Friday, November 3, 2017


By the 21st century, none of the Catholic high schools in the diocese were schools of a particular parish.  But in the 1930s it was not uncommon in Akron for a high school to be a parish ministry.  St. Vincent Parish had a high school as did St. Mary Parish.  It is very clear that Father Zwisler had every intention of building a parish high school at St. Sebastian.  Diocesan archive records reveal some of the lobbying efforts in this endeavor. 

In a letter dated June of 1938, Fr. Zwisler wrote a letter to Auxiliary Bishop McFadden in response to some sort of concern that had been brought to his attention that St. Sebastian was not supporting St. Vincent High School.  “The fact is,” he wrote, “that St. Sebastian parish, and St. Martha, and Annunciation to a lesser degree, have made it possible for St. Vincent to maintain its parochial high school.  Out of an enrollment of approximately 400 students, about 200 of them are tuition students from the above named parties at $50 a student per annum.  Out of the 200 tuition students, about 80, or nearly one half, are from St. Sebastian Parish.  

“As for furthering the great cause of Catholic secondary education, St. Sebastian Parish is far in the lead among parishes in Akron who have no parochial high school of its own.  Out of a class of 40 students who graduated from our 8th grade this year, 20 have enrolled at St. Vincent, 3 at the Elms, 3 at Sacred Heart Academy, and 2 at Prairie du Chein.  Seventy five percent of the class is entering a Catholic high school, in spite of the fact that we have no Catholic parochial high school of our own.  I don’t believe this record is surpassed by even St. Vincent and St. Mary Parishes who have parochial high schools of their own. 

“If, in conclusions, I may offer a suggestion, born of my knowledge of Akron affairs, I believe a Catholic Central high School, if feasible, might be of incalculable value to the Church in Akron.

“With every token of esteem, I remain, Yours very sincerely, Hilary A. Zwisler.”


Anonymous said...

Father, this is really interesting!

My grandmother was left a widow with 7 children in 1945, ranging in age from 6 to 21. My grandfather died when he came in contact with benzene while working at Goodyear for war defense, right before VJ Day. There was no Social Security, and my grandfather had not worked at Goodyear long enough to get a pension. All she had to rely on was a tiny stipend for my grandfather's WWI service, and assurance from Goodyear T & R that her oldest child, my aunt, had a steady job. Aunt Catherine handed over her paycheck to my grandmother for over 10 years to keep them together and pay the bills.

My father and all my aunts and uncles attended Annunciation Grade School (as did I). Msgr. Richard Dowed, their pastor at Annunciation for decades, was particularly kind to my grandparents through the years. He saw to it that the younger children stayed at the parish grade school, even during the Depression when there was no money. He gave them Christian dignity and hope when times were hard and when times were good.

In gratitude, my grandmother kept the altar servers' cassocks, the choir robes, and the priests' albs starched and spotless. My dad and uncles were available at all hours for serving Mass (including the 5:00 AM Mass for the shift change at Goodyear), and they spent endless hours mowing grass and pulling weeds at the parish, shoveling snow, washing windows, waxing Monsignor's Buick, and even caddying for him on his day off. He was really a fine, saintly priest, and the whole family (and parish) loved and admired him.

Msgr. Dowed was instrumental in establishing Hoban High School, and in fact donated land in East Akron specifically for that high school to be built less than a mile from Annunciation. He had a special hope for the parish children to attend Catholic high school in addition to the parish school. I think Hoban was built later on in the 1950's.

When it came time for high school, there was no money for my aunts to attend Catholic high school, so they went to East High School. For my father and my uncles, however, my grandmother had her heart set on St. Vincent High School, which was within walking distance from their home on Forrest Street (less than 3 miles). So she carefully saved money so she could make the monthly payment of $5 per month for each son. The boys all worked jobs to help pay the bills as well - my dad worked at Iacommini's, and they all sold Akron Beacon Journals in front of the Goodyear plant at shift change.

It sounds pretty unbelievable now, but $5 per month was a sacrifice for a widow with several children to feed and shelter. This was in the wonderful days when the Sisters of the St. Dominic fully staffed St. Vincent High School, and the Sisters of the Holy Humility of Mary staffed Annunciation Grade School, both with help from the parish priests who taught religion and celebrated school Masses every day (at least 3 or 4 priests at each parish).

St. Vincent HS was not the shiny school it is now. I understand the boys who played basketball and baseball did not have matching uniforms, and textbooks were handed down until they wore out. But it was a happy place, and they all got a good education. Almost all students were from immigrant Catholic families who lived with tight budgets, hard times, and great faith.

I am a St. Bernard parishioner and not one of yours, Father, but you really should consider putting all your articles about the history of St. Sebastian and other Catholic churches and schools into a book someday. I enjoy reading all you have written.

God bless you and your parishioners - Sue, ofs

Belinda Darr (Balch) said...


You met with my younger sister and I prior to my mother's funeral mass on May 19th 2018 ( Arline Balch). We briefly talked about our family living at 100 Elmdale, its history as the old parish rectory etc. So I've been looking for your blog to find a little more history of the parish and my old home. Ive read your blog from the present back to this entry on October 27th and have enjoyed it all. Thank you for sharing this research, your wit and cartoons.

Belinda Darr