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Save Saint Leo: The Website of the St. Leo Preservation Society of Columbus, Ohio

St. Leo History

1902: As a result of an increase in the Catholic population on the south side of Columbus, Ohio, Bishop Moeller called upon Father Charles F. Kessler to organize a new parish.

January, 1903: 75 families registered for the new parish, to consist of all the territory south of Deshler Avenue. It would be under the patronage of Saint Leo the Great.

It was decided that the building of the church would be financed by each working person to contribute one day's salary per month, and parishoners would work together on fund-raising bazaars and festivals.

February, 1903: Bishop Moeller authorized Father Kessler to purchase a tract of land at the corner of Hanford and Seventh Street.

April 25, 1903: Plans for new parish building approved. The Chapel would be on the first floor, a four classroom school on the second.

May 26, 1903: Ground was broken for the new Saint Leo Church. Father Kessler cast the first shovelful of earth.

July 19, 1903: The cornerstone was laid by the pastor.

December 13, 1903: Dedication of the Church of St. Leo the Great.

1904: Sunday School established with an enrollment of about 100 children.

May 8, 1904: First May Procession.

June 22, 1904: First wedding solemnized at St. Leo.

September 4, 1904: A class of 25 children made their First Holy Communion at a Mass celebrated by Father Kessler.

September, 1904: Parochial schoold opened with an enrollment of 150 students.

November 12, 1904: A parochial residence of buff brick was ready for occupancy by the pastor.

May 1, 1906: Ground broken for the convent. Completed in time for school opening in September.

June 30, 1910: Father Kessler announced that Saint Leo Parish was free of debt. In seven short years, the dedication and selfless effort of pastor and congregation had built, for the use of generations to come, the Church, school building and comfortable residences for the pastor and teacher staff.

May 16, 1915: Sod was turned for the new Church building.

August 1, 1915: Bishop Hartley laid the cornerstone for the new church, with more than 1,000 people in attendance.

May 16, 1917: The new St. Leo Church was dedicated by Bishop Hartley. A Solemn High Mass was celebrated by Father Kessler following the dedication. The hard-working pastor and congregation have a parish debt of only $5,000.

January 10, 1920: Father Kessler announces that the entire debt of the parish has been paid.

February, 1920: Father Kessler succumbs to double pneumonia on February 8. On February 12, Funeral Mass for the beloved Father Kessler was celebrated by his brother, Father Lucius J. Kessler. On February 25, Father Bernard P. Vogel was named the new pastor. He was to serve and lead the congregation for the next 32 years. His principal interest was the education of the children of the parish, and his objective was to make Saint Leo School the best, in terms of the most modern equipment and in the quality of both religious and secular education.

1925: Convent building enlarged.

1927: Tellers-Kent pipe organ was installed.

August 1, 1942: The 25th Anniversary of the completion of the present church building was celebrating with a homecoming festival. The Church was redecorated with proceeds from the festival, and brown marble was applied to the sanctuary walls.

May, 1952: Father Vogel retires as pastor.

July 15, 1952: The Right Reverand Monsignor Francis J. Schwendeman, S.T.D. was appointed as the new pastor of St. Leo Church.

1953: In January, the Golden Jubilee of the parish was announced. Many repairs and improvements had become necessary, and parishoners were asked to pledge extra donations in gratitude for the first 50 years.

The Bishop called upon all Franklin County parishes to raise money to provide much-needed high school facilities thoughout Columbus as well as a new St. Vincent's Orphanage. 275 men of St. Leo conducted a house-to-house campaign, resulting in parishoners pledging more than $75,000 for this cause.

On December 14, 1953, a Pontifical Mass celebrating the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the original parish building.

1954: Enrollment at St. Leo School numbered 446 students in eight classrooms. An additional four classrooms and two meeting rooms were constructed.

1959: Convent remodeled. Renovation on the stone grotto to our Lady on the convent grounds begun. The new white marble stature of Our Lady of Grace was installed in 1960.

1960's: Many changes were taking place in the parish neighborhood, and the Catholic population of the area had begun to decrease. The Second Vatican Council brought many changes in the rites and liturgy of the Church.

October 1965: Father Edward J. Reidy becomes pastor at St. Leo Parish after Monsignor Schwendeman is assigned as pastor of Christ the King Church.

June 16, 1970: Father Reidy retires due to failing health. Father Edwin J. McNulty becomes the new pastor.

June 4, 1972: Father McNulty regretfully announces that declining contributions and increasing costs would necessitate charging tuition at St. Leo School in the next school year.

1973: A Garden Club was formed by parishoners who volunteered their time to keep the parish grounds landscaped.

October, 1973: A Steering Committee was formed to lay the groundwork for a Parish Council.

June 4, 1974: Father Edward F. Trenor was assigned as pastor of St. Leo Parish. One of the first problems he addressed was the financial condition of the parish school. Efforts were made to boost enrollment, and, in 1975, the annual Parish Festival was re-instated to help provide funds.

March, 1975: The Parish Council Constitution was ratified.

1976: The Saint Leo's Men's Club was formed to provide for the Parish School Athletic program and to foster fellowship among the men of the parish.

After receiving a sizeable monetary gift, a general fundraising effort was made to enable the church to be redecorated for the first time in over 30 years and to update the sanctuary in according with the new Liturgy. The communion railing was removed and the marble used in the construction of a new altar. The former High Altar became the Altar of Reposition for the Blessed Sacrament.

January 2, 1977: The new altar was consecrated.

1978: A Ladies' Choir and a Folk Group were formed to enhance the Liturgy. Lay distributors of Communion were appointed in the summer.

1979: The 75th anniversary of the Parish was celebrated.


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