On January 11, 1924, Mr. Thomas J. McCullough wrote to Bishop J.J. Hartley of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio requesting that a mission station be established to care for the spiritual needs of the Catholic population of Minerva. Prior to that letter, there had been many requests that a mission be established in Minerva from the mother parish of St. Francis in Malvern.
In another letter to the pastor of the Malvern parish dated March 8, 1924 McCullough wrote: “We are determined to have a church in Minerva, and we have the assurance that the Cleveland Diocese will furnish us with a priest.”
After many letters exchanged between Mr. McCullough and the Bishops of Cleveland and Columbus, McCullough wrote to the president of the Extension Society, a society which helps establish church buildings in small or poor communities. Finally, in 1931 the sum of $100 was allocated and four religion books were given to the people of Minerva. The money was to purchase land for the church building, but the money was never received.
The Parish of St. Gabriel was not to become a reality until the new Diocese of Steubenville was formed. Minerva was placed in the Steubenville Diocese. In 1950 Bishop John King Mussio saw the need and decided to establish a mission church in Minerva.
Under the title of St. Gabriel The Archangel, Minerva’s first Catholic Church started as a mission on April 16, 1950. The Sacrifice of the Mass was offered on that date in a basement storeroom loaned by Mr. Jake Shiffman. The number of people who attended the first Mass was so large that on April 19, 1950, St. Gabriel was declared an independent parish by the Bishop of Steubenville. Fr. Joseph Malara was appointed administrator.
During the summer of 1950, property was purchased on West High Street for the new parish. In January, a temporary rectory was purchased. On June 7, 1951, ground was broken for the combination church-hall. The building was completed in time for Midnight Mass on Christmas, 1951. Formal dedication of the building took place on May 24, 1952.
On June 20, 1952, Fr. William Young took up residence as the first pastor of St. Gabriel Parish. During his pastorate, the basement of the church-hall was dug out for use as a hall, allowing the main floor to be used exclusively for religious purposes. Additional property was purchased, giving the parish the entire south side of the block running from West Liberty Street to Grant Boulevard. A new and permanent rectory was constructed and dedicated in December of 1958.
Under the administration of Fr.’s Malara, Young, Litts, Gardner, Tornes, Connelly, Krauter, and Battocletti, the parish grew to over 280 families. With Fr. J. Michael Campbell as pastor, the parish council proposed the construction of a permanent church to allow the original building for religious instruction of the children and for use as a multi-purpose facility.
On Pentecost Sunday, 1984, a building committee was formed. On the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, 1984, a formal announcement was made that a new church would be built. An architect and a liturgical consultant were hired and permission was granted by Albert H. Ottenweller, Bishop of Steubenville, to begin the initial stages of construction.
On Friday evening, April 12, 1985, Bishop Ottenweller formally broke ground for the new church. On Sunday, June 22, 1986 the fulfillment of a dream was realized as the new church was dedicated.
As St. Gabriel grew to a parish of over 340 families, this growth was accompanied by an increased need for space for religious education classes. In 1998, construction of the Rachel Elizabeth Annex added two large instructional classrooms/meeting areas and a small kitchen. The addition of this area also provided indoor passage to the rectory and an enclosed garden area with outside Altar and Stations of the Cross.
The classroom area was named ‘Rachel Elizabeth’ by the high school CCD students, in memory of Rachel Elizabeth, the aborted child who is buried at our Memorial to the Unborn.
On February 17, 2004, Msgr. J. Michael Campbell was transferred to St. Mary in Marietta, Ohio. Fr. Timothy J. Huffman was named Administrator Pro Tem.
Fr. Victor Cinson was named Pastor on July 1, 2004.
In the year 1848 the number of Catholics living in and around the village of Lodi (now Malvern) had reached a number large enough to warrant the start of a Catholic Mission.
The Rev. H. Mankenheide, Pastor of St. Mary’s in Morges was the first priest to serve the St. Francis Xavier congregation and under his guidance a church was erected. As was typical of the time, the members of the congregation all donated their time and talents as carpenters, mason and laborers to build the red brick church.
Some parishioners had molded the bricks and built a kiln to fire them. Others helped with the pews which were built at the local lumber yard. One man, named Cylar, who fixed clocks by profession, donated the money for the Church bells.
The land for the church was donated by Frances Stoltz. She purchased it form Abraham and Mary Reed for $100.00. Astipulation of the deed states that the land "be for the use and benefit of the Roman Catholics in and around the town of Lodi, preaching to be held regularly in German by the direction of the Bishop and occasionally in French and English".
When Fr. Mankenheide left in 1854 several different priest served the parish until 1882, when the Rt. Rev. Bishop Watterson appointed Rev. Bernard Wisman as the first resident Pastor of St. Francis Xavier.
During the following years the church was enlarged by 30 feet and a parish house was erected. This work was completed in 1884.
Fr. Wisman served the congregation until his death in 1891. The Rev. Thomas A. Powers replaced Fr. Wisman as Pastor and when he was transferred a few months later, Rev. Edward L. Fladung came to Malvern. At this time a new parish residence was erected at a cost of several thousand dollars.
When Fr. Fladung was transferred to Pomeroy in 1907 the Rev. Bernard Vogel was named Pastor. In 1908 the Rev. Clement B. Teipe replaced Fr. Vogel.
In 1912 the Rev. Otto P. Trogus assumed charge of the parish and remained in Malvern until 1916. His successor was the Rev. Charles L. Walsh.
The Rev. Adolph Dangler came to Malvern in 1920 and remained until his death in 1931.
Through the depression years the Rev. John Diegelman Served as Pastor for this parish. When in 1942, he suffered a stroke and was obligated to retire, the Rev. Leo L. Wiggins came as his replacement. With the guidance of Fr. Wiggins, the parish grew in many ways. In 1948 the church was renovated and in 1949 St. Francis Xavier Hall was completed. The Hall to this day serves as a center for both parish and community social functions.
Fr. Wiggins retired in 1970 and Fr. George Voytko was named Pastor, Msgr. Joseph Nealon replaced Ft. Voytko in 1972.
On May 14, 1974, St. Francis parish
'Favorite Son' Victor Cinson, was ordained to the Priesthood.
When Msgr. Nealon was transferred in 1975 Fr. Mitchell Wilamowski was named Pastor until his death in 1977. Msgr. Frank Manieri was installed as Pastor in 1977 and was followed in 1985 by Fr. Leonard Cenculawho remained Pastor until 1993.
Fr. Thomas Marut was named Pastor in 1993. Under his leadership, St. Francis parish celebrated it's 150th Anniversary in 1998. On July 2, 2000, Bishop Gilbert I. Sheldon appointed Fr. Marut to the Pastorate of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Carrollton. Msgr. John Michael Campbell was appointed pastor of St. Francis Xavier. This appointment came in addition to his other duties as pastor of St. Gabriel, Minerva and Episcopal Vicar for Religious serving the Diocese.
For a number of years, an addition to St. Francis had been talked about and various possibilities of design had been looked into because the need for expansion was there. Msgr. Campbell spoke with an architect, Milton Studer, to explore the possibility of enlarging the size of the church by reversing the interior and expanding toward the cemetery. Studer indicated that the concept would be structurally possible. A rough Sketch of the building was prepared, a committee was called together, the Parish Council was consulted, diocesan permission was granted and the project was begun in October, 2001. The church was vacated in January, 2002 and Mass was offered in the church hall during the building process.
The first Mass was celebrated in the renovated church on the Vigil of the Feast of All Saints, October 31, 2002. Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, Bishop of Steubenville, dedicated the church on the Second Sunday of Advent, December 8, 2002.
Fr. Victor Cinson was named Pastor on July 1, 2004.