St. Antoninus Parish Celebrates 75 Years of Faith
by Erin Erin Schurenberg
St. Antoninus Parish marked 75 years as a community of faith during a special Mass on June 2. Bishop Joseph R. Binzer presided at the joyous liturgy assisted by Father Ron Haft, pastor.
“The most important thing is that we gather here to praise God, that Jesus continues to be with us in holy Eucharist,” said Father Haft, who was at St. Antoninus as a pastoral intern from 2004-05. He returned nearly two years ago to serve as pastor. He is the eighth pastor since the parish was founded.
Emphasizing the eucharistic focus is the stained glass window in the current church sanctuary. The window is in the shape of a host resting inside a chalice. Many pieces of colorful glass comprise the window, representing both Christ’s body and blood, but also, the diversity of the fellowship of the parish.
In May of 1944, with the construction of the future church nearing completion, Archbishop John T. McNicholas asked Father Carl Goeckeler, then pastor of St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, to establish St. Antoninus Parish. The following month, the archbishop dedicated the church and installed Father Goeckeler as pastor, a position he held for the next 23 years. Archbishop McNicholas chose to name the parish after St. Antoninus. (1389-1459), a Dominican friar from Florence, Italy.
When St. Antoninus School was to be opened in 1948, Archbishop McNicholas wanted Dominican sisters for the school staff. The Adrian Dominicans, with a motherhouse in Michigan, answered that call. A total of 31 sisters served the school from 1948 through 1974.
While St. Antoninus Church celebrates 75 years, the grade school’s 2019 eighth grade graduating class was the 70th one. The first graduation class was comprised of nine students. One of the graduates was John Keller. The following year, Mary Claire Buzek graduated. These two alums of St. Antoninus grade school would go on to marry a decade later and remain involved in the parish to this day.
Generations of families who sent their children to St. Antoninus grade school and remained lifelong parishioners was a theme recurrent in the stories of the visitors to the anniversary’s memorabilia artificat display in the church’s Holy Family Room.
Bev Meyer and her husband, Vince, became parishioners in 1964. Meyer visited the display on June 2 with her daughter, Cathy McDonald, a St. Antoninus grade school alum, along with her four adult children. This coming school year, McDonald’s grandson, AJ Cramer, will start kindergarten at St. Antoninus. “I can see God working in this parish,” McDonald said. “It’s great to be in church and see your parents and grandparents, but the church itself has become family.”
Longtime parishioner, Mary Lynne Fitzgerald, explained the distinction between “the basement church” and “the new church.” Formerly, only a basement-level existed. The “new church” was built in 1992. Of her six adult children, three were married in the basement church, while one who wed in September 1992 married in the “new church.”
Twins Adrian and Chase Huebner are incoming sophomores at Elder High School. Paging through vintage yearbooks, both brothers were impressed by the memorabilia. Chase Huebner said, “It’s cool to see how the school and church have changed. It’s quite a bit different from the blueprint on display from the original property.”
The Huebner twins have a younger brother currently enrolled at the grade school. Their mother, Amy Stiens Huebner, has a connection to St. Antoninus that started with her baptism and continues to the present.
The planning committee for the anniversary celebration held fundraisers to cover all costs. They collated all the materials for the memorabilia display. In January 2018, Sylvia Lonneman and Sue Horn, with support from their respective spouses, Bob and Lee, and other committee volunteers, began event planning. With archive work experience, Lonneman started the research at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati archives. She then used the resources of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library and the Adrian Dominicans’ archives. Lastly, she explored the holdings at St. Antoninus. The result of the extensive research was scores of documents, newspaper clippings and articles. Displays include vintage vestments, Vatican postage, ceramic plaques and a stunning chalice. Digging into the history literally resulted in the discovery of a silver-toned shovel from the 1991 groundbreaking for the $2 million campus expansion by Father Don McCarthy, who served as pastor from 1984 to 2003.
Aidan Huebner summed it up perfectly saying, “St. Antoninus has been here for 75 years and going strong. What’s stopping us from being here quite a bit longer?”