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.
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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