St. Leo History
1902: As a result of an increase in the Catholic population on the south side of Columbus, Ohio, Bishop
Moeller called upon Father Charles F. Kessler to organize a new parish.
January, 1903: 75 families registered for the new parish, to consist of all the territory south of Deshler
Avenue. It would be under the patronage of Saint Leo the Great.
It was decided that the building of the church would be financed by each working person to contribute one day's
salary per month, and parishoners would work together on fund-raising bazaars and festivals.
February, 1903: Bishop Moeller authorized Father Kessler to purchase a tract of land at the corner of
Hanford and Seventh Street.
April 25, 1903: Plans for new parish building approved. The Chapel would be on the first floor, a four
classroom school on the second.
May 26, 1903: Ground was broken for the new Saint Leo Church. Father Kessler cast the first shovelful
July 19, 1903: The cornerstone was laid by the pastor.
December 13, 1903: Dedication of the Church of St. Leo the Great.
1904: Sunday School established with an enrollment of about 100 children.
May 8, 1904: First May Procession.
June 22, 1904: First wedding solemnized at St. Leo.
September 4, 1904: A class of 25 children made their First Holy Communion at a Mass celebrated by Father
September, 1904: Parochial schoold opened with an enrollment of 150 students.
November 12, 1904: A parochial residence of buff brick was ready for occupancy by the pastor.
May 1, 1906: Ground broken for the convent. Completed in time for school opening in September.
June 30, 1910: Father Kessler announced that Saint Leo Parish was free of debt. In seven short years,
the dedication and selfless effort of pastor and congregation had built, for the use of generations to come, the
Church, school building and comfortable residences for the pastor and teacher staff.
May 16, 1915: Sod was turned for the new Church building.
August 1, 1915: Bishop Hartley laid the cornerstone for the new church, with more than 1,000 people in
May 16, 1917: The new St. Leo Church was dedicated by Bishop Hartley. A Solemn High Mass was celebrated
by Father Kessler following the dedication. The hard-working pastor and congregation have a parish debt of only
January 10, 1920: Father Kessler announces that the entire debt of the parish has been paid.
February, 1920: Father Kessler succumbs to double pneumonia on February 8. On February 12, Funeral Mass
for the beloved Father Kessler was celebrated by his brother, Father Lucius J. Kessler. On February 25, Father
Bernard P. Vogel was named the new pastor. He was to serve and lead the congregation for the next 32 years. His
principal interest was the education of the children of the parish, and his objective was to make Saint Leo School
the best, in terms of the most modern equipment and in the quality of both religious and secular education.
1925: Convent building enlarged.
1927: Tellers-Kent pipe organ was installed.
August 1, 1942: The 25th Anniversary of the completion of the present church building was celebrating
with a homecoming festival. The Church was redecorated with proceeds from the festival, and brown marble was applied
to the sanctuary walls.
May, 1952: Father Vogel retires as pastor.
July 15, 1952: The Right Reverand Monsignor Francis J. Schwendeman, S.T.D. was appointed as the new pastor
of St. Leo Church.
1953: In January, the Golden Jubilee of the parish was announced. Many repairs and improvements had become
necessary, and parishoners were asked to pledge extra donations in gratitude for the first 50 years.
The Bishop called upon all Franklin County parishes to raise money to provide much-needed high school facilities
thoughout Columbus as well as a new St. Vincent's Orphanage. 275 men of St. Leo conducted a house-to-house campaign,
resulting in parishoners pledging more than $75,000 for this cause.
On December 14, 1953, a Pontifical Mass celebrating the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the original parish
1954: Enrollment at St. Leo School numbered 446 students in eight classrooms. An additional four classrooms
and two meeting rooms were constructed.
1959: Convent remodeled. Renovation on the stone grotto to our Lady on the convent grounds begun. The
new white marble stature of Our Lady of Grace was installed in 1960.
1960's: Many changes were taking place in the parish neighborhood, and the Catholic population of the
area had begun to decrease. The Second Vatican Council brought many changes in the rites and liturgy of the Church.
October 1965: Father Edward J. Reidy becomes pastor at St. Leo Parish after Monsignor Schwendeman is
assigned as pastor of Christ the King Church.
June 16, 1970: Father Reidy retires due to failing health. Father Edwin J. McNulty becomes the new pastor.
June 4, 1972: Father McNulty regretfully announces that declining contributions and increasing costs
would necessitate charging tuition at St. Leo School in the next school year.
1973: A Garden Club was formed by parishoners who volunteered their time to keep the parish grounds landscaped.
October, 1973: A Steering Committee was formed to lay the groundwork for a Parish Council.
June 4, 1974: Father Edward F. Trenor was assigned as pastor of St. Leo Parish. One of the first problems
he addressed was the financial condition of the parish school. Efforts were made to boost enrollment, and, in 1975,
the annual Parish Festival was re-instated to help provide funds.
March, 1975: The Parish Council Constitution was ratified.
1976: The Saint Leo's Men's Club was formed to provide for the Parish School Athletic program and to
foster fellowship among the men of the parish.
After receiving a sizeable monetary gift, a general fundraising effort was made to enable the church to be redecorated
for the first time in over 30 years and to update the sanctuary in according with the new Liturgy. The communion
railing was removed and the marble used in the construction of a new altar. The former High Altar became the Altar
of Reposition for the Blessed Sacrament.
January 2, 1977: The new altar was consecrated.
1978: A Ladies' Choir and a Folk Group were formed to enhance the Liturgy. Lay distributors of Communion
were appointed in the summer.
1979: The 75th anniversary of the Parish was celebrated.