Pope Francis’ visit to the United States may make 2015 a memorable year for Catholics, but this year is special for many Catholics across southern and central Brown County for another reason.
This year, St. Michael’s Church is celebrating its 175th anniversary. While they have held a number of ceremonies already this year to mark the occasion, there are two more big events coming up in the next month.
The church will be holding a special mass on Sept. 29 to celebrate the return of a statue of St. Michael’s, which was sold off more than 20 years ago as the church underwent renovations. The statue is being returned to the church on loan in perpetuity from an anonymous parishioner.
The Archbishop of Cincinnati, Dennis M. Schnurr, will be joining the congregation for mass and a luncheon afterwards to celebrate 175 years as a church on October 11.
“St. Michael Parish was founded just nineteen years after the Diocese of Cincinnati – and ten years before we became an archdiocese,” Schnurr wrote in an e-mail. “Throughout that long history, the parish has nourished the faith of its parishioners through wars, natural disasters, and sweeping cultural changes. It is a pleasure for me to help celebrate the 175th anniversary of a parish that has meant so much to its members, to the local community in Ripley, and to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”
St. Michael’s came to be in 1840, when a group of local families built a church on Main Street in Ripley, according to Father Lamotts “History of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.” St. Michael’s website states that Archbishop John Purcell dedicated the church after St. John the Baptist in 1842, but the name was later changed to St. Michael’s.
The church was built on ground donated by Michael Waters.
“It’s a great place,” Richard Frebis. a long-time church member said. “I went to eight years of school there, plus the fact is it’s been a real great place for the last 175 years.
“It’s been the backbone of Ripley for years.”
In 1864, the church members moved into their second building, a one-story brick building on Fourth Street, according to St. Michael’s website. The cost of the building was $5,000, and the interior of the building had a capacity of 400 people. The building is currently used as a parish hall.
The current location was built in 1890, according to St. Michael’s Pastoral Associate Ruth Allen, and contains fresco art from a German painter, that also painted art that’s found in St. Mary’s church in Arnheim.
One of the things that St. Michael’s is known for is its parochial school, which teaches children from kindergarten through eighth grade and holds many memories for many Ripley citizens.
“I think the school is probably a rather unique characteristic of St. Michaels,” St. Michael’s Pastor Dohrman W. Byers said.
This isn’t the first time that an Archbishop has visited Ripley. According to Allen, past Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk visited the church for confirmations and other events. Pilarczyk attended the church’s 150th anniversary celebrations 25 years ago.