Bishop of Cleveland, Ohio (1911-1945)
Joseph Schrembs (March 12, 1866 – November 2, 1945) was a German-born prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids in Michigan for five months in 1911, as bishop of the Diocese of Toledo in Ohio from 1911 to 1921, and as bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland in Ohio from 1921 to 1945.
Joseph Schrembs was born in Wutzlhofen in the Kingdom of Bavaria (present day Germany), on March 12, 1866. He was one of sixteen children born to George and Mary Schrembs. Joseph Schrembs received his early education in Regensburg.
In 1877, Schrembs immigrated to the United States under the patronage of Bishop Rupert Seidenbusch. He enrolled at Saint Vincent in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where his older brother Rudesind had become a Benedictine monk. After completing his classical course at Saint Vincent at age sixteen, Joseph Schrembs taught at the parochial school of St. Martin’s Parish until 1884. He was then accepted as a seminarian by Bishop Henry Richter of the Diocese of Grand Rapids in Michigan. Richter sent him to study philosophy and theology at the Grand Seminary of Montreal in Montreal, Quebec. Schrembs returned to Grand Rapids, Michigan, in March 1889.
Schrembs was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Grand Rapids by Bishop Richter on June 29, 1889. After his ordination, Schrembs was assigned as a curate at St. Mary’s Parish in Saginaw, Michigan. In 1895, he was transferred to serve as pastor at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in West Bay City, Michigan. Schrembs preached at St. Mary in both English and French.
In 1900, Schrembs was appointed pastor of St. Mary’s, a German language parish in Grand Rapids.
In addition to his role as pastor, Schrembs was named vicar general of the diocese in 1903. During the 1905 flood of the Grand River, he used the school at St. Mary’s as a disaster relief center. In 1905, Schrembs built a new convent for the sisters. In January 1906, he was raised to the rank of domestic prelate by Pope Pius X. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Schrembs took up collections to aid the survivors.
On January 8, 1911, Schrembs was appointed as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids and titular bishop of Sophene by Pius X. He received his episcopal consecration on February 22, 1911 from Bishop Richter, with Bishops Camillus Maes and John Foley serving as co-consecrators.
On August 11, 1911, only months after becoming auxiliary bishop of Grand Rapids, Pius X appointed Schrembs as the first bishop of the newly erected Diocese of Toledo. Schrembs requested the Sisters of Saint Francis of Rochester, Minnesota send nuns to the Toledo area to work with the children of the Polish immigrants. Sister Adelaide Sandusky, director of the College of St. Teresa, and 22 other Sisters established a home in Toledo and began teaching in area schools. This community became the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio From 1911 to 1921, Schrembs established 13 new parishes and 33 schools. At Schrembs’ invitation, Visitation nuns came to Toledo in 1915 from their Georgetown monastery in Washington, D.C.
During World War I, he served on the Administrative Committee of the National Catholic War Council.
On June 16, 1921, Schrembs was appointed the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland by Pope Pius XI . On June 12, 1924, Schrembs offered the invocation on the third day of the 1924 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He characterized Republican President Calvin Coolidge as “a chieftain whose record of faithful public service, and whose personality, untarnished and untainted by the pollution of political corruption, will fill the heart of America with the new hope of a second spring.”
In 1925, Pope Pius XI presented the relics of St. Christine to Schrembs. Christine, a 13 year-old girl who died for her faith around 300 AD, was moved from the Roman catacombs to St. John’s Cathedral in Cleveland. The diocese had previously donated money to the Vatican for the establishment of the House of Catacombs outside Rome. Schrembs promoted the cause for canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th century Native American woman from what is today Upstate New York who converted to Catholicism. Tekakwitha was proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XVI in October 2012.
Schrembs was given the personal title of archbishop on March 25, 1939. During his tenure, he erected 27 parishes in Cleveland and 35 outside the city. In 1942, as Schrembs’ diabetes worsened, Pope Pius XII named Bishop Edward Hoban as Schrembs’ coadjutor bishop to help him with his duties.
Joseph Schrembs died on November 2, 1945, in Cleveland at age 79.