In January 1941, with the approbation of the Most Reverend Joseph Schrembs, Bishop of Cleveland, Ohio, the Right Reverend Monsignor Edward A. Fasnacht, pastor of St. Mary’s Church of Warren, purchased a site in the southeast section of Warren, for the purpose of establishing a mission for the faithful Catholics in this area. The site chosen was located at Willard and Burton Streets.
The Most Reverend James A. McFadden, Auxiliary Bishop of Cleveland, broke the ground, blessed it and laid the cornerstone of the newly formed mission, which was named St. James, in honor of the bishop.
The parish was begun as a Chapel of Ease for the families in the east end of Warren, to have a place where they could attend Mass on Sunday. No other ceremonies were authorized. It was later made a Mission of St. Mary’s Parish with additional Masses scheduled and confessions and other services provided. The original building, which seated 250, was dedicated on July 25, 1941 the feast of St. James the Greater. The building has since been moved to the corner of Milton and Willard and it is known today as the “White Hall”.
A five room house across from the church was purchased to be used as a temporary rectory. After two additions, this house has been retained as a residence for the priests who serve the parish as well as an administration building.
When St. James Parish was established, it was with the hope that a parochial school could soon be built. Catechism classes were conducted by the Sisters of Notre Dame whose mother-house was in Cleveland. Bishop Emmet M. Walsh, then the co-adjutor bishop of Youngstown was consulted and he gave permission for a new school to be built and convent acquired. A home was purchased from Michael Plevyak at 2533 Milton St. SE for the convent and ground was broken on September 17, 1949 for a new eight room school and large multi-purpose auditorium. The school was designed by P. Arthur D’Orazio of Youngstown. St. James School opened its doors in September 1951 with four Notre Dame Sisters teaching the first six grades with 168 students.
As parish enrollment increased, the need for a larger facility for the offering of Mass necessitated converting the school auditorium into a church and using the present church as a hall. The change was made on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1955. The church seated 450 and therefore doubled the capacity of the old church.
Due to a boundary change in 1959, St. James Parish added an additional 150 families. This raised the census to over 900 families. Permission was obtained from the Most Reverend Emmett M. Walsh, Bishop of Youngstown, for the building of a new church to seat 800. On October 1, 1961, the new edifice was dedicated.
The new structure of the church was of contemporary design and featured striking stained glass windows designed by Michlo Silinoff of the Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios. The large façade window in the back of the church is a kaleidoscope of color in the figure of St. James. The eight side nave windows harmonize in design and color with the façade window, but have their own theme – "The Apostles Creed" expressed in symbolic form. The bell tower, which rises to the height of 56 feet above the baptistery is constructed of green, glazed brick and is in a three-pronged pattern representing the Blessed Trinity. The bells are inscribed with the name of the parish and each has its own name inscribed upon it. The largest bell is named Peter; the second bell is named James the Greater and has inscribed on it the words, “My name is James the Greater, I ring for the Glory of God.” The third bell is named John and has inscribed upon it, “My name is John, I ring for Peace”. On Peter is also inscribed the name of the Diocese and its Bishop, Most Rev. Emmet M. Walsh and the name of the pastor with the year 1961. The bell tower is crowned with a simple aluminum cross in accord with the architectural design of the church.
In the late 1980’s, the St. James restoration Fund was established to ensure that the church and other parish buildings would be preserved for future generations. A dinner for 700 people was held at Kennedy High School when the Church mortgage was burned.
The parish continued to offer social and religious apostolates and added some to make the parish a close knit community of concerned Catholics willing to help their fellow man. These organizations include: St. Vincent DePaul Society, Holy Name Society, Altar and Rosary Society, Catholic Mothers Study Club, Home and School Association, Men’s Choir-Mixed Choir, Over Fifty Club and Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. The Altar Boys Club and Youth Group were organized to reach out to the youth of the parish. At one time, St. James offered Vacation Bible School. Many fond memories are evoked when the summer festivals, Church picnics, bingo, and card parties are recalled.
During the parish’s 60 plus years, five pastors have guided St. James: Msgr. Clarence Halter, Father James Kolp, Father David Lettau, Father Charles Crumbley and Father James P. Walker. The Sisters of Notre Dame faithfully served St. James School for over fifty years before it closed in 2003.
The most striking feature of St. James Church is its windows. The large Façade window in the back of the church is incorporated with one inch thick glass set in epoxy resin to form a solid wall of rich color. This wall of glass is composed of over five thousand separate pieces of glass and weighs approximately four ton. Integrated into this kaleidoscope of color is the figure of St. James and the inscription “St. James Pray for Us” superimposed over the Sword, the symbol of St. James.
The eight side nave windows harmonize in design and color with the Façade window; however, these windows are composed of lead and glass of traditional thickness. The theme for these windows is the Apostles Creed. Beginning at the Altar and reading from left to right, when facing the Altar, the twelve Articles of the Creed are expressed in symbolic form as follows:
Window #1 – “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” Creation symbol. “And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord.” Anchor, fish and Cross symbolizing Christ.
Window #2 – “Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” Symbolized by Dove, Monogram. “Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was Crucified, Died and was buried.” Symbolized by Cross and Tomb.
Window #3 – “He descended into Hell. The third day He arose again from the Dead.” Symbolized by Monogram and brilliant light rays, Resurrection. “He ascended into Heaven, Sitteth at the Right hand of God, the Father Almighty.” Symbolized by Ascending Dove, Lamb and Hand of God.
Window #4 – “From thence He shall come to Judge the Living and the Dead.” Symbolized by the Scales. “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Symbolized by the Dove.
Window #5 – “The Holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints.” The Church is symbolized by the ship. “The Forgiveness of Sins.” Symbolized by the Keys and Monogram.
Window #6 – “The Resurrection of the Body.” Symbolized by the Rising Sun. “And Life Everlasting.” Symbolized by God and Light.