St. Francis Seraph Roman Catholic Church in Over-the-Rhine. The Statue of St. Francis above the door was imported from Munich in the 1860s and cast in the same foundry as the Tyler Davidson fountain which stands in Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati.
Photo by: Laura Laugle
In 1844 it was clear to Bishop John Purcell that the City of Cincinnati was in need of more German speaking Catholic priests in order to properly serve the immigrants who were flooding the city. As a result, he welcomed Franciscan monks from the St. Leopold province in Austria to the area, where they served German Catholics in Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and Eastern Indiana until they were ordered home to Europe by Austrian authorities in 1857.
The monks, who desired to stay in Cincinnati, opened a High School seminary, which they dubbed St. Francis College, in order to support themselves; the first classes were held at the college in 1858. The present church, pictured here, was built on the site of a Catholic cemetery and completed in 1859. The remains were reinterred in a crypt below the church and the tombstones used to pave the floor.
Membership at St. Francis has dwindled since its peak of 900 at the turn of the century, but the friars continue with the traditions begun by St. Francis, living lives of poverty and reaching out to a community in need. They presently operate a soup kitchen every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and a large outreach program called the Sarah Center, which helps connect those in need
with people and organizations able to help. The Sarah Center also runs a supplemental income program wherein participants learn jewelry making and sell their creations for profit.
The Bicentennial Guide to Greater Cincinnati: A Portrait of Two Hundred Years, by Geoffrey J. Giglierano, Deborah A. Overmeyer, with Frederic L. Propas, The Cincinnati Historical Society, 1988, page 97
Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine, by Kevin Grace and Tom White, Arcadia Publishing, 2003, page 46
Outreach Center, St. Francis Seraph Ministries, Accessed 15th November 2009.