PEWEE VALLEY, Ky. — Over the past 150 years, St. Aloysius Church has grown from a small country church of a few hundred members to a thriving parish of about 1,500 families.
The Oldham County parish is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2021. Located alongside a historic railroad track and the former Interurban Electric Line, St. Aloysius grew out of a mission established in 1865, according to historical records from the parish.
Jan Cecil Dunn and Dede Cecil McIntyre, sisters and long-time parishioners, were baptized at St. Aloysius and attended the school in the 1950s and 60s. Their roots at the parish date to the 1940s, they said.
“It’s part of my life. We have a lot of memories here,” said Dunn.
When they were growing up, their father served as the church’s accountant and was also active in parish life, they said.
McIntyre said, “He enlisted his kids to help at the parish.” As a result, they spent a lifetime helping at fish fries, they recalled fondly.
Chris Haunz said he’s been a parishioner of St. Aloysius most of his life. He attended the school and received his sacraments at the church, he said. Haunz’s grandparents moved to Pewee Valley in the 1920s. Haunz’s father and his seven siblings — including Ursuline Sister of Louisville Ruth Ann Haunz — attended school at St. Aloysius, he said. He was married at the parish in 2005 and wanted to keep the tradition with his children.
“There was no question that my kids would go to school here,” he said.
In 1926 when the Sisters of Mercy joined the faith community, they established St. Aloysius School which currently enrolls 350 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
By the turn of the century, Father John Stoltz, pastor of St. Aloysius, said the Pewee Valley area was developing and people were moving in to be closer to the Interurban train. Constructed by the Louisville, Anchorage and Pewee Valley Company, the Interurban was one of the first electric lines and was the main means of transportation into Louisville in the early 1900s. As a result, a church became needed in that area, said Father Stoltz.
St. Aloysius relocated to Pewee Valley in 1914 when the first church building, on the present campus located at 212 Mt. Mercy Drive, was built. Dunn and McIntyre said their grandmother traveled from Bardstown, Ky., to attend the dedication of the first church. That structure, where Dunn and McIntyre were baptized, is still standing and is used as a chapel.
The current church building was built in 1992, and in 2009 it was expanded to accommodate additional growth in the area, said Father Stoltz. The church now seats 1,200 individuals.
The parish has had a “very active ministerial presence” in the area, said Father Stoltz. St. Aloysius has outreach ministries to the elderly in Oldham County, offering Bible studies to residents of Magnolia Springs, a senior living community where some of the parish’s elderly parishioners now reside, he said. The church offers a bus service so residents can attend Mass.
The parish also offers outreach ministry to incarcerated women at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women, though the pandemic has placed it on hold, said Father Stoltz.
St. Aloysius also offers many ways for parishioners to “increase their faith life,” including five Bible study programs, daily Mass, rosary, adoration and Saturday and Sunday liturgies, said Dunn.
Father Stoltz said growth has characterized St. Aloysius from its earliest days.
The parish’s roots go back to 1863, when a group of Catholics built a small cemetery less than a mile from where St. Aloysius now stands. Two years later they built a tiny four-room cottage on those same grounds and dedicated it to St. Aloysius, according to historical records. That area was known as Rollington at the time. The small church was served by priests from Louisville.
In 1871, still on the grounds of the old cemetery, St. Aloysius officially became a parish.
Father Stoltz celebrated a Mass last month to mark the parish’s 150th anniversary. About 300 parishioners gathered afterward for a picnic.
On Nov. 6 at 2 p.m., parishioners will gather once more in honor of the parish’s anniversary. This time Father Stoltz said they will celebrate in a “more solemn way” with a pilgrimage walk from the church to St. Aloysius Cemetery less than a mile away for prayer.
“The people buried in our cemetery are biological ancestors for some of us, and they are spiritual ancestors for all of us. We will also pray for those members of our parish who have died and are buried in another place,” said Father Stoltz.