“St. Noel is a Catholic Community
and earnest service
all for building God’s Kingdom.”
Contrary to some people’s perceptions, St. Noel Parish was not named to honor the Feast of Christmas. It was named in honor of Noel Chabanel, one of the “North American Martyrs.”
These Jesuit missionaries, led by Isaac Jogues, were slain in the middle of the seventeenth century as they attempted to spread the faith among the Huron Indians in what is now known as Ontario, Canada.
Noel Chabanel was born in France on February 2, 1613. The youngest of four children, Noel entered the Jesuit Order in 1630 at the age of seventeen. In 1641, he was captivated by the dream of becoming a missionary in New France (Canada) and working among the Indians.
He arrived in Quebec on August 15, 1643, where he remained for a year. On September 7, 1644, after a treacherous trip through hostile Indian territory, Noel reached his final destination, Fort St. Marie, near the present day city of Midland, Ontario. For the next five years, Noel struggled to bring Christ to the Huron Indians.
He had great difficulty in learning the native language. Having been reared in an educated and upper class family, he also had a personal aversion to the primitive and base life style of the Indians. Noel was tormented by doubts of his ability to be the kind of missionary he wanted to be. As he continued his work, he was greatly affected by the martyrdom of some of his fellow missionaries. He came to believe that his own “martyrdom” was a bloodless one in which he was asked daily to give his life in service with very little personal sense of reward or accomplishment.
When Isaac Jogues, the leader of the Jesuit missionaries, known to the Indians as the “Black Robes,” was slain in 1647, Noel was offered the choice of returning to France. He resisted the temptation and made a vow to God in 1647 to remain with the Indians until his death, despite his personal aversions to them and their life style. Only two years later, Noel’s “bloodless” martyrdom became the real thing when he was murdered by an apostate Huron Indian on December 8, 1649. His body was thrown into the Nottawasaga River and was never recovered.
To learn more about St. Noel please click on one of the links below.
St. Noel Parish is young as parishes go in the Cleveland Diocese. Formed in 1980, it united Catholics living in Willoughby Hills into a parish community. About 25 years earlier, Willoughby Hills Village had been created out of the remnants of Willoughby Hills Township and consisted of a few farms, small houses, and a few businesses along US Route 6 (Chardon Road), then the main east-west corridor in the area.
Catholics living in the Village belonged to parishes in nearby communities including Immaculate Conception in Willoughby, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Wickliffe, and St. John of the Cross (formerly St. Felicitas) in Euclid. In the mid-1960s, the construction of I-90 and I-271 and the extension of utility lines into the area, created an influx of families into the community. Many of these families were Catholic and, although they became part of their new community, their church life was centered in other communities. The desire grew for a parish centered in their own community.
The Diocese of Cleveland had owned a large tract of land in Willoughby Hills for some time, but other proposals for its use, including a cemetery and a high school failed to materialize. Willoughby Hills city officials and others saw the desirability of having a parish established here. Letters were written and meetings arranged with Bishop James Hickey urging the creation of a parish before commercial developers moved in. Bishop Anthony Pilla, then auxiliary bishop, met with Willoughby Hills Catholics at a public meeting and found enthusiastic support for the idea. St. Noel Mission was formed in May, 1980./ Seven months later, St. Noel became a full-fledged parish. Father Michael Currier, an associate at St. Clare Church in Lyndhurst, was named pastor.
A parish house on SOM Center Road was purchased for use as a rectory and parish office. A chapel was built in the basement of the house and used for daily Mass. Masses on Sundays and Holy Days were celebrated in the basement of the Willoughby Hills City Hall. On several occasions when the City Hall was not available, Willoughby Hills United Methodist Church and Calvary Assembly of God Church generously opened their doors to the people of St. Noel. At other times, services were held at the LaVera Party Center. We were a “pilgrim” people. The people of St. Noel learned that a church is not a building, just as any family is not a house.
Parishioners were actively involved in all stages of the planning and building of the church building, begun in 1982 and dedicated one year later on August 21, 1983. The Outdoor Chapel was created in the woods behind the church by the Youth Group and other volunteers spearheaded by Andy Hudock. Though it is no longer used for liturgies, it remains a quiet space for prayer and reflection. The Parish Hall was begun in 1986 and built primarily by volunteers. It was completed in April, 1988.
St. Noel Parish now has a beautiful Church building in a lovely wooded setting that provides parishioners an inspirational gathering place to worship God as a community, as well as to celebrate those special events in their lives. The Parish Hall offers an elegant setting for parish activities and all sorts of other celebrations for parishioners and others in the community.