WITHOUT A CHURCH or priest of their own, the first Catholics of Willoughby, Ohio, relied on Jesuit missionaries to celebrate Mass. This situation changed in 1850, when Father Peter Peudeprat became pastor of St. Mary Parish in Painesville, Ohio. In addition to his responsibilities to the Painesville Catholic community, Father Peudeprat was charged with the care of the Willoughby mission. His successor, Father Charles M. Coquerelle, continued to serve the community until 1864, when Father Anthony M. Martin, pastor of St. Paul Parish in Euclid, Ohio, took responsibility for the mission. During the next five years, Father Martin oversaw the purchase of two lots on Vine Street and construction of a small church. On January 1, 1870, the community celebrated its first Mass in the original Immaculate Conception Church.
In 1883, Father J. A. Te Pas of St. Mary Seminary in Cleveland succeeded Father Marlin as administrator of Immaculate Conception Mission. With Father Te Pas's departure in September 1887, the community welcomed Father William Trumper, SJ, who, in turn, was succeeded by Father J. T. SJ During his pastorate, Father O’Connell purchased a house and two lots adjacent to the church property for a future pastoral residence. In June 1895, Father George P. Murphy succeeded Father O’Connell, serving until June 1898, when the community welcomed its first pastor, Father G. I. Bergan. Work on the rectory began soon after and was completed in January of the following year. With Father Bergan’s departure in 1902, the parish welcomed a series of short-term pastors: Father Kieran P. Banks (1902-1903); Father Joseph E. Rockliff (1903—1904); Father J. M. Kitter (1904—1909). Between 1909 arid 1922 Father William H. Moseley served as pastor.
The decade of the 1920s was one of growth for Immaculate Conception Parish. Under the direction of its new pastor, Father William S. Nash, the community secured the teaching services of the Ursuline Sisters and opened a school. On November 30, 1923, Bishop Joseph Schrembs dedicated the new Immaculate Conception Church. Further development plans were postponed when the United States plunged into the economic chaos of the Great Depression. In 1934, Father Nash left Immaculate Conception Parish, turning over its administration to Father Francis P. Brennan, who served the community until June 1939.
As Europe prepared for war, Immaculate Conception Parish welcomed its new pastor, Father W. Brendan McNamara. Under his direction, the parish acquired a convent for the sisters and the former Edward Walsh family home, which it converted into a rectory. Father M. Willard McMahon succeeded Father McNamara in December 1951, supervising the completion of the Father McNamara Memorial School Wing and the purchase and enlargement of a new convent. With the population of the parish continuing to rise, Father McMahon received permission to erect a new church. Work on the structure proceeded quickly, allowing the community to celebrate its first Mass in the new building on December 7, 1958, the same day Archbishop Edward F. Hoban dedicated the church. Unfinished at the time of its dedication, the church interior was completed in 1965.
On September 6, 1972, Immaculate Conception Parish welcomed Father Francis D. Curran as its pastor. In the following decades, the community continued to renovate and expand its campus. In February, 1986, it opened the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. With the departure of the Ursuline Sisters, the parish renovated the former convent.
On March 28, 2004, Archbishop Roger Gries formally installed Immaculate Conception Parish's current pastor, Father Michael T. Troha, who had been serving as Administrator of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Cleveland. While the city of Willoughby and Immaculate Conception Parish's campus have changed over the years, the faith and companionship of the community have remained a constant reminder of the pioneer Catholic families of Willoughby, Ohio.