St. Henry

St. Henry Parish, Erlanger, was erected by Bishop Maes in 1904, with the Reverend Benedict J. Kolb as its first resident pastor.

Prior to 1890, Erlanger had been a station cared for from St. Paul Parish at Florence. By 1890, there were about twenty-five Catholic families residing in Erlanger and its vicinity, and in that year Bishop Maes directed Reverend William E. Gorey, Pastor of Florence, to organize a congregation in the Erlanger community. Under the direction of Father Gorey, the erection of a small brick church was begun on the corner of Garvey and Shaw Avenues. The cornerstone was laid on October 19, 1890, and on June 7, 1891, the new church was dedicated under the patronage of St. Henry. During the next fourteen years, St. Henry Mission continued to be cared for from St. Paul Parish, Florence, being served by Reverend William E. Gorey, 1890-1891, and Reverend Benedict J. Kolb, 1891-1904.

When Father Kolb succeeded Father Gorey as pastor of St. Paul Parish, he also had charge of Independence, as well as Erlanger, and in the beginning he offered Mass at Erlanger only twice a month on the second and fourth Sundays. The congregation at Erlanger showed a constant growth, and in 1893, Father Kolb erected a small school building on Shaw Avenue opposite the church. This first school at Erlanger, from 1893 to 1899, was staffed by lay teachers, including Mr. R. Renikins, Mr. Peter Berberich, Mr. Otto Fritz, and Miss Belle Pratt, respectively. In 1899, Father Kolb engaged the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Walburg Convent, Covington, to take charge of the school. Arriving in Erlanger in 1899, as the new parish school teachers, were Sister Martina, Sister Camilla, Sister Christina and Sister Josephine.

On Sunday, August 27, 1899, the mission church at Erlanger was destroyed by fire. Although the school house was saved, it was no longer adequate for the needs of the parish, and Father Kolb made other arrangements for the opening of school in September. The Sisters were given residence in half of the home of Mrs. M. Morelli, a devout member of the parish, and the Greenbaum cottage behind the Morelli home was rented for school purposes.

At that time, too, there was need for a larger church, and it was decided to build at a more central location. Lots were acquired adjoining the Morelli property on Garvey Avenue. Plans were made for a two-story structure, which would serve as a combination church, school and Sisters' residence. The cornerstone of the proposed structure was laid on May 6, 1900, and a year later, on Sunday, May 19, 1901, it was dedicated by Bishop Maes. The second floor provided space for the church and an auditorium; the first floor provided for classrooms and living quarters for the Sisters.

In 1904, following the death of Mrs. Morelli, the Morelli property was purchased and remodeled for a parish rectory. On September 1, 1904, Bishop Maes appointed Father Kolb as the first resident pastor of St. Henry Parish. Father Kolb administered to the parish until July 7, 1916, at which time he was transferred to St. Stephen Parish, Newport, Foreseeing the future needs of the parish, and not wishing to burden the congregation with new debt, Father Kolb had personally acquired the four lots adjacent to the church property, on the corner of Dixie Highway and Garvey Avenue.

Shortly after the arrival of Father George Bealer, the congregation purchased the four lots from Father Kolb and turned them into a playground. Owing to defective construction, the church walls were showing signs of weakness, and Father Bealer, on the advice of the Diocesan Building Committee, had the walls and church strengthened by channel beams. In 1921, a residence for the Sisters was erected, so that the entire first floor of the church building might be used for school purposes to meet the growing needs of the parish. In 1929, to meet the need of larger school facilities, a two-room frame schoolhouse was built, between the church and rectory. Father Bealer saw the increasing need of a new church and plans were under consideration when his pastorate was cut short by death, on April 27, 1933.

Father Bealer's successor, Reverend Edmund Corby, was confronted with the need of a larger school, and thus, for the opening of school in September, 1933, he added two more rooms to the two-room building erected in 1929. In September, 1933, Father Corby, likewise, established St. Henry High School, beginning with one grade.

On September 9, 1935, Father Corby began work on the present St. Henry Church. The cornerstone of the new church, which was to be located north of the pastor's residence, facing Dixie Highway, was laid by Bishop Howard on November 3, 1935. On Sunday, May 17, 1936, the Bishop solemnly dedicated the present attractive church constructed of brick in Romanesque architectural design. The same year, St. Henry High School had developed into a four-year high school. Alterations were made in the old church building to supply needed classrooms for the high school. The first graduation on St. Henry High School was held the following year, on June 8, 1937.

In June, 1938, Father Corby resigned from the pastorate of St. Henry Parish. On May 15, 1939, Reverend Herbert J. Egbring, the present pastor, was transferred from St. Paul Parish, Florence, to Erlanger. On Sunday, June 2, 1940, the parish celebrated the Fiftieth Anniversary of the erection of the first Catholic church in Erlanger, the congregation at that time numbering three hundred and twenty-five families.

In 1948, with all available classroom space over-crowded, with the largest enrollment in its history, St. Henry Parish found it necessary to erect a new school. Plans for the new unit called for eight classrooms, a kindergarten, a science room and a combination gymnasium and auditorium. At that time, 1948, eleven parishes in Northern Kentucky were sending children to St. Henry High School, including Blessed Sacrament, South Fort Mitchell; St. Paul, Florence; St. Joseph, Crescent Springs; St. Agnes, Park Hills; St. John, Covington; All Saints Mission, Walton; Holy Guardian Angels, Sanfordtown; St. Aloysius, Covington; St. Anthony, Forest Hills; St. Cecilia, Independence; and Mother of God, Covington.

From an initial congregation of twenty-five families, St. Henry congregation has shown a steady growth. This growth has continued even more noticeably during recent years. At present the parish has about seven hundred and fifty families. Today, about twenty Benedictine Sisters teach in the parish schools, in contrast to the first school in 1893, taught by one lay teacher.


excerpted fromĀ History of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, on the Occasion of the Centenary of the Diocese, 1853-1953, by Rev. Paul E. Ryan