Cincinnati, Ohio

Building God's Kingdom: United in Faith, Alive in the Spirit

History of Saint Clare Parish

St. Clare Centennial History Video by Bill Neus

In 1909 a Catholic Church Committee approached Archbishop Moeller claiming to represent about 20 families asking for a new parish to be established. This historic event took place in College Hill. Archbishop Moeller proposed the name of St. Clare for the College Hill parish and appointed a scholarly young priest, Fr. John G. Stein, a former professor at St. Gregory Seminary, as its first pastor.

Fr. Stein celebrated the first Mass for St. Clare Parish Sunday October 3, 1909 at 9:00 a.m. at Town Hall. The collection amounted to $19.13. About 125 persons attended the Mass.

Early in 1910 Fr. Stein asked Archbishop Moeller to relieve him of the responsibility of parish organization because of his failing health. The archbishop granted his request and named as his successor a seminary classmate of Fr. Stein's, Fr. Charles Diener, who remained our pastor for 46 years.

Fr. Diener enthusiastically endorsed the parishioners' preliminary plans for a temporary church. Meanwhile a temporary altar was set up in Town Hall every Sunday and Holyday.

A parcel of land adjacent to the present school building had been purchased in November, 1909, for $2000 from Newbold L. Pierson, a College Hill real estate broker. Within a month of his arrival in January, 1910, Fr. Diener was meeting regularly with the new church committee on details of the proposed church and on May 29, 1910 the white frame church capped by a modest steeple was dedicated by Monsignor John B. Murray, vicar general of the archdiocese.

Dedication of College Hill's first Catholic Church (the village was 70 years old) was an occasion of high celebration. More than 1,000 people took part in a parade prior to the ceremonies despite heavy rain. Fr. Diener celebrated Mass; Fr. George Schmidt preached in English and Fr. John Bussman in German.

Before the temporary church was completed additional property had been acquired on Cedar Avenue. A house on the lot nearest Salvia served as a residence for the pastor who had been living in a rented house near Town Hall; a house on the other segment was to provide quarters for the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg, who first came to St. Clare in 1911. With their help 63 children of the parish were prepared to receive Holy Communion for the first time on April 23, 1911. On September 11, 1911 Archbishop Moeller administered the sacrament of Confirmation for the first time.

Growth of the parish was steady, and the establishment of a parish school and building of a permanent church were foremost in the minds of the pastor and trustees. By the end of the first year, Fr. Diener could count 110 families... 94 English speaking, 15 German and 1 French. Five years later there were more than 200 families belonging to St. Clare with a total of more than 1000 persons.

Building The School

St. Clare Parish School formally opened September 9, 1912 with a High Mass of the Holy Ghost in the temporary church. There was no school building but there were nearly 50 pupils ready to begin and several Oldenburg Franciscan Sisters ready to greet them. Classes were conducted in the Sisters' residence and in the temporary church.

With the school well launched and additional property acquired for eventual expansion, the three year old parish turned its attention to plans for a permanent building to serve as church and school. The result was a brick and stone structure, which still serves as the core of the parish school building. Mass was first celebrated in the "first floor church" from October 3, 1915 until August 5, 1930, when a new basement church was opened for religious services. School classrooms were on the second floor of the two-story building, which has been a College Hill landmark for over 80 years.

Classes were begun a week late, September 14, in the fall of 1915. Enrollment was 116, but in the following year it was over 140. A four-classroom addition was built onto the south side of the building in 1961 at a cost of about $80,000 including furnishings. At that time 475 pupils were enrolled. In the 1960's enrollment remained high peaking at 536 in 1963, or about 12 times the 1912 total. However, by 1999 enrollment was 165 students.


(history continued)

Saint Clare Parish - College Hill - 1443 Cedar Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45224 - 513-541-2100