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Victory dance: Tight-knit OLV community celebrates 175 years of faith and growth

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The Childrens Choir sings during Mass on the Feast of Our Lady of Victory at OLV Parish in Cincinnati. (CT Photo/E.L. Hubbard)

By Patricia McGeever

In 1842, a German farmer named Adam Emge donated land and logs to build a new parish church on Rapid Run Road in Delhi. From its humble beginnings as a log cabin to a parish campus that has several buildings, seven ballfields, and a cemetery on more than 23 acres, Our Lady of Victory Parish just celebrated 175 years of faith. It is the third oldest parish in Hamilton County. Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr closed out the celebration year with a Mass on Oct. 8.

“In 1842, we were St. Stephen’s Parish,” said Kathy Lynn, music teacher at the school and unofficial parish historian.  “When they built the first brick church in 1854, that priest was ordained at a church named Our Lady of Victory in France. So he requested to have the church dedicated to Our Lady of Victory.”

Delhi was a farming community in the 1800s and the nearest Catholic parish was in downtown Cincinnati. In 1834, some farmers were tired of making that trip every Sunday. They decided they’d meet each week at the home of a man named Philip Owens, and The Roman Catholic Society of Delhi Township was born. It would be eight years before the Society would officially become a parish.

In the early years, OLV was a German-speaking parish. “When you look at the baptismal records, they were in German,” said Father James Reutter, the parish’s 28th and third-longest-serving pastor. “Some of the original pastors were German immigrants.”

The archives also reveal what life was like in the early days.

“Farmers were petitioning the priest that the Masses weren’t early enough because they needed to be out in the field,” said Father Reutter. “They wanted a 5:30 or 6 a.m. Mass, and the priest wasn’t cooperating, so they were complaining about that.”

Many of the early pastors were Franciscans, as were the sisters who taught at the parish school. They came from Oldenburg, Ind., and were required to teach German along with reading, writing, math and religion. The school currently has more than 410 children and the parish added a preschool this year.

The parish moved to its current location on Neeb Road when another parishioner, Johann Gerteisen, donated the land. The log cabin was taken apart, rolled up the hill. and reassembled. It was replaced by the first brick church in 1854.

Our Lady of Victory is one of the few parishes with its own cemetery. The earliest recorded grave is that of a little boy who died in 1854 when he was only a year and a half old. The cemetery is more than 13 acres in size, with more than 4,300 graves. More than 1,000 plots are still available.

“The cemetery used to be in front of the church in the 1850s,” Lynn said, but the graves had to be moved to their present location when the parish built a new church in 1907. Growth continued, and for a time Mass was said both in the church and in the east wing of the school, which served as a church in the early 1960s.

The current church was built in 1979. It was renovated last year in preparation for the anniversary. One of the more notable changes was the addition of a center aisle. New tile work was done, the pews were refurbished, and space for a baptismal font was created. The parishioners also worked to leave a legacy on the campus for the next generation, building a Marian grotto and, next to it, a Rosary Walk. A small outdoor amphitheater for use as an outdoor classroom was built behind the parish office and a naturescape playground is being planned.

In keeping with the heritage of the parish, a German-themed Gala fundraiser was held earlier in the year. The theme of the anniversary year was “Faith, Family and Future.” After 175 years, Father Ruetter said, there is a strong sense of tradition in the parish.

“Very tight-knit families helped nurture an environment where they want to pass on the traditions of their faith and catholic culture from one generation to the next,” he said. “They know they have something valuable, their faith and their families, and they want to keep it strong.

“I went to school here,” said Andy Spinney, the parish’s director of planning, involvement and development. “I loved coming back here to work here. I’m very passionate about this place. My first job was working on these fields. There are a lot of people that I went to school with whose kids are going to school here now.”

They aren’t the only ones. Some families reach back as far as eight generations. That includes the family of Adam Emge, the original donor – whose descendants are currently enrolled in preschool and the second grade.

     Weekend Masses at Our Lady of Victory Church are held at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and at 8:45 and 11 a.m. on Sunday. For more about the parish and school, visit OLVdelhi.org.

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr Mass at Our Lady of Victory Parish for its 175th anniversary on the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. CT PHOTO/E.L. HUB BARD
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