1854-1860: Origins of the Parish
This congregation was formed November 9, 1854, by a number of railroad employees, who removed from Earlville to Ravenna. As Father McGahan, of Akron, Summit County, had visited this small congregation of eight families for eighteen months previous to their removal from Earlville, the same monthly visits were continued by him until the spring of 1856. Father Walsh, his successor in Akron, visited monthly until 1857, when the increasing interests of that town and its nearer-home missions rendered it necessary to have Ravenna attended from some other available source.
About this time, Ravenna became an out-mission of the Cathedral at Cleveland, and was visited by Rev. Father O’Connor from September, 1857, to September, 1858. He was succeeded by Rev. Father O’Sullivan, who ministered to his charge for some three months, when he was assigned to other duties. As circumstances would permit, the congregation was visited during the year 1859 by various priests from the Cathedral, among whom were Fathers Hannan and O’Callahan. The latter gentleman seeing the necessity of a church for his rapidly increasing flock, set about raising subscriptions for that purpose when he was removed to Youngstown.
1860-1872: The Father Brown Years
The Catholics having sufficiently increased in number during the past five years in the Missions of Hudson, Kent, and Ravenna to maintain a pastor, Rev. P. H. Brown was assigned in 1860 to the pastorate of the church at Hudson, with the two last-mentioned towns as out-missions. Ravenna and Kent having in the meantime acquired sufficient growth to demand the services of a pastor independent of Hudson, Father Brown, in 1863, was placed in charge of these two congregations. The year previous to his permanent location at Ravenna, he resumed the work of raising funds, which had been already begun by Father O’Callahan to prosecute the erection funds, which had been already begun by Father O’Callahan to prosecute the erection of a church. Up to this time, mass had been frequently celebrated at the town hall and the houses of Peter King and Bernard Kinney.
During the administration of Father Brown the cornerstone was laid by Rite Rev. A. Rappe, of Cleveland, on the 15th of August, 1862, on which occasion the Rev. T. P. Thorpe preached an appropriate discourse, and a little later on the completion crowned his efforts with success. The estimated cost of the structure was about $7,000. To the untiring zeal of Father Brown is largely due the present flourishing condition of the congregation of the Immaculate Conception. Few can realize the amount of labor performed by this noble priest to promote the welfare of his charge. He knew no rest until his endeavors saw a fitting temple erected in which the Holy Sacrifice could be decently and worthily celebrated. He was frequently away from home for weeks collecting along the railroads to defray the expense in this, at-that-time, great undertaking. In his travels he was obliged to mingle with the poorest of the poor and share their scanty fare and meager accommodations. But what would have been almost an impossibility to other men was to him a pleasure, so long as it afforded an opportunity to accomplish the work of building up his mission.
This life of privation and sacrifice soon told upon his once robust and vigorous constitution. Shortly after his promotion from Ravenna to Youngstown in 1872, he was stricken with paralysis, and died at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Cleveland. The church schools (except the frame building erected by Father Bowles) and cemetery are all monuments to the zeal and labors of Father Brown, whose name is a household word, and whom none mention but to praise.
1872-1883: Fathers Gibbons, Carroll & Bowles
The Rev. W. J. Gibbons became pastor in 1872 and continued in charge until August, 1874. The Rev. J. T. Carroll was next installed and directed the affairs of the congregation till March 9, 1876, when he was succeeded by Rev. J. D. Bowles. The growing wants of Ravenna and Kent requiring a pastor for each, Father Bowles was relieved of Kent July 6, 1878, and given sole charge of Ravenna. In April, 1883 he was removed from Ravenna to Fremont, Ohio.
1883: Father Cahill
Rev. John T. Cahill, succeeded Father Bowles. The pioneer families of the congregation, and likewise those who generously maintained it with their means and counsel, were Peter King, John McNarnara, Edward Broderick, Michael McMahon, George Jennings, Charles Murphy, Edward Breen and Patrick Keene. A short time after the formation of the congregation the following families settled in Ravenna and helped to forward the work in hand, viz.: Frank McGoorty, Michael Quirk, Patrick Lee, James King, Patrick Bergin, Daniel Cary, Matthew and Thomas McTighe, Bernard and Thomas Kinney, Christopher Jennings, George Madole, Garrett Herley and Michael Donohue. Among the citizens of Ravenna who generously aided the congregations in their early struggles to obtain a place of worship, are the Hon. Luther Day, ex-Supreme Judge of Ohio, and Mr. Isaiah Linton, Civil Engineer of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad.
Early IC Altar.
1883: The Congregation
The congregation in 1883 comprised 125 families, who supported two large schools, respectively primary and grammar, ably conducted by lay teachers. The enrollment was 125 -- girls, 65; boys, 60. The Sunday school had a membership of 130 children. The cemetery was located a short distance outside the corporation on the southwest side of the village and contained five acres. When Father Cahill assumed charge of the congregation he found it indebted to the amount of $1,040, but under his earnest and indefatigable labors this debt was canceled, and steps taken toward the enlargement of the church to meet the growing wants of the parish.(1)
Immaculate Conception church, shortly after completion in 1927.
1926: A New Church Begins
The church constructed by Father Brown stood until Easter Sunday, 1926, after which it was demolished to make room for a new building. The church was erected on the same site by the P.L Frank construction company during the pastorate of Father James Dailey, and was dedicated by Bishop Schrembs September 4, 1927. The cost was about $100,000. During this period, the IC congregation worshipped at the old Ohio Theater in Ravenna.(2)
Immaculate Conception church in 2014.
Immaculate Conception church was renovated and rededicated in 2004 and 2005. Added to the building were the rectory, Bishop Tobin Hall, the parish office, and various meeting areas.
(1) 1854 through 1883 from History of Portage County Ohio by Robert C. Brown and J. E. Norris. Warner Beer & Co., pub. 1885)
(2) 1926 and photo from The Ravenna Record, The People and Events That Shaped a Community by Roger J. Di Paolo. 2013. Used with permission.