The History of St. Clement Parish

During the 1830’s the United States experienced an influx of German settlers, many of whom, came to live in the Cincinnati area. Archbishop Purcell, concerned about these new Catholics, requested assistance from German missionaries and his request was answered by the Franciscan Fathers from the Province of St. Leopold in the Austrian Tyrol. In 1850 John Bernard Schroeder and Joseph Kleine founded a new hamlet in whaSt. Clement
Churcht was once a relatively uninhabited country area. The development was named St. Bernard in honor of John’s patron saint and many of the streets were named after well known saints. Catholic settlers quickly began moving in to St. Bernard and when the number of Catholic families reached ten, the residents applied to Archbishop Purcell for a resident pastor. He again turned to the Franciscan Fathers. Schroeder and Kleine agreed to donate land for a church and a total of $800 if certain conditions were met. A brick church would have to be built on the site, a monastery would have to be built eventually, all of the regular religious services would be performed in the church on Sundays and holydays and two masses would be said each year, one for the families of each of the founders. The Fathers agreed to the terms and the deed was signed on August 14, 1850. Father Accursius Gaertner, an architect, was chosen to design and build the church, the cornerstone of which was laid on June 23, 1850, and work began at once on a two story frame building. Father St. Clement
ChurchAccursius died on September 2 before having the opportunity of serving as pastor and the Rev. Anselm Koch took charge of the new church as the first resident pastor. His living quarters and a schoolroom were on the ground floor of the building and the church was on the upper floor. This church was only temporary as the agreement specified a brick church. Unfortunately, $800 would not begin to defray the cost of building a church and the Franciscans began a fundraising campaign that included donations of funds from church groups in Europe. The cost estimate for the new church was $6000. With $3000 collected the Fathers trusted in Divine Providence and began construction on a building that was 80 feet long, 41 feet wide and 40 feet high, resting on 6 pillars. The church was built with the ability to enlarge it later if necessary. Although it was ready for occupancy in October of 1851 the church was consecrated on November 23rd, the feast of St. Clement. The decision to choose St. Clement as the patron for the parish was actually a result of a gift. Upon hearing that there was to be a new church built, the Rev. Clement Hammer, pastor of St. Mary’s church offered to donate a large painting of St. Clement provided the church would be named after his patron. The Franciscans accepted gratefully and in Mid-May of 1854 the painting, painted by Caspar Jele of Innsbruck, Austria arrived at the church and hung behind the altar until it’s destruction by fire. A smaller replica of the painting hangs in the church today.


According to the original agreement, the Friars were to build a monastery also. At first, the original frame church filled the bill, but it only had accommodations for six to eight friars. With the help of people of Cincinnati and the faithful in Vienna, the friars were able to construct a new and more suitable monastery on the foundations of the old building. It was during this time that two parish customs began; the Corpus Christi procession and that of visiting the St. John Cemetery on the feast of All Souls. The first outdoor procession began in 1853 and consisted of benediction at altars set up at the old Nurre and Schoenfeld estates, the Wess home, the cemetery and later at Our Lady of the Angels and Roger Bacon. This procession became famous in Cincinnati and attracted thousands of pilgrims from around Cincinnati. This tradition was resurrected in 2010 after many years of inactivity. In preparation for the All Souls observance, a new large cross was erected and blessed on October 25th 1857. Other parishes including St. John, Holy Trinty and St. Boniface joined in the services. In 1864 the Way of the Cross was added and fourteen small chapels with oil paintings were donated by individuals and church societies and were erected in the cemetery. By 1873 St. John was no longer large enough and the 60 acre Kemper farm was purchased and dedicated as St. Mary’s cemetery.


The Third Church
The original brick church became inadequate by 1870. It was also in very bad condition. A great deal of dirt had been removed from around the foundation when the street beside the church was constructed. A temporary wood building was constructed to use as a church and building began. At the time of the cornerstone laying on November 3, 1870, 1800 church societies attended by taking a special train from Cincinnati. They arrived to the booming of cannons, and streets spanned by arches of flowers. Archbishop Purcell laid the cornerstone and blessed the new church. On Sunday October 8, 1871 two new bells St. Clement
Churchfrom Buckeye foundry were blessed and placed in the steeple to join two smaller bells already present. The larger bell, weighing 1400 pounds, was called “Mary Hilf” (Mary help us). The smaller bell, called St. Bernard weighed 400 pounds. There are no records telling us if the other bells had been named. The new church was of Gothic style, 135 feet long, 55 feet wide and the tower rose to 170 feet. It cost $40,000 to build and still forms the nave of the present church. The large clock, one of the landmarks of St, Bernard was not installed in the steeple until 1876. The cornerstone placed above the main entrance of the third church was placed there at the time of the golden jubilee and reads 1871-1900. The church was actually consecrated on October 22nd, 1871 and was actually ready before the silver jubilee which was celebrated over two months from October 24 to December 25, of 1875.


Golden Jubilee
By 1900 the suburbs, including St. Bernard were expanding quickly. The Pastor,
Grotto Father Gabriel planned to celebrate the Golden Jubilee by building a new home for the sisters at a cost of $4000, a new wing for the monastery and renovating and adding on to the church. One of the main changes to the church was the addition of the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, which was dedicated on her feast day, February 11, 1900. Addition of the transept and the baptistery made the church 188 feet long and added 25 feet of depth in the sanctuary. The celebration of the Golden Jubilee took place from October 21 to the 23rd. At the time there were 452 families in the parish and 430 children in the school. Two years after Reverend Basil Henze became pastor, ground was broken for a new school to replace the two older school buildings and cost $250,000. Nine classrooms on the north side were for the boys and nine classrooms on the south side were for the girls. Two large music rooms on the third floor could be changed into four rooms with the use of sliding doors. The basement was for community and social rooms with bowling alley, pool, billiard room, a library, reading room, meeting rooms, kitchen, two offices and seven marble shower baths. In 1936, funds to run the school were difficult to obtain and the school was incorporated into the St, Bernard school system. The school board agreed to rent the building and hired the Sisters as teachers. St. Clement School became officially known as the Vine Street Elementary School. Eventually the school was placed back under the control of the parish and was, once again, known as St. Clement School. In 1944 four new bowling alleys were built in the basement of the school and the steps in front of the church were replaced with an ingenious hot water system that melted snow and ice from the steps during the winter. In 1950, the year of the Centenary of St. Clement, the parish numbered about 4000 people, twenty five Sisters were in charge of 614 grade school pupils and 224 boys and girls from the parish were at local Catholic high schools. A large number of men were in the priesthood or were lay brothers and many women of the parish had received the veil. This large number of vocations was evidence of the vigor of the spiritual life of the parish.


Parish Life
Throughout the years, since 1950, St. Clement Parish has offered many avenues for parishioners to grow spiritually and intellectually. Some of the organizations and clubs available were:


Men’s Choir

Young Ladies Choir


Block Rosary

Our Lady of Fatima Rosary

St. Clement Helpers

St. Clement Service Club

St. Thomas Moore Fraternity

Sacred Heart League

Legion of Mary

St. Vincent de Paul Society

Holy Name Society

St. Clement Men’s Society

St. Anthony Society

St. Elizabeth Ladies Society

Youth Activity Club

Boy Scouts

Cub Scouts

Campfire Girls

Girl Scouts

St. Clement Parish Bands

Parish Glee Club


St. Clement Tumblers





Parish Festival

Parish Homecoming


St. Clement

Many changes at St. Clement have occurred in the last 50 years, with the greatest change in 1963 when a terrible fire destroyed the ornate wooden altar, the historic painting of St. Clement and the beautiful stained glass windows. The cost of rebuilding the church to its original splendor was prohibitive but the parish was not to be denied and began the process of rebuilding. Services were temporarily moved to the school building while plans for the rebuilding were completed. The result was an award winning design that garnered praise from architects and design groups. The “Church of Light” is both functional and striking in its simplicity. The interior space is large and is connected to the sky with high windows: “The result is remarkable, light transforms this interior and brings it to life, creating a welcoming home for the church in this Cincinnati neighborhood” (From Poetry of Light by Mary Jo Buck.).


Today’s Parish
Today’s St. Clement Parish is an active and thriving faith community looking forward to a bright future. Throughout our history, St. Clement parishioners have been extremely proud of our place as an integral part of the St. Bernard community and our close relationship with, and the support we receive from, our St. Bernard neighbors. Many of our Franciscan Friarsmembers are involved in local community events and in city government. Even more so, we are very proud of our Franciscan tradition. One constant throughout our entire history has been the spiritual guidance of the Franciscan priests, brothers and sisters. The present friary building houses our parish priests as well as active and semi-active priests and brothers engaged in a variety of ministries. Their presence is a daily reminder of our Franciscan heritage, and that we are called: “To do this in the spirit of St. Francis, with a joyful and generous love; to be open to the Father and to one another in faith filled courage and expectancy; to be patterned on and ordered in Jesus, the Lord; to be guided by the spirit through prayerful discernment, and to be responsive to the deepest urgings of our hearts.”

St. Clement School
Parochial education took place at St. Clement from the very beginning. Father Anselm Koch taught 5 students on the ground floor of the first church. When the new brick church was built in 1851 a new brick schoolhouse was built behind it on Park St, with the friars and laymen. In 1875 the Franciscan Sisters of Oldenburg tSt. Clement Schoolook charge of the school. The Franciscan Teaching Brothers bought the old Rott estate on Tower Avenue and a school was constructed with an additional building constructed in 1886. Shortly afterwards, the parish decided to build a new school that would complement the church and a lot adjoining the monastery garden was purchased. The new school cost $11,000 and was dedicated on September 16, 1877. At that time there were 140 students in the school and by 1895 enrollment increased to 275 pupils. Five years later, an addition behind the school had to be built as enrollment reached 410. This building included four new classrooms at a cost of $7000.


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