First bishop of Toledo, Ohio and archbishop bishop of Cleveland, Ohio; b. Wurzelhofen (Regensburg), Bavaria, March 12, 1866; d. Cleveland, Nov. 2, 1945. The 15th of 16 children of George and Mary (Gess) Schrembs, Joseph became a member of the celebrated Regensburg Boys' Choir. When he was 11 years old, he came to the U.S. to enter the scholasticate at St. Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where his older brother Ignatius was already a priest. At 16 he was teaching at St. Martin's parish school in Louisville, Kentucky, and two years later was accepted for the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
After attending Laval University, Quebec, he finished his training at the Grand Séminaire, Montreal, developing his native oratorical powers there. He was ordained on June 29, 1889, by Bp. Henry J. Richter of Grand Rapids and appointed curate to St. Mary's in Saginaw, Michigan. He was next stationed at St. Mary's in Bay City, Michigan., first as curate, then as pastor. In 1900 he became pastor of St. Mary's, a German parish in Grand Rapids. In 1903 he was appointed vicar-general of Grand Rapids, and in 1906, a domestic prelate. On Jan. 8, 1911, he was appointed titular bishop of Sophene and auxiliary to Richter, who consecrated him Feb. 22, 1911. On August 11 of that year he was made first bishop of Toledo, taking possession of his see on October 4. After a decade of creative organizational work in Toledo, he was appointed fifth bishop of Cleveland on June 16, 1921, and installed there on September 8.
As parish priest and founding bishop, Schrembs had revealed great capacity for leadership; in Cleveland this talent developed to the fullest. The chancery offices, set up in the days of Bp. Richard Gilmour, were reestablished under his direction, and in 1938 he initiated a thorough reorganization of all diocesan agencies. Remembered for his zeal on behalf of diocesan charitable and social institutions, he was also deeply committed to education. He founded several primary and secondary schools, authorized the Ursuline Nuns and Sisters of Notre Dame to establish colleges, and erected a new diocesan seminary. Never forsaking his early love for sacred music, he composed several hymns, helped produce manuals of Gregorian chant and Catholic editions of elementary music text books. In 1915 he revealed a plan for Church music reform that would begin with young children.
He was one of four bishops on the Catholic War Council during World War I, and it was largely through his efforts, personally pursued in Rome, that the National Catholic Welfare Conference received papal approval as a permanent peacetime agency. As chairman of the NCWC Department of Lay Organizations, he was chiefly responsible for the creation of the national council of catholic men and the national council of catholic women, both in 1920. In 1939, the golden jubilee of his ordination, he received the title of archbishop as a personal honor. In 1942 he was joined by Bp. Edward F. Hoban of the Rockford (Illinois) Diocese as coadjutor.
Bibliography: m. j. hynes, History of the Diocese of Cleveland (Cleveland 1953). w. g. rose, Cleveland: The Making of a City (Cleveland 1950). "The Death of Archbishop Schrembs," Catholic World 162 (Dec. 1954) 274.
[w. a jurgens]