History of Epiphany
Epiphany of Our Lord Parish began, not at its present location, but in an old store on Ivanhoe Ave. at Arloe Station, on February 11, 1911. The first Mass was said by a Vincentian Father from Kenrick Seminary. Seven months later, on September 8, 1911, Father Joseph English was officially appointed administrator of the Parish. The decision was made to call the new church Epiphany. Father English claimed he was determined to follow good advice and "attach his parish to a star."
Not long after, it was decided the storefront was inadequate and a larger space was needed. Father English was able to get the use of an old nickelodeon on the east side of Ivanhoe between Scanlan and Bradley. Services were held in this building from September 1911 until December 8, 1912. A choir was formed and the first High Mass was sung on Christmas of 1911.
During this time, a school was opened in the same building and two sisters of St. Dominic were secured as teachers. Sister Mary Cecilia and Sister John Baptist opened the school in September of 1912 with forty-two students. The pews in church did double duty as school desks, with the students sitting on the kneeling benches, using the seats of the pews as desks.
Father English decided to find a permanent location for the church and school. He was able to secure 200 feet of ground on Smiley Avenue and the cornerstone for the combination building was laid on September 8, 1912. On December 8, 1912, the new church was dedicated and the first class from the school was confirmed by Archbishop Glennon. Services were held on the second floor of the new building. The first floor was divided into two rooms for the school and two rooms as a convent for the Sisters. The Parish and school continued to grow and, in 1914, the corner lot on Ivanhoe Avenue was purchased at the cost of $22.00 per foot. Parishioners contributed the cost, each paying for one or more feet of land.
1915 proved a banner year for the Epiphany School. The first class graduated from the school. Six students had completed the course of study, five girls and one boy. During this time the school expanded when the sisters' living quarters were moved to a house at 3129 Ivanhoe and their previous quarters were taken over for classrooms.
Epiphany Parish continued to grow. In 1916, the Rectory was built. 1918 saw the proceeds from a carnival used to purchase another one hundred feet on Ivanhoe.
In 1912, the new Church and School had been built at a cost of $14,102. In 1928, with a mortgage of $11,600, a campaign was started with the slogan "Let's Burn the Mortgage on the Feast of Epiphany." On the Feast of Epiphany, 1929, the campaign was brought to a successful conclusion and the parish was debt free.
On December 8, 1929, ground was broken for a new church. The entire cost of the building, including furnishings, was $100,000. Even though this was the start of the Great Depression, parishioners were able to contribute $10,000 towards the building of the Church during the time of construction.
After 33 years as Pastor of Epiphany Parish, Father English died in 1944. His legacy was carried on by Father Charles Maxwell. Although only at Epiphany for 9 years, Father Maxwell started the tradition of youth activities that continues today. Father Maxwell saw the Rectory built in 1947, and additions made to the Convent and school to keep up with the growing Parish. His most crowning accomplishment, though, was the building and dedication of the Father English Memorial. Completed in 1950, the new gym and parish center provided needed facilities for the physical development of the children and space for adult social and recreational activities.
Upon the death of Father Maxwell in 1955, Monsignor Sullivan was appointed Pastor of Epiphany Parish. In 1957, ground was broken for a new, modern elementary school. It was completed in time for the 1958-59 school year. The new school was built on land that Father English had had the foresight to purchase. The school and Parish continued to grow so much that, for a time during the sixties, even this new modern school was inadequate with over a thousand students registered at Epiphany School.
When Monsignor Sullivan retired from parish life in 1983, Father William Scheid was appointed Pastor. It was his job to undertake some of the changes in Parish structure being required by the Archdiocese. He was instrumental in the formation of the Parish Council, the Home and School Association, and the School Board, thus relieving the Pastor and the Principal of some of the increasing responsibilities of Parish decisions. In 1986, with the encouragement of the Parish, Father Scheid started the interior renovation of the church, making it more compatible with modern liturgical changes.
Father Scheid died suddenly in 1988 and was succeeded by Father Bernard Nienhaus, who continued his traditions, and was successful, with the help of a capital campaign, to pay off the Parish debts to the Archdiocese. His greatest achievement, though, was the purchase, in 1994, of the Longfellow School lot directly across from the Church on Smiley Avenue. On November 12, 1994, the lot was dedicated as the Monsignor Sullivan Memorial Field.
Upon the departure of Father Nienhaus in June, 1995, the Parish welcomed Father Dale Wunderlich. Father Wunderlich continued the tradition established by Father English so many years ago until July of 2004 when Father Tom Miller was welcomed by the parish.
Started in 1911, with 11 families, Epiphany has grown to over 1000 families today. Through the dedication of families of those like that of Fred Hof, who helped build the first church and whose descendants are still active in the building of the Parish today, Epiphany will continue to grow into tomorrow.
Renovation brings new life to beloved parish church.
After years of planning and seven long months of construction, Epiphany of Our Lord Church opened its new doors Dec. 22 for the first Mass in a building transformed by major renovations. Parishioners streaming into the church for Christmas week services found an interior rejuvenated from ceiling to floor. Water-damaged walls, once marred by cracks and peeling paint, are now freshly plastered and painted. The floor, once covered by a well-worn carpet, now gleams with the clean lines of new stone tiles. “I think it’s really elegant,” said Theresa Toney, a ‘96 Epiphany alum now enrolled at Quincy University. “It’s very simple not at all gaudy like some churches.” A committee of 12 parishioners spent several years developing plans for the renovation, which included badly needed structural repairs, as well as changes intended to enhance the building’s use as a place of worship. The altar is moved forward. The tabernacle is relocated to allow more space for private meditation.
Over the last decade, Epiphany has scraped together funds to address water leaks caused by exterior problems with roof, windows and tuck-pointing. In February 2003, the parish launched a $500,000 “Restoring the Light of Epiphany’s Star” fundraising campaign. In little more than a month, parishioners responded with pledges totaling more than $600,000.
“The church building is the center of our parish and its restoration has strengthened Epiphany for years to come,” said parish pastor, Rev. Dale Wunderlich. “The project reinstates the architectural beauty of the church while enhancing its functionality as a place of worship. The parish can be very proud of this investment in its future.”
Fr. Tom Miller was assigned to Epiphany in July of 2004 and remains there to this day. During his time the parish participated in the deanery study that helped reshape the church in South St. Louis. The school and its enrollment became a critical issue during this time. A direct appeal was launched in 2006 that allowed the school to continue its ministry because of the generous support of parishioners, organizations, staff and alumni. It was a collective effort to ensure the continuation of the school while exploring various options in marketing, development and activities that would help stabilize the school. Epiphany Forever!
In 2008 it became apparent that the enrollment and financing were reaching a critical low. 2008 was marked by many meetings among pastors to discuss possibilities of some sort of joint effort in education. The parish School Board and Finance Committee were joined together as a Transition team to guide the parish during this process. By the end of the '08-'09 academic year it became apparent that partners for some sort of collaborative effort were lacking for a variety of reasons. By the beginning of the '09-'10 academic year it was decided to petition Archbishop Carlson for permission to close our school. This was and remains a sad moment in the history of our parish, something every dear to us ceases and our lives will be changed by this loss. The parish will move forward under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and this period of pruning may yield fruit that is currently difficult to discern or anticipate in our grief.
In 2011 we look forward to our centennial celebration. Our sorrow and grief can give way to celebration and gratitude for all that Epiphany is. For one century we have celebrated our faith. Our lives have been marked by the presence of Jesus Christ who is the very reason why we come together and become a family of faith. Knowing, loving and serving Him was the reason for the founding of the parish and it remains the reason for us coming together today and well into the future.