History Of St. Mary Parish
St. Mary Church began construction in 1941 with the help of an anonymous donor and a hard-working parish family. The property was purchased from $7,700 – a significant sum in those days. The very stones of the church came from nearby Clover Creek. Despite the strain of the war effort, parishioners donated time, money, and labor to help create a building where they could be proud to celebrate Mass.
On May 3, 1942, they enjoyed the fruits of their labor when Monsignor Joseph Schneider celebrated the first Mass in the completed St. Mary Church. Over the years, the church continued to grow and change. Pews eventually replaced the original chairs,kneelers were introduced, and the choir loft was added. In 1964,
Archbishop Alter blessed the parish center, and in 1988, the current rectory was built.
In 2005, the need for change became evident when St. Mary Parish began to share a priest with St. Peter Parish in New Richmond. With Father Don West administering the sacraments at both churches, there were fewer Masses at each location. St. Mary Church was no longer large enough to contain the congregation, and Mass was temporarily moved to the Bethel-Tate Middle School gymnasium. The parishioners turned a trying time into a chance to demonstrate patience and perseverance, enduring less-than-comfortable bleacher seats and pitching in to help set up and clean up the equipment needed for Mass.
Old meets new - The crucifix from the old church (Gathering Space) was moved to the new church (shown on the right). Beautiful wood furniture in the sanctuary was custom made by Jim Floyd using cherry trees from Buck and MaryJo Jarman's property.
Now, after more than seventy-five years when Monsignor Schneider laid the cornerstone of the church, St. Mary is celebrating with many of the original parishioners as well as many welcomed new families. With the grace of God and the continued pride and involvement of the parishioners, St. Mary Parish will remain a beacon of faith for many years to come.
History Of St. Peter
In late 1840, St. Peter Church used a building on the corner of Front and Race Street as the first meeting and worship place. Archbishop Purcell organized the St. Peter Society and purchased three lots from the McMurhy subdivision where the first church, rectory and convent were constructed on Plum and Willow Streets. That building was dedicated by Archbishop Purcell on November 10, 1850. Rev. Michael Herzog was the first permanent pastor. Under Rev. August Toebbe (second pastor), the St. Peter Cemetery was started on June 6, 1855. In January of 1884, the small church flooded for the first time.
In 1895, then pastor Rev. Bernard Muething saw the parish growing (125 families). A new church was built at Union and Willow Street and dedicated on May 23, 1897. On March 23-27th of 1913, “Ohio's Greatest Weather Disaster” occurred, where the Ohio River rose 21 feet in 24 hours. Considerable damage was done to the church and the convent collapsed. On October 20, 1929, the new school was dedicated (now the Light-Ashburn Municipal Building).
St. Peter's went through a number of devastating floods. On January 26, 1937, the Ohio River crested at 80 feet which is 28 feet over flood stage. On January 4, 1943 it crested at 61 feet (high enough to cover half the front church doors). March 7, 1945 it crested at 70 feet and damage to the floors was beyond repair and required replacement. On April 18, 1948, the river crested at 65 feet and once again was half way up the church doors. Similar floods occurred in 1958, 1962 and 1964. 73 years and too many floods meant that it was time to move!
In November of 1970, five acres was purchased up the hill for the present church. On October 31, 1971, the new church was dedicated. In 1980, then pastor Fr. Bill Kennedy started the first food pantry. That same year, the rectory was built. In 1988, the Grotto for Mary was built under the guidance of Rev. William Krumpe. Fr. Ted Kosse was pastor from 1989 to 2000 who provided organization to committees and commissions and helped them flourish.
On March 6, 1997, the Ohio River once again crested above its banks at 65 feet. St. Peter's was safe up on the hill this time. Parishioners worked diligently to help the other churches down in the village to recover and provided assistance to those in the community.
On September 17, 2000, St. Peter celebrated the 150th Anniversary Mass including Most Reverend Daniel E. Pilarcyk, assisted by Rev. Theodore Kosse and Rev. Gary Witsken. The picnic shelter was built for the occasion.
Throughout the Archdiocese Of Cincinnati, we have seen a dramatic decline in the number of priests that have resulted from those priests who have reached retirement age. Our continued prayers for vocations have brought positive results that have recently filled our local seminary, however, those men will not be active priests for a number of years. The result that we see throughout the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is pastoral regions where one pastor is responsible for two or more parishes.
Initially, Father Don West administered the sacraments and said Mass at both St. Peter and St. Mary. A year following the new St. Mary's construction, Fr. Michael Leshney took over both parishes, initially as administrator and later as pastor. Fr. Leshney helped to provide a more unified way to recognize our pastoral region. Under his guidance, St. Peter and St. Mary are known as the “Christ Catholic Community”. With the cooperation of members at both locations, we want those in the community to see our two parishes as a “Spiritual Oasis For Those Who Seek Christ”. On October 20, 2017, Fr. Leshney retired.
Following Fr. Leshney's retirement, Fr. Pat Crone became our temporary Parochial Administrator through December 31, 2017. Fr. Pat was the former pastor at St. Mary's decades ago and it was nice to have the short visit with him. January 1, 2018, Fr. Pat left to become the temporary Parochial Administrator at Immaculate Heart Of Mary in Anderson Township for three months. Effective January 1, 2018, Fr. Adam Puntel, pastor of two parishes, Holy Trinity (in West Union) and St. Mary Queen of Heaven (Peebles) was appointed our temporary Parochial Administrator. Fr. David Howard saw that our parishes were available and spoke with Archbishop Dennis Schnurr to see about being appointed our Parochial Administrator. The Archbishop agreed and we are very pleased to have Fr. David Howard with us.