The establishment, trials and successes of St. Mary Church

By Tina Zola

Twelve Catholic families in the Oxford area came together in 1852 to request the establishment of a church. With help from a local Presbyterian minister, they made their request to Cincinnati Archbishop John Purcell and it was granted.

Masses were initially held in the homes of the resident Catholic families until services were moved into a local schoolhouse in 1853. This schoolhouse was used for 15 years.

After about 12 years, the growth of the parish was so notable that a permanent priest was brought in. The diocese was also prompted to give the community a larger church building. The building being used on Poplar and Collins was no longer able to hold the growing congregation.

Three acres of land were purchased on the corner of Locust and Withrow and the building of a church began. The cornerstone of the new church building was laid in 1867. By April of the following year, the church was partially built, but not completed yet.

On Feb. 11, 1917, after years of growth, a fire broke out during a Mass. The altar was one of the few salvageable pieces from the fire, and for four years the congregation again worshipped in temporary locations.

A new priest was appointed in 1919, and he was tasked with building a replacement parish. To keep up with community needs, as well as the student population, he decided to establish the new church in the center of town. The cornerstone of the new building was laid in 1920, and the new church was ready for use the following year.

About 30 years later, St. Mary Parish bought an adjoining property behind the Oxford Municipal Building. In 1966, the current parish center was built. This served as a chapel for Newman Center worship on the weekend to account for the growing community of local residents and students. In 1988, Miami University students submitted plans for the present parish center arrangement, which came to fruition shortly thereafter.