With roots as far back as the 1840s when local Catholics invited a priest to say Mass in an Aurora home, St. Mary’s is a testimony of the faith and determination of Roman Catholics in an area fertile with the missionary work of Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians.  The parish was officially founded in 1857 according to information presented by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.  Presumably, the name, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, was assigned by the bishop; although that is the official name, the parish has been fondly known always as “St. Mary’s.”   Early priests came sporadically from Cincinnati, and the community’s ties with the Queen City were strong despite the fact that Aurora was part of the Diocese of Vincennes which was comprised of the entire state of Indiana and about half of Illinois.  As early as 1849 the construction of a church was discussed; the date of that first church building near Market and Water Streets is unknown was most likely built in the early 1850s to minister to the needs of German and Irish immigrants. 

The History of Our Parish
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In the 1940s the parish had begun to raise money for a new school building.  However, Father Spaulding (pastor from 1947-1952) decided that a new rectory was an urgent need, and the building fund was used to build a large rectory east of and attached to the church building.  Some parishioners felt that such a fine home was not necessary, but Father Spaulding’s argument was that the archbishop might need to stay overnight in Aurora.  The rectory was finished in 1950 and was used as a home for pastors until 1993.  At that time the home began to be used as a parish office, and the parish rented apartments and homes for the pastor.

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In a rare joint effort by Germans and Irish, Saint Mary’s grew, and by 1863 the congregation needed a bigger church.  The lots were purchased on Fourth Street, and the present church building was finished in 1864.  St. Mary’s has traditionally been a middle class parish with many of the early parishioners earning their livings working on the railroad and in a variety of local entrepreneurial trades.  Not until the early part of the 20th century was the debt paid for the construction of the church, its steeple (finished in 1876, bells cast in 1868), the rectory, the sisters’ convent, and the school building (constructed from brick salvaged from the original church building).

 

Originally staffed by Sisters of Providence, the school was turned over to the Franciscan Sisters of Oldenburg in 1880.  Their service lasted until 1996 when the last teaching sister retired.  Under the auspices of the Franciscans, Saint Mary’s ran a successful parochial school (and even a high school until 1937), and today the school is operated by a dedicated staff of lay men and women.  

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In the 1940s the parish had begun to raise money for a new school building.  However, Father Spaulding (pastor from 1947-1952) decided that a new rectory was an urgent need, and the building fund was used to build a large rectory east of and attached to the church building.  Some parishioners felt that such a fine home was not necessary, but Father Spaulding’s argument was that the archbishop might need to stay overnight in Aurora.  The rectory was finished in 1950 and was used as a home for pastors until 1993.  At that time the home began to be used as a parish office, and the parish rented apartments and homes for the pastor.

In the early 1980s the need for a parish center became evident.  Through the generosity of parishioners a large building housing a gymnasium, a kitchen, locker rooms, a classroom, meeting room, and storage areas was completed in 1982.  The Activity Center serves the parish as a gathering place and is used daily by the school community.  The site had once provided parish parking, and partly due to the generosity of our local Knights of Columbus, the parish was able to acquire two lots catty-cornered to the church for parking.

 

In 2019  Father Ben Syberg was appointed as pastor while continuing to serve as pastor of St. Lawrence in Lawrenceburg.  Parishioners have been asked to adapt just as our early ancestors in Aurora adapted.  The main ministry of outreach is our parish school; both religious education and community service (through the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry) are key elements of parish life.  Membership includes just under four hundred households in a territory which is comprised of a good portion of southern Dearborn County, all of Ohio County, and a portion of Switzerland County – the largest parish territory in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

 

The Lord has called a number of men from Saint Mary’s to serve in the priesthood and men and women who joined a variety of religious orders.  We proudly recognize our parish sons Father Pius Klein, OSB, a monk of St. Meinrad Archabbey and also Father John Meyer, currently the pastor of St. Mary’s in Greensburg.  Vocation awareness and prayer for an increase in good vocations to the priesthood and religious life are an important part of every school day at Saint Mary’s.

 

Through the years, like Roman Catholics in parishes around the world, we have adapted to new ideas and approaches brought to us by the men assigned as our pastors.  Like all of us, they have brought their own personal strengths and weaknesses to our journey in faith.  As we face the future today, we entrust our care to Almighty God with confidence that the way He uses us will help to build the kingdom for all.

              Compiled over time by

J.D. Moritz

Lucille Neff

Helen Ullrich     

 & Jim Waldon

A generous bequest by parishioner John Kirby in the late 50s finally allowed the parish to build a new school building in the summer of 1959 without disrupting the school schedule.  Mr. Kirby also bequeathed to the parish his Fifth Street home which was redesigned into a comfortable convent for the sisters.  Today the Kirby home serves the school as a library and art room and provides a home for St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, an outreach program operated by volunteers and through donations by parishioners and members of Aurora First United Methodist Church.

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