Our Church History
St. Peregrine Church traces its roots to the early efforts of Cleveland-area Catholics who desired to retain the Mass of All Time following the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae. In the years immediately following 1969, these Tradition-minded souls would gather for the purpose of prayer and fellowship, hoping to preserve the orthodox doctrines and morals, devotions and disciplines of the Latin Church as had been received down to the 20th Century. Thanks to their efforts, the Society of Saint Pius X made its initial presence in the Cleveland area by the late 1970s, establishing a chapel serviced by priests of the Society’s Northeast District. Armed with the desire to continue following the holy example of the Society’s founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the fidelity of these men and women ultimately led to the founding of St. Peregrine Chapel in 1982.
The original St. Peregrine’s was located in a rented church building at the intersection of Franklin Boulevard and West 48th Street in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland. Fr. Roger Sullivan, a priest who was seeking to minister exclusively according to Catholic tradition, was referred to St. Peregrine’s by the Society of Saint Pius X and thus became the permanent priest for the chapel, leading the faithful in the next stage of chapel development.
With the Latin Mass banished from diocesan churches and the rented location only temporary, the faithful of St. Peregrine’s sought a permanent home for the traditional Mass and Sacraments. The outcome – as is often the case – would be dictated by Providence, as the sudden sale by the owners of the West 48th Street church left the St. Peregrine’s congregation with thirty days to find a new home! The prayers of the faithful were answered in time, when in August 1983, a small chapel on Detroit Road in Westlake was purchased. Renovations of the new building were immediately undertaken, including the construction of a choir loft, confessional, sacristy, and memorialized stained glass windows, as well as modifying the sanctuary for Catholic use.
The move to Westlake and the daily Mass celebrated by Fr. Sullivan brought tremendous growth in the numbers of faithful. With the faithful now having a true home for the exclusive celebration of the Latin Mass, more ameliorations were made to the chapel during this time, with a reredos and tester installed in the sanctuary. With further growth in the late-1980s, Fr. Sullivan even began offering an extra Mass on Sunday afternoon at a rented hotel banquet room in Euclid for Catholics living on the East Side of Cleveland.
Upon his unexpected death on October 24, 1991, the Society of Saint Pius X performed Fr. Sullivan’s well-deserved, overflowing obsequies and took up his noble work at St. Peregrine’s. Shortly thereafter, Fr. Peter Scott, then District Superior, appointed Fr. Kenneth Novak as the Society’s first administrating priest at St. Peregrine’s. Under Father’s direction and the generous work of many loyal faithful, this period witnessed an explosive growth in parish life and associated activities. The catechism program which was launched during this era was the origin of what would eventually become St. Peregrine Academy.
By 1999, the growth of St. Peregrine’s made it clear that a larger church would be necessary to accommodate the faithful. The increase in numbers was largely attributable to the number of families with young children, and those families naturally desired a school where their children could receive a classical education grounded in Tradition. Therefore, Fr. Helmuts Libietis set out to find property that would serve these purposes.
The present location in Richfield, providing excellent accessibility to five interstates within ten minutes’ drive, was acquired in 2001 under Fr. Libietis. It was envisioned that the amount of land would permit the construction of a school and church, with room for future expansion. These nine acres became home to St. Peregrine Academy in 2002.
Over the next decade, funds were raised in an effort to build a church at the Richfield property to replace the aging chapel in Westlake – now too small for the growing congregation! In 2016, Fr. Thomas Scott received permission from Society superiors for St. Peregrine’s to formalize the fundraising campaign and begin assembling the design and construction team to build the new St. Peregrine Church.
Five years later, thanks to the many prayers and contributions of the faithful, the dedicated service of tireless volunteers, and the tremendous generosity of those involved in the project, the first Mass in the new church was celebrated on December 24, 2021, and officially blessed by His Excellency Bernard Fellay on May 7, 2022.
The generosity of the design and construction team made a number of improvements and upgrades affordable in spite of significant construction material cost inflation and COVID-related supply chain delays. Features of the church which are really highlight pieces in this day and age – the stone exterior, the nave trusses, the civory, the wrought iron, and the Berea sandstone altar and ambo were all locally sourced and manufactured. (For more detailed information and explanatory videos, see here. Future aspects planned can be seen here.
The characteristics of the new St. Peregrine Church are meant to evoke thoughts of strength, permanence, contemplative simplicity, and reverential awe. Modeled upon Constantinian basilicas and featuring elements found in the churches of that early era, the worshiper will hopefully be put in touch with the perennial spirituality of the Catholic Church, centered on the Mass of All Time. Everything has been designed to draw the focus of the viewer directly to the high altar, whereon the Sacrifice is offered.
St. Peregrine’s is the first Catholic church built in the Cleveland-Akron area in nearly three decades, and still one of only a few where the Latin Mass is celebrated exclusively. In this desert left behind by the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo Missae, this church – and all its associated endeavors, chiefly the Academy – is a testament to the ever-new permanence of Tradition and the life-giving grace of the traditional Latin Mass. Its presence today speaks loudly to the efforts and faith of St. Peregrine’s early members ever since its humble beginnings in the 1970s. Moreover, it is a sign of hope for generations of future Catholics who desire the Mass in its supreme expression, the Faith in all its integrity, and a home where this is not compromised.