St. Joseph Catholic School was in existence from September, 1962, until June, 2010. Prior to the completion of the new church and school on Pioneer Trail, Fr. Hughes opened St. Joseph's first "school" in the basement of the church at 4571 Prospect St. (grade 1) and the facilities across the street loaned by the Hilltop Christian Church (grades 2-4). Climaxing nearly a century of spiritual service to the Catholics of Mantua, St. Joseph's formally dedicated its new church and school (current facility off Pioneer Tr.) on July 28, 1963. In September of 1963, St. Joseph School had five grades and continued to add another grade each year. Since 1983, the K-8 program included an all-day Kindergarten and a middle school approach to the upper grades that addressed their unique needs.
Throughout these years, St. Joseph School developed a reputation as a progressive learning institution providing a well-rounded curriculum complimented with a Catholic based foundation of equal importance. St. Joseph's offered an open and welcoming environment to members of the school, parish, and surrounding communities. Collectively, St. Joseph offered a place to worship, a place to learn, and a place to gather with family and friends.
Very sadly, in June, 2010 St. Joseph School had to close due to declining enrollment.
Msgr. John Lavelle, with big heart and booming voice, made St. Joseph's remember priestly service and dedication. He was pastor from 1951 to 1960. It was he who renovated the old church and extended his service to the mission in Aurora, and who planned well for the future by purchasing ninety-six acres of property on Pioneer Trail for future development just north of the Village of Mantua. In November 1957 he also lead the fund drive for the first parochial school in northern Portage County.
*Photos & Article Below From Nov., 1957 Newspaper (Mantua Record?)
Fund Drive - Committee direction operation of the drive for $90,000
for a parochial school in Mantua includes, left to right, seated,
Einar Kropp, Rev. John P. Lavelle, James R. Mudler (General Chairman),
Rev. Paul McNally;standing are Robert Macaluso, Bernard Schilling,
Louis Adams (Initial Gifts Chairman), and H.W. Kestila.
Team Captains - The ladies will lead the way in the drive begun for
a school for St. Joseph Parish, Mantua, at a kick-off dinner last night.
Heads of major organizations serving as captains along with 10 others are,
left to right, Mrs. Robert McLaughlin, Mrs. John Lesnak, Mrs. Allen Hamburgh,
Mrs. Dallas Vondle, Mrs. William Hafemeister and Mrs. Einar Kropp.
St. Joseph Catholic Parish Launches Drive For $90,000
Officially inaugurated last night in St. Joseph parish hall, Mantua, was the drive for $90,000 to be used to build northern Portage County's first parochial school. The plot of land is adjacent to the new Crestwood School and has sufficient room to handle future contemplated expansion.
Father Lavelle envisioned the day when all of the St. Joseph facilities would be located on the parcel - including a new church, rectory and convent for the nuns expected to staff the school when it opens.
Plans are based upon surveys made by Father Lavelle and his assistant, Rev. Paul McNally, of new allotments in the upper portion of the county. These show large numbers of families in these settlements are prospective if not already actual members of the parish.
Nearly $10,000 in pledges already obtained was reported to the assemblage last night.
More than 250 persons - parishioners and friends of the parish - were on hand to hear the drive chairman, Ross Mudler, and his assistants outline the needs for the new school and the manner in which they will attempt to canvass the parish for pledges.
The drive really is for more than $100,000 with the 90,000 needed for the elementary school planned and the balance to go into a Catholic Central High School fund for Portage County.
"What was good enough for your grandfathers is not going to be good enough for your children." Rev. John P. Lavelle told the enthusiastic group present at the loyalty dinner.
"Our parish, like our town, is too old to remain static," the pastor said.
"We have to get new blood into our fine village and share the load in the educational burden that is rightfully ours," Father Lavelle said.
He outlined preliminary plans which call for erection of an eighth grade school building on land already acquired by the parish.
When Fr. Francis Hughes came to Mantua in 1960, St. Joseph's parish was facing a financial crunch. At the same time, there were plans to establish a parish school. He addressed these challenges with vigor in his unobtrusive way combining a mix of boundless energy, humility and a spirit of cooperation.
In September, 1962, prior to the completion of the new church and school on Pioneer Trail, Fr. Hughes opened St. Joseph's first "school" in the basement of the church at 4571 Prospect St. (grade 1) and the facilities across the street loaned by the Hilltop Christian Church (grades 2-4). The "old church" on Prospect St. in Mantua Village was bought by the Crestwood School District Board of Education in 1968 and is currently used to house Special Services. At this same time, the rectory at 4565 Prospect St. in Mantua (next to the "Old" Church) was also bought by Crestwood School District & is used as Board and Administration offices.
Fr. Hughes with zeal and selflessness continued the plans of his predecessor and brought about the building of the first portion of a million and half dollar dream of a parish complex on the new property - a church, school and auditorium (our present building). In 1963, under his direction, the parish has realized its goal to erect a parochial school.
Climaxing nearly a century of spiritual service to the
Catholics of Mantua, St. Joseph's formally dedicated its
new church and school on Sunday, July 28, 1963.
The Most Reverend Emmet Michael Walsh, Bishop of Youngstown, officiated at the ceremony,
a fitting prelude to St. Joseph's Centennial, which occurred the next year.
The "new" St. Joseph Church & School in 1963
Below you will find a copy of the letter that Father Hughes wrote to parishioners
upon the 1963 dedication of St. Joseph Church and School . . .
My Dear Parishioners,
This new building is a memorial to all those who have contributed in any way to its realization, beginning from the initial step of purchasing the land, which was accomplished under the guidance of the former pastor of St. Joseph's, Msgr. Lavelle. However, this grand edifice is primarily and principally a memorial to all those who sacrificed to finance this noble project. Those who prayed won the favor and blessing of Almighty God who allowed the work to proceed; due to financial support of many parishioners permission for the building program was gained from our revered bishop, Most Rev. Emmet M. Walsh.
This fine structure will, in addition, be a tribute to all those who will be zealous to pray that God's continued help will be forthcoming to assist us in meeting this new obligation; likewise it will be a lasting monument to all who will be conscientious in contributing from their earnings to pay off the debt.
What greater memorial or tribute can there be than to have your name and life associated with a building dedicated to the honor and glory of Almighty God and the eternal salvation of the immortal souls of men.
God Bless You Always,
The new school was part of an educational building which housed a temporary church; eight classrooms; a kitchen and cafeteria, which can double as a social hall for parish activities; administrative offices; a bookstore; restrooms; and service areas [the plan was to eventually build a permanent church and use the "temporary church" space as a gymnasium and convert part of the hall into classroom space]. Located off Pioneer Trail, on one of the highest points in Portage County, the new church and school unit was designed by Architect Charles J. Faroni. The first Mass in the new church was First Communion.
St. Joseph's Annual Ox Roast Fair was started in 1964 by Fr. John Wirtz (Associate Pastor under Fr. Hughes) to help pay for the new school. The Ox Roast Fair now directly supports the educational and sacramental ministries of St. Joseph's Church and School. Visit our Ox Roast Fair pages to learn more about the history.
Fr. Hughes enlisted the services of the Dominican Sisters of Akron, whose pioneer spirit and dedication made St. Joseph the recognized school that it is today. They lived in The Faragher House that was purchased, renovated and used as the Convent (building still exists today as a private residence on the corner of St. Rt. 44 & the entrance to Crestwood High School & is pictured here).
St. Joseph School description and photos from
the church and school dedication booklet . . .
"Another front entrance, which features modern ornamentation, opens into a corridor which affords easy access into the church or lower level school area. This hallway also leads into the kitchen and cafeteria."
"The cafeteria can be used as a social hall or all-purpose room, providing a church-centered place for meetings and recreation for all age groups. There is ample space in the cafeteria to create four meeting rooms in part of this all-purpose hall. If needed, this space can also be used for classrooms."
"The first floor school area includes two classrooms, administrative offices, a checkroom, religious article store, a book store, rest rooms, lay faculty and Sisters' lounges and a boiler room and janitor's shop. The boiler room houses two oil-burning furnaces, an incinerator and a hot water tank. This lower level school area also has it's own entrance on the right side of the building."
"The second floor features six classrooms, a library and rest room, in addition to the choir loft, which overlooks the church proper [this choir loft is now our computer lab]."
In September of 1963, St. Joseph School had five grades and continued to add another grade each year. At that time, three school buses provided the children with transportation.
Rev. Francis Hughes came back as interim pastor March-July in 1988 after Fr. Trimbur left the parish. Fr. Hughes especially loved the children and the thriving school, his dream come true from 1963.
On September 3, 1995, the parish hall was named and rededicated the Rev. Francis Hughes Hall.
Can You Help?
We are missing 8th grade class photos from 1968 and 1988.
Help make our school building's photo wall complete!
Send a good image to firstname.lastname@example.org
or let us borrow the photo to make a copy.
Your help is most appreciated!
As information is gathered, watch for more school history and photos.