The history of a parish should be more than the simple telling of administrative events or the story of brick and mortar, although such is important. More importantly, it must concern itself with the sacrifices, labors, and prayers of the faithful and pastors of the parish. It is to be the story of the people of God living out their faith. It must tell of their struggles and failures, of their vitality, and of the fruit they bear. Saint John Chrysostom has said that if you desire to know the nature of a peoples' faith, then go into their church and observe the art. A measure of the fruitfulness of this parish is hopefully evident in the accomplishments of its past 176 years and that the depths of its faith can be glimpsed from the beauty of its church.
In 1832 Franz Joseph Stallo of Damme, Oldenburg, purchased land and established the settlement called Stallostown. Father Friedrich Rese celebrated the first Mass here. Missionary priests traveling from Cincinnati to Detroit served the early settlers. Christmas Day Mass was celebrated in 1833 by Father Wilhelm Horstmann and is considered as the formal establishment of Catholicism in the area of west-central Ohio.
Bishop Purcell of Cincinnati visited Stallostown in 1834 and established the Stallostown Mission. In 1835, a log church, 60 feet long, 40 feet wide, 16 logs high, with seating for 330 persons, was built in the North Park of the village. The parish territory covered a vast area, from which other parishes were later formed. Saint Augustine thus became the "Mother Church" of the region.
The Stallostown Mission was formally established as Saint Augustine Parish in 1836, and the name of the town was changed to Münster or Minster. This name being selected in remembrance of the city with whom the immigrants had strong spiritual and historical ties, as it was the seat of their once former sovereign, the prince-bishop of Münster. The parish at that time numbered over 200 families and over 830 souls. Land for the Cemetery was purchased in 1836.
The French Missionary, Father Louis Navarron, having pastoral oversight of west-central Ohio, in 1844, strongly urged the Bishop that German-speaking priests were needed. In 1845 Missionaries of the Precious Blood (C.PP.S.), under the direction of Father Franz Salesius Brunner, came to Saint Augustine Parish and have since continuously served the parish. Sisters of the Precious Blood soon followed and filled teaching positions in the local schools from 1848 to 1988 (except for the Cholera year of 1849).
Land for a new church was purchased in 1837, but it was not until 1848 that the brick edifice, in the neoclassical style, was built. The church was l20 feet long, 60 feet wide, with an l60 foot tower on the east end. Its dedication was November 11, 1849, despite the fact that the Cholera Epidemic had taken the lives of over 300 parishioners during the summer of 1849. The majority of the victims were buried in a mass grave, and a monument was erected on the Cemetery in 1937 to their memory.
The Visitation of Mary Convent was built in 1852, and an Orphanage was also established within the Convent for the orphans of the Cholera. A boarding school for girls, Saint Mary's Institute, was added later and was a nationally known school.
Saint Theresia School for Girls, composing grades four to eight, was built in 1867. It was used as a school until 1896, and then as a social center for the parish until 1931, when the new High School was built on that location.
The original single tower was removed, and the master builder, parishioner Johann Anton Goehr, built the inspiring Gothic twin towers in 1874-1876. This was the first renovation of the church building. The stately Gothic stained glass windows were installed in 1878. The figures of two windows were changed in 1954.
In 1896 a new Pilcher two manual pipe organ, with tracker action and hand pumper, was installed. It was rebuilt in 1939, incorporating an electro-pneumatic action, along with additional ranks of pipes and a new console. The eight black-faced tower clocks with gilded numerals were purchased in 1897.
The second renovation of the church took place in 1900-1901. The entrance was changed from the east end to the tower end on Hanover Street. The sanctuary apse and sacristies were added on the east end, and the temporary altars, purchased in 1866, were moved from the tower end to the new sanctuary. New floor, pews, and heating system were installed as well. It was during this renovation that the original flat ceiling became the distinctive half-barrel ceiling, adorned with seven beautiful paintings, by the hand of Joseph Vittur, a copyist painter.
Reconstruction of Hanover Street in 1922 made it necessary to build the magnificent front step approach. In 1929 the present crosses, constructed of heavy gauge copper and gold leaf, were placed on the steeples replacing the wooden ones of 1876.
Bishop Albers consecrated Saint Augustine Church in 1931. In accordance with the consecration rite, twelve crosses with candleholders, honoring the twelve apostles, were placed between the windows. The candles are lighted on feast day of Saint Augustine, and on October 25, when is celebrated the anniversary of consecration of any church entrusted to the care of the Precious Blood Fathers. Side entrances were added in 1947 for convenience and safety. In 1948 the front step approach was replaced and the Centennial of the church building was celebrated.
With the passing of fifty years since the last major renovation, the necessity for many major repairs became evident. For nearly a decade, from 1954 to 1963, many extensive projects were engaged in. In an amazing structural feat, the roof load was redistributed on iron trusses with the means of an ingenious system of cables and turnbuckles. The repair and replacement projects undertaken included: the tuckpointing of all brick and stonework; the repair of the roof with replacement of gutters and downspouts; the redesigning of the front step approach and the renewing of all sidewalks; the mending of the stained glass windows; the repair of the clocks and the bell ringing system; an electrical rewiring, interior and exterior, with the addition of new ceiling lights; the installing of a new heating system; the incorporating of modern audio equipment (microphones and speakers); and the refurbishing of the organ with a new blower and rectifier, and a screen placed before the pipes.
Great attention was given also to the liturgical and decorative elements of the renovation. The interior of the church was replastered and was painted in a bluish-gray tone and embellished with colorful bands of flat enamel and metallic gold. The crowning achievement of the entire renewal was the placement of the marble altars, which incorporated inspiring mosaic reredos panels and wrought bronze baldachinos. Before the main altar reredos, a cross of Blue Belge marble with a corpus of Italian Botticino marble was hung. The central mosaic, that of the high altar, is based upon a painting "The Blessed Trinity" by Albrecht Dürer, a 15th century painter. The mosaic panels of the side altars represent the aurora borealis, indicative of the Eternal Flame of Christ. Statues of the Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph, carved from Italian Botticino marble, were set before the reredoses of the side altars. In the sanctuary there was emplaced a wainscot of red Altico marble and floor trim of Vermont marble. A Communion rail, consistent with the sanctuary design, was fabricated of matching marble and bronze lattices. Stations of the Cross, executed in Berlin, again with marble framing and mosaic depictions complimenting that of the sanctuary, were erected. Four linden wood statues carved in Oberammergau were hung in pairs to accentuate the sanctuary. Purchased were new pews, confessionals, and other fixtures, all of stained oak. A marblette floor was poured in the church proper, along with the vestibules and the choir loft,
In 1967 the high altar was detached from the sanctuary wall, refashioned, and placed in the sanctuary forefront to enable the priest celebrant to face the congregation. The remainder of the decorative marble, mosaic, and bronze was left untouched. Glass doors, etched with apostolic figures, were hung at the church entrances in 1973.
In 1978 new stained glass windows were installed in the side entrances. The windows of the north vestibule, in etched blue glass, depict the roots of our parish history. The windows of the south vestibule, using the theme "Life after Death", are dedicated to the memory of the deceased of the parish. The armorial bearings of the Missionaries and the Sisters of the Precious Blood are also depicted in windows of the north vestibule.
The village celebrated its sesquicentennial in 1982. In October, as part of that celebration, the Heimatsverein (Homeland Society) of Oldenburger Münsterland, presented to the parish a replica of the ancient Cross venerated in the Pilgrimage Church of Lage. It was given as a memorial to the early settlers, many of whom emigrated from that area. Ferdinand Starmann carved the crucifix.
The slate roof of 1900 was replaced in 1990. In 1996 a console piano and a Grand Steinway piano were acquired by the Music Department. At that time, the towers were first illuminated from dusk to midnight.
The Conrad Schmitt Studios of Wisconsin repainted and redecorated the Church interior in 1997. 1998 marked the l50th Anniversary of the building of the Church. In 2003 The Primary Public School Building was purchased to be used as the Parish Center and it was updated in 2006. In 2007 the Church pews and floor were refinished and the choir loft was renovated. In 2008 the stained glass windows were repaired, re-leaded and covered with transparent protective glass. In November, 2010 marks 178 years of the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice in west-central Ohio.
The Parish History “Pilgrims All, 1832 to 1982” is available.
Contact Rita Hoying at 419-628-2756
To read about the tabernacle history and renovation in 2020, please click here.