The St. Francis Church opened  as a breakoff of St. Peter Church located on Superior Ave. at E. 18th St. The mission of the new church was the serve the German immigrants who were living in the east end of Cleveland. Many of these families migrated to Cleveland from Germany seeking religious freedom after being denied the right to educate their children in connection with the church. This freedom was achieved after the opening of the St. Francis Catholic School in 1887.

Originally, the school and church were both located in the small-frame house off Superior Ave. at 71st street. The school was given to the care of The Sisters of Notre Dame, who were known as outstanding educators back in their German homeland, before they too immigrated to the United States seeking religious freedom.

The Educational principles of the Sisters of Notre Dame permeated the mission of St. Francis School since its founding. To this day, St. Francis School holds sacred these principles:

  • The centrality of a good and provident God
  • The human dignity of each person as an image of God
  • The Notre Dame educator as Gospel witness
  • And an integrated education for transformation.

St. Francis School has stood the test of time and remained a vibrant educational facility on the near east side of Cleveland.  Though the demographics have changed over the years, the school has remains a beacon of hope in the neighborhood, reaching out to parents seeking a faith filled, quality education for their children.  The Sisters of Notre Dame remain active in the school and are working with dedicated administrators, staff and teachers to meet the ever-changing needs of our city children.



First worship service for St. Francis Church held on Sunday, September 11th

St. Francis School opens on Monday, September 12th to an enrollment of 120 children

1888 – 1893

Additions added to school to accommodate the growing number of children being enrolled


School transitions from a country school to a suburban parish school


A new 14-classroom school built to house students

Several years later, a commercial high school was added and remained open until the mid-1960’s


A fire destroys the entire church, along with the third floor of the school. While being rebuilt, students attend class in the empty St. George School building nearby

Several years later, a chapel is put in the basement of the school and serves as a worship space for the parish.

A gym is added to the school


A new roof is added and all windows in the facility are replaced


Security system installed throughout the facility


Through the generosity of donors, the school is updated and came a state-of-the-art wireless environment creating a 21st century learning environment


The use of online technology for learning becomes standard practice throughout the school


Church parish closes due to declining number of parishioners, but school is kept open by diocese to continue serving the children living in the surrounding neighborhood.


Restoration to building’s exterior and new signage added


Playground built on site where the St. Francis Church once stood.

  • My name is Rhonda Fellows and I graduated from St. Francis in 1994. After St. Francis, I attended Beaumont high school and then Wittenberg University where I was a Religion major and an Urban Studies minor. One of the major things I learned at St. Francis was a love for people. I developed very meaningful relationships with the students and staff. These relationships and love for people grew in to a desire to serve others which led to me to tutor teens in college. I went on to work in a Christian non-profit and have been serving in non-profit organizations for the past 13 years. I currently live in Minneapolis, MN where I am a recruiter for YouthWorks, a summer teen and family missions organization.

    Rhonda Fellows - St. Francis Class of 1994

  • Hello my name is Detective T.J. Powell, I'm currently assigned to the Cleveland Police Gang Impact Unit. I'm a 1998 graduate of St. Francis school. During my years at St. Francis I was taught discipline, morals and values, along with the value of education and hard work. I used what I learned at St. Francis to successfully attend the well-known, all-boys college preparatory high school, Benedictine high school, in which I graduated in 2002 .While at St. Francis I was an honor student and worked hard to help maintain the good reputation that this school still has today. Now at the age of 31 yrs. old, I'm married and have two children that also attend this fabulous establishment.

    T.J. Powell - St. Francis Class of 1998

  • St. Francis was the center of our family's faith and formative life for many years. There is no question that the foundation provided by St. Francis School and the wonderful Sisters of Notre Dame continues to play a role in my own life and career, which has now spanned more than 40 years as a journalist and as an active participant in the life of our community. Every moment at St. Francis School is looked back on with fondness and deep appreciation.

    Dick Russ - Vice President, North Coast Community Homes; Former News Anchor & Reporter, WJW TV (Fox 8), WKYC TV (Channel 3), WAKR TV (TV 23 Akron); Co-Founder, Cleveland Catholic Radio AM 1260 The Rock; Co-Founder, Eastern Christian Media an EWTN TV Production Partner.