church history Through the years

St. Brendan Roman Catholic Church, 2800 Oakwood Ave., Youngstown, is celebrating its 90th anniversary this weekend, marking the finale to yearlong activities. On Friday, Lou Jacquet, editor and general manager of the Catholic Exponent, spoke at a dinner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel hall in Youngstown. At 10 a.m. Sunday, Bishop George V. Murry and the Rev. Bill Loveless, pastor, will concelebrate Mass followed by a reception in Maxwell Hall.

Today: The parish has about 682 registered families and serves as an anchor on the West Side. The former rectory houses the Potter’s Wheel program for homeless women and the former school is Summit Academy.

The beginning: St. Brendan was formed by members of St. Columba and St. Patrick churches who lived in the city’s west section.The original site on Mahoning Avenue (the old Schenley Theatre) was bought in February 1923. The old Perkins public school on Schenley and Mahoning avenues was leased by the parish when Mass was celebrated for the first time on May 6, 1923, with about 125 families. Bishop Joseph Schrembs approved the name St. Brendan. The school served as a temporary worship site while a church was built.

Construction: Building of the new rectory began March 1, 1924, and the cornerstone was laid by Bishop Schrembs on Nov. 29, 1924. The church bought a residence on Mahoning Avenue as a convent for the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, teachers in the parish school. The new school was opened Sept. 8, 1925, with an enrollment of 265 children.

Formal opening: The first services were Sept. 13, 1925, and dedication of the church, school and rectory was Nov. 29, 1925. The parish buildings, a combination church and school and the rectory, cost $225,000. The church is an adapted form of English Gothic architecture with an auditorium seating 600 people. The stained-glass window over the altar and the altar were donated by Owen and Mary White.

Organizations: The men’s club, Brendan Navigators, were ushers and sponsored spaghetti dinners and bazaars. Other organizations were Catholic Women’s Club, Altar and Rosary Society and the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary called “Queen of Martyrs,” organized in May 1924. The “Madonna Club” was a popular youth group. The Catholic Order of Foresters was organized in 1934.

Changes: Diocese of Youngstown Diocese was formed June 4, 1943. Sisters of the Holy Humility of Mary needed new living quarters, which were built by parishioner Frank A. O’Neil, in 1955. Additions to the school and auditorium/gymnasium were begun in March 1958 with the dedication Februry 1959. Parish facilities were a combination church and school, a parish house, a new modern convent, 20 classrooms, meeting room, kitchen and a combination auditorium/gymnasium.

Other organizations: Mother’s Committee of St. Brendan’s was organized in 1958 to provide a school patrol for children during the lunch hour. The Bus Club was organized in 1958 to provide transportation for the children of St. Brendan. In the 1970s, the Home and School Association, tuition and financial committees were established.

Activities: Bingo was established by St. Brendan Improvement Committee. St. Brendan Festival originated in 1967.

Anniversary: A yearlong observance of the 50th anniversary began on Easter Sunday, 1974. The event continued with a mission and dinner dance. The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) had closed less than a decade earlier. Liturgical changes were made such as celebrating the Mass in English.

Other changes: The Holy Name Society, the Catholic Order of Foresters and Scouting disbanded at the parish. A parish council was established in 1985. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults became the standard way in which adults wishing to join the Church entered the faith.

Working together: In the 1990s,“Walking Together” meetings took place with Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Austintown. The two parishes maintained separate staffs but worked together in youth ministry, Confirmation and mission. The Rev. Richard Brobst, a son of the parish, served as the ninth pastor.

Renovation: The Rev. James Daprile became pastor in July 2000, and extensively revamped the church interior, adding a reardos (a screen or decoration behind the altar) and statues of St. Brendan and Christ crucified. The church interior was repainted. St. Brendan School was closed in the mid-2000s. The parish added a Spanish Mass to reach out to the growing Hispanic presence in the diocese.

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