St. Stephens Parish
At the time of the Consecration of Bishop Carrell, November 1, 1853, Newport had only one Catholic church, Corpus Christi Church, situated in the lower part of the town. There was a growing need for a church in the upper section of the town, where there resided about fifty Catholic families. A request was made of Bishop Carrell that a church be built in that section of the town. With the Bishop’s permission, a lot was purchased, seventy by one hundred and eighty-eight feet, on Ninth and Saratoga Streets. The cornerstone of this second church in Newport was laid in the autumn of 1854. The new church was a two-story combination church, school and priest’s house, with the church and school on the first floor, and the priest’s residence on the second floor. In 1855, a parish school was opened. Eleven acres of land were also bought to serve as a parish cemetery, situated four miles from Newport on the Alexandria Pike. The cemetery was blessed by Bishop Carrell on Sunday, May 20, 1860.
Having no priest available in 1854 to serve as a resident pastor for the parish, Bishop Carrell requested the temporary services of priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. In January, 1855, Reverend A. Schippert was appointed the first resident pastor, remaining until September of that year. On December 26, 1856, Bishop Carrell pontificated at St. Stephen Church on the patronal feast of the parish.
Within the next few years a number of priests served as pastors of the parish—from September, 1855 to December, 1857, Reverend Charles Schaffroth; from December, 1857 to May, 1858, Reverend Charles Schraudenbach; from May, 1858 to December, 1859, Reverend Joseph Fuchshuber.
Father Joseph Fuchshuber undertook the building of a brick church to replace the chapel of the combination church and school building which had been erected in 1854. On Sunday, July 25, 1858, Bishop Carrell laid the cornerstone for the new structure. The new church was dedicated in honor of St. Stephen, protro-martyr.
In 1861, the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg, Indiana, took charge of St. Stephen School, caring for the school for the next thirteen years, until 1874.
During the pastorate of Reverend Eberhard Schulte (1868-1878), many improvements were made in the parish plant. Father Schulte enlarged the brick church, adding a new sanctuary and a steeple. He erected a three-story school building, and likewise built a new priest’s residence. He also bought a double house to serve as the residence for the teachers and the Sisters. The pastorate of Father Schulte had been an arduous one and on January 29, 1878, he was called to his eternal reward. In November, 1878, Reverend Bernard Baumeister was appointed pastor, and he succeeded in paying off a large amount of the heavy debt which hung over the parish. His successor, Reverend Joseph Merschmann, served a pastorate of seventeen years, from May, 1888 to September 1, 1904. Father Merschmann acquired additional property for the parish; built anew school house in 1896; and made a number of repairs on the church in preparation for the Golden Jubilee of the parish, among other things installing electric lights in the church. On June 19, 1904, the congregation observed the Golden Jubilee of St. Stephen Parish. Ill health caused the resignation of Father Merschmann, and he was succeeded by Reverend Stephan Schmid. Father Schmid made substantial improvements in St. Stephen cemetery. Nineteen additional acres were purchased, giving the cemetery an area of thirty acres. A two-story frame house was likewise built for the sexton. The cemetery was dedicated by Bishop Maes on October 4, 1908.
Toward the end of 1910, five houses were bought on Washington Avenue as a site for a new school. The cornerstone for the school was laid by Very Reverend Ferdinand Brossart, in July, 1912. The new school, containing seven large classrooms, an auditorium with a seating capacity of about a thousand, and a gymnasium in the basement, was dedicated on July 7, 1913, by Father Schmid. In 1913, the old schoolhouse was remodeled to serve as the Sisters’ residence. By 1915, five hundred children were in attendance at St. Stephen School, which was staffed by twelve Sisters of Notre Dame of Covington. Many children of the parish were also attending the Academy Notre Dame of Providence on Sixth Street.
By 1912, the pastoral work of St. Stephen Parish had become quite extensive. Father Schmid received the help of two assistant priests, Reverend Edward Klosterman and Reverend Herman Wetzels.
In 1915, St. Francis de Sales Parish in Cote Brilliante was formed from St. Stephen Parish; and a second new parish at Clifton Heights was in the formative stage, when the pastorate of Father Schmid was closed by death on April 30, 1916.
In July of that year, Reverend Benedict J. Kolb, who for many years had served as pastor of St. Henry Parish, Erlanger, was appointed Father Schmid’s successor, but owing to declining health, Father Kolb resigned the pastorate in April, 1918. On June 1, 1918, Reverend Martin R. Delaney, the present pastor, was appointed to St. Stephen Parish.
The present modern Romanesque church on Washington Avenue between Eighth and Ninth Streets was erected by Monsignor Delaney in 1938, replacing the old church at Ninth and Saratoga Streets. Bishop Howard laid the cornerstone of the new St. Stephen Church on Sunday, February 27, 1938. The church constructed of buff-colored brick, with a seating capacity of more than eight hundred persons, was dedicated by Bishop Howard on Sunday, March 12, 1939. Adjoining the church proper and connected with it on the north and south sides respectively are two units comprising the pastor’s residence and the Sisters’ convent.
St. Stephen Parish at present numbers about six hundred and seventy families.
excerpted from History of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, on the Occasion of the Centenary of the Diocese, 1853-1953, by Rev. Paul E. Ryan