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Parish History

By 1830, three little hamlets were thriving by the newly builtOhio Canal: Bethlehem, Rochester and Navarre. The three would merge to form the Village of Navarre. The entire Catholic population of Ohio was under the jurisdiction of Bishop Edward Fenwick, a Dominican priest in Cincinnati. The center of Catholic activity in northeast Ohio was St. John’s Parish in the City of Canton, from which Father John Henni traveled to Navarre to celebrate Mass in the home of Anthony Winterhalter.By 1832, Father Henni had gathered enough Catholic families in Navarre and the surrounding Bethlehem and Surgarcreek Townships to build the first Catholic church, a log cabin. This humble structure served for twelve years and then became a little schoolhouse. In 1844, Father John Luhr supervised the building of a brick church, measuring 42 by 65 feet. In 1847, the young parish came under the jurisdiction of a new Diocese, Cleveland, and a new Bishop, Amadeus Rappe. Placed under the protection of the fourth pope, Clement I, a first century martyr, the parish was a mission of St. Mary’s, Massillon, and Sts. Peter and Paul, Doylestown, successively.The present brick church measuring 42 by 100 feet was erected in 1851 under the direction of Father Molon of Massillon. Although enlarged and altered several times, it remains basically a simple Victorian chapel.Father Gabriel Lockert served briefly as the first resident pastor in 1859. His tombstone is embedded in the altar of the parish cemetery. Between 1862 and 1877, four priests served the parish: Fathers Otto Borgess, Michael DeChant, Jacob Heidegger, John Michenfelder. Father Heidegger supervised the building of a frame school in 1872, which was razed in 1955 to make parking room.

During the long pastorate of Father Francis Metternich (1877-1893), the church roof was elevated to its present height, a tower and spire were erected at the west door, and the church bell was installed. Bishop Richard Gilmour of Cleveland rededicated the improved building. A frame rectory was built in 1883 and serves this day as an administration building and residence for the clergy. The cost of the rectory was $4,000. In 1890, five acres of land were purchased one quarter mile north, to become a large new cementery. Those buried next to the church were disintered and reburied in the present cemetery.

Between 1893 and 1905, five priests served St. Clement Parish: Fathers Nicholas Kirch, Wilmar Mueller, Michael Baker, John Hennes and Joseph Alten.

During the pastorate of Father Sebastian Cappe (1905-1911), the Benedictine Sisters staffed the parish. Financial problems caused Father Joseph Bertemes to close the old school in 1917. At that time, Father Nicholas Espen became pastor and later beautified the church, adding a small pipe organ. During the pastorate of Father Richard Roth (1927-1938), Brewster became a parish under the title of St. Therese. St. Clement Parish retained about 250 families.

Father Anthony P. Boeff (1938-1964) began his long and fruitful pastorate in 1938. With many improvements to church, school, convent and cemetery, the little parish began to grow, gradually adding another 100 families. Festivals and card parties became regular fund raisers to finance improvements. With much faith, little money, combined with the energy, love and direction of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit from Westview, Pennsylvania, the parish school was reopened in 1945.

In 1955, a new school was built and dedicated by Bishop Emmet Walsh, the second Bishop of Youngstown. Father Boeff’s long pastorate came to an end in 1964 when his health failed. In his last years, he was assisted by Fathers Austin Scully, Matthew Herttna and John Cassidy. In 1961, Father Boeff was honored by Pope John XXIII with the title of Right Reverend Monsignor. Parishioners of St. Clement Parish remember with great fondness this man that showed them, worked along side them, and gave his life and spirit to their parish community. In 1973, Monsignor Anthony P. Boeff was buried near the first pastor in the parish cemetery.

In 1964, Father John Turk came to St. Clement. Winds of change were blowing in Rome. A new era was dawning. Father Turk prepared the parishioners for a renewed liturgy and some fresh concepts of the church. Under his direction, a large, new parish hall complex was built and dedicated in 1966 by Bishop James Malone.

In 1967, Father Thomas Murphy became pastor. During his tenure, an addition was built on the west end of the school affording two more classrooms, a library and office. A cafeteria was also constructed to complete the hall complex which Father Murphy named in honor of Monsignor Boeff…Boeff Hall. Considerable work was also completed on the rectory. A deepening knowledge of postconciliar church was taking root. Parish membership was over 400 families. Fathers Joseph Martin and Hugh Gallagher assisted at masses.

In 1977, Father Theodore Coward became pastor. A renovation of the church was completed. Other work was done to improve the rectory and the convent. Over 500 families were actively engaged in liturgy, education, community and service. Father Kenneth Miller assisted with masses and youth ministry.

In 1980, Father John Gubser was appointed pastor. His leadership focused on the importance of St. Clement Parish’s continued interaction with the community to build a viable ecumenical relationship with the clergy and parishioners of the other churches in the Village of Navarre. This effort resulted in joint worship services during Advent and Lenten Seasons and a Vacation Bible School for the children.

In 1988, Father Robert G. Gibas was appointed pastor. Under his guidance, parishioners of St. Clement have been encouraged to find the true meaning of Church and parish community through prayer, stewardship and service. He has brought people back the traditions of their faith through weekly recitation of the rosary before masses, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Bible Studies and Prayer Groups with emphasis on the importance of daily prayer. The parish school continues to be an important part of Parish life at St. Clement. The Pastor and parishioners alike consider Catholic Education to be the very foundation of the Church.

Under the direction of Father Gibas, a Cemetery Committee was formed to oversee the care of the cemetery, including improvements and a plan for perpetual care and future funding. In May 1995, a Monument to the Unborn was dedicated and placed in the front of the cemetery to remind all who pass of the horrors of abortion.

Under the direction of Father Gibas, with a parish community that has never stood still, many needed major repairs and/or improvements have been undertaken. In 1991, the old convent was razed and replaced with a new bi-level, four bedroom residence including a chapel and dedicated by Bishop James Malone on May 3, 1992. In April of 1992, the brick on the exterior of the church was sealed, the chimney rebuilt and the exterior paint renewed. On December 5, 1994, a new Kindergarten facility was opened welcoming 28 students. In September, 1994, the roof on the school was replaced including repairs to the gutter work; the windows in the rectory were replaced along with the installation of a new heating system and air conditioning; the men of the parish also put a fresh coat of paint on the garage. In 1995, the Men’s Club renovated and recarpeted the Club Room and the interior of Boeff Hall received a much needed new coat of paint.

Finally, in the Fall of 1997, the day arrived to begin the renovation of the church. The interior had serious damage including large cracks and falling plaster. The project began with the insulation of the church attic. A professional contractor was commissioned to design the art work focusing on the Crucifix, The Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Family and the Traditions of the Catholic Faith; with another contractor assigned to paint the interior of the church. A group of men in the parish took on the task of renovating the rooms in the choir loft and the Sacristy. These incredible men of St. Clement Parish contributed many hours and gave their talents to complete those areas not awarded to a commercial contractor saving the parish thousands of dollars. Our newly renovated church was blessed by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin on Sunday, October 19, 1997.

Father Edward Beneleit, succeeded Father Robert Gibas, who retired on July 1, 2006.

Father Beneleit was ordained Nov. 10, 1974, at Alliance St. Joseph Parish by Bishop James W. Malone after completing studies with a master’s in divinity at Mount St. Mary of the West Seminary in Cincinnati. Previously he graduated from Canton St. Joseph and Central Catholic High School and St. Gregory Seminary, Cincinnati, where he earned a bachelor’s in philosophy. He served as pastor of Waynesburg St. James Parish and Alliance St. Joseph Parish, where he was also associate pastor. He served as associate pastor at Poland Holy Family Parish, Warren Blessed Sacrament Parish and Youngstown St. Edward Parish, Canton St. Joseph Parish and Canton St. Joan of Arc, the latter assignment in early 2005. He has served as a Boy Scout chaplain and faithful friar for the Knights of Columbus.

St. Clement Parish now serves over 300 families and continues to be a vital component in maintaining the Christian identity of the small Village of Navarre.

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 Brewster was founded in 1906, when theWheelingand Lake Eris Railroad located its shops and its offices in the town. With the shops and offices came Catholics from many states and of several national origins. The Italians, Croations, and the Slovenians predominated. These Catholics attended services at St. Clement,Navarre and at St. Joseph and St. Mary inMassillon.


In 1927, at the request of about 80 families, the Most Reverend Joseph Schrembs, Bishop of Cleveland, established St. Therese Parish, with Father Thaddeus Marchant as its first pastor. The first mass in Brewster was offered onDecember 4, 1927. Sunday Masses were said in the round for the next 6 months. OnApril 15, 1928, the Right Reverend Monsignor Clement H. Treiber officiated at the breaking of the ground for the church. Three months later, the structure was entirely completed. The plain church, of wood and concrete construction, was dedicated by Archbishop Schrembs onSeptember 16, 1928. At this time, the church was placed under the protection of St. Therese, the Little Flower of Jesus.

Father John Schaefer succeeded Father Marchant as pastor in 1935. Father William E. Degan was pastor from 1939 untilJune 2, 194, on which date Father Paul J. Buchholz was appointed. He remained pastor until his death onJanuary 4, 1964. In the following years, Father James Hennessey (served 4 months) and Father Francis Stulc (served 2 years) followed as leaders of the parish.

Father Patrick O’Leary was appointed to St. Therese in 1966. Whilr Father O’Leary was pastor a new hall was constructed in 1970 for CCD classes and social events. After 28 years of service Father O’Leary retired in 1991. He was succeeded by Father Dacian Barrette. Father Barrette was honored as a Monsignor onAugust 4, 1997and stayed at St. Therese until his death onOctober 4, 1997. Father Robert Kaylor was appointed onJanuary 7, 1998and remained until St. Therese and St. Clement were mergedJuly 1, 2011. Our currant pastor is Father Michael Seifert.


In 2001St.Therese Church was renovated. This $150,000.00 project was once again supported by the generosity of St. Therese Parishioners.


In 2012 the Altar Rosary Society paid for a new furnace for the church. In June the church received a new roof. The rectory was also sold since we no longer had a use for it. Father Seifert resides at St. Clement.