History of St. John Neumann Parish
Our Founding Pastor: Fr. Frank LaRocca
Where Saint John Neumann praying community is today is due to the efforts of our founding pastor, Father Frank LaRocca, who founded SJN on July 4, 1977. Father Frank shepherded our community until October of 1989. Thanks to his dedication and zeal, the roots of a Eucharistic life were implanted in the minds of St. John Neumann parishioners. Through his efforts in the first half of the parish’s history, we have been able to take gigantic steps forward in our understanding of what it means to be a praying community centered in the Eucharist. We thank God for the ministry of Fr. Frank to our parish and that he was willing to answer the call to develop a spirit we have all been able to build upon. Father Frank entered into his eternal rest in September of 1991. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.
Our Second Pastor: Fr. Bob Kraig
Father Bob Kraig was appointed pastor in January of 1990. The first mass of the parish was held on Saturday, July 2, 1977, at 5:00 pm in the Strongsville High School Auditorium for approximately 50 parishioners.
Talk to any of the original parishioners and you will always here a quote similar to the following: “I can always remember getting to the high school and setting up chairs before mass and staying to take them down afterward.” It is said so lovingly and with so much pride by many of our original parishioners. It is with a great deal of thankfulness to them that we can celebrate 40 years of ministry together.
Father Kraig retired April 29, 2018, after serving at St. John Neumann for 28 years.
Our Third Pastor: Fr. Barry Gearing
A life-long resident of Cleveland, Fr. Barry was ordained on May 20, 2000. His first assignment was at St. Anselm parish in Chesterland where he served for 5 years. He then was named parochial vicar at St. Joseph Church in Strongsville until September 1st, 2008. From 2008 until 2018 he was the Pastor of St. Adalbert Parish in Berea. His next assignment brought him to Saint John Neumann where he currently is the Pastor.
Father has a deep love for the Church and her beautiful traditions. Celebrating Mass and hearing confessions are deeply humbling for him. In his words “The greatest part of his priesthood is ministering to God’s people from baptizing infants to teaching the Faith to the Faithful of all ages”!
Early Building and Interparochial School
On November, 1, 1977, ground was broken for the rectory/administration building and in April of 1982 the first mass was said in our church at a sunrise Mass on Easter Sunday . Saturday evening vigil and Sunday masses were held in the Strongsville Senor High School Auditorium. As the new parish was formed the Diocesan Catholic School Building Committee decided that St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School would accept students from both parishes and be called Saints Joseph and John Interparochial School.
Post Building of Church
The building of a church is an exciting time in parish life. With the completion of the new church building in 1982 and the initiating of Christ Renews His Parish, a weekend program in the mid 80’s, many more people became involved in the parish life of St. John Neumann Parish. People of all ages began to come together. This, coupled with the vibrant, enthusiastic spirit of Father Frank, brought much life to the parish community.
Through Father Frank’s leadership the praying community of St. John Neumann expanded. Father Bob Kraig succeeded Fr. Frank and with the booming population of the Strongsville community in the 1990’s another building project was undertaken. New offices, an activity center and meeting rooms were begun in 1994 after a building campaign and completed in 1996.
In addition a joint effort by St. John Neumann and St. Joseph parishes brought a gymnasium, administrative offices and kindergarten rooms to the interparochial school. During this time the first woman religious joined our staff, Sr. Pat Sylvester, S.N.D.; recently, in 2015 we were privileged to celebrate her 50th anniversary in religious life.
The outdoor stations of the cross were added in 1998. While many use these outdoor stations throughout the year it is a privilege to see so many families, children, husbands and wives using them on Good Friday.
With the building done and some other additions to our facilities like our picnic pavilion, bocce courts and outdoor volleyball courts many more Spirit-filled and grace-filled activities and projects found their way into the life of our praying community. We now had some space. Our parish fish frys began in to 1998 and each year these raise approximately $30,000.00 for the needy. Recently we were able to put roofs on the homes of our brothers and sisters in El Salvador through the fish fry monies. The parish picnic held every August could now be held on our grounds; more space was available for new groups to meet; Senior Adults could meet and our teens had a space for the life-teen program – the spirit begun by Father Frank was growing. During this time our “Weekend of Hope,” the first weekend in December, took shape. During this weekend, parishioners go out to help those in need.
At present, our parish is approximately 2100 families and continues to grow. The ministry and prayer of so many of our parishioners in meeting the needs of the parishioners as well as those outside our praying community is certainly something that has been indispensable to the growth of our parish. This praying community has certainly brought the presence of God to those who have served and God’s compassion to so many beyond our boundaries and diocese.
God has certainly blessed our praying community with much and we are so thankful to so many who have taken the concept of stewardship seriously to reflect on how they share their time, talent and treasure with others. St. John Neumann continues to grow as a parish centered around the Eucharist and Reconciliation. The ministry of so many in our community is a blessing from God. May God bless all members of our praying community, both past, present and future. May God grant eternal peace not only to our founding pastor, Fr. Frank LaRocca, but to all deceased members of our parish.