History of OLPH
Father James Ambrose Lane formed Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish on June 10, 1918. The property, purchased by Bishop Schrembs, was located on River Road.
The first five pastors of OLPH – 1918 through 1981:
In 1920, there were 490 parishioners and 70 enrolled in the parish school, located in the basement of the pastor’s residence. The Ursuline Sisters were the teachers when, in 1921, a new “portable” classroom had to be added. The parish continued to grow under the leadership of Father James Elder.
In 1930, Father Bernard P. Crane was assigned as pastor. For 38 years, Father Crane led OLPH from a small building with “portable” buildings to become one of Toledo’s largest parishes.
From 1945 to 1950, the parish doubled in size from 1,600 to 3,212 parishioners. In 1946, he purchased a strip of land on the Anthony Wayne Trail (the newly filled in Miami-Erie Canal), and construction began in August 1949 with one building opening (the new school) in September 1950. By the time the new school opened, ten Masses were said every Sunday. By 1952, the hall/cafeteria was completed, and in 1956, Bishop George Rehring consented to the construction of St. Joseph’s Hall, along with the building of a new parish in South Toledo, to alleviate our overcrowded conditions.
The photo below shows the church’s interior during Mass in March of 1952. Click on the image to see a large version of the photo in a PDF document.
In 1969 Father Edward Mattimoe continued Father Crane’s legacy with the purchase of an additional rectory and Sister’s residence. Father Lawrence Devine came to OLPH in 1973 and the church underwent renovations to conform to the requirements of the Second Vatican Council. He also purchased the present rectory on Glynn Drive.
The 1935 photo above shows the Miami and Erie Canal winding through OLPH parish. The canal was filled between 1937 and 1940. A wooden bridge is visible at Glendale Avenue, and there were smaller bridges at Marengo and Sherwood. The photo below is from 1978 and shows the same area, but in this image Glendale Avenue now crosses a fully operational Anthony Wayne Trail. (Photos were provided courtesy of the Toledo Blade).
Father Frank Crawford was named pastor in 1981, Father Robert Thomas in 1982, and Father Francis Speier was named pastor in 1985. The Sister’s residence was sold in 1985, and the Sherwood rectory was sold in 1989. On May 22, 1988, a permanent Adoration Chapel was dedicated. Since we were debt free, Bishop James Hoffman gave permission for a Building Fund Drive to provide another need for our parishioners. On December 3, 1989, the new Parish Activities Center, which includes a multi-purpose room, music room, two classrooms and parish offices, was dedicated.
In July of 1997, Rev Robert Wilhelm was appointed the ninth pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. In July of 2005, Father Robert Reinhart was appointed the tenth pastor, and in 2011 Father Jim Brown became the 11th pastor. We welcomed our 12th pastor, Father David Ritchie, in July of 2013. Father Joe Steinbauer was named pastor in 2018.
Currently there are approximately 4,500 parishioners who share in worship, service and fellowship in the OLPH faith community.
The Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help
While in Mass, many OLPH parishioners have probably gazed at the wonderful Mary painting in the church. The artist of the painting is unknown, but the image is rich with Christian symbolism. Click here to open a PDF with the meaning of the symbols.
Toledo was a new city in a new state in a new country in the mid 1800s. Developed and settled later than many surrounding areas due to the northwest territory being off limits to settlement in the 1700s, Toledo’s founding was decades behind towns in southern Ohio and Indiana.
When Toledo incorporated in the early 1800s, it became a boom town for industry and immigrants. Toledo was perfectly situated on Lake Erie and the Maumee River to be exploited not only as a port for local farmers, but for other industries to take hold, including shipping, glass works, and metal works. This explosion onto the national scene included a great influx of workers into Toledo. A large portion of those workers were new immigrants, along side of second and third generation European immigrants and a wave of first generation freed slaves. Like many new cities popping up across the Midwest and America, the new citizens held fast onto their country of origins and largely settled into neighborhoods with their fellow countrymen. In homes where second languages were still spoken at home and culture and food was from the “old world” or “deep south,” faith followed the communities.
In this way, the Catholic Church and eventually the Diocese of Toledo entered into the community of early Toledo. Originally, the City of Toledo was a part of the Cincinnati Diocese until the Toledo Diocese was created by the Church in 1910. The original Catholic Churches in the Toledo area were largely identified by their ethnic communities. There were Greek, Polish, Italian, German, Irish, Hungarian and others who identified with the communities they served. In the mid 1800s through the early 1900s, Toledo stretched out to Broadway Avenue on the east side of the Maumee River, to Central Avenue in the north, to Detroit Avenue in the west, and to about Walbridge Park in the south. By the late 1800s and early 1900s, the face of the community began to change and people began to move further out into what would become greater Toledo.
It was around this time that the Diocese of Toledo began expanding at an ever-increasing rate. Many new parishes were founded between the late 1880s and the early 1900s. The diocese decided in 1915 it needed to expand and create two new parishes to serve the large Catholic population settling in Toledo. Two new parishes were planned: St. John the Baptist in Point Place and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in South Toledo.
These new parishes began to serve the first wave of movement outside of the city center – later to be named urban flight – to unsettled areas of Toledo. At the time, OLPH was at the edge of town. Along with this early version of urban flight that began in the Diocese of Toledo in the late 1890s, the first parishes that were not identified with the “old world” ethnic communities were formed. OLPH would be one of the first Toledo Churches one could identify as a “melting pot” in the diocese. OLPH was not Polish, or Irish, or Italian; it was simply a south end parish, serving all Catholics in the newly forming neighborhood. While one can still see some old world traditions at OLPH, OLPH did not identify with any one type of community and that tradition continues to the time of OLPH’s 100th anniversary.
In this history of the first 100 years of OLPH, I hope to underline the uniqueness of this and many other traditions OLPH has had over the last 100 years. From its founding on River Road and the Delaware Creek, to its relocation to Central Grove Avenue and property bordering the filled in Miami and Erie canal, OLPH is one of the very few parishes that has physically moved its entire location. This history will cover how OLPH has grown and transitioned from its founding during the end of World War I and the dawn of prohibition all the way to the New Millennium and the dawn of the 21st Century. This account will do its best to cover not only pastors, principals, and numbers, but will include the people and community of OLPH. This story aims to follow the OLPH community and its members over the first 100 years and hopes to shed light on our community as the bible tells us to “be a light to the whole world.”