On August 15, 1978, St. Julie Billiart was established as a parish of the Diocese of Cleveland. Fr. Richard Gonser was appointed as the founding pastor of St. Julie Billiart in North Ridgeville.
After moving into the Parish Rectory/Administration Center/Chapel on Opal Drive in the summer of 1980, plans were made for the construction of the Church and Catechetical Center. During this time, Mass was celebrated at a neighboring school. The story is told of watching parishioners walk from the temporary Mass site to see the progress on the property. Construction on the church began in July of 1981, and the first Mass was celebrated on Christmas Eve 1981.
The geographical boundaries of the parish are approximately three-square miles of the northeast corner of North Ridgeville. Our membership has grown from the original 485 families to nearly 700 families with parishioners from seventeen different cities surrounding North Ridgeville. While the church is located on Lear Road, our rectory and parish offices are on Opal, connected via a private drive called Julie Lane. The 'Lane' is a wonderful wooded path that has multiple settings designed to provide opportunity to pray.
The early years at St. Julie’s were spent forming our place in the community, living our mission to worship together, being an active part of our community, and building the kingdom of God.
In response to Bishop Pilla’s Pastoral Letter on Vibrant Parish Life in 2001, our parish staff and parishioners committed themselves to a process of self study and reflection that supports our efforts to work in cooperation and mutual assistance with neighboring parishes. The parish continues its mission to reach out to all who are searching for a strong, vibrant, active faith community.
Fr. Richard Gonser retired on June 30, 2012.
Fr. George Vrabel was named pastor of St. Julie Billiart on July 1, 2012, by Bishop Richard Lennon.
During Fr. George’s tenure, significant enhancements and maintenance was completed on the property in order to provide a stronger faith presence on a property that is both safe and prepared to continue to serve our community for years to come.
In 2016, Fr. George along with a committee formed from the parish, embarked on a major renovation of the interior worship space of the church. A liturgically appropriate design was developed and approved by the diocese. Bishop Lennon himself even came to the parish to review the plan prior to commencement of the renovation. The remodel included a larger sanctuary, new lighting, completely new sound system, carpeting, tile, chairs, and liturgical appointments. The renovation occurred during the winter and spring of 2017.
Over the years Fr. George provided many adult education opportunities, teaching classes on Mary, The Holy Land, The Letters of St. Paul, Holy Week, and The Mass to name a few. He also started Book Study clubs and provided many opportunities for us to grow in the faith.
In 2019, our world changed with one word: Covid. Our little church in the woods had to change and adapt. Under the guidance of our pastor, we learned how to record Mass, livestream Mass, and all about masks, social distancing, and safe worship. The early days were scary, but together we found ways to return to worship. Our rosary group continued their Wednesday rosary tradition by meeting outdoors and forming a prayer circle under our portico and we distributed palms via a touchless drive thru. Our church progressed from only having 4 ministers in the entire building to 'record' Mass, to 70 plastic chairs sanitized after each Mass, to small clusters of chairs, before we were able to restore our church and fully open the doors.
Sadly, with many plans for the future - especially a three-year Eucharistic revival plan at the forefront, Fr. Vrabel applied for and was granted early retirement on September 30, 2022, due to his failing heart. His leadership, passion for our faith, and business management left our parish facilities safe, well maintained, and financially sound.
Fr. Bob Franco, pastor of our neighboring parish, St. Peter’s in North Ridgeville was named by Bishop Malesic as our parish Administrator effective October 1, 2022. Fr. Franco, along with Parochial Vicar, Fr. Isidore Munishi have been called to support and shepherd both St. Peter’s and St. Julie Billiart.
With this model of pastorship, our two unique and individual parishes continue to worship in our own communities. As we have done for the past 10 years, we look for opportunities to collaborate and strengthen our faith and spread the word of God’s love. Communal Penance Services, Parish Missions, and opportunities for community faith sharing and outreach continue.
We ask you to take a few moments and look at the organizations, groups, and opportunities that we have. There is something for everyone.
Our parish is one of 15 parishes worldwide that are named in honor of St. Julie Billiart. Julie was a French woman who established a religious order of nuns known today as the Notre Dames. After her death in 1816, the order expanded from France to Belgium to Germany. On June 22, 1969, Pope Paul VI canonized Julie Billiart. Her feast day is celebrated each year on April 8th..
Additional information can be found on the life of St. Julie Billiart as provided in Saint of the Day under Franciscan Media.