PIQUA — “We’re there to help.”
For 150 years, St. Boniface Catholic Church has held a steady presence within the community at its current location, providing Catholic education and help for those in need alongside their worship. The parish also does this as a family.
“We work together,” said Father Tom Bolte, who has been the pastor of St. Boniface for over three years. “We’re there to help each other in … good times, sad times, to share the faith and continue it for future generations.”
The parish of St. Boniface has actually been around for approximately 160 years. According to history provided by St. Boniface parish records, “the number of German American Catholics increased in Piqua to such an extent that it was deemed necessary to have a separate church for them.”
Archbishop John Purcell established the parish of St. Boniface, and the parish started off in a church building on Adams Street.
“They were there about 10 years,” Rose Hemm of St. Boniface said, adding that the building became too small for their parish. The parish then moved to its current location on Downing Street in 1865. The three bells of St. Boniface were acquired and blessed on Oct. 24, 1865.
“What happens when a Catholic church is dedicated is the archbishop comes and blesses it for a sacred place,” Bolte said. Since that occurred, they recently celebrated that dedication of the current church and the blessing it received.
“For 150 years, this church building has been here to all people to come and pray and celebrate the sacraments and all the good things,” Bolte said.
“It feels good,” Hemm said, commenting on the 150th anniversary of the current church. “It’s exciting when you think about this building has been here since 1865, and the workmanship that went into it is just amazing.”
Hemm added that the building has undergone renovations and received new additions several times.
“We’ve always had parish festivals,” Hemm said, speaking of the fests that celebrate their German heritage. “We support, of course, Piqua Catholic School. We used to have St. Boniface School.”
St. Boniface combined with St. Mary’s to form Piqua Catholic School in the 1980s. “The school’s always been a part of the church,” Hemm said. The school provides Catholic education to not only Piqua families who desire it, but also families from all around the area within driving distance of the school.
“Catholic education has always been very important here at St. Boniface,” Hemm said.
Bolte explained it is important for them to have Catholic education in order for the students “to keep learning about their faith, to follow Jesus, to live the faith, especially in times when there are so many problems in the world.” In addition to Catholic education, their overall presence is to help teach “love and the message of Jesus and help everyone to use their potential and help everybody get to Heaven and to have fun while we’re doing it.”
The church provides religious education classes on Wednesday evenings for children who attend public schools, and they currently have approximately 80 students in those classes. The church also supports Lehman Catholic High School as they have young parishioners who attend Lehman.
Their current parish is made up of approximately 600 families, totalling about 1,000 people.
“The church has been here to baptize and have weddings for thousands of people over the years,” Bolte said. “We have confirmation and funerals. It’s special to be able to be here to help people and also we have an outreach that we work with — the Bethany Center — for those who are in need, food or clothing or utility help.”
Overall, the current church building for which they have celebrated the 150th anniversary has been an investment in their mission to grow in and spread their faith.
“It’s a very beautiful church,” Bolte said. “All for the glory of God.”
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall