TALLMADGE – Our Lady of Victory, a Roman Catholic Church/Parish, will recognize its 75th anniversary with a year of celebrating.

The founding of Our Lady of Victory Parish celebration began Dec. 8 at the conclusion of the 11 a.m. Mass when the church was then open for 31 hours of Thanksgiving and concluded shortly before the Mass on Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. for the celebration of The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the liturgical observance of the 75th anniversary.

The Most Rev. Nelson J. Perez, 11th Bishop of Cleveland, will preach mass Dec. 21 at 5 p.m. followed by a reception in Finnerty Hall. Perez earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Montclair State University in 1983 and taught at Colegio la Piedad, a Catholic elementary school in Puerto Rico, prior to entering Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where he earned a Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theology degrees in 1988 and 1989, respectively.

Family friendly finger food, refreshments and a sweet treat will be provided along with other "surprises" for parishioners at the Dec. 21 reception. Pictures can be taken with Bishop Perez. Members can write down their favorite memories of Our Lady of Victory and share memorabilia that will be put on display for the anniversary.

Some of the activities planned for next year include a Mass with clergy and others who have ministered at Our lady of Victory; outreach opportunities supporting local charities; a family/fun event; a Parish open house for the community; a "Victory" garden; new Parish photo directory; and more. Information is available at www.ourladyofvictory.net

Father Mike Matusz, pastor of Our Lady of Victory, said Tallmadge has a strong base but the overall population percentage of younger families has diminished. Changing demographics has affected the church and other denominations.

"All of us are facing how do we help people connect with more than their daily lives," Matusz said. "We call it Jesus Christ, but how do we help them do that and find greater meaning in their lives. That's a challenge."

He said the "Nones" or people who have no religion are a rapidly growing denomination in the United States. Our Lady of Victory provides the stability of being a strong Catholic presence in the community which is its first and foremost achievement, he said.

"We should always celebrate," Matusz said. "We have something and someone to offer."

The community has always been very generous in their outreach, he said about Tallmadge.

"In particular in the seasons of Advent and Lent, the givingness of the people is something that’s very inspiring," Matusz said. "It's a strongly knit community and very supportive of one another."

People in Tallmadge, whether neighbors or family, reach out and care, especially in times of challenge, loss or illness.

"There are folks who are stepping up to the plate on their own and I'm quite touched by it," Matusz said. "A group of dedicated, faithful individuals are extremely supportive of getting the good news out."

He said he has been inspired by the young people who show up and spend a day helping at the church.

"They roll up their sleeves and help," Matusz said. "They are here anytime we do something. I'm moved by that. It comes from a good place in their life."

History of Our Lady of Victory

In 1936 Martin and Louis Haney of Tallmadge began religion classes for six Catholic children in their home and, as the group grew, the classes were moved to Tallmadge Town Hall.

In late December 1942, Mr. and Mrs. Leo Herman of Tallmadge purchased and donated property on North Road for the first church building and personally delivered the deed to Auxiliary Bishop James A. McFadded.

On Oct. 7, 1943, during the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, the name "Our Lady of Victory" was chosen and later in the month the first Mass as a new "mission" church was celebrated at the Tallmadge Town Hall.

On May 8, 1945, VE Day, the ground was broken for the first church building on the new property.

The cornerstone, which remains in place in a courtyard outside the current church building, was blessed on Aug. 14, VJ Day, continuing to support the meaning of the name, "Our Lady of Victory."

On Dec. 24, 1945, the first Mass was celebrated with the Parish's new Pastor, Father James M. Gallagher. He was followed by Father Patrick J. Ferron in 1951; Father Edward H. Nieberding in 1955; Father Edward J. Gallagher in 1961; Father Francis L. Osborne in 1964; Father Leo F. Carlin in 1974; and Father Martin R. Finnerty in 1975; Father John Hengle in 1993; Father Michael A. Matusz in 2013.

In 1947, the Parish consisted of 174 members, 63 under the age of 13. In 2019 records showed 2,627 members with 249 under the age of 14.

Ground was broken for the new church complex May 29, 1966, at 73 North Ave.

Join members in 2020 to celebrate 75 years of history and the fulfillment of its motto, loving God, loving others, making disciples.

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or lfreeman@recordpub.com