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The Priesthood is Growing

One would be hard pressed to guess the century, much less a particular decade or year, watching the group of four young men engaged in quiet conversation walking across the timeless campus. Their cassocks softly sweep at the ground as the fireforged yellows and reds of the setting sun give way to a still and calm twilight blue that settles like a veil. Perhaps they are headed to Bar Jonah, the Athenaeum of Ohio’s inhouse pub reserved for the seminarians and priests who keep room and board onsite. Or maybe they are going to the library to study for an exam after vespers.

Yet, it is clear that wherever this meandering gait leads them for the evening, they have their sights set on a goal significantly beyond this moment. They are searching out their holy orders. Specifically, they are there to be formed into our new priests.


As tranquil and eternal as the Athenaeum of Ohio’s facade appears, there is an energized current of potential and momentum that is palpable even in the evening calm. During the work day, the site is not at all quiet. The Athenaeum, specifically the seminary division,  Mount St. Mary of the the West,  is bursting at the seams.

Archbishop Schnurr introduced the Prayer for Vocations (2011) which we now say at every Sunday Mass in all the archdiocese parishes. Fr. Ben O’Cinnsealaigh— former seminary rector and Athenaeum president for 7 years— labored with a dogged determination aided by grit, charm, and keen acumen to grow enrollment and draw new seminarians. Fr. Brausch succeeded Fr. O’Cinnsealaigh in 2018 as rector and president of the Athenaeum. While new to his current position, he has been instrumental in the blossoming and growth now taking place having served as vice- rector and director of both the seminary and the permanent diaconate program since 2011. It is under his current leadership that the Archdiocese of Cincinnati expects to ordain its largest class of priests in over 40 years.

The electric spark of hope in the air is not composed only of prayer and fine leadership, indispensable as they are. It is also constructed and nourished by bulldozers, hardhats carpenters and engineers.

It is the  funds provided by the faithful, by generous donors, that bring to fruition God’s plans in the most practical and concrete of ways. It enables the faith to bring more into the fold and build the future of the Church, quite literally, one stone at a time. The record breaking classes of seminarians streaming into the Athenaeum has brought to a head a much welcomed problem. More room is needed! Construction for a new seminary residence hall, Fenwick Hall, is currently underway so when the 90+ seminarians immerse themselves into their formation process becoming our next generation of priests, we will have made them welcome in their new home. The Athenaeum conducted a separate capital campaign to fund the project.


The construction has been thoughtfully designed to keep within the style of the current architecture. The stone and tenor remain the same— timeless in beauty and the purpose served. This thoughtful and forward looking stewardship which has brought us this far will continue to bear fruit far into the future. It is easy to imagine this time to come. Seventy, eighty, or maybe even a hundred years from now— long after most of us are gone— there will be a group of young men walking across the grounds. Their black cassocks will sweep noiselessly along the walkways as they return from evening prayer. Maybe they are on the way to study in the library.  Or maybe they are going to Bar Jonah for rousing theological conversation over a pitcher of good beer, part of an eternal line of an eternal order. Let us pray for all the priests and seminarians. And let us also pray for all of those who made their path possible.

Written by: Rebecca Sontag

Photos by: Margaret Swensen


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Catholic Charities “Food for All” Serving the Poor and Vulnerable

Bethel means, “House of God.” True to its name, the small hamlet of Bethel found in rural Clermont County is home to many churches, most a mere stone’s throw from one to the next. Yet, St. Mary’s Catholic Church— built from 1941 to ’42— is not among them.

The very same year a young John F. Kennedy was volunteering for wartime service in the US Navy, this small Catholic community in Clermont County was denied permission to build their much wanted church within the village limits. They had demonstrated their need for the church. They had procured the funding and the bishop’s blessing. But they did not have permission from the town. At that time, they were simply not welcome. That is why this particular “house of God” is, to this very day, located just outside the official village limits.

FFA Bethel Group Shot

Feeding the Body of Christ

Scott Stephens knew of St. Mary’s in Clermont County through his work with Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio (CCSWO) as Director of Parish Outreach. He visited parish after parish— beautiful rolling farmland, forests, villages, suburbs, towns and cities— listening to their stories. Hearing firsthand of the particular struggles and joys shared in the recounted experiences, hunger was a frequently mentioned theme in many rural counties, too. Limited employment opportunities, transportation difficulties, food deserts, poor health and illness, human tragedy, bad luck: the struggles revealed were many and varied. Yet, with all those struggles, hunger and food insecurity was an ever-present and looming threat.

From this, “Food for All,” a mobile food pantry, was born some three years ago. Funding supplied by the  “One Faith, One Hope, One Love” (1FHL) capital campaign provided Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio the ability to serve residents in need. The pantry makes regular monthly stops in the counties of Adams, Brown, Highland, Clinton and Clermont to distribute a week’s worth of shelf-stable goods, produce, eggs, meat and other fresh foods for the families they serve.

Even with the generous funding of 1FHL, Catholic Charities can’t do this alone. Debbie DePuccio, the office manager at St. Mary’s, helps coordinate other volunteers from the parish when it is time for the pantry to make its monthly Bethel visit. And most of the volunteers Debbie wrangled together are from Bethel with a good showing from the parish. But they’re not all from St. Mary’s. Some of the volunteers are from the Methodist Church in town. Folks from the Nazarene Church and others can be counted on to help, too. Friends, neighbors, and strangers alike— churched and unchurched— come through the well-organized operation, choosing from a wide variety of high quality and healthy foods to help them feed their families.

The environment provided is upbeat and fun. The mood is positive and encouraging. In Clermont County it’s at St. Mary’s. But in Brown County, the pantry sets up at the Methodist Church, while the Clinton County stop is at the Morningview Apartments. Regardless of the particular location for the day, the coordinator from Catholic Charities will be working alongside the parish point-people and all the volunteers there to help: unloading the truck, setting up the tables, collecting the boxes, handing out numbers and lending an ear. Through their efforts and with the generous support from the 1FHL campaign, furrowed brows and slumped shoulders turn into smiles and fellowship. Volunteers carry boxes of food to the cars of their client families with a week’s worth of food all packed up and ready to go. This extension of corporal mercy not only cultivates discipleship, but strengthens community as well. Kindness is given, dignity is respected and the love of Christ is expressed and freely given.

Those seventy-eight years since St. Mary’s was obligated to build outside the village limits has brought much change both locally and to the wider world. That dashing young Catholic serviceman from the Navy became a war hero and was elected the first Catholic president of the United States. St. Mary’s grew so much they needed to enlarge the church as they came to be a vital and life giving presence in the community, regardless of property lines. And “Food for All” has provided hundreds of thousands of meals for these local families. Knowing this, the unofficial slogan of CCSWO seems all the more true as they state, “We don’t serve you because you are Catholic; we serve you because we are.”

For more information, please visit:

Written by: Rebecca Sontag


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School of Faith

A tall man with a long beard stood by the banks of the Jordan River this past June with a ball cap perched on his head blocking the wash of white sunlight from his eyes while clutching a bible in his hand. Before him were the pilgrims— faculty and staff from Catholic schools from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati— listening intently as John Leyendecker, the man in the cap, led them in reflection at one of Christendom’s most holy sites. They collectively pondered and considered the Baptizing of Jesus by John the Baptist as they sat together at the edge of that sacred location. The group leader, Mr. Leyendecker addressed the pilgrims as they attentively listened while the river water flowed past only yards away. And though all ears were tuned in to Mr. Leyendecker, it was impossible to ignore the poignant backdrop of a group of young men garbed all in white being Baptized that very day in those very same waters which washed over our Lord those 2000 or so years ago.

SOF Pilgrimage 4

The School of Faith (first established by Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City, 2005) was invited to minister to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati by way of invitation and endorsement from Archbishop Dennis Schnurr in 2015 and now receives sustaining funding from the “One Faith, One Hope, One Love Campaign.” The purpose and mission of the School of Faith is to:

…Provide doctrinal and spiritual formation for Catholics through catechetical programs that stress the call to prayer, virtue, and holiness of life, with a particular emphasis on mentoring those who have the responsibility to teach the faith to others, with the goal of renewing the culture of our Catholic schools and individuals.

And that is what Mr. Leyendecker, Cincinnati Mission Director for the School of Faith, was doing that day as he led educators in prayer, meditation and reflection as they walked the very ground once tread by Jesus, His Holy Mother and the Apostles.

It is little wonder that the pilgrims, that is, our local Catholic school teachers and catechists, return saying things such as, “Life changing!” and “Transformational!” after having come home from the 9-day trip to Israel.


Christina Riggins, assistant principal at St. James School in White Oak writes, “This experience makes all you have ever know about your faith and the life of Jesus Christ come to life and become so real.” It is this reality of Jesus, Jesus who is alive and present, that an energized Mrs. Riggins brings back to her students.

Lisa Fletcher, of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, shares with us in a video of “Pilgrimage Reflections,” her striking insights regarding the rewards of the trip:

Jesus is loving relationships… Jesus is self-sacrifice… Everything that I think that Jesus is, always comes back to relationship.


            This pilgrimage, this whole thing is critical for our schools: to live as a disciple and to bring this back, to live it, to be a role model.

SOF Pilgrimage

The strangers being Baptized that day last June waited their turn to be born anew as children of God while standing chest high in the River Jordan. The concentric circles and little lapping waves their bodies made intersected and rippled far beyond their small group. Soon would come the moment when the sacrament would be performed thereby beginning their new lives in Christ.

Likewise, the contingent of faculty and staff in attendance from our Archdiocese schools were preparing to begin a journey along the same theme. They, too, would be leaving that holy site to begin their new lives as disciples whose faith and spiritual selves had been set aflame by the experience. And with that new fire came a renewed calling, not to keep this transformative growth to themselves, but to bring it to their colleagues, their students, their families and neighbors. It was time for them to take what they had learned back across the water to their own shores, schools, and homes.

This newly kindled purpose set alight in these educators is not left to sustain itself.  They gather within their particular schools for follow-up sessions and small group discussions led by Mr. Leyendecker. They meet with other program participants for fellowship and sharing witness to the ripples of positive change they’ve brought forth to themselves and those around them. They share their struggles and their successes. But most importantly, they share their faith.

Thank you to the generous donors for continuing to support the “One Faith, One Hope, One Love Campaign” which makes this incredibly valuable and worthwhile program possible.

For more information on the “School of Faith,” please visit

or contact:

Written by: Rebecca Sontag


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Still-changing needs at St. Boniface Parish

The Beginning of the Road

The elegantly grand and solidly constructed stone buildings of St. Boniface Parish sit aloft a terraced slope keeping an ever-steady and unwavering watch over the prettily painted Victorian homes pressed right against the foot of the hill. Sundays, holy days, and all days in Northside, a bustling and eclectic Cincinnati neighborhood, St. Boniface has served as a spiritual home for its parishioners generation upon generation. Countless families have celebrated the Holy Sacraments under the red clay-tiled roof since its completion in 1927.


(The exterior of St. Boniface Church. Catholic Telegraph Photo by E.L. Hubbard)

Still today, you can find older life-long parishioners who were Baptized as infants at St. Boniface back when it still smelled of new construction and before the days of hospital births. Dependably and carefully, albeit a pace slowed by age, arthritis and time, they can be witnessed navigating the steps and making the climb to enter the church that has overseen their Confirmations and Marriages. It’s where these men and women came for the funeral Masses of their parents. It’s where their own children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were Baptized, Married, and Confirmed. The 1934-built school, where they and their loved ones were educated by the Sisters of Charity, still provides careful spiritual formation and a quality education. Both parish children and the wider neighborhood as well, over 90% of whom are at or below poverty level, benefit greatly from St. Boniface School offering an exemplary alternative to the poorly rated public-school option.

St. Boniface Parish has a long and dedicated history, stretching over 150 years, of meeting the changing needs of her parishioners. In the 1850s, when Northside was just a small village known as Cumminsville, there came an influx of Catholic immigrants. A good number of them were Irish and had no place to worship. Railways, a booming local economy and employment opportunities made the area a perfect fit for these new Americans who where seeking better lives for themselves and their families. All that was missing was a place to participate in and receive the Holy Sacraments, to practice and live the faith. In 1853, Archbishop Purcell approved the building of the small church on Delaney St. allowing Cumminsville to become, for these immigrants, a place where one could make a home— a place to put down roots, to truly live.

Of course, the Irish weren’t the only large group of immigrants who found a home in Cincinnati during the 1800s. German-Catholic immigrants were hugely influential in Cincinnati’s development, growth, and forming of cultural identity in the 19th century. These German immigrants began moving in large numbers to Cumminsville right alongside the Irish. The young parish, known then as St. Aloysius, could no longer accommodate the rapid increase in numbers. Archbishop Purcell formed a new parish to serve the crush of parishioners who no longer fit into the overflowing church on Delaney Street. Their needs had changed.

Change in Direction

As a group, the parish decided to divide along ethnic lines. Drawing lots, the Irish ended up staying where they were and changed the parish name to St. Patrick. The German-Cincinnatians were given $1500 by the Archdiocese to help them on their path for building their new parish church. They started on Blue Rock, there were rectories, sacristies, other school buildings and additions and a residence for the Sisters. St. Boniface Church’s growth was so substantial that two additional new parishes sprang forth to satisfy, again, the changing needs of the people. In 1921, the land for the current location was purchased. And in 1927, at the peak of the “Roaring 20s,” the current rectory and church were completed.

So many things have changed since 1927. St. Patrick Church reunited with St. Boniface in 1991. The school, first started by the Sisters of Charity, became a ministry of the Sisters of Mercy. Many long-standing families moved out of Northside in favor of the suburbs and its expansive lawns. In 1927, ninety-one years ago, there were a grand total of 15 million cars that had been sold in the United States, and the state of Ohio did not even require a driver’s license. Today, there are more than 276 million vehicles that are legally registered in addition to an untold number which are not. And we are living a lot longer, too. The average life expectancy for Americans in 1927 was around 60. Though the total average American life expectancy is currently about 78, once you’ve made it to age 65, you can expect to live about another 20 years. Again, St. Boniface is prepared to meet the ever changing needs of the parish.

Destination Stays the Same


With allocated funds from the One Faith, One Hope, One Love campaign, St. Boniface Parish is building a brand new parking lot to accommodate its parish body and their still-changing needs. No longer will church goers need to circle the block down the hill for street parking. Nor will they have to park up the hill in the school parking lot. Getting to church 45 minutes early will no longer be necessary to procure one of only two handicap parking spots which are currently available. The current church-level parking will be increased from 30 spaces to 69, ten of which will be designated as handicap parking. The people of St. Boniface know that meeting the needs of the people is not always new buildings, new schools, or new parishes. It’s really just helping bring souls to Jesus. Sometimes, it’s a place to park.

Written by: Rebecca Sontag


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Catholic Education Foundation Tuition Assistance

The Catholic Education Foundation for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is offering more than $2 million in needs-based tuition assistance to Catholic school students for the 2019-2020 school year. Families can apply for tuition assistance of up to $1,000 per student.

For elementary school (K-8) tuition assistance, the application period deadline is January 31, 2019.

If you have questions, please call Pam Jaspers at 513-421-3131, etx. 2713 or e-mail

Catholic Education – The Best Choice!


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When a Priest Retires

“I enjoyed it very much!” That was Fr. Dennis Dettenwanger’s quick and enthusiastic reply when asked what he thought of his first ride in a helicopter. Not even a mediocre cell phone connection could dampen the excitement that Fr. Dennis radiated as he told his story. The blades chopped through the air whipping the wind all about. The technological marvel in which he found himself made quick work of the short distance between the town of Hamilton and the landing pad atop University Hospital in Clifton.


It was in a cozy home on Grace Avenue that Fr. Dennis was born to parents Jean and George Dettenwanger in St. Louis, MO, 1937. World War II was gearing up and so, too, was anti-German sentiment in the United States. George Dettenwanger, employed in the war-production industry, followed the work where it took him. And, in efforts to shield the family from anti-German ire resultant from the war, they moved numerous times during Fr. Dennis’ early childhood finally landing in New Carlisle, OH.

Fr. Dennis first heard the call to the priesthood as a young boy. Though it started soft, it gradually grew louder and louder until it was so loud, even others could hear it.  Sr. Jerome, his 8th grade teacher, cornered him in the coatroom and flatly informed him, “Look—you should be a priest.” Following high school graduation in 1955, he listened and entered Mount St. Mary’s Seminary then located in Norwood, OH.

The cardiac team was waiting for Fr. Dennis that Sunday in 2007 and was poised for quick action when AirCare landed on the roof of the hospital. Within moments they had him safely out of the helicopter, on a gurney, and speeding off towards surgery. That Fr. Dennis remained conscious for the helicopter transport was incredibly surprising considering the severity of his condition. Also shocking was that he was able to complete Mass that morning before seeking care. Even then, he didn’t call an ambulance. He called his brother, George, who picked him up in his car and drove him to the local hospital. But they were not equipped to handle a heart episode this severe. AirCare was called right away.

Nine years after entering seminary, in 1964, Fr. Dennis and 30 other men were graduated and ordained by the Archbishop. Vatican II Council had just concluded a year prior, and within months of ordination, Fr. Dennis would be among the first priests to begin praying the Mass in a language other than Latin. It was to be a gradual transition. First, the readings were read in English, followed by the prayers of the Mass until, eventually, the entire Mass was spoken in English. Fr. Dennis would be there forging the path during this dynamic, and sometimes unsettled, slice of history.

His first assigned parish following ordination was Annunciation located in Clifton, right down the street from the University of Cincinnati and the helicopter’s landing. Some of these parishioners were unable to read. Some had PhDs. Some lived in bare and poorly heated apartments, others lived in grand homes complete with domestic staff. The university neighborhood was abuzz with the cultural tumult that made the 1960s what they were. Fr. Dennis’ 10-year tenure at Annunciation Church witnessed the bulk of the Vietnam War, the rise and fall of the “hippy” culture and Roe v/s Wade all while Vatican II was being implemented and unpacked. Fr. Dennis was right in the middle of it all.

In 1974, Fr. Dennis moved from Annunciation to St. Matthew in Norwood located quite near to where he had attended seminary. Though now, he’d be on the other side of the desk teaching five years at Marian High School (since closed). From there, he was assigned to St. Aloysius on the Ohio, and that would then be his home parish during a 13-year teaching assignment at Seton High School in Price Hill.

After a teaching career that lasted nearly two decades, Fr. Dennis received his last formal parish assignment in 1992. A 2-parish community, consisting of St. Joseph and St. Ann in Hamilton, needed a priest.  More than that even, St. Ann needed a pastor.  Fr. Dennis served these souls entrusted to him with happiness, grace and love just as he had all the others who had come before them. So many baptisms, weddings, last rites, anointings, confessions, absolutions— soul upon soul being carefully shepherded toward God. He loved being their pastor but the helicopter would not be bringing him back to St. Ann nor to his role as pastor. He would have a new assignment, now. Retired.

There are no long golfing vacations or fishing trips here. Retirement has a different meaning. For Fr. Dennis, retirement means officiating Mass at least once a day for the Sisters of Charity, at Mary Margaret Hall, for the Little Sisters of the Poor, or others. But there are no more weddings. Fr. Dennis hears confession 3 times a week and fills in around town as needed but no parish meetings, no parent-teacher conferences.

He goes to his heart doctor twice a month, prays the Liturgy of the Hours, and visits his friends who live in the same apartment building downtown like Fr. George and Fr. Bramlage. He quietly and joyfully continues to serve God, serve the Archdiocese and administer the sacraments as they come. He visits his family, goes to the movies, fixes computers for his neighbors, tinkers with electronics and continues his lifelong commitment to give himself for others. Though his pension from the Archdiocese is modest, it is given in faith, and with hope, with love, and definitely with gratitude. Many thanks to you, Father Dennis, and all our retired priests.

Written by: Rebecca Sontag


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School of Faith

Through Catholic Education Foundation funds are allocated for programs that foster the Catholic identity, leadership and academic quality in schools, religious education programs and parishes. This programming will receive $343,000 for the 2018-2019 school year.

The money will be used to continue several initiatives with the aim of growing the Catholic identity. These include the Vocare and “School of Faith” programs.

The School of Faith program provides principals with life-changing formation and spiritual support that enhances their own discipleship. The program includes a Holy Land Pilgrimage followed by small monthly group Principal cohort formation sessions.

Here is a video testimonial from the recent pilgrimage taken in the summer of 2018:


Cave of Gethsemane – John Leyendecker Reflection from School of Faith on Vimeo.


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