Old St. Mary’s Church, Over-the-Rhine, celebrates 175th Anniversary
There was a different kind of fireworks on the eve of the Fourth of July in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. A large gathering of the faithful at Old St. Mary’s Church in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati, celebrated the parish’s 175th Anniversary. Just as bells pealed in Philadelphia to announce independence for the new nation in 1776, toiling bells announced this most historic anniversary to Cincinnati.
Rose petals dotted the church steps as parishioners and guests walked in for the anniversary mass. A procession beginning with the American and Vatican flags and German society banners (a historically German parish, Old St. Mary’s still celebrates a Sunday Mass in German) began this celebration in grand form, with the hymn Ein Hus voll Glorie Schauet.
The Introit set the tone for the solemn celebration of the evening: O how dreadful is this place! This is the house of God, and gate of heaven; and men shall call it the palace of God. O how amiable are thy dwelling, O Lord of Hosts; my soul hath a desire and longing to enter into the courts of the Lord.
Old St. Mary’s pastor, Father Jon-Paul Bevak, climbed the steps to the ornate carved wooden pulpit to give his homily, following in the footsteps of the many priests who have given thousands of homilies over almost 200 years. He went through a brief history of this most sacred of spaces: The cornerstone was laid on the Feast of Annunciation, March 25, 1841. On a humid Sunday, July 3, 1842, a procession from the old Holy Trinity Church marched through Cincinnati — a first of its kind. Father Bevak said that the sermon by Father. M. Henni lasted almost two hours, and held the audience spellbound due to his oratorial ability. Father Bevak assured the faithful his preaching would not last that long.
Following communion, Father. Bevak made a Proclamation from The City of Cincinnati:
Be it proclaimed
Whereas: Old St. Mary’s Church in Over-the-Rhine is the oldest standing house of worship in the city of Cincinnati; and
Whereas: Old St. Mary’s Church was constructed by German immigrants in 1842, including the baking of the bricks in ovens of parishioners; and Whereas: Old St. Mary’s Church has the only weekly Sunday German Mass in the United States of America; and Whereas: It is fitting and proper that the Mayor and Council acknowledge Old St. Mary’s Church for its 175th Anniversary of service to Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine Catholic Community; and
Now, Therefore John Cranley Mayor of Cincinnati do hereby proclaim July 3, 2017 as
“Old St. Mary’s Day”
A reception followed the Mass in the parish’s courtyard. Special guest Alexa von Kuensberg, a parish council member for Old St. Peter’s Church in Munich, spoke. The parish is the oldest in Munich, and Old St. Mary’s helped it rebuild after World War II. Old St. Mary’s and Old St. have been Sister Parishes since 1992.
Von Kuensberg said that when Old St.Mary’s wrote to ask for a note of congratulations to read at the celebration, the parish decided to send a representative instead. She presented parishioners with a statue of the Blessed Mother, the patroness of Bavaria, as a gift and a renewal of friendship between the two churches.
Look for more about the Mass in the September issue of the Catholic Telegraph.