In the fall of 1885, Father A. M. Leyden founded St. Agnes Parish. St. Agnes initially was a mission of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Toronto. In 1989, Father Leyden erected a small church, and in 1892, Father Walter Ross, a convert to the faith and lawyer prior to his ordination, became St. Agnes’ first resident pastor. He was succeeded in 1896 by Father John Meade who, in 1898, established the first St. Agnes School. In 1902, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity from Manitowoc, Wisconsin went to the school.
In 1904, Father Daniel A. Coffey was appointed pastor of St. Agnes. His loving leadership earned him the cherished title of “Mill Town Pastor.”
In 1916, a few weeks following the death of Father Coffey, Father Joseph F. Dooley was appointed pastor of St. Agnes. Dooley became a formidable figure in community leadership during his 37 years at St. Agnes.
On Nov. 8, the cornerstone of the new St. Agnes Church was laid, and the church was built almost entirely with volunteer labor. In order to finish the church in the face of a harsh economy, most of the parish’s families took out mortgages on their homes so they could increase their pledges to accomplish this. The church was completed and dedicated by Bishop Hartley in 1923.
In 1945, Bishop John King Mussio was designated as bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Steubenville, which actually had been established in the fall of 1944. It was under Bishop Mussio in the years 1949-50 that St. Bernadette, Deandale, and Our Lady of Fatima, Brilliant, were formed from St. Agnes Parish, and Annunciation Church was formed from both St. Agnes Parish and Holy Name Cathedral.
A new St. Agnes School building was begun in 1954 and was completed in September of 1955. Msgr. Dooley, after a lengthy illness, officially retired in 1960, and a new pastor was named – Father William M. Young. Father Young initiated and completed a major renovation of the church and sanctuary even as the Second Vatican Council was still discussing liturgical changes. Bishop Mussio consecrated a redecorated St. Agnes Church in 1964, offering Mass for the first time facing the congregation after the liturgical changes of Vatican Council II.
Father Young died in March of 1973, leaving the parish under the capable leadership of Father Edward J. Kakascik, a son of the parish. Father Kakascik directed a number of parish oriented programs, notably “Christ Renews His Parish” and “Renew.” In 1976, a connecting way was built by volunteers, between the church and the parish house and offices.
When Father Kakascik was transferred to a parish in the southern part of the diocese in 1987, Father Lewis Gaetano was appointed pastor in 1987. He left in 1998, leaving the parish to Father William Cross, who had been the parochial vicar at St. Agnes Church seven years earlier.
On August 6, 2001, Bishop R. Daniel Conlon became bishop of the diocese. A year later, Father James Dunfee, a native of Steubenville, was appointed the ninth pastor of St. Agnes Parish, on July 1, 2003.