Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Cardinal Mooney High School

mooney sealYesterday, the most recent issue of The Mooney Messenger arrived at our home and we learned that Cardinal Mooney High School will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its first graduating class in 2019. So it seems appropriate to tell something of the story of Cardinal Mooney as it has intersected with our lives.

Personally, the only time I ever set foot in Cardinal Mooney was an early Saturday morning in the school cafeteria where I and hundreds of other Youngstown area high school students were taking college entrance exams. The real story of Cardinal Mooney is my wife’s story. She is the Mooney grad, and the reason we receive the magazine.

She remembers as a child when representatives of the Diocese visited her parents soliciting contributions for the construction of Cardinal Mooney. Growing up in Brownlee Woods, they told her parents that this was the high school she would attend. It was.

Cardinal Mooney High School is named after Edward Aloysius Mooney, who was named Archbishop of the Diocese of Detroit in 1937 and Cardinal in 1946 by Pope Pius XII. Cardinal Mooney and his family moved to the south side of Youngstown when he was five years old where his father worked in a tube mill. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1909, taught at St. Mary’s Seminary in 1916, served as pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Youngstown from 1922-23 before going on to Rome, serving as an apostolic delegate abroad, and Bishop of Rochester, before going to Detroit. He died on October 25, 1958 in Rome.

Previously, Ursuline High School had served the whole diocese but could not accommodate the growing population of Catholic students and the decision was made to build a second high school on the south side of Youngstown. Construction on Cardinal Mooney High School began in 1954 and the school was dedicated by Bishop Emmet M. Walsh in 1956, at the culmination of a successful three year funding drive. Six hundred and ten students enrolled as freshmen or sophomores (a freshman class had been formed in 1955 meeting at the old Glenmary Convent). Enrollments grew rapidly in the 1960’s, and in 1961, an addition was opened. In 2000 the school acquired two military annex buildings and in 2001 completed an athletic training complex.

In recent years there were discussions about moving the school to the suburbs of Youngstown. A study was done, and recommendations made that a move would enhance enrollments. A funding drive fell short and Bishop Murry made the controversial decision that the school would remain in its current location and renovations, presently underway, would be made to the current facility.

Cardinal Mooney’s website makes this statement about the school:

“Cardinal Mooney has maintained a tradition of academic, extra-curricular and spiritual excellence since its inception in 1956.”

My wife speaks of attending daily masses at the school. Today, 46 percent of the enrollment are not Catholics, but the school continues to offer:

  • Required religious education courses rooted in Catholic teachings and tradition.
  • Daily prayer.
  • All-school celebration of the Eucharist, Reconciliation and Liturgy of the Hours.
    Programs for community and school service.
  • Values-based education integrated into every aspect of the school.
  • A school atmosphere emphasizing individual responsibility and respect for all.

Mooney always has been known for academic excellence with 98 percent of students attending college in 2015, 77 percent of whom received scholarships totaling $15 million. The school offers 27 AP and honors courses and boasts a 12:1 student-teacher ratio. Over half the faculty have either Masters or Doctorates.

The school has been an athletic powerhouse. My wife remembers Coach Stoops and the great Mooney teams of the ’70’s. In addition to his sons Bob, Mark and Mike, Bo and Carl Pelini, and Tim Beck are Mooney graduates. Mooney grads in sports include Ray “Boom, Boom” Mancini, NFL players Jerry Diorio, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Ed Muransky, John Simon, soccer player Kiki Willis and Mark Malaska, a former major league baseball reliever. In addition to that former San Francisco ’49ers owner Edward DeBartolo, Jr. and current owner Denise DeBartolo York are Mooney alumni.

I suspect there are many Mooney alumni who can add to this brief sketch of the history of the school. All I want to add are my congratulations to the board, alumni, leadership, faculty, staff, and students on 60 years of excellence in Catholic education in the Mahoning Valley.


Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Emmet M. Walsh


Bishop Walsh in the Oval Office with President Truman (7th from left). Photo by Abbie Rowe. Public Domain via Wikipedia.

Fifty years ago this month the Most Reverend Emmet Michael Walsh, Bishop of Youngstown passed away on March 16, 1968. Over 1500 clergy, religious, seminarians, and laypersons attended his funeral mass on March 23, 1968 at the Cathedral of St. Columba. He was later laid to rest in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, where he had served as Bishop of Charleston before coming to Youngstown.

He was born in Beaufort, South Carolina March 6, 1892, ordained in 1916, serving parishes in Atlanta, Albany, and Savannah,  Georgia before his appointment as Bishop of Charleston in 1927 by Pope Pius XI. At the time of his consecration as the sixth bishop of Charleston, Emmet Walsh, at age 35, was the youngest member of the Catholic hierarchy in the United States. He exercised vigorous leadership in this role, establishing 25 new parishes and four new hospitals in a southern diocese in a predominantly Protestant religious culture. He also served in the leadership of the National Catholic Welfare Conference Legal Department and served as the secretary of the Bishop’s Meeting at the Catholic University of America.

In 1949, Pope Pius XII named him the Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown and titular bishop of Rhaedestus, Turkey, to assist its aging Bishop James A. McFadden, the first Bishop of the Diocese. During this time, in 1951, President Truman appointed him to the Internal Security and Individual Rights Commission, a body formed to combat Communism, a significant concern in this period (the photo above is of his swearing in to the Commission).

When Bishop McFadden died in 1952, he was appointed the second Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown in 1952. One of the first challenges he faced was the terrible fire that destroyed the first Cathedral of St. Columba in September of 1954. He oversaw the construction of the new St. Columba’s which was dedicated in 1958.

This was a period of rapid growth both of the city and the Diocese. A number of new parishes were formed throughout the Diocese, which extends west to Akron and Canton. Among the parishes formed in Youngstown during his tenure were St. Christine’s on the west side of Youngstown, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Austintown, and St. Michael’s in Canfield. On September 23, 1956 Bishop Walsh presided over the dedication ceremonies for Cardinal Mooney High School, which had reached an enrollment of 600 in its first year, and has educated thousands in the subsequent 62 years, including my wife. He led a three year funding drive, working with Father James Malone, then the Superintendent of Schools, who would eventually succeed him as Bishop.

In 1957, the Brothers of Christian Instruction were looking for a new location for La Mennais College, a liberal arts college for men. Through connections with Monsignor William Hughes, then principal at Cardinal Mooney, they received permission to open a new college in the Canton area. When they discovered that their proposed name, Canton College, was taken, they decided to name the institution, now know as Walsh University after Bishop Walsh.

Bishop Walsh attended the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965. At the funeral mass for Bishop Walsh, The Most Reverend Paul F. Tanner described him as “years ahead of his time in concerted efforts by Catholic Bishops.” In both the Diocese of Charleston and the Diocese of Youngstown, there are vibrant parishes, educational institutions, and health care facilities that trace their beginnings to Bishop Walsh. He presided of the rebuilding of the beautiful Cathedral of St. Columba that looks out over the valley and gave good service to diocese, church, and country during his tenure in Youngstown.

Well done, servant of God. Requiescat in pace.


Wikipedia: Emmet M. Walsh

Find a Grave: Rev Bishop Emmet Michael Walsh

The Vindicator: “Years Ago” – Bishop Emmet Michael Walsh Funeral

Walsh University: Our Foundation: Then and Now

Cardinal Mooney Newsletter: “Cardinal Mooney Celebrates Its 60th Anniversary!”

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Cathedral of St. Columba


The Cathedral of St. Columba, by Nyttend — Own Work, Public Domain

I’m writing this post on St. Patrick’s Day and so it seems appropriate to write about one of the iconic places of Youngstown that bears the name of another Irish saint, the Cathedral of St. Columba. Columba was born in Ireland, educated in one of the monastic schools in that country, and with a band of twelve led a mission that spread Christianity to present day Scotland. He founded the famous abbey of Iona where he died in 597 AD.

St. Columba’s church and parish was founded in 1847 and the first church building completed in 1850. A larger church was completed in 1868, and a larger one yet in 1897, with copper covered spires completed in 1927. In 1943, the Diocese of Youngstown was established, and St. Columba was chosen as the cathedral for the new diocese.


The Cathedral of St. Columba before the fire of 1954.

One of the big events in Youngstown in 1954 was the fire as a result of a lightning strike that left this cathedral in ruins. I heard about the fire growing up, and it must have been a heart-breaking event for the Catholic community of Youngstown. It occurred on September 2, 1954, less than a month after I was born. I suspect the fire was visible from many parts of the city, given its location at the corner of Wood and Elm Street on the hill overlooking downtown Youngstown.

A new cathedral was designed by the architectural firm Diehl & Diehl, based in Detroit with construction beginning in 1956 by The Charles Shutrump and Sons Company. The present structure was completed on November 9, 1958 and dedicated by Bishop Emmet M Welsh. The building is an example of modern church architecture with a “Romanesque” style. The soaring vertical lines, and particularly the campanile, or bell tower (132 feet above street level) immediately catch the eye and draw it upward toward the heavens.

There is so much that is distinctive about this structure beginning with the eleven foot Joseph M. LeLauro statue of St Columba on the southwest corner of the entrance. The other thing one immediately notices when entering the cathedral are the stain glass windows, portraying the Apostles, who are the foundation of the church. There is an architectural and liturgical guide to the cathedral printed at the time of the dedication of the building that wonderfully describes the cathedral. It may be accessed at:

The picture of the cathedral at the top of this post is roughly the view I saw out the third floor back windows in the Customer Service area at McKelvey’s. Whenever I finished dealing  with a particularly nasty customer, I could step back to the windows and be reminded to “look up” to get perspective and calm my heart.

In researching this post, I discovered that one of my high school classmates, Monsignor Peter M. Polando, is the Rector of the parish. I remember him as a person of character during our years together at Chaney High School, so it does not surprise me at all to see him in this role. Well done Monsignor Polando!

The Cathedral of Saint Columba looks out over the city of Youngstown and is visible from many points across the Valley. That seems fitting for a diocese cathedral whose patron saint had a deep care for spreading the Christian message widely through the lands beyond Christian Ireland. The church serves as a center for many diocesan and cultural events. May it continue to be a light in the Valley!