As a former high school wrestler and coach, Fr. Joseph Workman is always up for a challenge.  Whether it be pastoral, physical, or spiritual, Fr. Workman has demonstrated God-given fortitude in every aspect of his life. 

A native of Coventry Township in Summit County, Fr. Workman was the youngest of five children.  His family attended St. Francis de Sales Church in Portage Lakes.  As a youngster he was so enthused about the Mass that he served as an altar boy and choir singer at the same time! “I used to run back and forth from the altar to the choir during Mass,” laughs Fr. Workman.  After graduating from Coventry High School, he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics Education from Kent State University.  Following the examples of his priestly role models at his home parish, he discerned a call to a vocation and entered Saint Mary’s Seminary and Graduate School of Theology, eventually earning a Master of Divinity degree.

Fr. Workman was first assigned to Saint Columbkille Parish in Parma.  This was followed by an assignment at Saint Augustine Parish in Barberton.  While at Saint Augustine, Bishop Lennon appointed him as Administrator of Saints Cyril and Methodius Parish in Barberton, giving him the unenviable task of closing the Church.  “This was an extremely  difficult situation since the Church had been open for 103 years,” notes Fr. Workman.  “I delayed the closing by several months so that the people would have time to mourn the loss of the Church and celebrate their identity as a Parish.”  Later, during its Pastor’s prolonged illness, he was Administrator of  Sacred Heart Church in Wadsworth.

Next, Fr. Workman accepted an assignment as Pastor of Saint Clement Church in Lakewood.  This parish had just absorbed some of the members of the recently-closed Saint James Church.  Following a two-year campaign by its parishioners, the Cleveland Catholic Diocese allowed Saint James to re-open.  Fr. Workman, still Pastor of Saint Clement, was appointed Pastor of Saint James Church.  “I called the Diocese and asked, ‘How do you re-open a Church?  They responded,  ‘We don’t know!’  We began a new chapter on the Feast of Saint James with Mass and the lighting of the Sanctuary lamp.”

The difficulties encountered in closing and re-opening parishes are, needless to say, immense.  Fr. Workman believes that in order to motivate a congregation, “Churchgoers need to appreciate the fact that a parish is all about the people of God following His Word, and that it’s more than a building.  That’s easier said than done, but with prayer, anything is possible.”  

In 2023, Fr. Workman was diagnosed with cancer.  Always active with his priestly duties, he notes, “It was hard for me to accept the severity of the situation.  I had surgery, and there I was trying to say Mass the very next day.”  Realizing the need for recovery time, Fr. Workman resigned from both parishes in July.  Time was needed not only to regain physical strength but also spiritual strength.  “Due to my illness, I was weak and dry spiritually.  I tried to pray and say Mass, but I just didn’t have the energy.  Physical relaxation provided a rejuvenation of my prayer life as well.”

Since October 2023, Fr. Workman has been assisting in all priestly duties at SJB.  In his free time, he enjoys walking in the woods and discovering new local adventures.  He offers Mass at the Poor Clares Monastery on a weekly basis.  Fr. Workman is extremely grateful for the welcoming atmosphere at Saint John Bosco.  “I have received so much from this parish already,” says Fr. Workman.  “I hope to give back all that I can spiritually.”

Submitted by Christine and Bob Martuch