Father Ambrose Weber, in whose memory St. Ambrose Parish was named, was born in Riest, Baden, Germany, March 5, 1854. Ambrose came to America when he was 16, soon after his parents died, leaving four brothers and five sisters in Germany. He received his education at Seminary at Sandwich, Ontario, Canada, Mt. St. Mary Seminary, Cincinnati, and St. Mary Seminary, Cleveland.
In 1885, Father Weber was pastor of St. Mary Parish, Warren, Ohio, and established a mission in Garrettsville. Father Weber cared for several missions, including Garrettsville and Mantua. He would start out early in the week with his kit fastened on his back and would journey by bicycle, freight train, or any method that suited his purpose. It is said that train crews were under orders to stop and provide a ride if they spotted Father Weber traveling along the tracks. Masses were usually celebrated in the Farrell and Tulley homes.
In 1901, the Garrettsville Mission was abandoned, and as a result, Catholic families joined parishes in Ravenna, Mantua, Warren and Parkman.
In 1941, prompted by the building of the Ravenna Arsenal, more people were moving into the area to work and more Catholics were among them. A petition wassent to Bishop Schrembs of Cleveland asking to re-establish the Garrettsville Mission due to the gas rationing and the need of Catholic services for the arsenal workers. The mission was established from St. Edward Parish, Parkman, by Fr. John Hreha. The first Mass was held in March 1942 in the Council Room of the Garrettsville Opera House with thirty-eight persons in attendance.
1943: Saint Ambrose Parish established
On May 15, 1943, Youngstown was established as a separate Diocese. (Until then, it had been part of the Diocese of Cleveland.) Bishop McFadden was the first Bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Youngstown. The first official appointment made by Bishop McFadden the day after he was installed was to establish a new parish in Garrettsville, to be called St. Ambrose to honor Fr. Ambrose Weber for his early mission work in the area. St. Ambrose remained a mission until February 4, 1944, when it officially became a parish.
Father Glenn Holdbrook was the first pastor (1944-1946). When the sixty-member parish outgrew their space at the Opera House, Father Holdbrook set about renting a home on the corner of Maple and Center Streets. The first Mass at this rectory-church location was on Easter 1944.
Father John Lavelle (1946-1952) was appointed pastor on February 26, 1946. Through his efforts, the present churchproperty on FreedomStreet was purchased. Masses were celebrated in what is presently the parish rectory.
1952: The Groundbreaking
November 21,1952, Father Carl Nicolay (1952-1959) became pastor. He had
plans for a permanent church. Ground was broken for the new church on
June 8, 1954, and the first Mass in the newly-constructed building was
celebrated on April 10, 1955.
Throughout the long and wonderful history of our parish, one thing has remained constant — the vibrant faith life of the people throughout the years who gave, and continue to give, witness to the presence and love of God among the family of St. Ambrose.
(Additional information and photos of Ambrose Weber courtesy of St. Joseph, Mantua.)