By Laura Keener
MESSENGER, June 30, 2000, reprinted with permission
Father Henry Looschelders
Father Bernard Nurre
Father John Mueller
Msgr. Stanley Fleming
For the early St. Anthony Parish, Taylor Mill, the railroad was as much responsible for increasing parish enrollment as it did in decreasing it. The congregation began informally in the 1860s by two groups of “isolated Catholics” — the Irish Catholics who worked for Kentucky Central Railroad, who began settling around Spring Lake, Kentucky (near Locust Pike) and the German Catholics settling along DeCoursey Turnpike and Taylor Mill Road.
Due to the financial limitation of the people, and the lack of transportation, many were unable to attend Mass regularly at the closest church in Covington, eight miles away. Recognizing the spiritual need of these “isolated Catholics” Bishop Augustus Toebbe, the second bishop of Covington, began to visit and minister to these people himself. In 1876, Father William Robbers, then pastor of St. Augustine Church, also began to service the German Catholics, who were geographically in his district.
The first actual building was the home of J. B. Kluemper, on DeCoursey Pike, which he offered temporarily to Father Robbers for the purpose of servicing the spiritual needs of the people.
In 1877, J. P. Winston, a non-Catholic, donated a three-acre plot of land on DeCoursey near the intersection of Locust Pike. Construction of the church began immediately. The cornerstone was laid in the spring of 1878 and the church was dedicated under the patronage of Saint Anthony the Hermit that fall.
In 1902 Father Henry Looschelders was appointed the first resident pastor of St. Anthony Church.
Father Looschelders brought the Sisters of Notre Dame, who commuted daily by train from Mother of God Church, to teach school in the church basement. Unable to provide a living wage, the church had to terminate the services of the Sisters just four years later.
The establishment of a neighboring parish, Holy Cross, Latonia, in 1891, proved to be another challenge to Father Looschelders. The new parish, more conveniently located, attracted many St. Anthony parishioners and new families entering the area.
The close proximity of the train yard made the classroom unsafe and unhealthy. The heavy smoke and steam of the locomotives and the poor ventilation of the room were believed to be a contributing factor to the death of lay teacher Miss Ross.
Meanwhile, to make matters worse, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N Railroad), by eminent domain power, condemned the back part of the church property. “The parish was awarded $10,000 for the property taken and the remaining property which was damaged by L&N Railroad.
Despite the hardships, membership remained steady at 120 parishioners, about 35 families. Then in 1916 the L&N Railroad closed the passenger stop at DeCoursey station, which caused parishioners who depended on the train for transportation to move away.
In 1925 the L&N Railroad again announced plans to expand their operations at DeCoursey. In 1927 the property was condemned.
Father Bernard J. Nurre, pastor 1921-1967, began searching for a new site more centrally located to parishioners and away from the railroad. He selected and purchased a ten-acre tract of land in the Forest Hills Subdivision, the current location of St. Anthony Parish on Grand and Howard Avenues, Taylor Mill.
The 43-years of Father Nurre’s pastorate saw much growth. Construction of the rectory began immediately, then the church, followed by a sister’s house. On September 9, 1928, Bishop Francis W. Howard laid the cornerstone of St. Anthony Church.
The now easily accessible St. Anthony Parish began to experience increased enrollment.
In 1952 construction began on a four-room permanent brick school for the 98 registered students. In 1959, the number of students registered rose to 330 which demanded a larger school, and resulted in the current school building.
School enrollment reached its peak in 1963 with 376 students, and a pupil-teacher ratio of 47 to one.
The 1970s and 1980s saw a decline in parish and school enrollment but as Father John Mueller, pastor 1968-1979, predicted, “The circle highway I-275 which necessitated the destruction of some homes in the parish...will without doubt offer an impetus to building growth in the Taylor Mill area.”
“There are 450 families in the parish at this time (June 2000),” said pastor Father Thomas Robbins, “due to the growth of the Taylor Mill area. We are currently looking at how to accommodate the larger number of people who are attending Mass each week. We want all members of the parish to feel they have a home here at St. Anthony’s.”
“As the parish grows we hope we will be able to have more people involved in the parish activities,” said Father Robbins.
Father Robbins is most impressed with the leadership and organization of the laity at St. Anthony’s. “While I am very supportive, the leadership does a great job, without my direct, hands-on involvement.” The Festival Committee has had record success the last couple of years and the Disciples in Mission program had a very good percentage of involvement, he said.
Much of the property improvements, including the renovations of Fleming Hall (named after Msgr. Stanley Fleming, pastor 1986-1996), were done by volunteer workers. “I think this is a great sign of the interest and pride that people have in our parish and school,” said Father Robbins.