Community History – Covington – Saint Augustine Church and School

Saint Augustine Church and School

St. Augustine Parish and School were established in 1870 and were named in honor of Covington’s second Bishop, Augustus Maria Toebbe. The first building, a combination church and school, was constructed on Augustine Street near Willow (now 19th Street). The corner stone of this structure was laid in June 1870 and the building was dedicated on October 16, 1870. Most of the early parishioners were German immigrants and first generation Americans.

Initially, a lay teacher staffed St. Augustine School. In 1875, the parish arranged for the Sisters of Notre Dame to take over the operation of the school. Three sisters were sent to serve on the faculty. By 1882, enrollment stood at 170.

The Reverend L. Neumeier was appointed the first pastor of St. Augustine Parish. Father Joseph Goebbels succeeded him in 1871. In about 1872, Father Goebbels and the parish trustees purchased a tract on land on the east side of Augustine Street between 19th and 20th Streets. On this property, they established a brickyard. Another brickyard was established by the parish on the eastside of the L&N Railroad tracks. On a European trip in 1875, Father Goebbels purchased a wire nail manufacturing machine and shipped it to Covington. This was one of the first wire nail machines in the United States. The machine was initially set up in a room in the saloon of parishioner Barney Meibers (northwest corner of Madison Avenue and 19th Street). Eventually the machine was moved to one of the parish owned brickyards. The profits from these concerns were intended to be used by the parish to construct a new church and school. By the late 1870s, however, the national economy experienced a downturn. The parish could no longer meet its obligations and its creditors filed suit in 1881. All of the church property was sold at the courthouse door. Fortunately, the parishioners were able to pull their personal funds and purchase the combination church/school and its furnishings.

Father Goebbels fled the parish. He was replaced by Father William Robbers in 1877. The next pastor was the Reverend Clement Jesse (1879-1883). In 1883, Father Paul Abeln was sent to Central Covington to care for the people of St. Augustine Parish. Father Abeln worked energetically with the people to get the parish out of debt. By the time of his death in 1911, the parish was debt free and $34,000.00 had been raised toward the constructed of a much-needed new church. Also during the pastor of Father Abeln, a new parish was carved from the boundaries of St. Augustine. In 1890, Holy Cross Parish was established in Latonia with an initial membership of 88 families. Most of these families had been former members of St. Augustine.

The next pastor, Father William Kathman, oversaw the construction of a new church and school. On May 7, 1912, the parish purchased a parcel of land on 19th Street for the constructed of a new church and school. The new Italian Renaissance Style church was designed by Newport architect David Davis. The cornerstone for the new structure was laid by Bishop Maes on September 21, 1913. The beautiful new church was dedicated by the same bishop on December 20, 1914. Much of the interior was decorated by the private donations of parishioners. These gifts included: High altar donated by Mrs. Louis Trenkamp, Communion rail by Frank Broering, and the Stations of the Cross by Mrs. C. Pohlman. The entire cost of the new building amounted to $106,074.53.

The new St. Augustine School was build to the west of the church on 19th Street. The building was designed by architect Howard McClorey. The new school was dedicated on September 10, 1916 by Father Kathman. The building cost $39,498.30 to erect. By 1920, enrollment stood at 300 with seven Sisters of Notre Dame serving on the faculty.

During the First World War, many members of the parish served in the armed forces. In the fall of 1917, an anonymous parishioner donated a grotto and statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. The shrine was installed in the church and became the scene of many prayers for the safety of the soldiers and for a quick end to the war.

Father Kathman died in 1926, and was succeeded by Monsignor Charles A. Woeste. During Msgr. Woeste’s pastorate, St. Augustine Parish thrived. The construction of new subdivisions in the 1920s brought many new parishes to the church and schools. By the early 1950s, St. Augustine School was filled to capacity. The parish commissioner architect Howard McClorey to design an addition to the school that would house two classrooms, a gymnasium seating 300, locker rooms and additional restrooms. The new $225,000 addition was dedicated in 1953. In 1960, a room was constructed in the school basement to house the growing library collection. That year, St. Augustine Parish boasted a membership of 536 families (2,487 members) and a school enrollment of 513.

Father Woeste died in 1957. His successor was Monsignor Joseph A. Lubrecht, who held the pastorate until 1977. During this era, the parish began providing transportation to the church to the residents of the nearby Ida Spence Public Housing complex. Other improvements included the construction of the first school office, the restoration of the church’s stained-glass windows and the construction of twelve bedrooms in the convent to replace the three old dormitory sleeping rooms. During this era, membership in the parish and school enrollment declined. Much of this was due to urban flight. Many Northern Kentuckians were moving from the old urban neighborhoods to the suburbs.

In 1991, the parish established the St. Augustine Center at Ida Spence Homes (now City Heights). The center was staffed initially by parish volunteer Bernie Ashworth. The Center provided food and clothing assistance, tutoring and religious education to the residents. In 1995, the parish celebrated its sesquicentennial with appropriate ceremonies. More recent pastors have included: Father Joseph Broering (1977-1987), Monsignor Donald Hellman (1987-1992) and Father Leo Schmidt (1992- ).

St. Augustine Parish File, Archives of the Diocese of Covington; Messenger, March 29, 1953, p. 1a, February 17, 1991, May 24, 1992; Kentucky Post, December 1, 1917, p. 2, August 5, 1995; Golden Jubilee Souvenir Book 1870-1920; St. Augustine Centennial Booklet 1870-1970; Covington Journal, March 11, 1871, p. 3; Daily Commonwealth, February 8, 1879, p. 1, April 19, 1881, p. 1, and February 18, 1882, p. 2.

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