St. Colman School, 1954


This file appears in: St. Colman Catholic Church
St. Colman School, 1954

Although Catholic schools can be traced back to America's colonial origins, they would not come into prominence until the late 19th century. The development of Catholic schools was, in part, a reaction by ethnically and religiously defined communities to anti-Catholic/racial bigotry and a public school system that espoused a Protestant world view. More so, the creation of parochial Catholic schools was an extension of the neighborhood church's role in providing services to America's rapidly growing Catholic, ethnic population. As the children of the working immigrant poor were more likely integrated into the labor force rather than attend school, these early Catholic schools primarily served the needs of America's growing Catholic middle class. As Catholic ethnic communities became increasingly prosperous and assimilated into mainstream society, the popularity of Catholic schools boomed. Attendance reached its peak in the mid 1960s, with over 5.5 million students in Catholic schools. Since then, the popularity of Catholic schools (and their respective parishes) has steadily declined as the Catholic immigrant communities dissolved and moved away from the core of cities. Urban Catholic schools increasingly became surrounded by non-Catholic and, often, economically disadvantaged communities. Enrollment numbers dropped to nearly half by 2009.

Similarly, St. Colman School served the neighborhood's ethnic community. In 1920, St. Colman School was the largest Catholic school in the Cleveland Diocese. Of approximately 1,100 students enrolled in 1927, nearly 700 were of Irish descent. As the Irish community moved away, a less affluent Appalachian population settled in the school's vicinity. Enrollment dropped, and the school was closed in 1974 due to a lack of students.

Photograph courtesy of Cleveland State University Special Collections


This file appears in: St. Colman Catholic Church