More than 75 years ago, Holy Family Parish celebrated its first Mass in the Stow Workman High School cafeteria. Fr. Howard E. Sammon led the service, attended by 68 parishioners. A cafeteria table, raised on blocks of wood, served as the new parish’s first altar. Throughout the years, Holy Family has grown to become a dynamic parish, now more than 10,000 members strong. Still, to truly know Holy Family Parish, one must look back throughout the past 75 years.
The year was 1946 and World War II had ended. Like so many other communities of the era, Stow noted a surge in population. To meet the growing suburban expansion, Archbishop Edward F. Hoban wrote to Fr. John F. Gallagher, Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Cuyahoga Falls, authorizing him to purchase property that would be used for a Catholic church, serving Stow and Silver Lake.
Within months, Fr. Gallagher purchased 19 lots on Sycamore Drive and Kent Road for $5,350.00. A sign of the times, Fr. Gallagher noted in his letter to the archbishop that he had …”kept his name out of it for the time being,” an indication of the reluctance and hesitation of the Stow population about the establishment of a Catholic parish in the community.
The parish had land, but no priest. Fr. Sammon was recently home in Cleveland from a tour as a chaplain with the U.S. Navy, when he was named the parish’s first pastor. During the war, Fr. Sammon developed a particular devotion to the Holy Family. As such, he requested that the new parish be named. His request was granted, and Holy Family Parish was formally established on October 15, 1946.
Fr. Sammon initially lived at St. Joseph’s Parish rectory and commuted daily, sometimes walking to the parish’s new property, a low swampy land that he affectionately called “that hole in the ground.”
It did not take the parishioners long to begin raising funds – through card and garden parties, raffles and festivals, and the well known Holy Family roast beef and spaghetti dinners – for their own parish building.
Their hard work paid off. Nearly two years later, ground for the new chapel-school auditorium of Holy Family Parish was broken and one year later, on August 15, 1949 Fr. Sammon celebrated the parish’s first Mass in the auditorium of its new building. In September, Holy Family School opened its doors to about 100 students. Four nuns from the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine under the leadership of Sister Mary Ernestine, comprised the first faculty.
The parish continued to grow and thrive as it entered the 1950’s. Archbishop Hoban blessed the newly created parish structure with a Mass, Benediction and reception on May 20, 1950.
Tragedy struck, however, on May 17, 1954. The parish’s beloved priest of seven years, Fr. Sammon suffered a heart attack while distributing Communion at a school Mass. He was taken to St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, where he died the next day. More than 200 priests attended the grieving parish. Fr. Sammon was 49 years old.
Within a month, Fr. J. Leo Brennan took over the duties of parish priest. Although poor health and a disability limited his tenure with the parish to less than a year, he spent his time wisely, continuing Fr. Sammon’s work in expanding the school building. The school’s first addition, a two story structure of six classrooms at the west end of the original building, opened in October 1954.
By now the parish had grown to need an associate pastor. Fr. William J. Johnson assumed this position at the beginning of 1955.
Later that year, Fr. John H. Archibald succeeded Fr. Brennan. An energetic and vibrant man, Fr. Archibald led his parishioners in the new openness, spiritual growth and collaborative spirit inspired by Vatican II. He was also known for his wide-range of interests and skills -- among them flying an airplane. Each Thanksgiving, Fr. Archibald would take an often reluctant associate pastor up in the air to bless the parish homes.
Things were about to get exciting for the thriving parish. As the decade neared its end, Holy Family’s parishioners looked to the future and broke ground November 1, 1959 for a new church.
The 1960’s were marked by extreme growth in the parish. Not only was the church completed in December, a second addition to the school opened up earlier in the year in September. The new section included five classrooms above the original classroom building.
The new contemporary church, the current home of Holy Family, was built with the pews in a semicircle around the altar. A design most unusual at the time. Along the walls were the cast aluminum Stations of the Cross with enamel inlays, designed by Akron artist Mary Ellen McDermott. A series of stained glass windows depicting Catholic family life in Christ and the Corporal Works of Mercy wrapped the church in beauty and inspiration.
In mid-December, Auxiliary Bishop John J. Krol consecrated the altar of the new church, and a week later Fr. Albert Shimalonis, Holy Family’s second assistant pastor, celebrated midnight Christmas Eve Mass, with Fr. Archibald conducting the choir. He came down from the choir loft only to deliver the sermon and help distribute Communion.
Fitting to the parish, Auxiliary Bishop Krol dedicated the new church on January 8, 1961, the feast of the Holy Family.
Four years later, the school expanded with the addition to the east wing. The parish rectory was also opened that year.
The 1970’s and 1980’s
In 1971, the parish joyfully celebrated its 25th anniversary. As was the case of the previous decade, the parish continued to grow and prosper.
In December 1977, at the age of 70, Father Archibald ended his 22 year commitment to the parish and retired. He was named Pastor Emeritus. At the beginning of the new year, the parish embraced its newest pastor, Father Edward J. Szabo. Ordained by Archbishop Hoban in 1957, Father Szabo brought an openness and balance to his pastoral ministry. Quiet and unpretentious, Father Szabo was an effective and dedicated priest who would provide continued growth and development to the parish throughout the next two decades.
Three years later, Holy Family’s first permanent deacon, John Paroff, was ordained. A second Deacon, Philip Kamlowsky, followed suit in 1985.
More and more children were attending the school, necessitating the need for yet another addition to the facilities. Ground was broken for the school’s fifth and most vast addition --- nine new classrooms, a full size gymnasium, an expanded library-learning center and a newly remodeled Parish Center. Bishop Anthony M. Pilla dedicated the building in January 1994.
As the school was welcoming growth, sadly the students, faculty and staff said good-bye to the Sisters of Charity. The sisters concluded their ministry at Holy Family after 46 years of service at the end of the school year 1995.
In 1996, the parish marked yet another milestone -- its 50th anniversary. The congregation celebrated with a Mass led by Father Szabo.
Three years later, they would say good-bye to their pastor. Father Szabo succumbed to cancer in July 1999. He was succeeded by Fr. Joseph Lieberth who served until April, 2002.
Father Tom Dragga became Administrator in April, 2002. Holy Family’s two associate pastors were reassigned, Father Flood to the Village of St. Edward and Father Crosby to nearby St. Eugene’s Parish. Father Mike Ausperk joined the parish in 2001 as Holy Family’s sole associate pastor. It was also this year that the parish established an Endowment Fund and Development Office to support the school financially.
Earlier in the year, Bishop Pilla presented a Pastoral Letter entitled “Vibrant Parish Life”. This began a major diocesan movement that serves as the framework for an evolving “pastoral plan.” The implementation included training parish leaders, educating parishioners, conducting parish self-studies and networking among other parishes to explore further opportunities for collaboration and common interests.
In November 2002, Father Paul J. Rosing became Holy Family’s Parochial Administrator.
Father Rosing brought a new sense of strength and faith to the parish. Under his guidance, the parish has implemented a myriad of new programs, including a senior adult ministry, Generations of Faith, Stewardship, the Honduras mission, and Just Faith.
The following year, the parish experienced one of its most memorable events yet. In July, Stow and its surrounding communities were hit with heavy rainstorms. Floodwaters filled the Lower Church Hall and Rectory, causing extensive damage. While no one was hurt, the buildings did suffer a lot of damage. It took several months and over $1 Million in diocesan insurance to complete the repairs.
At the same time, the church underwent a makeover. New kneelers and carpeting gave the building a refreshed look.
By now, a portion of Holy Family’s buildings and facilities were in need of upgrades. In October 2003, a sound amplification system was installed in 29 classrooms. Spearheaded by Joanne Haas, the new system allowed students with hearing problems to understand their teachers more clearly. In June 2004, the school’s computer lab was refurbished. A committed member of the parish, Bob Gibel volunteered many hours to build the technical resources of the parish before his death. Months later, Phase I of the school’s window replacement project began. Other upgrades to the school’s heating system, parking lots and sewer system were made in 2005.
Change was not limited to the physical aspects of the parish. The parish entered Phase II of Vibrant Parish Life. In 2005, the parish implemented the Generations of Faith program, a new path to faith formation that involved those of all ages -- from children to seniors. Diane Hurtuk oversaw the development of the program and served as the Director.of Religious Education.
Father Ausperk, fondly known as Father Mike, revealed the parish’s generosity to the people of Honduras when he led a medical mission to the country in June 2005. For nearly a year, parishioners donated many medical supplies, from aspirin to skin ointment -- in anticipation of the event. Several people with medical backgrounds traveled to Honduras with Father Mike to administer the medical supplies and to provide much needed medical attention to the people. This ministry continues with a medical mission to Honduras every January.
Excitement once again surrounded the school when preschoolers hit the halls. The program kicked off at the beginning of the 2005 school year.
In June of 2006, Father Mike left Holy Family for a new assignment as associate pastor of St. Vincent DePaul in Cleveland, and the parish welcomed newly ordained priest, Father Joseph Mamich. At the time, Father Mamich was the youngest priest in the Cleveland Diocese.
Father Mamich embraced his new assignment with warmth and a keen sense of humor. He quickly immersed himself in his duties as Parochial Vicar.
In October, Holy Family celebrated its 60th Anniversary. We commemorated our special year with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Richard Lennon on December 16, 2006.
Over the years, the parish’s buildings have served the people well, but time had taken its toll. In 2007, Holy Family embarked on a capital campaign to restore and renew the buildings. In “Building our Faith, our Family and our Future,” the parish sought to provide important upgrades as well as improve accessibility to the church. It also created a place for gathering before and after Mass, a Blessed Sacrament Chapel for Eucharistic Adoration, and a Daily Mass Chapel.
In 2009, Deacon John Green came to Holy Family from the Archdiocese of Chicago. He brought with him a new energy and lively homilies.
In June 2010, Father Joe Mamich left Holy Family for his new assignment at St. Basil’s Parish in Brecksville, Ohio. Father Joe left behind a budding legacy of spearheading the “Summerfest” that was held the last weekend of June each year, and began the St. Joseph the Worker Society, as well as involvement in the Stow community as Chaplain of the Stow Police Department, and a strong connection to our youth and school. Father Joe became the pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Strongsville, Ohio October 2011.
The parish welcomed Father Edward Holland from St. Gregory the Great Parish in South Euclid. Father Ed engaged the parish throughout the year, in which he instructed and entertained questions about Catholicism.
Another milestone for the parish was the naming of Father Rosing as Pastor of Holy Family. Father Rosing assumed the management of the parish in November 2002 as our pastoral leader and administrator for eight years, a special Mass was held on January 25, 2011 - during which Father Rosing was officially installed as our Pastor by Bishop Richard G. Lennon.
In May 2013 heavy storms went through Stow. The damage to the lower church hall, rectory and grounds were devastating. It took months to bring things back to normal. Flood abatement measures were completed, so hopefully this will never happen again.
In the spring of 2014, Father Holland left for his new assignment at St. John Neumann in Strongsville, Ohio. We welcomed Father Kevin Elbert from St. Mary’s Parish in Hudson, Ohio.
In the summer of 2015, Father Elbert was assigned as pastor of St. Luke’s in Lakewood. This paved the way for the return of Fr. Mike Ausperk as parochial vicar at Holy Family. Fr. Ausperk’s second tenure was a continuation of his service to not only the people of Holy Family, but growth in service to the people of Honduras.
Father Ausperk was joined in 2016 by newly ordained Father Kevin Klonowski. Father Kevin brought youth and energy to our parish. He had a special fondness for our SVDP society and readily joined with our wonderful parish volunteers to serve those most in need.
Father Ausperk was reassigned in June of 2019 to St. Francis Xavier in Medina. Shortly thereafter, Father Andy Gonzalez joined our parish family as parochial vicar. Father Andy was also newly ordained (2019) and benefited greatly from the kind guidance of our pastor, Father Paul Rosing. Father Andy brought a sense of peace and prayer as he openly shared his love for the Lord with the good parishioners of Holy Family. In February 2020, Father Andy was joined by a second parochial vicar.
Father Michael Denk joined us in February 2020, and before he could really get to know our parishioners, the COVID-19 pandemic was upon us. Father Andy and Father Michael were a great support for Father Rosing as the three maneuvered the “new normal” of countless adjustments and changes.
Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2020 we saw the “return to church”. The joy was boundless and Holy Family Parishioners continue to count their blessings as we celebrate our 75th Anniversary.
During Fr. Rosing’s tenure, several individuals have served, along with the priests and deacons, as members of the Parish Pastoral Staff: Mr. Ed Coia -- Business Manager; Mr. Rich Malecky -- Facilities Manager; Mrs. Diane Hurtuk -- DRE; Mrs. Bonnie Wojno -- Development Director; Mrs. Sue Figler -- Development Director; Mrs. Joan Skalak -- Pastoral Ministry; Mrs. Judy Biros -- Worship and Music; Mrs. Judy Dobos -- Worship; Mrs. Michelle Noack (Kroll) -- School Principal; Mrs. Sharon Fournier -- School Principal; and Deacon Phil Kamlowsky. Each of these individuals have retired after serving the Parish for several years.