About Our Parish
Saint Mary Church
Painesville until 1850 was a mission of Saint John’s Cathedral in Cleveland. Organization of the Catholic population of this area into a parish began with the appointment of The Rev. Peter Pendeprat, as pastor, by Bishop Rappe of Cleveland. He was appointed the first pastor of Saint Mary’s in September 1850. Territorially the parish of 1850 was a large parish embracing the three counties of Lake, Geauga, and Ashtabula.
On March 16, 1849, according to the Lake County Records, Volume G, land was purchased for a Catholic Church by three trustees. This property was on South State opposite to its intersection by Washington Street. Whether there was a building on the lot which was converted into a church, or whether a new building was erected, either before Father Peudeprat’s coming or after, we do not know. On this location was established the first Saint Mary’s Church of Painesville. We have no pictures nor plans of this early Saint Mary’s, but from the descriptions of those who attended this church and are now deceased, it was a small frame building with Gothic windows seating about one hundred people.
In September of 1852 Father Charles Coquerelle succeeded Father Peudeprat as pastor. In 1856 he purchased the present North State Street property on which the church, the rectory, and the convent now stand. With the proceeds from the sale of the land on South State Street, in the same year was begun the erection of Saint Mary’s Church on North State Street. The building was under roof in 1857. It was not completed until 1861.
This church seating 250 was thirty-six feet wide and eighty-two feet long. In the center of the façade was a tower which rose above the gable of the roof. On top of this brick tower was constructed a wooden belfry. All in all from the old drawings, it was a well proportioned brick church with a pleasing interior finish.
No changes were made in the church built by Father Conquerelle from 1869 to 1887 during the pastorate of Father JohnTracy, the third pastor.
In 1895 under Father Conway, the fourth pastor, it was decided to enlarge the church in order to meet the need of more space. The side walls of the 1857 church were torn down, the wooden belfry of the old church was removed and a new belfry of brick was constructed on the north side of the façade. Nothing was left of the 1857 church except its tower in the front, and its rear wall. The church was widened to fifty-six feet on the inside with its length left at eighty-two feet. This widening of the church brought its seating capacity to four hundred twenty-eight. With its window of the Blessed Virgin in the sanctuary, its Gothic sanctuary arches and windows with new pews, electric lighting substituted for gas and hot air furnaces in place of stoves, this building was a notable improvement and met the needs of the people of that day.
In 1940 it was found necessary to enlarge the church once again. This was done by leaving the building of 1895 intact except for cutting a twenty-eight foot arch out of the old rear wall and constructing behind it a sanctuary.
In this way with the sanctuary and sacristies moved back twenty feet, space could be given for more pews. The enlarged church of 1940 with the new twenty eight foot addition was fifty-six feet wide on the inside and one hundred two feet long. It accommodated 540 persons. With a new altar, a larger sanctuary and simple decorations, this church was devotional.
In 1955 the church became totally inadequate for the size of the size of the parish. A choice had to be made of one of two plans – either to renovate the old church and enlarge it a third time, or build a new one. To have chosen the first method of meeting the needs of the parish would have been a poor choice. It would have involved an entire new floor, a new balcony, a large new addition for a new sanctuary and for seating space, an entirely new slate roof, and probably a new façade for the masonry of the tower of 1857 was slowly separating from the brick work of the 1895 enlargement. Had this plan been followed, the parish would still have had an old church, and at a very high cost.
It was decided to follow the second plan. Permission to this effect was given by The Most Reverend Edward F. Hoban, Archbishop-Bishop of Cleveland.
The razing of the old church began June 6, 1955. On July 11, 1955, Mr. George Payne, the general contractor, began the work of excavating for the new building with Mr. William Koehl of Cleveland as the architect. The cornerstone was laid October 23, 1955.
The tearing down of the old church to make room for the new caused many regrets among the people of Saint Mary’s. For many it was the only parish church they had ever known. Within its walls had taken place the most important events of their lives. For Painesville it was a landmark. For everyone it was a place of adoration, of inspiration, of pardon and mercy, the “House of Prayer.”
The new Saint Mary’s is far larger than the old. It is fifty-four feet wide on the inside of the nave, but eighty-four feet wide at the transepts. Its total length is 141 feet and it has a seating capacity of eight hundred thirty-six.
May the new Saint Mary Church constructed through the sacrifices of its parishioners be a means of abundant grace and blessing even more than was the old. This day in humility we offer and dedicate to God through His Mother the earthly temple we have built for His honor and glory. May He accept our offering and with the offering of our hearts.
- Rt. Rev. Msgr. William J. Gallena
The parish of St. Mary is a welcoming Roman Catholic community, rich in history, made strong by our diversity and unity of purpose. We come together in the Eucharist to celebrate, learn, and serve, so we may more fully live our Catholic faith. Our faith invites us to joyfully share in the life of our parish, school of religion and surrounding community as disciples of Jesus.