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Churches and Immigrants.
The first Niles' immigrants were
English and Welsh Protestants of many denominations; none large
enough to organize a congregation or have a permanent House of
Worship. Small groups met in private homes, but there was not
a single organized church in Weathersfield Township until 1839.
Roman Catholics, mostly Irish immigrants, also first worshipped
in private homes. During the period from 1838 to 1879, eight different
congregations were established: Methodist, Catholic (St. Stephen),
Baptist, Episcopal, Welsh Presbyterian and Primitive Methodist.
The Catholics in Niles were attended
to by priests from St. Columba Church in Youngstown until 1854
when St. Stephen's Church was designated as a mission. In 1865
the parish was established for all catholics of Niles and Mineral
For both the pioneers and immigrants,
their churches became a means of keeping their traditions. Just
after the turn of the century, three ethnic churches were founded.
with services held in their native tongues: the Lutheran in German,
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Italian, and the Presbyterian in Hungarian.
History of the buildings of Our Lady of
Mt. Carmel Parish
• Reverend Scullen, Pastor of St. Stephen’s
Church, invites an Italian priest, Reverend Santagata,
from the Cleveland Diocese to accommodate the Italian community
by saying mass in Italian. After a time the Bishop requests he
return to Italy.
• Reverend Vito Franco is appointed by Bishop
Hortsman to organize a parish for Italians in Niles. For
a time, mass is said in St. Stephen’s Church.
• Reverend Franco is then advised to seek a temporary location
until a church could be built.
• Vincenzo Mango offers two upstairs rooms in the
Mango Building at East Park Avenue and Furnace (East State Street).
• Pasquale Scarnecchia’s house at 449 Mason
Street serves as a chapel.
• The old Robbins home at the corner of Erie Street and
Robbins Avenue is purchased and renovated.
• The first mass is celebrated on Easter Sunday.
• The name “Our Lady of Mount Carmel” is chosen
by the Italian immigrants for their church because of their devotion
to the Blessed Mother under this title.
Father Vito Franco
First meetings were on the second
of Vincenzo Mango's Building on State Street.
Pasquale Scarnecchia house on Mason
was a temporary Mt. Carmel Chapel.
Father Vito and Scarnecchia Family
The Robbins home at the corner of Erie Street
and Robbins Avenue was purchased in 1908. It had been the residence
of Josiah Robbins and his wife, Mary Heaton,
since 1839. This home had been the center of political thought
in the Niles' area during the days of the Whig and Tory parties.
The house was in deplorable condition with
broken windows, fallen plaster, an inadequate ancient coal furnace,
failing plumbing, and no electricity.
The building was renovated and the building
was divided. The lower floor on the west side was transformed
into a chapel, while the east side was made the living quarters
for Father Franco.
On Easter Sunday, 1908, the first mass was
celebrated, representing a real achievement for Father Franco,
the committee and the community of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
• Reverend Franco is transferred and Reverend John Farinacci
becomes the pastor.
• 1500 Italians belong to the parish.
• Father requests permission to sell property to cover the
debt, but permission is denied. The Church remains in debt.
• Reverend Farinaccci departs suddenly and Reverend Ottavio
Zavatta becomes pastor. He becomes discouraged by the seeming
indifference of the parishioners and leaves.
• Reverend Nicola Santoro of the Precious Blood Society
becomes the new pastor.
• Reverend Santo is besieged by creditors and a date is set
to auction the church property. The case is settled out of court
and Father Santoro is advised to retain the Robbins Avenue property.
• The Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society is organized. After
several fundraisers, the Society makes a substantial down payment
towards the altar, communion railing and marble steps for the new
church. They later contribute to the organ and two statues in the
church and furnish a room in the Mission House.
• A committee is formed to erect a new structure for worship
having outgrown its old Robbins Home structure. Money is raised
and the Bishop sanctions the excavation of the basement on the Robbins
Father Nicola Santoro
Early Confirmation Class with Father
As the number of parishioners attending
church services multiplied, the expanded chapel in the Robbins
Home became inadequate.
A committee was formed in 1923 to
erect a new structure. Money was raised and covered the basement.
The Cleveland Diocese gave permission for a $30,000 loan to roof
The First Communion was administered
on June 24, 1924 and in October the blessing of the bell donated
by Vincenzo Mango occurred.
On Christmas Eve 1924, Father Santoro
celebrated his Silver jubilee as a priest in this new house of
Groundbreaking for the new basement in November
Mount Carmel Church, 1924.
Unfinished interior of Mount Carmel Church,
Bell donated by Mr. and Mrs. Vincenzo
The Scarnecchia House at 449 Mason
Street was the temporary chapel from 1906-1908. The Robbins Home
on Robbins Avenue and Erie Street became the chapel from 1908-1924.
The first mass in the new church was celebrated on Christmas Eve,
• Roofing of the church begins with a $30,000 loan.
• Church bell is donated by Vincenzo Mango.
• On Christmas Eve, Father Santoro celebrates his Silver
Jubilee in the new house of worship.
• The church has a seating capacity of 800, with a large
center nave bordered with pillars and two side aisles.
• Special committee is formed to raise funds to plaster
the interior walls of the church.
• Stained glass windows are imported from Munich, Germany.
• Father Santoro celebrates Christmas Mass in the completed
• Father Santoro requests permission to build a “Mission
House’ for the Precious Blood Fathers.
• The rectory would be built with funds from the order.
The building was completed in 1935.
Early view of the Mission House located on the
previous site of the Robbins Home on Robbins Avenue.
On January 26, 1932 Father Santoro
wrote to the Bishop concerning the Precious Blood Fathers and
the parish in Niles.
He stated that,"Precious Blood Father,s
working for the Italian immigrants in America, wished to establish
a Mission House. It would not only be a home for the priests serving
Mount Carmel, but would also be a base of operations for all those
preaching Missions anywhere in the area".
The order would assume the parish debt and build
a rectory at their own expense. In return, the property would
receive the parish "In Perpetuum" while all the property
would remain in the name of the diocese. The structure was completed
in October 1935.
(R) Interior view of the altar and main nave
of Mount Carmel Church.
• The annual summer festival begins around the feast of
Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Booths are erected behind Washington
Jr. High School.
• Other early festival sites were held in Mason Woods and
Peffer Athletic Field.
• Reverend Oreste Cerbara, newly ordained, comes
• Wicks pipe organ is purchased.
• Upon the death of Father Santoro, Reverend Joseph
Saraceno becomes pastor and continues the traditions and
customs of Mount Carmel.
• Summer festival is extended to a full week. A living rosary
precedes Our Lady’s statue during the procession.
• Friday night bingo begins in the church hall.
• Reverend Nicholas Arioli becomes the new assistant
pastor and focuses on the young adults.
• With money from bingo and other fund-raisers. Father Oreste
begins plans for a new school and ground is broken in February.
• Six sisters from the Sisters Adorers of the Blood of Christ
open the completed school on September 29 with 229 students. Sister
Donata is the first principal of the school which serves
kindergarten through fourth grades.
Father Oreste Cerbara
School Groundbreaking, Father
Oreste Cerbara 1949.
Mount Carmel School basement
Mount Carmel School was completed September 1949
with a staff of six sisters and 226 students from K-4 grades.
Mount Carmel School classroom.
Aerial view of Robbins Avenue and Erie Street
featuring Mount Carmel Church, Mission House, and school. The
convent and chapel for the Sisters had not been built yet.
• A convent is built on Erie Street to house twelve Sisters.
(Front) Sr. M. Donata, Principal, Sr. M.
Stella, Sr. M. Celeste
(Back) Sr. M. Anita, Sr. M. Marcella,
Sr. M. Charles
Convent and Chapel on Erie Street.
Float in Mount Carmel procession, 1956.
• Father Oreste purchases 11 acre parcel in the under-developed
North Rhodes area.
• The Rhodes Avenue School is built with much volunteer labor.
Groundbreaking Rhodes Avenue School with Father
Architect rendering of proposed Rhodes Avenue
Dedication of Mount Carmel School on Rhodes
Mt. Carmel School on North Rhodes Avenue.
Mt. Carmel Church windows are adorned with
stain glass artwork that the families donated.