In compiling the history of St. Athanasius, many names of those who were “first” in accomplishing tasks, “first” being on boards of councils, etc. are recounted. However, one important reason St. Athanasius has survived and prospered these 50 years is the many volunteers in between the past and the present. These unsung heroes may not have been “first”, but they are the “best”. They toiled cutting grass, painting, mopping floors, putting up booths for festivals, frying mountains of fish, marking banners, teaching our children in CCD, Scouts, sports and parish school, ushering, praying with and for each of us-the list is endless. All these parishioners have given of their time, talent, and treasure. It is to these unsung heroes that this history is dedicated.
St. Athanasius was established as a new parish on part of Charlie Besse’s farm on Outer Loop , Jefferson County, Kentucky, through Archbishop John A. Floersh’s announcement on July 9, 1960. The Reverend Francis E. Bossung was appointed pastor on August 3, 1960. Even without facilities he wasted no time gathering the people into a community.
After assembling in St. Rita’s facilities for some months, St. Athanasius’ first Mass as a parish was held on November 6, 1960, in the loft of Whispering Hills Country Club. Due to the generosity of George Buisson, Masses were held there each Sunday until May 1961, when we were able to move into the basement of the just finished rectory.
The Men’s Club, Women’s Club and the Knights of the Altar were established long before we had facilities. The Men’s Club was founded on September 7, 1960, with Paul Logsdon as the first president. The first meeting of the Women’s Club was held at St. Rita’s on September 15, 1960, with Marie Bischoff Haines as the first president. In the early days, the Knights of the Altar also met at St. Rita’s; but later the boys met at Marian Hancock’s home, where she taught them Liturgical Latin using a phonograph record.
There were at least 450 families registered in the Parish by the time we had our first Mass in our present church. This Mass was on September 24, 1961, without pews, statues or organ; but they were soon to follow. We welcomed our first assistant pastor, Father Louis Miller, in December 1961. Then amid much jubilation, on February 18, 1962, Bishop Charles Maloney came to bless our church and school, followed by a Solemn Votive High Mass offered for the intentions of all the parishioners.
The first baptism in our new church was on September 24, 1961-Alan Kissell, the son of Mary Ann and L.A. Kissell. The first wedding was on September 30, 1961-William Ballard and Audrey Kovac. The first funeral, on October 11, 1961, was the Mass of the Angels for Sharon Elizabeth Fowler.
School opened on September 3, 1961, with Sister Roberta Ann Fritsch, RSM, as principal, In the first year, there were 450 children enrolled, 75 of whom were in the first grade-all in one classroom! The PTA was organized soon after the beginning of school, with Al Desilets as the first president. By August 1962, there were 620 families registered in the parish. In the winter of 1962, Father Bossung became ill; and Father Stanley Schmidt substituted as interim pastor.
When Father Bossung’s illness forced him to resign in March 1963, the Reverend Wilfrid J. Hayden became pastor on July 17, 1963. After Father Miller was reassigned in December 1963, Father Hayden was assisted in turn by Father Bernard Craycroft, Father Richard McMahon and Father Albert Wilson.
During Father Hayden’s guidance, St, Athanasius was one of the first parishes to follow Vatican II directives. CCD classes were offered for students and adults. The worship format was altered to include lay readers. Our altar was one of the first to be turned to face the people, and a parish board of lay advisors was formed. This lay advisory board, formed in June of 1966, consisted of Raymond Burkhead, Jim Costello, E.K. Frasher, Harold Haering, Thomas Howard, Agnes Slack, Larry Speaker and Ginny Stacie.
This board was soon replaced with elected members to the Parish Council on March 31, 1968. The elected members were Albert Allgeier, Shirley Allgeier, Dominic Crocetti, Fay Comfort, William Gehm, Harold Haering, Larry Speaker, Ed Wirth, Chris Mundt, and Jack O’Reilly.
Mindful of reaching into the neighborhood community, the Men’s and Women’s Clubs always welcomed non-Catholic spouses. An open house of the church and rectory was held for the neighborhood to encourage interest. The St. Vincent de Paul Society was formed in May of 1966. The first president was Paul Logsdon with two other charter members, Carl Aebersold and David Owens. Frances Owens, the first female member, joined the organization in the late 1970’s when women were first permitted to be members.
The 4H Club was started by Evelyn Webb in the first year of the parish.
The Boy Scouts (Pack 366 and Troop 366) was organized in March of 1966, with Franklin McNamee, Jr., Patrick Stevens and John Scheich as leaders under the auspices of the Men’s Club. David Woodrow achieved the first Eagle Scout Award of Troop #366 in 1968. There are 60 in the troop who have achieved this award since then.
The Girl Scouts was founded in the fall of 1967 under the auspices of the Women’s Club. Patty Valentine as the first coordinator and Barbara Newton, assisted by Athleen McDonald, followed in October of 1969.
The order to foster community within the parish, basket picnics were held for families as soon as the parish was formed, The first was held at Augie Birchler’s land on Briscoe Lane in the summer of 1961. These picnics were discontinued for a time, but were revived in 1969 to 1973. Easter egg hunts were sponsored by the Youth Committee led by Hellen Petter and Carl Quinn as early as spring of 1962. The first Easter bunny was Willie Moore. These egg hunts were popular – they were revived in May of 1976 by the Men’s Club – having 500 children hunting 1300 eggs. Community building continues to be fostered in many other areas as well.
Rapid growth brought many changes and additions to the school building in the 1960’s. The school library was organized during the spring of 1963 by Father Miller. In the fall of 1963, the first addition to the school was completed-adding needed classroom space, teachers’ lounge and lavatories. The census showed 695 families within the parish boundaries. Yet, it was hoped that, with the establishment of St. Bernard’s Parish in 1964, the school would not be crowded. However, in the school year of 1965, it was necessary to rent three classrooms from St.Ignatius; and the school was still crowded. In May 1966, there were 760 children in school. In the school years of 1967 through 1970, the first grade was dropped in accordance with archdiocesan directive.
In 1967, under the auspices of the new archbishop, the Most Reverend Thomas J. McDonough, permission was given to begin construction on the much-needed addition to the school, adding six classrooms and the basement area. It was still necessary to have double sessions for the first graders from 1973 to 1978.
Individuals who played a big part in the school were Alice Gadd, our first guard, who helped children across the Outer Loop for fifteen years; Lani Loeser, one of the first cafeteria workers; Rose Durbin, who served over twenty-five years teaching at St. Athanasius and Bea Husted, longstanding secretary of the school. Sister Amelia Murphy, RSM, followed Sister Roberta Ann, RSM, as principal and served during the school year of 1967, prior to her appointment to the Provincial Council of Sisters of Mercy. To help the teaching sisters, the convent was built in 1966-mostly through volunteers-coordinated by Harold Haering.
In 1969, Father Hayden retired (but lived in a small house on Old Sheperdsville Road and served Mass at St. Athanasius until his death.); and the Reverend William A. Spalding became pastor. Progress was very evident during the late 1960’s into the 1970’s. Changes within the church itself, such as removing the altar rails and updating the liturgy, had taken place. There was a total CCD program from preschool to adult classes. Carl Aebersold, Paul Logsdon and David Owens were the first principals of the CCD children. Preschool Sunday programs for 4 and 5 year olds began through the efforts of Mary Lou Beam, then Tillie Meffert. Coordinators have been Sister Mary Ellen Curl, RSM; Jan Redle; Debbie Simpson and Jan Lynch. Vacation Bible School began in 1974, coordinated by Sister Mary Ellen Curl, Susan Hope and Linda Cline.
The 1970’s were a time of rapid change-Father Spalding, as pastor, was assisted first by Father Robert Mills, then Father J. Donald Medley, followed by Father Robert Reilly, Father J. Roy Stiled and finally, Father Kenneth Murr. The first extraordinary ministers, Carl Aebersol and Paul Logsdon, were assigned; and within a few weeks, in June of 1973, so were Joe Sondey, Elmer Kustes, Harold Haering, Sister Cecile Chandler and Sister Mary Ellen Curl, was hired, followed by Jan Redle in 1980. In 1978, one of our original parishioners, George Scholl, was ordained deacon and assigned to St. Athanasius.
The Women’s Club, along with tending the altar and cleaning the church, succeeded in paying off the organ debt. A quilting circle, evolving from this group, was formed in 1978 to make quilts for the parish festival. The Men’s Club developed an excellent athletic program and also built an outstanding ball field, considered to be one of the finest in Jefferson County. Many championships and trophies have been won through the years. Fall Festivals were started as fund raisers by these two clubs, along with the PTA, as early as 1967. These later grew into the summer festivals involving the entire parish.
A Parish School Board of Education was formed in May of 1971. The school was remodeled to accommodate all eight grades. Sister Monica Marie Kiefer, RSM, after serving as principal for six years, was succeeded by Sister Cecile Chandler, RSM. Tutorial programs had been held throughout the years; but one special reading program for children with learning disabilities was started by Bette Allgeier, Don Martin and Sister Monica in 1971. Under the direction of Kathy Wesselman for the first two years, and then under Bette Allgeier, the program was instrumental in helping quite a number of children until discontinued in 1981. Sister Louise Shoulta, RSM, succeeded Sister Cecile. Then, Charles Rymarowicz became the first lay principal, succeeded by Sister Aidan Hogan, OSU (1985-1998). The school’s current principal is Diane Arrow.
When Father Spalding was assigned to Danville in 1979, the Reverend John B. Gephart became our pastor for a year, succeeded by the Reverend James L. Schlich. He was assisted by Father Robert Abel, Father William O’Donnell, Father Albert Wilson, Father Frank Ellington, Deacon George Scholl and then by Father Gary Davis.
The Youth Ministry program, first coordinated by Carl Quinn and Helen Petter, became a full time position under Peggy Masterson, Deacon Don Masterson’s wife. Building on the foundation of the volunteer efforts of many, many people, including Debbie Farmer, Cindy Flock Baughman, Jim and Marge Hakel, Ron and Laura Robb, and Joe Triplett, the Youth Ministry flourished for many years.
The first Minister of Music was Ralph Weible, a dedicated organist. In the interim years, the liturgical music has been led by Irene and Rita Bernauer, Vivian Saettel, Janie Conboy and Phyllis and Dick Harland.
Newsletters have been an important part of our parish communications. In 1973, Chris Mundt gathered parish news and published the St. Athanasius Newsletter. Then, as an outgrowth of a parish LIGHT retreat in 1975, Gerry and Susan Hope began printing the LIGHT and NEWSY letters. The name changed to ILLUMINATOR under the editorship of Paul and Louise Logsdon; then to ST. ATHANASIUS NEWSLETTER under the committee of Kathy Brower, Mary Ellen Schreck, Larry and Carol Waller.
As our members grew older, there seemed to be a need for senior citizen activities. Pat Mudd, assisted by Susan Scholl, started the Senior Citizen Service in March of 1980. The Booster Club, comprised of men from the previous Men’s Club and women of the parish, was started in December 1982, with Ed Weartz as the first president.
The convent, temporarily used as an orphans’ residence, was totally remodeled as the Parish Center, under the direction of Bill Steinemann, with dedication on December 11, 1983. As of February 1985, the original debt as paid off! The final payment was made by the Booster club with proceeds from Bingo.
In 1985, the S.A.F.E. program (after school care) was founded; and the first director was Susan Roach. In the January 1986, Sister Aidan was given permission to establish a kindergarten for the 1986-1987 school year and later, a preschool for 4 year olds.
The Silver Anniversary Mass was held on February 9, 1986 with Archbishop Thomas Kelly; Father Jim Schlich, Pastor; Father Gary David, Associate; Deacon George Scholl and all former pastors, associates, school principals, and teachers in attendance. A celebration dinner was held in the school cafeteria after Mass.
A garage between the rectory and the Sister’s residence was constructed in 1986 by the Booster Club under the direction of Ray Curran.
On August 3, 1986, a Byzantine painting of Saint Athanasius by Rev. Donald Walpole, a Benedictine priest from Saint Meinrad, was presented to the parish by former pastor, Father Bill Spalding. This paining now hangs in the Parish Center.
A “family project” was undertaken during the Parish Renew Program. A small home was built completely with donated materials and volunteer labor for a “special needs” family of four who touched the hearts of many in the parish.
The Renew Committee, chaired by Mary Lynne Fritsch, Betty Haering, Judy Buckman, Doreen Dooley and Pat Sloan, sponsored a bonfire and songfest (led by John and Kim Dillman) on the church grounds on Octber 26, 1986.
The Youth Director, Joe Triplett, and the Youth Group held the first Halloween Haunted House Party for children of the parish on October 30, 1986.
After six years of negotiating with the Archdiocese and through the tireless efforts of a planning committee composed of Father Jim Schlich, Sister Louise Schoulta, Bob Ringenberg, Pat Mattingly, Doug Mussler, Jan Gahlinger, Bob Bramer, Bill Steinemann, Bill Smith, Ken Wilkins and Bob Koechlin, the All-Purpose Building was approved for construction, A groundbreaking ceremony was held in June 1, 1986. The building was completed in late November, and a wedding reception was held in the new “Parish Hall” for Ellen Mundt and James Burkhardt on December 27, 1986. On Sunday, January 4, 1987 Archbishop Kelly celebrated the 11:30 am Mass and afterwards blessed and dedicated the Parish Hall facility.
In 1990, Father Jim Schlich retired and Reverend Robert Huber became our pastor. He was assisted by Father Paul Eve, Deacon George Scholl, Father Joseph Rankin, Deacon Don Masterson, Father Steve Pohl, Father James Wafzig and Father Terry Bradshaw.
A Bereavement Committee was founded during this time and dedicated to coordinating the liturgy, the choir (music), food and funeral home visitation for the bereaved family.
The G.I.F.T. Program “Growing In Faith Together”, as established in 1989 and is still going strong today.
A major church renovation took place in 1990. Saint Athanasius Church was changed from a rectangular church to a church in the round with the altar moved to the front center with the pews forming a half circle around the front of the altar. New Stations of the Cross, statues, stained glass windows, a full immersion baptistery, crying room, day chapel, confessional room, side tabernacle, new sacristy with a bathroom, raised choir platform beside the altar with an organ and grand piano, a gathering foyer, new entrances, canopies and landscaping. Through the expertise of Father Bob Huber and the generosity of many parishioners, the renovation dept was paid off early.
The ball field was refurbished and dedicated to Charlie Besse, who originally owned the property and was a tireless groundskeeper until his death. His family sold some of his land to the parish for another ball field and soccer field next to the original ball field.
A Festival of Ministries was held showcasing all the various organizations, committees and groups with poster, information sheets and displays of their ministry projects.
A Family Appreciation day was held during the summer of 1995 thanking parishioners for their TIME, TALENT, and TREASURE!
The Jubilee Celebration 2000 program took place at Church in the spring.
Father Bob Huber retired in 2000, and Reverend Terry Bradshaw became pastor. Father Terry was assisted by Father Bob Huber until his death on June 15, 2007 and Father Jim Wafzig until he moved in late 2007 to the Sacred Heart Nursing Home where he resides today.
Father Bill Spalding entered eternal life on May 3, 2000. At his funeral, it was noted that he had celebrated his 25th anniversary here and that he cherished his time as pastor of Saint Athanasius Church.
Sister Aidan Hogan entered eternal life on March 3, 2002. Her service here is still fresh in many of our minds and hearts. We have fond memories of her wit and humor (her cat, Mittens, who roamed her office) (her part in the Nickelodeon filming and her “slimming”), her leadership and care for the school and her faith and love.
Father Terry Bradshaw, as pastor, initiated Leadership Gatherings where all leaders of the parish came together to share their accomplishments, goals, and early activities; Appreciation/Stewardship Dinners where parishioners come together to share a meal, dance and rejoice in their volunteerism. The Stewardship Dinner has become an annual family affair and is enjoyed by both the young and the old.
Two vacant positions were filled immediately by Father Terry. Debbie Sandler became the Director of Music, Bruce Jacobs became the Director of Religious Formation and later, Debbie Minton. After receiving permission from the Parish Council and the Finance Committee, Father Terry hired a Pastoral Associate, Robert Wadell.
There was a great need to refurbish the church and school by 2001. A Capital Campaign, chaired by Father Terry Bradshaw, Connie Herth, Susan Johnston, Mary Kelly, Jeanette Myers and Billie Stopinski, was begun with a Kick-Off Dinner served in the Parish Hall. The Capital Campaign raised over $800,000; and the proceeds were used for additional parking, a Parish Center Meeting Room including a handicapped-accessible bathroom, a handicap deck and ramp, new double-paned insulated windows for the entire school, preschool playground (enclosed) with Blessed Mother Grotto and playground equipment, asbestos removal from boiler rooms, electrical and plumbing upgrades, heating and air-conditioning system replacement, a cafeteria addition for a new freezer, refrigerator and ice machine, a covered entrance from the back parking lot and new landscaping.
The Parish Hall facility was also updated. Due to the diligence of the Parish Hall Committee over the years, there was enough money saved to pay for a new gym floor. The Committee and the Parish shared the expense of a new heating and air-conditioning system.
Directional signs for the entire campus were purchased and installed.
A new program was introduced to the parish at the January 2006 Stewardship Dinner called “Co-Workers in The Vineyard”, with emphasis on nurturing religious vocations and Lay Ministers. As Co-Workers, we strive to discern our God-given gifts to answer as we are called by our baptisms to serve. We have faith formation opportunities that prepare those responding to the call, as well as ministries in which one may participate. In 2010, there are over 56 organized and active ministries and organizations in our parish, serving to meet the needs of others, plus many co-workers who share their gifts without recognition.
Saint Athanasius Parish has witnessed 3,692 Baptisms, 683 Rites of Christian Burial and 1017 Marriages. Currently (as of 5/21/2010), we have 1,269 registered families, over 500 children enrolled in school and over 100 children enrolled in Parish Religious Education Preparation Program (P.R.E.P.), formally known as CCD.
In 2009, we began the first year of a three-year campaign sponsored by the Archdiocese of Louisville and supported by St. Athanasius parishioners. Together, we are Building a Future of Hope. Once again, the many co-workers of our parish understating that the upkeep of our church and school is an investment in the service we offer in the formation of the next generation. Our campaign priorities include the Mission of Jesus, with 10% of our achieved goal used to support our parish Mission’s ministries; St. Athanasius School Tuition Aid to assist school families; and upgrades to our existing facilities. We have experienced a new generation stepping up and becoming involved with our existing leadership to achieve the goals of our campaign.
Father Terry Bradshaw was reassigned to a new parish, Saint Bernadette, in January 2010; and Father Gary Davis was assigned to St. Athanasius as its new pastor.
As we celebrate our 50th Anniversary, we recognize that three areas of involvement have been pivotal in developing our foundation and providing for our future: School Involvement, Ministry Involvement and Our Parish Mission-the Mission of Jesus Christ: Feeding -Healing – Shepherding. We have been blest with good guidance from our priests who have served us, by the leadership of our principals and teachers who have educated our children, and the continued support of our parishioners and our community. Our Lord has been good to the people of Saint Athanasius. What a gift he has given us!
Thank you for the foundation of 50 years! May God bless us with a future of hope!