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History of St. Thomas More Parish

 

       

                     Our second church 1944-1961                             Current church under construction 1960            


The parish of St. Thomas More was established as a mission in 1940 by Archbishop McNicholas to serve the Catholics of the Withamsville, Mt. Carmel, Forestville, and Amelia areas. In late 1940, the former Glen Este-Withamsville Elementary School was purchased by the Archdiocese to establish a Catholic presence in the area. Still in use by the parish as More Martyr Hall, the building served as the first church. The first Mass was celebrated on January 19, 1941. The mission was elevated to the canonical status of a parish in 1950. Father Francis Heider was installed as pastor by the Very Reverend Monsignor Raymond Stoll on December 21, 1950.

By 1944, the parish was seeking larger quarters. Near the original church was an abandoned pre-Civil War era Methodist-Episcopal Church, which had been acquired by Union Township. The township hoped to convert the building into a fire station. The Pastor of St. Thomas More, Fr. Francis Heider, convinced township officials that it would be a better use of public funds to sell the building to the parish, and use the funds to build a new fire station. Archbishop John T. McNicholas dedicated this second church August 20, 1944. When State Route 125 was widened to four lanes of traffic during the 1950’s, the interior layout of the church was reversed to move the altar to the south wall.

The present elementary school building known as Father Heider Hall was built in June of 1948, with 4 classrooms and a large auditorium. Bishop Rehring, Auxiliary Bishop of Cincinnati, dedicated the school in 1949. Four additional classrooms were added in 1952.

In the fall of 1944, the old church building reopened as St. Thomas More Elementary School. During the summer of 1945, the Glaser residence, near the new church, added 4 additional classrooms. The Glaser property also included three acres of land, which connected the two parish properties. The Glaser residence is still in use, being converted to the parish rectory shortly after Fr. Heider’s twenty-fifth anniversary of ordination, on June 14, 1949.

Again pressed for worship space, the parish embarked on the building of a larger church. Bishop Leibold laid the cornerstone, and Archbishop Altar dedicated the new church in 1961. The building was referred to by many as the “Cathedral in the Cornfield” due to its great size in comparison to the size of the community at that time.

By 1996, the parish had grown to 1200 families, and the planning of what is known as “Phase I” began. Included in this ambitious project were the remodeling of the front entrance, a multi-purpose building (gym), library, parish dining room and kitchen, meeting rooms, and kindergarten. Phase I also brought the renovation of the church undercroft that is now used for junior high classrooms. The concept of a Marian Grotto at St. Thomas More Parish began during the planning stage of Phase I.

Developing the parish properties into a cohesive, attractive campus has been the focus of Phase I. In order to provide adequate parking and enlarge the church driveway, the second church building and convent west of the church were razed in September of 1999. This left vacant a strip of ground adjacent to the parking area to the east of the church. The Pastor, Fr. John P. Fischer suggested a Grotto be built overlooking the school and church. The Grotto was constructed and dedicated in the spring of 2001.

Fr. William C. Wagner was appointed Pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in July of 2001. During Fr. Wagner’s first year, the Sanctuary of the church and the Sacristy were reappointed. A new state of the art sound system was also installed in the church replacing a system that had been pieced together over a period of 20 years. The system was further upgraded in 2008. More Martyr Hall was remodeled for meeting use and the outside entrances to Heider Hall were upgraded. In the fall of 2002, three new modular buildings were installed that included four additional large rooms and a new state auxiliary facility. In late 2003, the adjoining property at 804 Ohio Pike was purchased for use as our short-term St. Vincent de Paul home for those in need in our community. In November 2005, the parish celebrated their 65th anniversary with the release of a new parish photo directory. In 2006, a state of the art digital telephone system was installed along with our own email server. We continue to ensure we have the latest technology available for our school and for managing our parish. In 2007, the parish celebrated the ordination of Deacons Michael Thomas and John Convery.  Also, new energy efficient windows and blinds were installed in Heider Hall.  In 2008, our cafeteria cooler and freezer storage space was doubled. In 2009 our web site was upgraded and expanded.  In 2015, the web site was reformatted to be mobile responsive to allow easy access for smart phones and tablets.  St. Thomas More Parish is completely wired and fully participates in the Internet age. In 2012, the school library and computer lab were remodeled and combined. In 2015, the parish celebrated their 75th Anniversary with a Papal Blessing and the release of a new photo directory. In 2016, the parish celebrated the ordination of Fr. Matthew Feist and Deacon Bob Brazier.

Today, St. Thomas More Parish has over 1500 families and the Parish Council is working on planning for our growth in the future. Our parish is located in one of the fastest growing areas in the Cincinnati metropolitan area.