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St. Margaret of York celebrates 25 years of faith

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

By Carmen M. Hubbard

ST. ANDREW DEANERY — What began as a parish of 10 families who met at each other’s homes has grown into a congregation of 1,800 families at St. Margaret of York Parish in Loveland.

“It was wonderful, we had lots of fun. I thought every Catholic should have to start a parish,” said Nancy Chalifoux, one of the original families who began St. Margaret of York. “A parish is not a building. That’s not what makes the parish. It’s the people.”

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk was joined by former pastors and associate pastors of St. Margaret of York Parish for the faith community’s 25th anniversary Mass. Pictured from left are Father Robert Obermeyer, Deacon Ray Kroger, Father Joseph Kindel, Father James Weber, Father Thomas Kreidler and Father Jan Schmidt, current pastor. (Courtesy photo)

St. Margaret of York marked its 25th anniversary on March 24 with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk. Former pastors and associate pastors also returned for the anniversary Mass and reception that followed.

“As one of the youngest parishes in the archdiocese, the 25th anniversary was an opportunity to celebrate a milestone with folks who were here from the beginning,” said Father Jan K. Schmidt, pastor of St. Margaret of York. “It has been good to hear about the hard work that went into the establishment of this community, from the mouths of those who actually experienced it, and to listen to the pride with which they speak on having accomplished a great deal in building up a large and active Catholic parish community in a short period of time.”

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk announced the formation of a new Catholic parish to serve the growing population in northeast Cincinnati in December of 1983. The archbishop named the new parish after St. Margaret Clitherow. The first pastor, the late Father John Roettle, then mailed letters to area families as a means of recruiting volunteers to help build the parish.

“We were asked what we wanted. We said we wanted pews with kneelers and a school,” Chalifoux said. “We all assumed we the archdiocese would provide it. We had to come up with the money.”

Having had no experience in creating a parish, St. Margaret parishioners remained focused on building a church. They met for the first time at Chalifoux’s home at the end of 1983. Starting from scratch meant finding singers to form a choir, finding a minister of music as well as an organist, and creating other ministries. St. Margaret of York’s next move was to Father Roettle’s home at the rectory. Parishioners took turns answering the phone as their congregation continued to grow.

On May 6, 1984, the first Mass was held at Kings Middle School with a few dozen families present. After the sudden death of Father Roettle in August of that same year, Father Robert Obermeyer was named pastor. As parish ministries were established, space was still limited so the groups met in the rectory and even parishioners’ homes. Although education was a priority, construction of a church to meet the need for worship space came first. Meanwhile, religious education programs were formed, using teachers’ homes as classrooms.

St. Margaret of York parishioners Don, Madison and Karen Rohlfs chat with Father Anthony Brausch, weekend celebrant at the parish, during a reception following the 25th anniversary Mass. (Courtesy photo)

The church was dedicated on Sept. 11, 1988. St. Margaret of York School started the following year, although kindergarten had been taught at the parish since 1985. By October 1992 the first phase of the education center had been dedicated, with additional phases added in 1994 and 1996.

Parishioners who were part of the founding of St. Margaret of York have fond memories of its beginnings. “I wanted to get involved with the parish. It was a really wonderful experience,” said Donna Conte of Maineville and an original parishioner. “We started with 30 families (at Kings Mill Middle School) and now we have 1,800 families. Everybody is very caring and there’s still a lot of opportunities to get involved.”

Father Tom Kreidler, who served as pastor of St. Margaret of York for 12 years, remembered watching the school’s first eighth-grade class graduation. “They (the parishioners) were great and still are,” he said. “That’s still one of the things about St. Margaret that I liked from the very beginning.”

As the parish and school continued to grow, Father Kreidler, who is now pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Anderson Township, recalls that members of St. Margaret of York were always very generous in their outreach to the poor. “They were very conscious of the universal church,” he said.

Today, the parish, whose motto remains, “Reaching out to those in need,” features a chapel, a nursery and youth room, a hospitality room and a parish library, as well St. Margaret of York School, which serves some 800 students.

St. Margaret York office manager Andela Bischoff, a 10-year parishioner, described the church environment as warm and welcoming.

“The way we’ve been welcomed here has just been phenomenal. Between the spirit and social support you find here, it’s kind of like home away from home,” she said.

Reflecting on the parish’s beginnings and the past quarter century Chalifoux said, “We had a common cause and we could see change on a daily basis. There wasn’t a lot of bickering or arguing. None of us knew what to do. We visited other parishes. It’s been a wonderful 25 years.”

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