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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

PAROCHIAL EDUCATION (CATHOLIC) - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

PAROCHIAL EDUCATION (CATHOLIC). When the Diocese of Cleveland was formed in 1847, no parochial school existed in Cleveland. Bp. LOUIS AMADEUS RAPPE†, first bishop of Cleveland, established 16 parishes and parish schools. On Christmas Day, 1849, the first cathedral opened, and a Free School for Boys, and a year later a Free School for Girls, were begun. The influence of parochial schools, for education and the preservation of the Catholic faith, cannot be overemphasized. The tone of public schools was often hostile to Catholicism, and Catholic children were sometimes ridiculed because of their religion. Public school teachers were almost invariably Protestant; in 1857 the State Teachers Assn. urged daily use of the Bible in classrooms. Therefore the Catholic church erected schools in which children would be taught in a nonthreatening atmosphere.

The 1st Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1852 pleaded for parochial schools to be established in every parish. Bp. Rappe pressed for this in the Cleveland Synod of 1857. St. Mary's School began in 1853; St. Peter a few years later. St. Joseph parish and school were founded in 1855; St. Bridget's in 1857; St. Columbkille in 1871. In 1854 NEWBURGH parish was founded; a school began in 1862. The Parish of Immaculate Conception was taught by URSULINE SISTERS OF CLEVELAND. Bohemians established their parish and school in 1867. All parishes, ethnic or not, believed the parochial school was necessary to preserve the Catholic faith. West of the Cuyahoga River, ST. PATRICK'S PARISH and school were established in 1853; St. Augustine in 1861; ST. MALACHI CHURCH in 1865. French-speaking Catholics formed St. Mary of Annunciation. German-speaking Catholics on the west side received their parish and school in 1865.

Bp. Rappe brought to Cleveland 5 Ursulines, 2 Sisters of Charity, 4 priests, and 5 students in 1850. In 1851 the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary came; the Holy Humility of Mary Sisters arrived in 1864. The Sisters of St. Joseph by the end of the century had 1,600 pupils in 8 parishes. One hundred and one SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME taught 6,407 students in 21 schools, while the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters taught 5,000 pupils in 5 schools. In 1900 85 Ursuline Nuns served 7,500 children in 20 parishes, while the Humility of Mary Sisters taught 685 pupils in 9 parochial schools.

Each bishop presented his case for Catholic education to his people and to the public. Bp. RICHARD GILMOUR† counteracted attacks against Catholic schools and fought the movement to tax nonpublic schools. In 1876 nearly one-third of Clevelanders were Catholics. Catholic immigrants looked to the parish school to preserve their faith for their children. In 1887 a diocesan school board started, empowered to judge new teachers' qualifications and to set up guidelines for district examiners, who inspected the, schools.

The Jesuit Fathers of the Buffalo Province came in 1880 to begin a college, St. Ignatius, in 1886, which became JOHN CARROLL UNIVERSITY They also began ST. IGNATIUS HIGH SCHOOL. In its first decade, 72% of the college's graduates entered the seminary. Bp. IGNATIUS F. HORSTMANN† oversaw the greatest diocesan school expansion in the 19th century. Some parishes had full high schools. Holy Name High School was one of the first coeducational high schools in Cleveland. St. Ignatius High School attendance broke all records by 1911; in 1921, 341 students attended. Bp. JOHN P. FARRELLY† started unifying and standardizing parish schools as well as teacher training. He established CATHEDRAL LATIN SCHOOL with 160 young men in 1916; dedicated in 1918, increased enrollment forced the administration to have 2 half-day sessions. During Farrelly's 12 years, 47 new churches and schools were erected.

During Archbp. JOSEPH SCHREMBS†'s time, Catholic schools expanded, developing innovative facilities and programs. In 1923 45 acres were acquired in UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS; John Carroll Univ. began in 1931. The Ursulines had a charter for a college from their earliest days in the diocese. The Sisters of Notre Dame began a college in the early 1920s. In 1933 Gov. White asked the state legislature for relief for all schools in the state. Powerful interests, including the opposition of the CITIZENS LEAGUE OF GREATER CLEVELAND of Cleveland and the Jr. Order of American Mechanics, blocked any concession. Dr. JOHN HAGAN†, superintendent of Catholic schools, continued crusading for state aid for nonpublic schools, but to no avail. Under Archbp. EDWARD F. HOBAN†, by 1952 33 new Catholic elementary schools opened, and 31 existing schools were remodeled, enlarged, or rebuilt. Catholic education reached 112,357 elementary and 26,600 high school students when Bp. CLARENCE ISSENMANN† became bishop. The mid-1960s witnessed a trend of consolidations at the elementary and secondary levels, resulting, for instance, in creation of Cleveland Central Catholic High School (1969). By 1970 Cleveland proper witnessed a 28% decrease enrollment in parish schools with religious teachers, who composed 56% of elementary faculties. That would decrease to 21% by 1980.

Bps. Jas. Hickey and Anthony Pilla strengthened the Catholic schools through financial subsidy, education trust, and consolidation. Because of the Cleveland Public School Desegregation Act of 1976, a federal court-appointed monitor kept reports on public and Catholic school enrollments. The enrollment change from Cleveland public to Catholic schools in 1978 was 629 students, but 540 Catholic school students switched to Cleveland public schools. Never was the percentage of change greater than .005%. Financial, ramifications significantly impacted the Catholic School Board and schools in the 1970s. The diocesan school office operated by royalties on textbooks and student fees until 1970, when the diocese started subsidizing the operation. In 1973 the average high school tuition was $500; by 1980 it was $1,700. Elementary school tuition in 1971 was $100; $543 by 1978. By 1980 every parish subsidized its elementary school 59%. Catholic school enrollment in the 1980s leveled off. Cathedral Latin closed in 1979 because of lack of enrollment, not a lack of deeply dedicated alumni. Perhaps that is an indicator for Cleveland's Catholic education. In 1994 145 elementary and 25 high schools with 67,148 students and 3,300 teachers represented the church's continuing interest in its future.

Rev. John A. Leahy

Church of St. Bartholomew

Last Modified: 13 May 1998 03:21:32 PM

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