The Archdiocese of Louisville researched the Catholic population in the Audubon area during the mid 1940’s and determined that there was a need for another parish. The area parishes responsible for meeting these families’ spiritual needs were finding the situation burdensome. To alleviate this situation, a new parish was formed. Drawing from St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Our Mother of Sorrows and Holy Family, the new St. Stephen Martyr Church was established with about 350 families.
On November 4, 1948, Fr. Clemens Weiker moved into the Our Mother of Sorrows rectory and began preparations for building the new church and school. Future parishioners of St. Stephen Martyr dropped special envelopes into the Sunday collection at their churches. This money was to be used as a base for the building fund.
An old World War I hospital was available for the convent. The church and school would be built on an empty lot purchased by the Archdiocese right after World War I, and was located at the corner of Hess Lane and Pindell Avenue. In addition, a home at the corner of English Avenue and Greenup was available for sale and was purchased for $1,500.00. Construction of the parish church and school began September 9, 1949 by Thomas Nolan and Sons. The church/school combination was built in an “L” shape with a church seating capacity of over 600. The Dominican Sisters provided the teaching staff for our school.
October 23, 1949, Fr. John Lyons blessed and laid the cornerstone. The first Mass was said by Father Weiker on June 11, 1950 in conjunction with the first festival of St. Stephen Martyr. Open house was held on December 26, 1950 and St. Stephen Martyr Church was blessed and dedicated by Archbishop Floersh.
Throughout the history of St. Stephen Martyr, the parishioners have shown their support through a variety of social organizations. Some of these include: Women’s Altar Sodality, the Girl Scouts, Saint Bernadette Society and MOSS Club. During the late fifties and early sixties the Marteen Club was formed under the direction of Fr. Prindiville and the PTA. As the Vatican Council impacted upon the church, Ste. Stephen Martyr rose to meet the changing needs. During the sixties a focus was placed upon adult education. Renewal missions based upon the new directives of the second Vatican Council were formed. Religious education study sessions were held in homes and at the church. The parish offered programs such as RCIA and Catholic Religious Education. Due to the Council, in the early seventies, parishioners began to take a greater role within the church/school community. Lectors and lay ministers served at Mass. A parish council and school board were formed. In 1970, Mrs. Evelyn Kalbhin became the first lay principal. April 3, 1974, a tornado came through the area and rebuilding began. The late 1970’s brought Fr. Roy Stiles as pastor and the parishioner Cletus Ratterman was ordained Deacon. On March 1, 1981, the parish decided to build a new church. Door to door campaigns were established, building fund pledges were conducted and the parish picnic was re-instituted.
On November 8, 1981, a groundbreaking ceremony was held and the new church of St. Stephen Martyr was dedicated by Archbishop McDunough on December 19, 1982. The remainder of the eighties had focused upon improving interfaith relations with local churches and the needs of the parish. In 1984 the parish council made a decision to hire a Pastoral Associate and in October 1985 they hired Sister Mary Otho Ballard.
1988 brought Fr. Jim Lichtefield as pastor. Mrs. Kalbhin, the principal, felt there was a need for an after school program. Dora Beck was hired in 1989 and started the program with 16 children. Fr. Jim had the crucifix and risen Christ added to the church in 1993. Parishioner Syl Nitzken was ordained a Deacon in August of 1993 and began his ministry at St. Stephen Martyr. In 1995 the school added Kindergarten and extended daycare was available. In 1998 the Parish Council along with Fr. Jim, decided to build an Activity Center. Fund raising began and additional projects such as air-conditioning the school and renovating the old church into new junior high classrooms were added. The upper level of the new building was dedicated space for the daycare program. In 2001 kindergarten became full day and a 4 year old preschool program was started. Fr. Jim retired in July of 2003 after 15 years of service to our parish, but continued to preside at Monday morning Mass and filled in when needed until his death on September 21, 2010.
Fr. J. Randall Hubbard became the new pastor in July of 2003. Barbara Miller, who had been the principal of the school for ten years passed away in July 2003. As surrounding schools began to close, we opened our doors to families offering parish rate tuition to those at parishes with no school. Today St. Stephen Martyr School has 15 families from 5 other parishes attending our school. In 2004, together with the Parish Council’s recommendation, Fr. Randy hired the first Business Manager of the parish. Late October 2004, the parish purchased the home at 3017 Greenup for $108,000 and the house was made the new rectory. The old rectory was then turned into the parish Ministry House.
In the summer of 2005, the windows were replaced in the school. In December 2006, the parish debt for the Activity Center and renovation was paid off and the parish created a capital G.I.F.T” (growing in faith together) fund to help pay for future renovations and repairs of the facility. This was funded by the remaining funds of the organizations (PTO, MOSS Club and Athletics) along with continued building fund gifts. Several renovations were made to the flooring and ceiling tile in the school and Marteen room in the summer of 2007. Parishioner Steve DaPonte was ordained a Deacon in August 2006 and joined Fr. Randy and Deacon Syl Nitzken in serving our parish. In the Fall of 2009 a new 3 year old preschool program was added.
June 2011, Fr. J. Randall Hubbard was assigned to another parish and Fr. Harry Gelthaus became our 6th pastor at St. Stephen Martyr. He was chosen to come to this parish for various reasons, one of which is his dedication to Catholic Schools.
June 2012, St. Stephen Martyr was clustered with Holy Family Parish. The two parishes share several parish staff members along with our pastor.
Today, the St. Stephen Martyr community is actively promoting the spiritual and social activities vital to our community.
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St. Stephen Martyr
2931 Pindell Avenue Louisville, KY 40217 (502) 635-5813
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