On June 14, 1962, after consultation with the pastors of Immaculate Conception Church in Willoughby, and St. Mary Magdalene Church in Willowick, His Excellency, Edward F. Hoban, then Archbishop-Bishop of Cleveland, issued a decree for the canonical erection of a new Church to be known as St. Justin Martyr, and announced the appointment of the Reverend Victor M. Lambur as founding pastor.
A census was taken by representatives of the Franciscan Fathers revealing a total of 967 Catholic families residing within the established parish boundaries, with approximately 850 children of grade school age. The neighboring parishes of Immaculate Conception and St. Mary Magdalene continued to administer to the academic needs of these children until the school building could be completed. The Diocese purchased 12.5 acres of land on Stevens Boulevard as the site of the new church and school. An existing home on the property was to be remodeled to serve as a “temporary rectory” and enlarged to include a chapel for daily Mass. Sunday and Holy Day Masses were said at North High School in space rented from the Willoughby-Eastlake Board of Education.
The establishment of a new parish is an exciting challenge. With the able assistance of the Ave Maria Guild, the Holy Name Society, the Ushers’ Club and many self-sacrificing parishioners, devoted endless hours of their time, energy and talents to the ever-growing needs of the parish. Primary among those “needs” was to unite this new parish formed from two separate faith communities. A beginning step toward that end was taken in the form of a parish picnic, held August 25, 1963, at “The Ranch on Reeves Road” with 1,150 parishioners attending.
Construction of the original 16 classroom school and multi-purpose room, which would serve the community for 20 years before a permanent worship space would become a reality, was completed in the fall of 1964. On September 8th of that year, St. Justin Martyr School, staffed by the Sisters of Notre Dame, six lay teachers and one nurse-secretary, opened its doors to 453 students. The first Mass was celebrated on Sunday, October 18. The year 1966 saw the first parish Confirmation, the first Eucharistic Devotions, and the first parish Mission. The decade of the 70’s produced Parish Council and a permanent residence for the Sisters.
The 80’s brought forth many significant events. 1981 was a year of transition for the parish as Reverend Louis A. Pizmoht was named pastor. Under Father Pizmoht’s leadership, the parish reached a long-awaited milestone event: the completion and dedication of a permanent worship space in 1982. In 1984, a serious fire destroyed the kitchen and storage areas behind the gym, an event which brought together school and parish families to help in the clean up. In 1986, a four room addition to the school including a special kindergarten room and a meeting room was completed. On May 28,1988 Father James Roach was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Cleveland, the first vocation to the priesthood from the parish.
In June of 1993, Father Kevin Liebhardt became the third pastor of St. Justin Martyr Parish. The vibrant life of the Parish of St. Justin Martyr is reflected in over 40 different active ministries currently within our community. These organizations, committees, spiritual events and gatherings occur during any given day, due to the love and commitment of the many people who make this the Parish Community of St. Justin Martyr.
From 2004 to 2008 St. Justin experienced the world-wide Catholic ministry of the Society of Jesus. Fr. Diago D’Souza, Fr. Herman Castillino and Fr. Alex Colaco, Jesuit priests from the Bombay India Province, each spent a sabbatical year with us as parish priests. Their individual talents, personalities and ministerial gifts greatly enriched our community life. All three were thankful for the opportunities to give and receive so many blessings.
They appreciated the warm welcome they received and the many friendships they developed.
January 2006 marked a major change for our parish. Due to a declining school-age population in our area, we merged our school with St. Mary Magdalene so that quality Catholic education would be available and more affordable for both families and the parishes. The new St. Mary Magdalene – St. Justin Martyr School opened in August 2006, continuing the tradition of excellence in faith formation and academic education evident in both parish schools from their beginnings.
On May 28, 2010 Matthew Kozlowski from St Justin was ordained Fr. John Chrysostom Kozlowski, OP as a priest of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) in Washington, DC. He entered the Dominicans a few years earlier in Cincinnati and continued his formation at Catholic University in Washington.
We celebrated our 50th Anniversary in 2012. We enjoyed a wonderful Organ Re-dedication Concert in December. The family banner project revealed the artistic talents of many of our families. The Parish Mission in March helped deepen our faith. On June 10 Bishop Lennon celebrated a wonderful Anniversary Mass with our parish. An Anniversary Dinner followed with many entertaining skits about our history.
In June, 2013 we gave thanks for our 49 years of Catholic education in our parish school and celebrated our last graduation. Declining enrollment forced the closure of the school. We are grateful for the great work accomplished in passing on the Faith to new generations. We look to the future with hope and grateful hearts.
The parish carries on the ministry of Catholic education by:
· supporting families attending Catholic schools and providing tuition grants for those in need.
· continuing our excellent Parish School of Religion (PSR) Program for Catholic students attending public schools and the Fresh Faith and Confirmation programs for high school students.
· developing more opportunities for Adult Faith Formation such as the Bible Study..
· expanding opportunities for families with children to come together and grow as a vibrant part of the whole parish community.
The 2014 Easter season marks a special time of grace for St. Justin. On May 17 Bishop Lennon ordained Deacon Christopher Cox as a priest for the diocese of Cleveland. Chris grew up here, attended St. Justin Martyr School, North High School and then Borromeo and St. Mary Seminaries in Wickliffe. Fr Cox, who serves at St. Francis in Medina, Ohio joins Fr. James Roach (St. John Vianney, Mentor) and Fr. John Chrysostom Kozlowski, OP (Catholic University, Washington, DC) in the ministry. On Pentecost Sunday, June 8, we celebrated Fr. Kevin Liebhardt’s 40th Ordination Anniversary with wonderful prayer and a great party.
In the Fall of 2014 we renewed our parish stewardship through the Grateful Giving program. Parishioners made good use of two initiatives to deepen their Faith. At Christmas the book Four Signs Of A Dynamic Catholic which was given to all and provided many simple, practical ways to enhance our daily living of the Faith. The Lenten mission Getting Centered in an Off-Centered World reminded us that our Faith is a reliable foundation and guide in this often-confused world. We also celebrated Father Kevin Liebhardt's 40th Anniversary on June 8 with wonderful prayer and a great party.
We were blessed in May 2015 when the newly-ordained Deacon Tim Shell was assigned to minister at here at St. Justin. As a deacon he will minister in prayer and preaching, in teaching and in service to those in need. His knowledge, enthusiasm and prayerful spirit have added much to our parish life.
In 2016 we continued with our Parish Missions, welcoming Father Victor Karls, C.Ss.R, to help us "Celebrate Life" reminding us of the relationship of God's word in our life through love of neighbor.
On May 22, 2016 we celebrated the 50th Jubilee of Father Lou Pizmoht, welcoming back many priests and families for Mass and Reception after.
We continued with our Parish Missions welcoming Father Thomas Blau, to help us understand "Why There is Still Suffering" in 2019, and Father Thomas Dragga,
On May 18, 2019, our parishioner Kevin Fox was ordained to the Priesthood for the Diocese of Cleveland. Our summer resident, John Inwoo Jeong, as also ordained to the Priesthood and will serve the Archdiocese of Daegu in South Korea.
We have completed renovations adding ADAaccessible restrooms, additional office space and a maintenance area. We have renovated the interior of the Church and are continually planning new events and different faith-filled ways for the members of St. Justin martyr to continue to thrive as part of a vibrant parish life.
“For all these good gifts, we give thanks.”
St. Justin the Martyr
Who is St. Justin Martyr?
St. Justin Martyr is our patron saint. The original church design symbolized St. Justin in abstract motif by the round stained glass window above the sanctuary. The swirling effect refers to his search for truth and to his defense of the truth against the attacks of non-Christians. The red tones recall that St. Justin’s defense of the faith eventually led to a martyr’s death.
As part of the renovation, we sought another prominent image of St. Justin for the church akin to his statue in the school building. We also wanted it to be an original work by a local artist, as are the statue of Mary, the Stations of the Cross and the Peaceful Christ Crucifix in the sanctuary. Henningers, the design consultant for the renovation, suggested an icon-like oil painting on wood. Sarah, a young artist working there, planned and executed the painting. What follows is largely her reflection on St. Justin and his powerful witness for us today.
The painting was made possible by the Pecjack family in memory of David A. Pecjak.
St. Justin is known as the patron saint of philosophers. The word philosophy, from the Greek philosophia, means “love of wisdom.” In his youth he was deeply passionate about the study of philosophy and searched for truth in many different “schools of thought” present at his time. This later contributed to his powerful and succinct written defenses of the Christian faith.
Symbol of Philosophy: Justin was painted with the cloak Greek culture associated with philosophers, which was specifically tied at the neck. He continued to wear it even after his baptism into the Christian faith. In Raphael’s painting, School of Athens, Plato, a Greek philosopher, was the inspiration for the way Justin’s cloak is painted.
Convert to Christianity
Justin was not born and raised a Christian. We often assume saints are men and women who were just born that way. Not so. Justin was born around the year 100 A.D. in Palestine. His parents were pagans. They were able to give their son a liberal education, of which he took full advantage, devoting himself to rhetoric and philosophy and to reading poetry and history.
One day the young Justin was pondering a question of philosophy by the seashore. He began discussing the question with an older Christian man who told him about Jesus Christ and about the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. He inspired Justin to study the Scriptures and to learn more about Christians. This kindled a divine fire in his heart and at the age of 30 he was baptized.
Symbol of Conversion: No one recorded what color Justin’s eyes were. However, it is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. The eyes have been painted blue to represent the divine fire of the Holy Spirit which burned within him, much like the blue that shows us the hottest part of a flame closest to the source of the heat.
Servant of the God’s Truth
Justin was a Christian, a philosopher, a teacher and a writer. He met Jesus in the inspired Word of God and in the inspiring lives of Christians. He was drawn by their faith, their way of life and their worship. He was among the first to directly address those who were not Christian to explain and defend the Christian Faith, a dangerous thing to do in a time of persecution. He used his knowledge of Scripture and philosophy to challenge and invite non-Christians to encounter Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Symbol of God’s Truth: In Justin’s right hand is a rolled-up scroll, the form in which Scripture and his own writings were transmitted in the ancient world. He walks towards us holding high the Sacred Word, emphasizing its essential role in growing in our relationship with God. He seems to step towards us almost as if to place the scroll in our hand. Justin wanted all people to know the saving power of Jesus Christ revealed through the Scripture and the living People of God.
Man of the Eucharist
Justin’s most famous passage describes how each Sunday the Christians in Rome celebrated the Eucharist around the year 150. He emphasized that the same Jesus who once fed the Five Thousand in Galilee now is the Risen Lord who feeds us with his own Body and Blood.
Symbols of the Eucharist:
To the right of the painting are two boxes with two different symbols representing the Eucharist.
The top symbol pictures the chalice, grapes, and wheat, a familiar depiction of the Eucharist. The grapes and wheat are taken from the stained-glass window inside the church. The two handled chalice is modeled after one that would have been used in 2nd century during Justin’s life.
The bottom symbol shows the basket of loaves with two fish from the Gospel miracle of Feeding of the Five Thousand. The image was taken from the mosaic in the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish located at Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee in Israel
Witness, Companion, Intercessor
Justin not only spoke the truth, he witnessed to it with his life. He was called before the Prefect of Rome, Rusticus, and questioned about his writings on the Christian faith. When asked after giving a powerful profession of faith, “You are a Christian then?” His response was, “Yes, I am a Christian,” which has been significantly placed between the Eucharistic symbols. He was 65 when he was martyred. The Eucharist gave him strength to speak the truth and witness to truth of the Eucharist with the sacrifice of his own life.
Symbol of Witness, Companion, Intercessor:
Witness - Justin was martyred for his faith and refusal to worship false idols. He was scourged and beheaded, which is portrayed by the scar on his neck. This may have been the means of his earthly death but it also signifies the way he entered into eternal life.
Companion - Important to note, Justin did not die alone. He had several companions that were with him, also willing to die in defense of their faith. We do not become a saint alone or approach the throne of God without others whom we have invited or who have thankfully invited us along the path of holiness. This is symbolized by the light beneath Justin’s feet.
Intercessor- This is symbolized by the silver cross Justin is holding. Silver was chosen because it is the same precious metal as the cross the parish gathers around inside the church. This is a reminder that when we gather around the cross of Christ, we find the strength we need in the Eucharist and through the intercession of all those saints, like St. Justin Martyr, who clung to the cross of Christ and found victory and resurrection through it.