History of Parishes
The parish of St. Peter's began in 1837 with Father William Beecham (from Ireland) in an old cooper shop on Dominick Street. By 1845, the first permanent church on the corner of Floyd and St. Peter's Avenues was dedicated with 400 families in the parish. Father Beecham remained pastor until his death in 1876.
Father Aloysius Murphy became the second pastor of St. Peter's Church. By 1894, the parish had grown significantly so Father Murphy purchased land on James Street. The building of the present St. Peter's Church began in 1895 and was consecrated and dedicated on October 24, 1897. St. Peter's architectural style is Victorian Gothic with beautiful details. The Paraclete (represented by a dove) is displayed on the wall above the main altar symbolizing the Holy Spirit (an advocate and witness to the Truth). The four Gospel writers, Matthew, Luke, John and Mark, are also found over the altar represented by the winged man, the winged ox, the winged eagle and the winged lion respectively. Many other wonderful details can be observed in the church as well.
Monsignor James Carson became pastor in 1906 and was with St. Peter's until 1950. He built the rectory and renovated the church under his care. Monsignor Edward Buttimer was appointed pastor in 1950 and was responsible for building a convent for the nuns across the street from the parish school, St. Aloysius Academy (the former "first" St. Peter's Church building). In 1960 both the interior and exterior of St. Peter's was renovated. Monsignor Buttimer remained pastor until 1971.
Monsignor Francis Culkin served as pastor from 1971 until his retirement in 1990. Under Monsignor Culkin's care, the church building's exterior was sandblasted, the organ was repaired and upgraded, and the process of repairing the stained glass windows was started.
Father Philip Hearn became the sixth and current pastor of St. Peter's in 1990. He completed the stained glass window restoration project and had the exterior stone walls re-pointed, thus repairing the structure of the church. In 2005, under his leadership, the interior of the church was restored to its former beauty. The next year, Father Hearn was named pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Church as well as St. Peter's.
St. Mary's was a "German" speaking Catholic Church founded in 1848. It was located on Depeyster Street. Father Florian Schwenninger was appointed first pastor and was succeeded by twenty-three pastors over the course of twenty-two years. Finally, Father Peter Smith arrived in 1870 and land was purchased on West Liberty Street to build a new "St. Mary's Church" building.
On the feast of The Ascension in 1871 the cornerstone was laid and the new church was dedicated in September 1872. A new school was also built for the parish. Father Smith was succeeded by many dedicated pastors throughout the years. One such pastor was Monsignor Aubrey Seiter who served St. Mary's from 1949 to 1973. He accomplished many improvements to St. Mary's, namely, a new Sacristy and Baptistery, new lights in the bell tower, new marble altars and floor and new confessionals. The parish of St. Mary's celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1998. During the Great Depression, St. Mary's helped many needy families by supplying coal, food and clothing .
On June 28, 2009, the faith community of St. Mary's joined St. Peter's in their new parish home at St. Peter's Church. St. Mary of the Assumption Church is now designated as an Devotional Chapel where special feast days, weddings and funerals can be celebrated. Together, under the gentle guidance of Father Hearn, both parishes have been united and are in the process of building on the strengths of two very active faith communities. After all, Father Hearn said, "being Catholic is not about a building but rather about people joined together in faith, called together to be a Church".
St. Mary of the Assumption Church and St. Peter's Church have served the city of Rome spiritually, educationally and socially for a combined total of over 335 years.