The City of Norwood is rich in history, inspiring true pride in its residents. Some would say that Norwood is still "The City" because of the many groups, especially those affiliated with churches, that seriously accepted the challenges of civic duties and responsibilities. The City of Norwood has been blessed with many great spiritual, leaders; and its Catholic community has assumed roles of leadership from the beginning.
The first Catholic Church established in Norwood predates its incorporation as a city. In fact, Norwood wasn't even a village in 1884 when St. Elizabeth Parish was founded. The area was named Sharpsburg, after an early pioneer who built a tavern in 1809 near the present intersections of Montgomery Road and Carthage Avenue. When St. Elizabeth Parish was founded there were only five homes in the immediate vicinity and less than fifteen Catholic families, yet their desire and drive to have a place of their own to worship belied their small number. Two years later the first Catholic Church in Norwood was dedicated. Interestingly, the choir and altar servers for the dedication ceremony came from Holy Trinity Church, located in Cincinnati's West End.
In October of 1887, the first resident pastor, Rev. John Stoepplemann, was appointed. During the next two decades the suburbs of Cincinnati experienced a rapid burst of growth and Norwood was among the leaders. Norwood was serviced by two street railway companies which encouraged an increasing population. Norwood was "the" place to be!
In 1902, the city had outgrown its status as a village and became incorporated as a city. Norwood was one of the most prosperous communities in Hamilton County. The city led the way in providing a model of balance between industrial and residential growth. Seven thousand people call Norwood home, and it's thriving Catholic population was quickly overwhelming the existing parish. Even though a new church had been dedicated in 1903, it could scarcely contain the congregation. The time had arrived for expansion and the need for two more parishes to serve the Catholics of Norwood.
In 1905 the citizens of South Norwood (by now Norwood was identified by its three sections: West Norwood, South Norwood, and North Norwood, or Norwood Heights), led by Charles Brichetto, approached archbishop Henry Moeller with the intent of purchasing Land for the relocation of St. Xavier College, then located in downtown Cincinnati. After lengthy study and discussion, it was determined that the proposed location (Smith Road and Floral Avenue) would better serve the community as the rite of a new Catholic parish.
That same year, the archbishop established yet another parish in Norwood, this time in the developing area of Norwood Heights. There were now three Catholic Parishes in Norwood: St. Elizabeth, St. Matthew, and Sts. Peter and Paul.
The Catholic community of Norwood, from humble beginnings, was always eager to meet the challenges Presented to it. The newly formed congregations were determined to build suitable places for worship and Religious education, Rev. Frederick Gallagher was appointed the first pastor of St. Matthew Parish, and Rev. Bernard Beckmeyer, the first pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish. Both men tackled their responsibilities with zeal and determination. Although modest and inexpensive buildings first served these congregations, both parishes were able to erect beautiful houses of worship -- St. Matthew Church, dedicated in 1922 and Sts. Peter and Paul Church, dedicated in 1940. It should also be noted that the Norwood Council of the Knights of Columbus (established in 1906) donated flagpoles and flags to each of the three Norwood parish schools.
During: the past 120 years the Catholic community had grown and developed along with the City of Norwood. These years have witnessed dramatic changes as well. In September of I974, St. Elizabeth and St. Matthew Schools combined to form Gressle School located at the St, Mathew School location. The name was chosen in honor of Msgr. Francis Gressle, pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish from 1930 to1968.
Several years later, Sts. Peter and Paul School closed and joined with Gressle School. In September 1994, Holy Trinity School opened in the former Sts. Peter and Paul School buildings. In 1991, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati determined that the three Norwood parishes should be combined. A committee of twelve persons -- four from each parish, including the pastors, Revs. Francis Niehaus, Eugene Mueller, and Harry Gerdes -began meeting in order to determine the location and name of the newly formed Parish as well as how to orderly affect the transition. A facilitator from the archdiocese was assigned to help in this process.
Holy Trinity Parish became a reality in July of 1994,choosing the former Sts. Peter and Paul Church as its location and Holy Trinity as the appropriate name. Rev. Michael Bidwell was assigned as the first pastor of Holy Trinity Parish, and Rev. Edward Haskamp was the first associate pastor. In 1999, illness forced Rev. Bidwell to resign as pastor, and Rev. Thomas Grilliot was assigned as administrator. In July 2000, Rev. Raymond Kellerman was assigned the pastor of Holy Trinity.
Churches are frequently identified by structures, and the three Norwood churches that were eventually built reflect the determination of each congregation to erect houses of worship that were beautiful, impressive, and reflective of the importance of their faith. Even more impressive is the character of the Norwood Catholic community -- a faith-filled group of people dedicated to working together to make the city and parish we call home, places that pulse: with life