Our Parish History

1840 Bishop John Purcell and Fr. O’Dwyer (from then-the Diocese of Cincinnati), while returning from the dedication of St. Mary-on-the-Flats (Cleveland) visited the two Catholic families in Strongsville Township. After the visit, they were met here and escorted by German farmers to Liverpool (now Valley City).


1916 There were now three Catholic families reported to be living in Strongsville Township.


1946 Fr. Joseph J. McGraw was appointed as the first and founding pastor of St. Joseph Parish by Bishop Edward F. Hoban of Cleveland. Fr. McGraw had recently returned from three and half years of service as a Chaplain in the U. S. Army. The site for the new church was formerly the Maruna homestead and was purchased from Mrs. Anna Maruna and her daughter, Lillian Maruna. At the time of the organization there were about 170 families that belonged to the parish. The first Mass of the newly organized parish was held in the Town Hall on Sunday, June 30, 1946. (All church services were held there until the new church was ready for its first service, the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1946. At this Mass, one of the servers was a young man named Dennis O’Grady, who would later be the first priest ordained from the parish in 1961.)  On July 17, 1946, the men of St. Joseph Parish held a meeting at the Town Hall. Plans were discussed in regard to the beginning of a new Chapel on the Maruna property and of converting the barn into a recreation hall. Fr. McGraw also inquired as to how many men would be willing to give some of their spare time towards molding the church property and the response was almost unanimous.


The first work in the construction of the new building was begun on Labor Day in 1946. Practically all of the construction work was done gratis by family and friends of the parish. Building materials were extremely hard to get and the need for the church was great, therefore the Quonset type of building was chosen as the most practical and earliest available. As a result of generous members and faithful workers, the building was completely paid for as it was being built and furnished, in addition to the payment of all of the running  expenses of the parish. A generous gift of $2,500 was received from St. Mary Parish (Berea), which had been the parish that our founding members had most likely attended prior to St. Joseph.


Being appointed pastor of the newly established parish, Fr. McGraw wrestled with the problems of rising building costs, priorities and a shortage of materials. The cost of erecting a brick and stone structure was quite high. Because Fr. McGraw had been an Army Chaplain, he was very familiar with the Quonset Hut. He felt that it would be much more cost-effective to build a Quonset Hut as our first building.


The Quonset Hut was a type of building that became familiar during WWII. They could be utilized as permanent structures for many purposes, one of which was a church. Our original church  was the very first    Quonset Hut church in the Cleveland Diocese. With a desire to make the structure appear less like a Quonset Hut and more like a church, Fr. Peter Chemiss, from St. Luke Church (Lakewood), was engaged to assist with the design. Having been an architect prior to becoming a priest, Fr. Chemiss was able to add brick to the entrance of the building and construct a glass-block cross behind the altar. He also designed a unique altar. Because of Fr. Chemiss’ contributions, the interior of the Quonset Hut was transformed into a church, with the added bonus of excellent acoustics. The Quonset Hut served the parish well until 1964, when ground was broken to begin building the brick and mortar structure that stands today.


On April 11, 1965, a tornado missed the new church building but destroyed the original church, parish hall and eight classrooms, as well as killing two people and injuring many more throughout Strongsville. For the remainder of the school year classes were held in the Strongsville public schools, the town hall and the educational center of the Strongsville United Methodist Church. The parish hall and the six classrooms were demolished after it was determined that those sections were beyond repair. In the fall, St. Joseph School was reduced to nine rooms accommodating grades 1-5. All other grades transferred to the public school but a limited number were able to attend St. Adalbert.


1972 Following the sudden death of our second pastor, Fr. James McDonough, Fr. Robert Donohoe, who previously worked to institute Pre-Cana marriage preparation classes throughout the United States, became the third pastor of St. Joseph Parish.


1978 With the forming of a new parish in Strongsville, St. John Neumann, Cardinal Hickey and the Diocesan Catholic School Building Committee made the decision to create an interparochial school to accept and serve students from both parishes. Sts. Joseph and John Interparochial School was formed.


1981 Fr. Anthony Dodd, who had an aptitude for carpentry and "fixing things", became the fourth pastor of St. Joseph Parish.


1991 Fr. Robert Sanson, who had been a professor at The Catholic University of America, became the fifth pastor of St. Joseph Parish.


1996 An expansion of the church campus including the addition of meeting rooms, new offices, and a gathering space named the Holy Family Center (HFC) was completed.


2006 A renovation to update the altar and move the baptismal font from the back of church up to its   current location in the sanctuary was completed.


2007 A renovation of Mary House was completed by a team of parishioner volunteers who donated all the materials and labor.


2011 Fr. Joseph Mamich, a native of Strongsville, became the sixth pastor of St. Joseph Parish. At the time of his appointment, he was the youngest pastor in the Diocese of Cleveland, a distinction that he held for almost three years.


2012 St. Joseph Day saw the completion of a restoration project on the electronic controls of our bells, thus restoring the sounds of our bells to our neighborhood. Painting of many interior spaces of the parish was completed, particularly the Holy Family Center and Vestibules. August, 2012 brought the beginning of a new Senior Adult Group - the Carpenters. Our parish, as did the entire Diocese, completed the Rooted in Faith Campaign, raising over $1.3 million in pledges from our parish.


2013 Following two extensive floods, it was decided that Mary House was to be abandoned and torn down. It served the parish well - as our first Rectory, convent, and then most recently, a place for meetings and storage. Unfortunately, the water damage took its toll.  While creating a visible absence on our property, it opened a better view of the church and school buildings from Pearl Road and helped to create a more welcoming entrance and wider driveway.


2015 Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the dedication of our current church, we had a special Mass and reception in May. Beyond our current parishioners, it was a privilege to welcome back Fr. Dennis O'Grady, whose mother originally wrote Archbishop Hoban about forming a new parish in Strongsville. We also had nearly three dozen parishioners present who were there for the dedication in 1965!

2016 With praise and thanksgiving to God, we celebrated the ordination of Father James Kulway, who was baptized and grew up in the parish, to the Priesthood in service to the Diocese of Cleveland.


2021 While emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, we celebrated the ordination of Deacon Matthew Lawler, a long-time parishioner, to the Diaconate in service to the Diocese of Cleveland. Over our seventy-five years, St. Joseph Parish, including its own school and now, Sts. Joseph and John Interparochial School, has been served by six pastors, 31 parochial vicars (or associate pastors), five deacons, and 46 religious sisters. Deacon Lawler’s ordination is the most recent of several of our parish’s daughters and sons committing their lives to service of our Church. As far as we are aware, three priests and two deacons of the Diocese of Cleveland, four Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph, and one Sister of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, have called St. Joseph their home parish.


Fr. Dennis O’Grady, 1961

Fr. Russell Lowe, 1992

Fr. James Kulway, 2016



Deacon Robert Lester, 2004

Deacon Matthew Lawler, 2021



Sr. Patricia McHale, CSJ, 1956

Sr. Priscilla Saxton, CSJ, 1956

Sr. June Hansen, CSJ, 1958

Sr. Mary Brinkman, CSJ ,1970

Sr. Kathy Grosh, IHM, 1970

Last updated: July 5, 2022