A SHORT HISTORY OF ST. AUGUSTINE PARISH

 

 

In 1813, Benedict Spalding, the founder of Lebanon, set aside four acres of land for a Catholic church. Father Charles Nerinckx, the pioneering Belgian missionary, who had been in Kentucky since 1807 and established missions throughout central Kentucky, decided to erect a church on the donated ground as he feared the loss of some of his small flock to the Dominicans at St. Rose who were erecting a church there. Father Nerinckx believed in permanent construction and planned the church to be of brick; it was to stand at the terminus of Republican (now Spalding Avenue) Street, extended, in the center of the street, facing north, approximately in front of the present rectory.

 

The work progressed slowly and it was not until 1819 that the church could be used for services. Father Nerinckx had planned to call our church St. Hubert’s, but in 1820 Father Nerinckx set out for Europe and the care of the parish was put upon Father David A. DeParcq, who completed the church in 1821. Father DeParcq also established the first parochial school in the parish in 1833. It was conducted by the Sister of Loretto and during its four years of existence was located in a house that possibly was in the rear of the formerly Marion County Board of Education on Water Street.

 

Although various priests attended the church from its beginning, it was not until the early spring of 1836 that Rev. Robert A. Abell, a native of nearby Calvary became the first resident pastor of the parish.

It was during the pastorate of Father Abell that the second, enlarged church was built on the same site as the original. It had small living quarters attached to the rear. The church was consecrated by Bishop Chabrat in 1837 and was dedicated to ST. AUGUSTINE.

So our true and present day name started in 1837. From the beginning of 1847 until the summer of 1848, St. Augustine’s was attended by secular priests who were teaching at St. Mary’s College. In April, 1852, Rev. John Hutchins became pastor of St. Augustine’s and he remained until November, 1863. In February, 1862 the church was taken over for a military hospital, but it was soon removed following an appeal by the bishop to the military authorities.

 

The Sisters of Loretto started a day school for girls in 1864. The school was called St. Augustine’s Academy, and enrolled 50 pupils. In 1868, a Father Schacht began the construction of our present day church. At the laying of the corner stone in 1869, Father Abell, then in his 79th year, preached the sermon and asked the people to pray that he might live to celebrate Mass in the new church. His prayer was heard; he did live to see his wish fulfilled. When Father Schacht left St. Augustine, then came Father John Reed in July of 1869, Father Reed completed the church in 1871, and in 1872 the little church was torn down and Spalding Avenue extended to the south.

Succeeding Father Reed was the Rev. Peter Joseph DeFraine, who built a brick school for boys in 1883 (on the east side of Spalding Avenue, north of the church). This building stood for 90 years and was torn down at the same time as St. Augustine High School in 1973. Father DeFraine is the only pastor to be buried in the church cemetery to this day.

 

Rev. Joseph A. Hogarty succeeded Father DeFraine on August 25, 1894, and in 1923 he built St. Augustine Grade School and High School, which is now the parking lot for the existing school.

   

When Father Hogarty retired in 1937, Father Joseph D. Gettelfinger was appointed to replace him. On November 22, 1949 Father Gettelfinger was honored by the Holy Father by being named domestic prelate with the title of Right Reverend Monsignor. Under Monsignor Gettelfinger, St. Monica’s School and church were razed to make room for the present school which was dedicated near the end of 1962. In 1968, after serving St. Augustine’s for over 30 years, Msgr. Gettelfinger retired after a long and faithful service to our parish. Then in 1973, down came our old school to make way for a parking lot, and with it were gone 50 years of parochial school life and the total end to the high school for all time.

Msgr. Gettelfinger was succeeded by Father Boehmicke, who was succeeded by Father Ivo Cecil, Father Charles C. Thompson was appointed as pastor in June 1996 and served six years. Father Thompson was ordained Bishop of Evansville, IN, on June 29, 2011. Father Gerald L. Bell was appointed pastor in June 2002 and served until he retired in June 2012. Our present pastor is Father William M. Bowling.    (History compiled by Nash Hayes)