1953, a tornado that raged through Cleveland’s West Side damaged the Church destroying the organ and part of the original slate roof. The high winds blew off the statue of the Sacred Heart that originally stood at the peak of the gabled front entrance. The organ was replaced by a smaller model, the roof was repaired with asphalt and the Sacred Heart statue was moved to the yard south of the Church.
In the late 1960's the lower Church was closed; twenty years later a Parish Hall was made in the space. In 1997, a major restoration was completed in the Church, paid for by contributions from current and past parishioners. Seventy-nine years of pollution were cleaned from the marble and the original paint colors were restored throughout the interior.
In 1974, the 1904 St. Colman School closed and the building was razed in 1975. Sr. Lucy Dragonette, CSJ, and Sr. Carol English, CSJ, founded one of the West Side’s first pre-schools from 1974 to 2000 in the c. 1930 St. Colman School Building. Many of the Sisters of St. Joseph that had served as teachers in the School, including Sr. Audrey Koch, CSJ, Sr. Kathleen Kilbane, CSJ, Sr. Ann Kilbane, CSJ, Sr. Lucy and Sr. Carol, remained at the Parish after the School closed to serve as Pastoral Associates, contributing toward the Sisters’ seamless presence to the people of the Parish from 1886 to the present day.
In 1994, Sr. Lucy Dragonette, CSJ, and Sr. Carol English, CSJ, became Parish Administrators, appointed by Bishop Anthony Pilla as some of the first women to serve in this role in a Cleveland Parish.
In 1996, the Parish Council and Srs. Carol and Lucy discussed the great number people with emergencies that were coming to the Parish for assistance – requests for help with rent to prevent evictions, utility assistance, food, and many other urgent situations were increasing. It was decided that the Parish would seek funding for an Outreach Minister to add to the staff to begin responding directly to these requests. In 1997, funding was received from the Congregation of St. Joseph’s Ministry fund and Eileen Kelly was hired.
The Outreach Ministry now serves hundreds of people each year and includes: the every day at the door ministry to respond to emergency needs and to make referrals to existing programs; staffing the Church in the City Partnership with St. Christopher in Rocky River and Our Lady Help of Christians in Litchfield; the Neighborhood Meal with over 30 parishes and schools including the Church in the City Partners and Project SEVA; the Identification Crisis in Cleveland Program (with 10 other community agencies) providing Birth Certificates and ID’s to thousands of people so that they can work, get medical treatment, vote, and many other necessities; the August School Supplies program for nearly 2000 children; Holiday distribution of gifts; Literacy/GED program; Computer Classes and Open Lab; Afterschool program for children with Building Hope in the City; English as a Second Language Classes; many other direct service programs, as the needs arise, for the people of the Parish and neighborhood. Coming Soon: Paths to Wellness and Jennifer's Room.
In 2006, the Sisters of St. Joseph ended their residence in the Convent but continued to serve as Pastoral Associates.
From 2000 to 2006, El Barrio, a social service program for Spanish speaking residents, served the neighborhood from the second floor of the School. From 1998 to 2006, Seeds of Literacy, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph, served the neighborhood from the first floor of the School.
In 1998, in response to Bishop Pilla’s Pastoral Letter, “Church in the City,” a partnership that continues today was formed with the people of St. Christopher Parish, Rocky River, and Our Lady, Help of Christians, Litchfield.
In 2001, Sr. Lucy and Sr. Carol retired, and Sr. Ann Kilbane, CSJ, was appointed Parish Life Coordinator by Bishop Pilla.
In 2002, the asphalt roof and the original slate roof of the Church were replaced with slate-like asphalt shingles.
In 2005, Colman Court opened on the former site of the School building, providing 1-bedroom HUD-subsidized apartments for 33 senior citizens.
In 2007, Edna House for Women, an alcohol recovery program, moved in to the Convent Building to serve the neighborhood.
In 2007, Sr. Ann retired and Fr. Robert T. Begin was appointed Pastor by Bishop Richard Lennon.
In 2007, Bishop Richard Lennon clustered St. Colman Parish with the Parishes of St. Stephen, St. Procop, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and La Sagrada Familia.
On November 18, 2007, St. Colman Day was celebrated for the first time in memory and the illustrious service of the Sisters of St. Joseph was honored. Almost 200 Sisters were present along with 700 Parishioners and friends of the Parish.
In 2008, the second floor of the School building became home for the City’s first African Educational and Cultural Center, that includes job search assistance, job training, and other empowerment and educational programs; the STAIRS after-school program for refugee children; and the Casa Latina Program for women and girls to develop the Latino arts --- painting, sculpture, dance and music -- along with development, education, counseling and referrals. Also in 2008, St. Colman’s Parish School of Religion (PSR) merged with the PSR of La Sagrada Familia Parish with Grades 4 through 8 meeting on the first floor of the School.
Pastors of St. Colman
Msgr. Eugene Mary O’Callaghan, Pastor, 1880 - 1901
Fr. James O’Leary, Pastor, 1901 - 1922
Msgr. Charles Martin, Pastor, 1922 - 1962
Fr. Martin Kelly, Pastor, 1962 - 1966
Fr. Vincent Haas, Pastor, 1966 -1977
Fr. Martin Scully, Administrator, 1969 - 1972
Fr. John Lavelle, Administrator, 1976 – 1977; Pastor, 1977 - 1991
Fr. Walt Jenne, Administrator, 1991
Fr. Anthony Dodd, Administrator, 1992 - 1994
Sr. Lucy Dragonette, CSJ, and Sr. Carol English, CSJ, Parish Administrators, 1994 - 2001
Sr. Ann Kilbane, CSJ, Parish Life Coordinator, 2001 - 2007
Fr. Robert T. Begin, Pastor, 2007 – the present