We are proud to share the rich history of Catholicism in Ludlow, Kentucky...
Sts. Boniface and James Parish resulted from the 1980 merger to two Ludlow, Kentucky parishes, one with a German heritage and one with an Irish heritage. Catholics of German and Irish descent began establishing homes in the city of Ludlow in Kenton County during the 1850s. German Catholics were also farming along the Pleasant Run Turnpike (present Bromley-Crescent Springs Road) south of the city. In 1870 the German Catholic population of the area petitioned Bishop Augustus Maria Toebbe of the Diocese of Covington to establish a new parish, and in spring 1872, ground was broken on Adela Ave for the new St. Boniface Church. The building, housing a school and priest residence on the first floor and a church on the second, was dedicated on November 3, 1872. That same year, the St. Mary's Ladies Society was established which still exists today.
Father Herman J. Kramer became pastor of St. Boniface Parish in 1884. Under his guidance, the parish flourished. Lay teachers staffed the parish school from 1872 to 1890; then in 1890, Father Kramer arranged for the Sisters of Divine Providence to teach in the parish school. A convent was immediately constructed for the Sisters of Adela Street. The first Sisters to teach in Ludlow were Sisters Marie Camille Schaff, Marie Kunz and Mary Anna Stern. Classes were conducted in both English and German for many years, and the use of the German Language was not entirely discontinued until 1920. Kramer also guided the construction of the new Romanesque Revival St. Boniface Church. Bishop Camillus P. Maes dedicated the new edifice, designed by Ludlow architect John Boll, on August 13, 1893. The building was extensively damaged by a tornado in 1915, but parishioners raised the necessary funds and repaired the structure, which was rededicated by Bishop Ferdinand Brossart in 1916.
In 1928 the parish purchased a home in Ludlow on Church Street for use as a residence for the pastor. Other developments during this era included the complete renovation of the parish school, the establishment of a parish drama society, and the creation of a St. Vincent de Paul Society. Enrollment in the parish school reached a peak during the 1930s with more than 200 students.
The English-speaking Catholics of Ludlow initially attended either St. Ann Parish in nearby West Covington or St. Boniface Parish. In 1886, Father James Kehoe, pastor of St. Ann Parish, began organizing these people into a congregation, made up primarily of people of Irish ancestry and a few French-Canadian families. The parish purchased the Armory Hall on Carneal Street in 1887 and renovated the building for use as a church. Bishop Maes dedicated the first St. James Church on May 1, 1887. St. James School was established in 1893 in the old Odd Fellows Hall on Oak Street, and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth agreed to staff the school. During its first year of operation, the school enrolled 125 students under the care of Sisters Gregorita Lischer and Mary Assumpta Guilfoyle.
Thomas N. Kehoe was appointed pastor of St. James in 1894 and remained in that position until his death in 1921. Under his guidance, a new Gothic Revival Style church was built on Oak Street in 1903-04 and dedicated by Bishop Maes on October 9, 1904. The most striking feature of the interior were the handsome stained-glass windows which were designed by the Riordan Art Glass Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. Over time, many elements were added to the church. In the Spring of 1905, the current Stations of the Cross were placed in the church. Later that year, a 3,000 pound bell was installed in the tower. In 1906, a large pipe organ was installed in the choir loft and three large Gothic altars were placed in the sanctuary. A new St. James School was constructed in 1911 and dedicated on March 18, 1912. Both the new church and school were designed by local architect John Joseph Sheblessy (1873-1938). A new parish rectory followed in 1922.
Between 1928 and 1948, St. James Parish operated a co-education high school which was housed in various buildings including a small addition to the church, a nearby cottage, and on the first floor of the parish rectory. Form many years, Ruth Kelley held the position of principal. In 1942, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth took over the staffing of the high school. The faculty for the 1942-43 school year consisted of Sr. Jean Carrigan, principal, Sr. Maureen Lyons, Sr. Mary Alonza O’Flaherty, Father Bocklage and Father Paul Ranft. In 1944, a fourth Sister of Charity joined the faculty. The high school ultimately closed after the end of the 1947-48 school year. Father Leo Egbring, who served as pastor of St. James from 1947 until his retirement in 1977, renovated the church, the school, and the rectory and purchased additional nearby property for the parish (which is now the parish parking lot).
During the Post-World War II era, as the population of Ludlow declined, enrollment at both St. Boniface and St. James Schools decreased. In 1967, the diocese merged the city’s two Catholic educational facilities to form St. James-St. Boniface Elementary School under the guidance of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and lay teachers. Initially, grades one through four were conducted in the former St. Boniface School building and grades five through eight at St. James. By the early 1970’s all classes were being conducted in the former St. James building.
Bishop William A. Hughes merged the two parishes in 1980. He asked each parish to elect a merger committee and to provide him with several options to accomplish the goal. St. Boniface Parish elected Harold Klosterman, Carl Lemker, Richard Nieberding and Ed Schroeder. St. James elected Clarence Dickman, Roger Laws, Margie Maschmeyer and Justin McCabe. The committee presented Bishop Hughes with three recommendations. Bishop Hughes chose the recommendation with the most consensus which maintained the St. James complex. At this time, the St. Boniface Parish plant was sold. Father Robert Reinke was named pastor of St. James Parish in 1977 and continued as pastor of the new Sts. Boniface and James Parish. During this time, the interior of the church underwent a major renovation that stripped the building of much of its Gothic Revival Character. Under Father Reinke’s guidance, a parish council was formed and parish life was reinvigorated.
In 1983, Father Joseph Rueter was named pastor. During this time, the church was air-conditioned for the first time and the rectory was renovated. Continuing enrollment declines resulted in the closing of the combined parish school following the 1983-84 school year. This ended 112 years of Catholic education in the city. The last principal was Miss Carol Britton.
Succeeding pastors have been: Father Allen Bradley (1993-2002), Deacon Jim Auton (Parish Administrator 2003-10) and Father Robert Reinke (Sacramental Minister 2003-11). Under Deacon Auton’s guidance, a major restoration of the church interior was undertaken in 2006. The Stations of the Cross were restored by a group of dedicated volunteers, porcelain tile was laid in the sanctuary, new lighting fixtures were installed throughout the church and a new color scheme and decorative tracery were added. Other improvements made at this time included the installation of handcrafted iron votive candle stands, new carpeting in the nave and vestibules, restoration of the century old statues of St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and St. James and the construction of a new handcrafted wooden ambo (pulpit). Much of the restoration work was completed by a group of parish volunteers. Funding for the project came from parishioner donations.
Father Larry Schaeper was appointed pastor on May 9, 2011. During his tenure, the parish celebrated it's sesquicentennial in 2022 with a number of special events. In order to prepare for the celebrations, the exterior trim on the church and the rectory were painted giving the buildings a fresh look. On June 5th, the 150th anniversary celebrations were begun on the feast of St. Boniface with a blessing of parishioners with a relic of the saint at the 9:30 a.m. Sunday Mass. The feast of St. James was celebrated in July. Both events were followed by social gatherings in the parish courtyard. Other events included the publication of a parish picture directory and a parish picnic. The anniversary year was brought to a close with a Mass celebrated by Bishop John Iffert on October 23, 2022.
David E. Schroeder