Parish Religious Education

 Mass Schedule
   /Horario dem Misas:
   Saturday: 4:30 PM
   Sunday: 8:30 AM, 11 AM,
                1 PM (Espanol)

   Saturday: 3-4 PM

 Communion Services:
   Wednesday: 8 AM

  About Us  

St. Stephen Parish History

The story of St. Stephen, the oldest Catholic parish in Butler County, begins in 1830 when property was obtained for a church on Second and Dayton Streets. In a uniquely ecumenical effort, the money for this property came primarily from non-Catholic citizens of Hamilton.

The lots were valued at $400 and an additional subscription of $300 was raised afterwards. In 1832 a brick building in the Gothic style was begun. The completed church seated 500 and was dedicated on August 21, 1836. The congregation was served by priests coming up from Cincinnati once or twice a month until 1840 when the parish welcomed its first resident pastor, the Reverend Thomas Butler.

During this period a large number of German immigrants settled in the area and soon many of the people of St. Stephen spoke only German. By 1847, the difficulties of a mixed congregation of German and English speakers became so great that a plan was presented to divide the parish. It was proposed that as the value of the property was then appraised at $6,000, one group would raise $3,000, and pay it to the other group who would erect a new church. The Germans succeeded in collecting the amount stipulated in the arrangement. The English speakers, mostly Irish, then founded St. Mary.

After the separation of the two parishes, St. Stephen came under the care of the Franciscan Fathers of the Province of St. Leopold of the Tyrol. Hamilton’s German population continued to increase to the extent that it became necessary to build a larger church. To help finance it, the pastor, Reverend Pirman Eberhard, would borrow a horse and buggy and drive to neighboring churches in Ohio and Indiana to beg for contributions. He became known as the Franciscan beggar of Hamilton.

Fr. Eberhard’s efforts helped make the new church possible. In August, 1853, the cornerstone was placed by the Archbishop. The new church was built around the old one and was completed in 1854. During the 1870’s a rectory was built and the people of St. Stephen purchased and organized St. Stephen Cemetery. A large school was completed during the 1880’s. In 1893 a new transept and enlarged sanctuary was added to the church making it cruciform. At this time two Rose windows were purchased for $800 and new pews were installed for the sum of $1,084. Several years later the church was decorated with hand painted murals, and hand carved Stations of the Cross were commissioned from South Tyrol, Austria. Art glass windows were imported from Munich in 1912, at a cost of $3,600, and the present Tudor Gothic facade and tower were built by Andrew Benzing of Hamilton for $30,000. A new organ was also purchased, and after the flood of 1913 marble wainscoting was added to the walls.

St. Stephen celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary as a Franciscan parish in 1923. For the occasion the murals were cleaned and renovated, and a marble communion rail with two marble angels was added. The church was cleaned and decorated again in 1959 for the celebration of its 125th anniversary. In 1984 the parish commemorated its 150th anniversary. Just a few years later the congregation had to come to grips with the imminent departure of the Franciscans from Hamilton and the merging of the parish with St. Mary and St. Veronica. On April 1, 1989, Reverend Sergius Scherpenberg, the last Franciscan to serve as pastor, celebrated the final Mass at St. Stephen Church.

A rich history has been left to us by the priests and people of St. Stephen’s. It was the oldest church in Butler County and the fifth oldest in the Archdiocese. It was the mother church not only of St. Mary and St. Joseph here in Hamilton, but also Holy Angels in Sidney, St. Mary in Piqua, St. John in Harrison, St. John the Baptist in Middletown, and St. Aloysius in Shandon.

Page 1 - St. Julie-Billiart Parish History
Page 2 - St. Stephen Parish History
Page 3 - St. Mary Parish History
Page 4 - St. Veronica Parish History