A History of Old St. Mary’s
From the 1942 Anniversary Edition
WHILE WARS AND SPOILS OF WARS were being shifted about during the Napoleonic Era of Europe’s history, emigration to America took on significance. The people, particularly of Central Europe, yearned for something more than the unstable ambitions and powers of royal families and boundary lines of Austria, Prussia, France, Belgium, Saxony and Italy. They simply were tired of war and military training. It took the best years of a man’s life—years when he could love and build his castle; years when he could work and buy acres for his garden, his crops and his cattle; years when he could read and prepare for the mission fields of other lands. “Wasted years!” “Youthful opportunities gone “—he thought.
The Old World began to migrate to the New. Two strong currents of immigration were moving to America—the Irish and the German. Divergent sources and causes impelled the migrations, but the same hopes and visions of freedom and livelihood were calling them from home and family bonds. To the heart of the Middle West, they went.
Father Edward Fenwick, O.P.
It was the appealing correspondence of Jacob Dittoe to Bishop Carroll of Baltimore that brought into Ohio Father Edward D. Fenwick, a Dominican priest from the monastery at St. Rose, Kentucky. Jacob Dittoe, a German Catholic, had settled in Ohio, near Somerset. In this locality, Jacob Dittoe, with several others of the same nationality, had cleared tracts in the forest for their homes. Father Fenwick, who later on Sunday, January 13, 1822, was consecrated the first Bishop of Cincinnati, found this group of Catholic pioneers and three other German Catholic families, numbering twenty persons.
Another letter from Jacob Dittoe addressed to Father Fenwick was brought to the attention of Bishop Flaget of Bardstown, Kentucky. As a response to this letter of a pious Catholic, Bishop Flaget and Father Badin, who were on their way to Baltimore, crossed the Ohio River at Maysville, Kentucky, in 1812. They found a German Catholic by the name of William Cassel whose four children they baptized. On their way to Somerset they found the Dittoe and Fink families, where Bishop Flaget celebrated Mass and heard confessions. He wrote as follows regarding this trip:
“On my journey to Baltimore, I found fifty Catholic families in the State of Ohio. I hear that there are many others scattered in various parts of the state, but those who have migrated into these regions have never seen a priest since they left their former homes. Hence many of those I met have almost forgotten their religion, and they are bringing up their children in complete ignorance. And this neglected portion of the flock committed to me, I am compelled to leave on account of the lack of workers, for I can scarcely send a missionary to them, even once a year.
In the Fall of 1816, the Catholic Church in Kentucky was supplied with several newly-ordained priests. Father Fenwick began to give more time and service to the scattered Catholics in Ohio. He won for himself the zealous title “Apostle of Ohio.”
The first Catholic Church in Ohio
On a tract of land cleared and purchased by Jacob Dittoe and his neighbor Catholics, about Somerset, was built the first Catholic Church in Ohio. It was a log house; a one-story structure, with the bare ground as a floor. Near this chapel was erected another log house of two rooms to serve as a rectory for the missionaries. This, the first Catholic Church of Ohio, was blessed by Fathers Fenwick and Young on December 6, 1818.
Four years later, the “Apostle of Ohio,’’ who had previously visited Cincinnati on one or two occasions, was appointed to he Right Reverend Edward D. Fenwick, Bishop of Cincinnati.
Cincinnati, a little town of twenty-five hundred people, in 1811, was to become the great “Queen City of the West.” They amazingly looked on while the first steamboat, Orleans, puffed on its way down the Ohio to Louisville. The Directory of 1819 refers to Cincinnati’s population as “a mixed assemblage composed of emigrants from almost every part of Christendom. The greater part of the population is from the Middle and Northern States. We have however many foreigners among us, and it is not uncommon to hear three or four different languages spoken on the street at the same time.”
The Bishop Comes to Cincinnati
On the 13th of January, 1822, Cincinnati’s first Bishop was consecrated at St. Rose, Kentucky, by the Most Reverend Ambrose Marechal, of Baltimore. Sometime in March of that year, the new Bishop set out for his “boundless Diocese.” He was accompanied by three priests and a deacon, Francis Vincent Badin, who was shortly after his arrival in Cincinnati, raised to the priesthood; and was the first Catholic priest ordained in Ohio by Bishop Fenwick.
The episcopal party traveled by horse and wagon over the new muddy roads of Kentucky. They had to wade and swim the Kentucky River; and unexpectedly arrived in Cincinnati on a Saturday evening. Word was soon passed around among the few hundred Catholics that the Bishop had come, and they hurriedly assembled to welcome him.
The Catholics of Cincinnati and vicinity were poor Germans, Swiss and Irish, but they joyfully pledged to support their Bishop. Many of them were indebted to ship-owners who had brought the poor immigrants to America. They had to clear the land tracts acquired from the Government; crops were poor and the War of 1812 with England had brought considerable panic and disaster to the country and people. But their Catholic faith was a consolation; and their new chapel was a reality.
This, the first Catholic Church in Cincinnati, was located on the northwest corner of Liberty and Vine Streets, where now stands the beautiful Church of St. Francis of Assisi. Try to visualize this tragic but joyful scene: the Bishop and four of his priests trudging or riding up dusty Vine Street to offer the Sacrifice of Mass on that Sunday morning in his cathedral—an unfinished frame building—without ceiling or plaster!
During the Autumn of 1822, Bishop Fenwick purchased, on credit, a lot on Sycamore Street; and on this site, a rebuilt church was erected and dedicated to St. Peter. He borrowed $300.00 from a Catholic layman and left for Europe to seek financial aid as well as to report to the newly elected Pope Leo XIII. While in Rome, Bishop Fenwick made the acquaintance of Reverend Frederic Rese, who had just completed his studies at the Urban College. The young priest, enthralled by the poverty, the need of a German priest and the pioneer glories, offered the Bishop his services in the missions of the Cincinnati Diocese.
Upon reaching Cincinnati, towards the end of March, 1825, Bishop Fenwick was presented with an episcopal residence on Sycamore Street. Father Rese, who had preceded the Bishop to America, was giving his attention to the German Catholics of the City of Cincinnati. With the zeal of a real apostle among the German immigrants of Ohio, Father Rese had established the Leopoldine Mission Society of Vienna for the support of the Church in America. The want of German priests was felt everywhere. “Five hundred miles of heavily populated Erie Canal Zone—need priests,” pleaded the Venerable Neumann, later Bishop of Philadelphia, with the Leopoldine Mission Society, May 31, 1839.
“There are German Catholics who have not gone to confession for many years; children, fifteen to twenty years of age, who have received nothing more than baptism. All this is due to lack of priests—the longer this need lasts, the less it will be noticed; or when finally it will be noticed—we shall need not only good priests, but a Francis Xavier—among the hundreds of Irish priests not a single one has been able to care for a German parish with success.”
And the German Catholics of Cincinnati found their Xavier in Father Fredric Rese, Father Martin John Henni, Father Martin Kundig, Father Joseph Ferneding and Father Clemens Hammer—the first pastor of St. Mary Church.
The determined zeal of Father Rese nearly ruined the Lutheran Church in Cincinnati, when he reclaimed thirty-three German Catholic families from that congregation.
And the influx of German immigrants continued—German Catholics were coming into Cincinnati in 1840 at the rate of two hundred or more a day. The Wahreitsfreund estimated their number at three-fourths of the Catholic population of Cincinnati.
Holy Trinity Church
They were not acquainted with the English language, and were very tenacious to German customs. In order that they might be spiritually cared for, and by one of their own, special services were conducted for them on Sundays at the Cathedral Church on Sycamore Street. In 1834, however, their number had increased to such an extent that they could easily support a parish of their own; and at this time Holy Trinity Church, the oldest German congregation, was erected on Fifth Street in the West End. But, as we find it to be the case today, the city spread, and more room had to be found. It naturally spread northward toward the end of the city limits, which at that time extended to Liberty Street. On this account the distance to Holy Trinity Church and School became rather burdensome, especially in bad weather.
The first school
At first, for the benefit of the children—for, as Christ loved the little ones, so also the Church had their care at heart, for they were to be the future men and women upon whom so much was to depend—two schools were opened in 1839 at Thirteenth and Main Streets, the one a private school for girls conducted by Miss T. Eberle, the other a private school for boys. With the school thus begun, naturally the church had to follow. The church of the Holy Trinity became too small to accommodate the crowds that flocked thither, and under the supervision of Rev. Martin Henni, later the first Archbishop of Milwaukee, was left the selection of the site for a new church.
He in turn, in the year 1840, appointed a committee, who were to act in conjunction with him, and in September of the same year brought in their report. In order to raise funds for the erection of the new church, a committee, for each of the eight wards of which the city at that time was made tip, was selected; these men were to obtain subscriptions at which they succeeded wonderfully. Having raised the means, next in order was the selection of a suitable place, which was found, namely the estate of Arthur St. Clair.
A Site is Purchased
This estate was in the hands of an administrator, William Lytle by name, who had it divided into building lots by J. L. Benham. Among the buyers of the estate were E. S. Haines and S. S. Brown. Ezechiel Haines and his wife Charlotte transferred to Archbishop John B. Purcell, in this same year, the lots numbered 161 and 162, on the east side of Clay Street, each having a frontage of twenty-five feet on Clay Street and extending seventy-five feet toward Main Street; also lots numbered 175 and 176 on Main Street, with a frontage of twenty-five feet each, also extending one hundred feet toward Clay Street, the entire sale amounting to $5,000.00; the witnesses to this transfer being Messrs. A. Martin and J. Wiseman. (Hamilton Co. Records Bk. 78, p. 354).
On January 11, of the following year, S. G. Brown and his wife Martha transferred to Bishop John B. Purcell, lots numbered 159 and 160, on the east side of Clay Street, each with a frontage of twenty-five feet and extending seventy-five feet toward Main Street; also lots numbered 173 and 174 on the west side of Main Street, each with a frontage of twenty-five feet and extending one hundred feet toward Clay Street, for the sum of $7,000.00; the witnesses to this deed of transfer were Messrs. J. Wiseman and N.W. Green. (Hamilton Co. Records Bk. 78, p.354).
On January 18, of this same year, Josiah Lawrence and his wife Eliza transferred to Bishop John B. Purcell, the lots numbered 157 on Clay Street and 171 on Main Street; the witnesses to this sale were Messrs. H. Lawrence and J. Wiseman, the price paid being $2,160.00. (Hamilton Co. Records Bk. 78, p. 354). The site purchased had a frontage of one hundred and fifty feet on Main and Clay Streets and one hundred and seventy-five feet on Thirteenth Street, embracing the square between Main and Clay Streets on the south side. Now that they had purchased the property, next in order was the erection of the building itself. A building committee was therefore selected and met on April the 15th. The plans of Ignatz Erd, who was chosen as architect, were selected. Everything being now in readiness, excavations began on March 17, 1841.
The Cornerstone is Laid
The work had progressed far enough so that the cornerstone could be laid on Thursday, March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation. God looked down favorably upon the work that was being done, for He blessed the celebration with a beautiful day. People of all nationalities were gathered together on this day, to do honor to their God, showing the unity of faith and worship which is so dear to our Church.
The procession, which, as escort to the Bishop, was composed of priests of the city and St. Xavier College, a band of seminarians, and several young girls dressed in pure white, reached the grounds at three o’clock. There, during the cantation of a solemn hymn by the entire concourse, composed especially for the occasion by the Rev. Hammer, was set the corner-stone of the second oldest church in Cincinnati [1999 editor’s note: now the oldest church building still standing]. The German sermon on this occasion was delivered by Rev. M. Henni, the English sermon, however, was preached by Bishop Purcell, who also laid the cornerstone. The ceremonies concluded with Episcopal Benediction and Te Deum. About ten thousand persons, mostly Catholics, graced the occasion with their presence. The work of the building progressed rapidly, so that in July of the following year the church was completed.
Dedication of St. Mary Church
On July the 3rd, 1842, the structure was dedicated to God, under the title of the Annunciation, on which feast day the cornerstone was laid. It was the largest church thus far erected in the Mississippi Valley, being 142 feet long, 66 feet wide, the tower reaching the height of 170 feet.
At an early hour that historic Sunday morning, the procession arrived at the church. It was the first Catholic demonstration of this kind held in Cincinnati. The procession left Holy Trinity Church and marched through the downtown streets to St. Mary’s. Heading the procession was an acolyte, bearing a beautiful gilt crucifix, accompanied by two torch-bearers; following these were the following societies:
St. Peter Benevolent Society for destitute female orphans, St. Aloysius Orphan Society, German Catholic Relief Society, Reverend Pastors vested in surplices, together with the school children dressed in white, finally the entire congregation, all marching four abreast. The solemn ceremonies began at 9:30 a.m., at which the Rt. Rev. Bishop pontificated and the following priests assisted: Assistant Priest, Rev. Stephen Badin, the first priest ordained in the United States; Deacon, Rev. Joseph O’Mealley; Subdeacon, Rev. Pin, S.J.; Deacons of Honor, Rev. Jos. Stokes, Vicar General of the Diocese of Nashville, Tenn., and Rev. D. Hallinan; Rev. Elet, S.J., President of St. Xavier College, acted as Master of Ceremonies.
During the dedication itself, the Revs. Joseph Ferneding and De Theaux explained the symbolical meaning of the beautiful ceremonies. The sermon on this grand occasion was preached by Rev. M. Henni, who preached almost two hours, and held the audience spellbound for this length of time due to his oratorical ability. The Bishop also gave a short instruction in English, beseeching God to shower His blessings upon the congregation; that all who here received the cleansing waters of Baptism might be true to their vows; those approaching the sacred table might ever communicate worthily; and their priests might ever remain faithful to their sacred calling.
The services concluded at 2:00 p.m. Again at 5:00 they were bidden to return, which they did with noble and willing hearts. In the evening Vesper services were held, during which a beautiful sermon was delivered on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, by the Rev. Stephen Badin, after which a short instruction was given by the Rev. C. Hammer on the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Bishop on this occasion administered the Sacrament to a class of 362 candidates. The services were concluded at 8:00 p.m., with Benediction and solemn “Te Deum” surging from the hearts of the entire congregation.
The first pastor
Rev. C. Hammer was appointed the first pastor of the church by the Rt. Reverend Bishop. He was a Bohemian by birth, having been born in Joachimsthal in 1804. He made his early studies at the seminary of Prague, where he was ordained in 1836. He left his own country to administer to the wants of his people in this country, as so many did. The scene of his first labors in this country was at St. Ann Church, Detroit, Mich.; from there he traveled on missions through Michigan and Indiana. In 1840 he came to Cincinnati and became assistant at Holy Trinity, whence he became the first pastor of St Mary’s.
Here he remained till the year 1866, when he returned to Prague, and thence to the home of his birth, where he died. He departed this life in the year 1879, in his 75th year. He endeared himself to all whom he met, as the history of his life tells us, to the poor and influential alike. He donated to the church a beautiful oil painting which he received from an eminent artist abroad, namely a painting of “Christ upon the Cross,” by F. X. Kadlinck, a director of art in the Prague Art Academy. At this time a beautiful oil painting, “The Immaculate Conception,’’ to be used on the main altar, was donated by the widow, Remprechter. The same was the work of an eminent artist of Munich, Xavier Glinck.
The Church Bell
To show the faith and charity of the people of St. Mary’s congregation, we need but mention the anniversary celebration of the St. Aloysius Orphan Society, held March 26, 1843. On this occasion seventy-one new members were enrolled, who in their charity pledged to help support these destitute orphaned children. In April of this same year the Rev. Jos. Ferneding was appointed the first assistant pastor, which charge he held till the year 1850, having endeared himself to all who knew him. On August 13th the first bell, weighing 3,363 pounds and cast by Coffin, was blessed.
St. Mary’s School
In the same year, on September 9th, the cornerstone of the school was laid. We can hardly realize the joy that filled the hearts of the pastors, the parents and the children, in being present on this joyful occasion, for now the wants of the little ones, who were to be the future of the parish, could be attended to and they could be instructed in the truths of their holy religion.
The cornerstone was laid by Rev. M. Henni, who also preached on this occasion. Solemn High Mass was sung at 8:00 a.m. by the Rev. H. D. Junker of Chillicothe, Ohio; he was assisted by the Revs. Joseph Ferneding and Andrew Tusch. The building was ready for occupancy January 3, 1844, and was formally opened by the Rev. T. Collins, at that time Vicar General of the diocese. The building was seventy feet long and thirty feet wide, and contained four large classrooms and two basement rooms, each thirty feet square, with a central hall. On the opening day 450 pupils registered and Mr. Jos. Hemaun was appointed the first teacher.
The Trustee Uprising
It was about this time too that Catholicism in Cincinnati was passing through a critical period. It is well to mention this in this history, as it was at St. Mary’s that plans were adopted which successfully put a stop to this uprising.
A party had been formed, which was to take in hand all church property and control it; likewise all church funds; they were to depose and install priests at will, in fact take to themselves the government of the church; all this was to be done on a form of trustee system. To show how powerful it had become, it had received the approval of 1,600 signatures and the date had already been set when it was to make arrangements to file a claim for incorporation under the title of “German Catholic Congregation of Cincinnati.”
The date for making these arrangements was set for January 27th, at the Court House. The Rev. M. Henni, however, received word of this intended meeting and he himself called a general meeting of the Catholics of the city for January 26th, at St. Mary’s. Over 2,000 men responded to the call and a counter organization was formed, of which Michael Leib was elected President and Bernard Enneking, Secretary. The Revs. Henni, Ferneding, Tusch and Luhr addressed the assembly on this occasion and showed the madness and baseness of such a corporation. Resolutions were then framed and plans made, which successfully checked the impending upheaval.
Relics of St. Martura
At that time Fr. Hammer had been abroad; he returned on August 11th, bringing with him the relics of St. Martura. On Sunday, August 20th, these relics, with all the solemnities prescribed for their solemn transfer, were placed by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Purcell under the main altar, where they rest today. A large number of clergymen attended these solemn ceremonies.
On May 5, 1846, the Rev. Jos. Ferneding went abroad and in the meantime Rev. J. Emig, S.J., assisted Father Hammer. On November 5th, the new organ was tried for the first time. It was built by Matthew Swab, at a cost of $2,800.00. From February 28th till March 8th, two Jesuit Fathers, F. X. Katcher and Martin Seisel, gave a mission. At these pious exercises over 2,000 people approached the Holy Sacraments. The annals of the year 1845 and 1846 make mention of the following assistants at the church: Revs. F. Patchewski, S.J., F. N. Wippern, S.J., and P. Martini, of Boston, and Fred. Zeller of St. Louis.
The New Rectory
At this time another new church took its origin from St. Mary’s and was erected in the near vicinity. Naturally, for convenience sake, many attended there; likewise too the number of school children decreased, and one classroom was discontinued. The school attendance at this time was 35 boys and 225 girls. At the end of the school term of this year Messrs. Anton Hemann and H. Schulthoff, teachers, resigned. In this year too an additional lot was purchased for the erection of a new parsonage. In this same year many beautiful donations were presented by the various church societies. St. Ann Married Ladies’ and St. Joseph Young Ladies’ Societies furnished two side altars, two large oil paintings for the main altar, some wall decorations as well as many beautiful and costly vestments, and St. John Married Men’s Society a handsome ciborium.
To get an adequate idea of the size of the parish at this time, it is well to look over the church records. There were two confraternities, namely that of the “Living Rosary” and the “Precious Blood,” having a total of 2,500 members. In this same year, 1846, there were 432 baptisms, 188 marriages and 250 funerals; the number of those who approached the sacred table was 10,000, a very large number, considering that Holy Communmon was not received as frequently as now. In September of the year 1847, the services of lay teachers for the school were discontinued and three Sisters of the Notre Dame took charge of the children, who numbered 600. During the year 1849, the Revs. P. Kroeger, M. Deselaers and W. Dieters were assistants here in the order named.
School for Boys
In October, the Rev. B. Elkman, assistant at Holy Trinity, was appointed assistant at St. Mary’s. On November 24th of this same year the Rt. Rev. Bishop Maurice de St. Paulais solemnly blessed three bells, which were cast by Geo. L. Hanks; he was assisted on this occasion by the Revs. Jos. Ferneding, W. Doyle of Vincennes, P. Kroeger of Holy Trinity, Kuhr of St. Philomena, Hammer and Elkman.
In the summer of the year 1851, the Rev. L. Kuepfer was appointed second assistant. The number of pupils attending the school was continually increasing, so that one building was not sufficient. On this account more property had to be purchased for the erection of a new school. Accordingly a piece of property was bought at the northwest corner of Twelfth and Clay Streets, at the cost of about $6,000, on which site a school building was erected at the cost of about $6,000.
Brothers of Mary
This building was to serve the purpose of a boys’ school and was placed in charge of the Brothers of Mary, the first brother superior being Brother Maximin Zebler. In 1856 the Rev. Fr. Karel was appointed assistant pastor and in 1859 the Rev. Anthony Berman. In 1860 the Rev. C. Hammer returned to Europe to remain, and accordingly a new pastor was appointed, namely the Rev. B. Elkman. In the following years, till the year 1865, the following priests assisted in the order named: the Revs. Gerhard Uhling amid Jos. Jacobs, C.S.S.C.
The Second Pastor
The number of families was still increasing, so much so, that it became a necessity to enlarge the church. Work was therefore begun on the addition in 1864; forty-eight feet being added to the old structure, making the entire length of the church 190 feet. On July 2, 1865, the church was blessed by the Most Rev. Archbishop Purcell, and the altars also were consecrated. The celebrant at the Solemn Pontifical Mass on this occasion was the Rt. Rev. Bishop Syl. H. Rosencrans; he was assisted by the following:
Archpriest, Rev. Eusebitis Schmidt, O.F.M.; Deacon, Rev. J. Albrinck; Subdeacon, Rev. Geo. Glass; the Revs. B. Wiseman and Geo. Ahrens were Masters of Ceremonies.
Present in the sanctuary were the Revs. Jos. Ferneding, Dr. Pabisch, H. Johansing, B. Ghels, B. Elkman and G. Ubling. The sermon on this occasion was preached by the Rev. Jos. Ferneding, who was at that time Vicar General of the Diocese. The choir, under the direction of Prof. Brusselbach, sang Beethoven’s Mass in C. The services concluded with Te Deum, sung by all present. Before the ceremonies there was a grand parade, participated in by all male societies in the city, twenty-four in all. For the occasion the entire church as well as the altars had been remodeled and beautified; likewise a new parsonage had been erected. The total cost of all the improvements made, including also the erection of the parsonage, was $30,000.
The Third Pastor
In the year 1870, the Revs. B. Menge and H. Mueller were appointed assistants. In the year 1881, the Rev. B. Elkman, after presiding as pastor of the church for twenty-one years, resigned on account of ill health and old age. He went to St. Elizabeth Hospital, Covington, Ky., and thence to St. Mary Hospital on Betts Street where he died October 15, 1885. He was loved by all in life and mourned in death, espcially by the people of St. Mary congregation, who showed him all the honors possible. His memory still lingers in the hearts of those who knew him. The Rev. B. Menge was appointed the next pastor. He was assisted, till the year 1888, by Rev. H. Mueller, who went to Taylor Creek; Rev. F. Lamping succeeded him and remained till 1891, when he was made assistant at St. Augustine’s; the Rev. H. Ellerbrock of Holy Trinity Church. Dayton, succeeded him in 1891.
The Golden Jubilee
In 1890, work on the remodeling of the church was begun, in order that all might be in readiness for the Golden Jubilee celebration. The interior of the church was completely remodeled, after the plan designed by Rev. B. Menge, personally. Arches were formed above the windows, as well as in the ceiling itself, that all might harmonize and be in conformity with Roman Basilica style; even the decorations themselves were to conform with this style. The altars were repainted; the pulpit, confessionals and stations were renovated. An opening was made in the ceiling above the sanctuary in which a stained glass window was placed, in order to illuminate the sanctuary, which was very dark. New pews and new flooring were put in, as well as a new heating system. Changes also were made in the doors and windows of the front of the church and in the vestibules. The total cost of these changes amounted to about $20,000, most of which was made up by cash subscriptions from members of the congregation.
The day of the jubilee was indeed a gala one for the congregation as well as for the Catholics of the city itself. The church was beautifully decorated with flags and bunting and evergreen; the houses in the neighborhood too were bedecked in festive attire.
A Solemn High Mass, in the presence of the Bishop, was celebrated at 9:30 a.m. by Rev. J. C. Albrinck; he was assisted by the Revs. J. H. Schoenhoft of St. Lawrence Church as Deacon, and J. H. Burwinkel of St. Joseph Foundling Asylum as Subdeacon the Rev. Schapmann, S.J., President of St. Xavier College, was Archpriest; the Revs. H. Ellerbrock and F. Lamping were Masters of Ceremonies. Present in the sanctuary were the Revs. Jerome Kilgenstein, O.F.M., H. J. Ferneding, F. Lasance, H. Quatman, Chas. Hickey, Aug. Meyer, C. Wiederholt, B. Roesencr, F. Vareliuan, Theobald, O.F.M., A. Druffner and XV. i~rince, S.J. The sermon was preached by the Rev. A. Stuhl, a Redemptorist. A short address was made by the Most Rev. Archbishop, blessing was given, and the service concluded with a solemn Te Deum.
Death of Father Menge
In the year 1897, a sad incident occurred. It was the first and only death of a priest at St. Mary’s.
It was a Sunday morning, after he had preached upon the General Judgment, that the Rev. Pastor, B. J. Menge, was called to his reward. He was found sitting dead in a chair by Father Tieman; he held in his hand the divine office, having been called while praying to his God. He was mourned by all of his parishioners and by many friends, for his affability had won for him a warm place in their hearts. He had accomplished much good both spiritually and temporally for the parish during his stay of twenty-eight years at St. Mary’s, seventeen of which he served as pastor. The Rev. Louis Tieman, who had been appointed assistant in 1898, took charge of the parish during its vacancy.
The Fourth Pastor
In the year 1898, the Rev. B. Moeller, a brother to the Most Rev. Archbishop, and later Chancellor of the Diocese, was appointed pastor. During the first years of his pastorate, the Franciscan Fathers assisted at the church. In the year 1900, the Rev. Julius Meyer was appointed assistant. He served as assistant for five years, when on account of ill health he had to go West. His successor was the Rev. Nicholas Schneider, who remained till the year 1909. The Rev. C. Viel succeeded Fr. Schneider and remained till the year 1916.
During the pastorate of Father Modler, the church debt was entirely liquidated. A piece of property was bought immediately adjoining the church ; the church had been washed twice and the exterior painted; the yards of both schools were paved with cement and other extensive improvements made. During his time, the altars were illuminated with electric lights, as well as the statues and the church itself; the same being the gift of a great benefactor of the church, the lately deceased Mrs. T. Klimper.
The Reverend Joseph H. Albers, later Bishop of the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, served for a short time as assistant pastor with Father Bernard Moeller. In 1915, Father Moeller, who had been pastor of St. Mary Church for nineteen years, resigned because of ill health. Father Joseph Albers was appointed to serve the parish until a new pastor took charge.
On October 1, 1916, the Reverend Joseph T. Duerstock was appointed as pastor of St. Mary Church, with Rev. Leo H. Heile as assistant priest.
The name of Father Duerstock was almost synonymous with St. Mary Parish during the next quarter of a century. He left his birth place in Germany, Neuenkirchen, Oldenburg, at the age of eighteen years. His scholastic term in high school and college completed, he planned to continue his preparation for the priesthood in America. Every young man, physically able, was conscripted for military service at the age of eighteen years. Father Duerstock, with an ardent desire in his heart to be a priest, quietly bid his parents a good-bye (God be with you) and left home to cross the borderline of Germany and Holland.
Here his plans to escape from the military term in Germany was almost thwarted by the custom officer who discovered in his possession a large portion of bread and a good brand of sausage. His evasive reply was “to eat on my journey into Holland and return.” But he returned only years later to visit his home and relatives. He reached Cincinnati in the Autumn of 1893. Here he was taken under the care and direction of Reverend John C. H. Albrinck, Pastor of Holy Trinity Church. Father Duerstock was immediately enrolled in the seminary as a young student “just over from Germany.”
After his course of theological studies, he was ordained by Archbishop Elder, June 15, 1904. His first appointment was assistant priest with Monsignor Joseph Pohlschneider at St. Paul Church, Spring and Twelfth Streets. While here he also served as chaplain for the Ursuline Sisters, Ursuline Academy, Oak Street and Reading Road. In 1912, Father Duerstock was assigned as pastor at St. James Church, White Oak. During his pastorate at White Oak, the beautiful school building was erected. The late Most Reverend Moeller appointed him pastor of St. Mary Church, Thirteenth and Clay Streets, in 1916, where he remained until his death on December 2, 1941.
In 1917, St. Mary Church, the seventy-five years old church, was one of the largest downtown parishes in Cincinnati. Within sound of its bells resided many of Cincinnati’s prominent families of German descent. One of Father Duerstock’s tasks was to fittingly commemorate this Diamond Jubilee of St. Mary Church. The seventy-fifth anniversary of his church was the burning thought in his mind during the first year of his pastorate.
With the support and interest of St. Mary’s people he planned to celebrate the approaching Jubilee. The church and other buildings were cleaned and redecorated for the occasion. Several hundred of St. Mary’s former parishioners rallied around tile church and school of their childhood days. The first Sunday in October, 1917, was selected as the Jubilee Day. A Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving was offered tip to God at 10:30 a.m., October 2, 1917. Rev. Albert Huesmaun, a boy of the parish, was the Celebrant of the Mass; Deacon, Rev. John G. Stein; Subdeacon, Rev. Nicholas Schneider; Master of Ceremonies, Rev. Joseph Tieken. There were 19 priests in the sanctuary. Rev. Leonard Nurre, O.F.M., preached the sermon. The afternoon was graced by the presence of the Most Reverend Archbishop Henry Moeller who was Celebrant at Solemn Vespers.
Rt. Rev. Msgr. J. B. Murray, Vicar General of the Diocese was present as assistant to the Archbishop. The Deacons of Honor were Rev. George Meyer and Rev. Bernard Moeller, who had been pastor of St. Mary Church. Rev. Louis Bergheger was Deacon and Rev. George Steinkamp was Subdeacon. The Masters of Ceremonies were Rev. Joseph Tieken and Rev. Nicholas Schneider. His Grace, the Archbishop, preached the festive sermon. Thirty-five priests were present to commemorate the joyful Jubilee of Cincinnati’s second largest Church.
The special program sung by St. Mary’s Choir is still memorable in the hearts of some of the choir members. After the services St. Francis College Band gave a concert to honor the people of St. Mary Parish. On Monday a Solemn Requiem Mass was offered by Father Duerstock, the new Pastor, for the deceased members and benefactors of St. Mary Parish. He was assisted by Rev. George Steinkamp as Deacon and Rev. Louis Bergheger as Subdeacon.
This happy occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary placed a feeling of parochial attachment in the hearts of the people, as well as a joyful pride in the hopes of the new pastor, Father Duerstock.
During the next twenty-five years of Catholic Faith at St. Mary Church, Father Duerstock was deeply loved as a priest by people of all religious creeds; as a confessor by thousands who loved him for his consolation and patience; by his parishioners as they prayed and worshipped with him at St. Mary’s Altar. His zeal and ambitions were to give to God the fullness of devotion and the beauty of the ceremonial ritual, so expressive of the Catholic religion. To him St. Mary Church was the throne of God—and he led his people to kneel before this throne.
Along with the spiritual life of St. Mary Church, which was Father Duerstock’s foremost concern, there were many repairs and material improvements directed by him and his Board of Lay Advisors. New heating systems were installed in the rectory and the Brothers’ House. In 1925, new roofs were placed on the entire Church and Schools; all the buildings were painted and cleaned in the interior. Again in 1929, several extensive improvements were made: an automatic stoker and coal burner at the price of $1395.00; repairs and ventilators were inserted in the large church windows. As a result of a close friendship between August Teismann, this generous and loyal member of St. Mary parish presented a new organ at the cost of $17,249.00. St. Mary Church now possesses the second largest pipe-organ in Cincinnati. During this same year, hardwood floors were laid throughout the Church. Again, in 1932, the entire group of buildings were painted and cleaned; the altars, statues and stations were redecorated.
The records of Father Duerstock’s pastorate of twenty-five years at St. Mary Church present a humble story of prayer, devotion and service to his duties. His character and zeal were best portrayed by his patience as a confessor; his love for devotion and splendor in the services of his Church—and a special fatherly interest in the First Holy Communion groups of his children. When his body was laid in the casket before the altar he loved so dearly, the thousands of tearful eyes that passed by his coffin manifested the devotion that existed between him and his neighbors.
In 1941, the malady that claimed his life, appeared—and he was a sick man. During the month of August he was persuaded to enter St. Mary Hospital. Death finally came to the patient sufferer about 9:00 a.m., December 2, 1941. His body was laid out before the altar at which he had offered the Sacrifice of the Mass until Friday when the Solemn Requiem was sung.
His Grace, the Archbishop, was present to pay tribute to one of his faithful priests. Bishop Rehring, assisted by brother priests of Father Duerstock, offered the Mass. There were approximately eighty priests present—and the vast Church was filled with people of all the walks of life-every one a friend to Father Duerstock. His body was laid to rest in a crypt of the Mausoleum in St. Joseph Cemetery.
Father Duerstock’s last will and testament portrays the thought and hopes of a “man of God.”
“In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. I give my soul to the merciful God, and my body to the earth until the day of the Resurrection.”
On December 11, 1941, His Grace, the Archbishop, appointed Rev. Edward Stuhlmueller as successor to Father Duerstock. Once more St. Mary Church has spanned a quarter of a century to glory in another Jubilee—the Centennial Year. The good people, both present and f ormer parishioners, have contributed and saved $7000.00 to restore the massive beauty of the old Church which they call their own—where they were born, or haptized, or schooled, or married.
May the Blessed Mother of God look down upon this Church, dedicated one hundred years ago as a throne for Her Divine Son—and may She bless us and the people who kneel before this throne.
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
In the year 1840, the Most Reverend John Baptist Purcell, Bishop of Cincinnati, requested Mother Ignatius, Superior-General of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to send some sisters to the new Cincinnati Diocese for the education of children. Bishop Purcell had personally visited their convent at Namur in Belgium. Eight Sisters were selected for the mission in Cincinnati.
In August of 1840, the eight chosen ones assembled at Namur in order to make a retreat in preparation for the new life in America that was to be theirs. It took them six weeks to cross the Atlantic Ocean; and two weeks from New York to Cincinnati. By Christmas. they were established in the “house on Sixth Street.”
Later it was called the Sixth Street Convent. In 1846, Father Clemens Hammer, pastor of St. Mary Church, the second church erected in Cincinnati for German-speaking Catholics, asked the Sisters of Notre Dame to teach the girls of his parish school. Three sisters, who knew the German language, took charge and went back and forth to St. Mary School each day. From that time, until now, these good self-sacrificing sisters have been teaching the three R’s and religion in the School of St. Mary’s.
May the thousands of Catholic women—grandmothers, mothers and daughters—look back with deep gratitude and fond memories of their school days at St. Mary’s—with the Sisters of Notre Dame!
The Society of Mary
The Society of Mary was founded at Bordeaux. in France, by the Very Reverend William Joseph Chaminade, Missionary Apostolic and Canon of the Cathedral of Bordeaux. The American province of the Society of Mary was established in the year 1849, during the lifetime of Father Chaminade, by one of his favorite disciples, the Reverend Leo Meyer.
In 1852, St. Mary’s School for Boys was accepted by the Society of Mary; and Brother Maximin Zebler was made its first director. The association of the Brothers of Mary with St. Mary’s School was always as teachers and directors of the boys. As the attendance declined, the number of brothers on the teaching faculty was reduced, until 1939, the Brothers left St. Mary School and the pupils, boys and girls, were transferred to one school building conducted by the Sisters of Notre Dame. The two buildings at Twelfth and Clay Streets still carry the names: ‘Boys School” and “Brothers House.”
The Second Largest Pipe Organ in Cincinnati
On the 12th day of July, 1929, a contract was signed by C. August Teismann and the Austin Organ Company of Hartford, Connecticut, to install St. Mary’s organ for the sum of $17,249.00. This organ has 2,275 stops; three manuals. compass CC to C4, 61 notes; penal, compass CCC to G, 32 notes.
The life story of C. August Teismaun, the donor of St. Mary’s organ can be briefly expressed: “immigrant, shoemaker, landlord and wealth.” At the age of 80 years, he said: “I am a fairly wealthy man now, and thought it was time to give something away. When I heard at the church that they wanted a new organ, I thought that was a splendid opportunity, so I gave $20,000.00 for a new organ. I have been going to St. Mary Church for perhaps forty years, and my wife went there all her life.
“I hope to live until next Christmas, for they are to dedicate the new organ then—and my good friend, Father Duerstock, says that he wishes me surely to be there—and I want to be there—and hear them sing to the organ tones: ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’.”
Mr. Teismann was present at Midnight Mass to hear the musical program played on “his organ,” as he proudly called it. The German immigrant, who started with a boot shop on the canal bank at Main and Canal Streets, died a rich man, December 10, 1932. From the deep tones, the gift to his Church, came the solemn dirge of his last Requiem.