The History of St. Mary Church

Fr. Cornelius Daly, who had come from Ireland and was serving as Pastor of St. Patrick Church in Fayetteville, visited Hillsboro in 1845. To his surprise, he discovered about 15 Catholic families living in Hillsboro. The first Mass in Hillsboro was celebrated in a home owned by one of the families.Despite the small numbers, the existing St. Mary Church was built in 1852 on land donated by a parishioner. The Church was blessed by Fr. Baraga, a missionary to America from Slovakia. Fr. Baraga was consecrated a Bishop in Cincinnati on November 1, 1853. He is currently being promoted for Sainthood. Cincinnati Archbishop Purcell preached the sermon. Fr. Michael O'Donoghue was the Sub-Deacon for the celebration. He would later become the longest serving Pastor of both St. Mary and St. Benignus Churches from 1861 to 1880.

It was Fr. Michael O'Donoghue who brought the 500-pound bell by train and wagon from the Verdin Bell Company in Cincinnati, as a symbol of peace when the Civil War ended in 1865. It was rung by rope and hand until Fr. Cletus Reiger bought the electronic bell ringing device from Verdin Bell Company 85 years later to celebrate the Marian Year in 1950. Now the bell could be programmed to ring the Angelus at 12:00 noon and 6:00 p.m. The current Pastor, Fr. Michael Paraniuk, once again turned to Verdin 58 years later to purchase Hillsboro's very first electronic carillon in 2008 that could play music. It played its very first song on December 19th - a Christmas favorite, "Silver Bells." St. Mary Church expanded greatly in 1923. Fr. John Malone built the current Sanctuary, the Choir Loft, and the Rectory.

New building would not occur again till 1988 when Beloved Pastor, Fr. Stanley Luehrmann, built the Narthex and Parish Hall that parishioners voted to name after him. It took 136 years, but St. Mary Church finally had its own restroom! Parishioners were mightily relieved. In 2000, Fr. Luehrmann established St. Mary Catholic School, which boasted its first enrollment of 12 students. The School grew so fast that a new, larger Parish Hall was constructed and finished in June 2005. Sadly, Fr. Luehrmann passed to his reward in Heaven one month later in July. Fr. Michael Paraniuk was assigned Pastor on November 4th, 2005. The church interior was in need of a complete restoration.

The last major restoration occurred under the Pastorate of Fr. Albert Schreck in 1961. The restoration began in June 2006, which saw the church redone in an Ornamental Gothic Style, under the direction of Interior Designer Mrs. Mary Wright. In order to enhance devotion to the Eucharist, the tabernacle was moved back to the center of the Sanctuary and placed on an original cherry wood repository podium built by the hands of Mr. Jerome Piezer. Many people visit St. Mary Church and are generous in their compliments. The restored church with seven primary colors invites prayer and devotion.

"Although Hillsboro and locality is strongly Protestant, a spirit of good will and friendliness between Catholic and non-Catholic is strongly evident. Seldom do we hear of quarrels and bitterness because of religious differences. Hillsboro is essentially a friendly locality -- a good example for other localities, that are broken by religious unrest and bickering, to follow."

- excerpt from St. Mary's Catholic Church 1852-1952 - (Published in 1952)