On April 18, 1922, Bishop Joseph Schrembs, the Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland, established eight (8) new parishes in the Diocese. One of these was the Parish of St. Luke the Evangelist that was formed from the parishes of St. Rose and St. James.
The boundaries were Lake Erie on the North, Detroit Avenue on the South, Cove Avenue on the East and Lakeland Avenue on the West. Fr. John A. Nolan, the former pastor of St. Joseph Church in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, was appointed the Founding pastor by Bishop Schrembs, on April 18, 1922.
Wanting a place where he might have a mass for his people but with no facilities available, Fr. Nolan thought that the grounds of St. Augustine’s Convent on Lake Avenue might be used for this purpose. Fr. Nolan approached Sr. Sebastian of the Sisters of Charity at St. Augustine who readily consented to the use of an area where a vineyard had recently been removed.
A large tent was erected on the convent grounds where Sunday Masses were held. Daily Masses, Baptisms, and Weddings were held in the Convent Chapel although on occasion, daily Mass was celebrated in the Pastor’s home, which was located on Giel Avenue.
The hardships experienced in using the tent for Masses were numerous as evidenced by the report that during the winter of 1922, it was so cold at times that the water in the cruet froze. On a Saturday night in the early spring of 1922, a heavy storm wrecked the temporary chapel. Stakes were pulled out of the ground, poles and ropes were broken and large holes were ripped in the tent. Undaunted, Fr. Nolan, with the help of the people and Charity nuns, had the tent repaired and new poles erected so that the makeshift chapel could be used for Masses again.
On June 6, 1922, Fr. Nolan signed an Offer to Purchase the parcel of real estate located on the southerly side of Clifton Boulevard being about 260 ft. frontage, extending back to an average depth of about 317-1/2 ft. and containing an area of 82,550 sq. ft. As the papers stated, “The parcel will be bounded on the east by a street to be called ‘Bunts Road’ and on the west by a street to be named later.” Fr. Nolan agreed to pay $50,000 for the parcel of real estate and the title was transferred on July 25, 1922.
On August 24, 1922, a contract was signed to build a wooden frame church measuring 114 ft. by 45 ft. to be situated on Bunts Road on the section of the parcel which is presently a parking lot and playground adjacent to the Parish House. The contract provided for the furnishing of all labor and material necessary to complete the construction of the church for the total sum of $25,000. The new church was to seat 430 people. Construction began in September of 1922 and in May 1923, the congregation was able to move services to the basement. Shortly thereafter, the upstairs was finished and the church was ready for use.
The national origins of the original Catholic population were Irish and German and the sources of migration to the parish were from St. Patrick, St. Malachi, St. Mary, and St. Stephen parishes. The first Baptism occurred on May 28, 1922, the first burial service was held on August 2, 1923, and the first Confirmation was celebrated on September 5, 1928.
Fr. Nolan, transferred to St. Augustine Parish on January 29, 1924, died on April 1, 1933. The Rev. James A. Heffernan, appointed Pastor succeeding Fr. Nolan in January 1924, made as his first project, the building of a rectory alongside the church. The rectory was completed in 1925.
The next project was to erect a school for the children of the parish. Prior to the construction of the school, the Ursuline sisters stationed at St. Patrick’s parish instructed the St. Luke children on Saturdays. In September 1926, Fr. Heffernan received the Bishop’s permission to spend $70,000 to build a new school consisting of 8 rooms. The building was constructed on Clifton Boulevard and was completed in time to receive students in September 1928.
The Sisters of Charity were asked to teach in the new school, but because of an urgent request for teachers from a parish in Cuyahoga Falls, Mother Sebastian was unable to supply sisters for St. Luke School. Consequently, the Ursuline nuns opened the school. The first floor of the school was used for classes while the second floor became the convent for the Ursuline nuns who staffed the school. In 1933, a new convent was erected for the nuns on Chase Avenue. The school continued under the operation of the Ursuline nuns until 1944 when they were replaced by the Sisters of Charity.
Fr. Heffernan died on June 6, 1944 and later that month, the Rt. Rev. Msgr. James M. McDonough was appointed Pastor of St. Luke Church. As the community of St. Luke continued to grow, it became apparent that much larger facilities were necessary for both worship and education. In 1950, Msgr. McDonough, with the help of his assistant Rev. Peter Cherniss who had studied architecture before entering the priesthood, planned a new church. Designed by Fr. Cherniss, the new church of Modified Romanesque Architecture and having a seating capacity of 750 on the main floor and 150 upstairs was built on the corner of Clifton Boulevard and Bunts Road.
Much of the material that went into the church was obtained by Fr. Cherniss during a six-week tour of Ireland, Germany, France, and Italy. Included in the material selected by Fr. Cherniss were 155 crates of matched marble used for the new altar, walls, and aisles.
The new church, requiring 12 months to build was completed in August 1951 at a cost of $275,000 and blessed by Bishop Edward Hoban on May 4, 1952. The frame church was then converted for educational uses as a hall and gymnasium. Because of increased school enrollment presenting the need for additional classrooms, the old church was partitioned in 1953 and used as temporary quarters while preparations were made to build six new classrooms and a basement library in the Clifton Boulevard building. The enlarged school with an enrollment total of 500 children was dedicated by Bishop Hoban on March 10, 1955.
Msgr. McDonough died on June 18, 1954 and the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Michael J. Hynes was appointed Pastor on July 2, 1954. Msgr. Hynes died on August 9, 1956.
The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Charles McBride was appointed Pastor of St. Luke Church on September 1, 1956. Shortly thereafter, Msgr. McBride initiated a program to complete the needs of the parish. Plans were formulated to extend the school with the addition of a gymnasium, parish hall and four classrooms. This would result in the completed school unit having a total of 18 classrooms. The old frame church was removed after serving St. Luke Parish for 37 years, lastly as a social hall.
Construction of the new building which was located between the existing school and faculty house began in June 1959 and was completed in 1960.
On May 25, 1960, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen dedicated the new recreation center and school addition.
In 1970, the church was remodeled to conform to the liturgical changes resulting from the Second Vatican Council. Rev. Robert J. Jenkins was named Pastor of St. Luke Parish on October 3, 1972. Fr. Jenkins came to St. Luke Parish in March 1968 as Associate Pastor and served as Acting Pastor during the long illness of Msgr. McBride, who died on August 9, 1972.
There have been numerous improvements and renovations to the parish facilities over the ensuing years. A new organ was installed in 1974 and the pews were replaced in 1977.
On September 30, 1982, Bishop Anthony M. Pilla formally decreed that the boundaries of the parish were Lake Erie to the north, east from Lakeland Avenue to Cove Avenue, south on Cove Avenue to the N&W Railroad, west along the railroad to Nicholson Avenue, south on Nicholson Avenue to Detroit Avenue and west to Lakeland Avenue. The west sides of Cove and Nicholson Avenues, the north side of Detroit Avenue and the east side of Lakeland Avenue belong to St. Luke Parish.
In 1984, the church was again remodeled. The stained glass windows were completely redone, a new painting was provided for the sanctuary and the wooden altars, baptistry and pulpit were replaced with marble. An addition was constructed to the east side of the church enlarging the priest’s sacristy and providing rest rooms for the parishioners. On July 13, 1984, relics of the following saints were placed in the new marble altar of the Church of St. Luke the Evangelist by Fr. Jenkins:
St. Margaret Mary
St. James the Greater
St. Stephen Protomartyr
St. Clement of Rome
St. Pius X
St. Francis of Assisi
St. Anthony of Padua
St. John of the Cross
St. Charles Borromeo
St. Maria Goretti
St. Robert Bellarmine
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
St. Paul of the Cross
Bishop A. Edward Pevec solemnly dedicated the altar and church on October 21, 1984.
Improvements were made in the school as well. All windows were replaced with modern energy-efficient windows. A new library and media center (and later a computer lab) were constructed by converting two classrooms. An extra classroom was also remodeled to provide a larger and more efficient office for the Secretary and the Principal. The old basement library was converted into a community center and storage room.
Fr. Jenkins died on October 14, 1991. On January 21, 1992, the Rev. Francis P. Walsh was appointed Pastor of St. Luke Parish by Bishop Anthony M. Pilla.
Shortly after Fr. Walsh arrived, a new Finance Council was formed. A power shortage in 1993 led to a survey of all parish buildings and a decision by the Finance Council that major repairs were in order. To assist in paying for the repairs, Restoration Fund Phase I commenced in 1994 and Restoration Fund Phase II was initiated in 1997 to complete the church renovations.
With the beginning of the restoration campaign in 1994, Fr. Walsh arranged for architectural renovations and repairs to parish facilities. Repairs to boilers, roofs, parking lots, sidewalks, air conditioning and gym walls began in the school, rectory and Parish Center (former Convent vacated by the Sisters of Charity in July, 1996). After renovations the Parish Center was used for RCIA, PSR Offices, Youth Ministry and assorted meetings.
In 1994 Sr. Miriam Erb, CSA joined the parish staff as pastoral minister to the sick, elderly and bereaved. In her new role Sister Miriam developed outreach programs to those parishioners who could not be present at Sunday Eucharist and to those in nursing homes and independent and assisted living facilities.
In 1995 the first School Futuring Process was initiated and plans formulated for the parish school. Formation of an Education Commission, Day School Committee and Social Concerns Commission followed along with the development of mission statements for each of the five Parish Commissions: Spiritual and Liturgical Life, Parish Life, Education, Family Life and Social Concerns.
In 1997 St. Luke celebrated the 75th anniversary of its founding as a Parish. The anniversary celebration opened April 20 with a Mass celebrated by Bishop A. James Quinn followed by the 40th anniversary of Fr. Walsh’s ordination to the priesthood on May 25. It continued with a Parish Festival on the grounds June 14 and 15 and closed on September 21 with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Anthony M. Pilla. The anniversary was documented through a handmade patchwork quilt, pictorial directory and parish video narrated by Fr. Kenneth Jakubowski, Associate Pastor.
On January 5, 1998 church repairs began. Renovations included new chandeliers, wood wainscot, a crucifix placed on a marble wall added as a backdrop for the sanctuary, a statue of St. Luke, an ambry for the holy oils, and a new tabernacle for the Eucharist.
In 1999 Fr. Ralph E. Wiatrowski, who has resided at St. Luke since 1976, celebrated the 25th anniversary of his priesthood ordination. Fr. Wiatrowski continues in service to the Diocese of Cleveland as Chancellor and to St. Luke Parish as its resident priest and ‘holy’ gardener.
On November 18, 2000, Bishop Anthony M. Pilla dedicated a newly built shrine that was installed in Church in memory of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the four El Salvador Missionaries who were martyred December 2, 1980. St. Luke parishioner and lay missionary Jean Donovan is one of the four women martyrs as well as Sr. Dorothy Kazel, a Cleveland Ursuline Sister.
At the New Millennium, a snapshot of St. Luke Parish shows a vibrant Christian community, strengthened through its worship, reaching out to its sick, elderly and bereaved, developing its young and old though a strong day school and religious education program, teeming with the activity of its ‘model’ athletic and community programs, and blessed with new vocations (Father Phil Bernier, O.F.M. Cap. in 2001 and Father Michael Keating in 2002). It also brought a renewal in the spiritual life and social outreach activities of St. Luke including introduction of weekly Bible Studies, initiation of the Journey Retreat Program, and participation in Community Meal Programs in Cleveland and Lakewood churches.
Life within the school community indicates strong involvement of parents, students, grandparents, alumni, parishioners and friends through its School Advisory Board, Parent Teacher Organization and a fund raising group — The Friends of St. Luke School. This same committed involvement is apparent through activities such as the Annual School Auction, Market Day Program, CPO Certificate Program, Endowment Gift Giving and volunteer opportunities. The students participate in weekly Masses with the parish and in outreach to the nursing homes, shut-ins, food kitchens, and various civic community activities.
These years also witnessed a growing collaboration between St. Luke and other church communities. Activities with other Lakewood parishes included shared athletic programs, community reconciliation services, the 1999 Advent Music Program, and the 2001-2002 Lenten Series. Activities with other denominations included participation in and development of the Lakewood Christian Service Center programs, hosting the multi-denominational prayer service after the 9/11 terrorist attack, and in July, 2000 joining the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) – a network of 30+ Cleveland congregations providing meals, shelter and support to homeless families.
In January 2004 the Pastors of St. Clement, St. James and St. Luke Parishes and Schools met regarding issues of declining enrollment and increasing costs of Catholic education. A decision was made to pursue the possibility of merging the schools. The Pastors, Principals and representatives from the three parishes formed an Executive Committee with the assistance of the Office of Catholic Education and hired an outside facilitator to guide the process. During the merger process St. Augustine Academy announced it would close at the end of the 2004-2005 school year. It was decided to investigate the possibility of leasing the St. Augustine Academy facility for the new school. This was done and after many volunteer hours of work painting and beautifying. That summer, the new school Lakewood Catholic Academy opened with 612 students from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 8 on August 30, 2005.
Aware of its storied past, the Church of St. Luke the Evangelist looks forward to its future, seeks to continue to grow in Christ, and to further its work in serving God’s people.