History and Heritage
Our story begins over 100 years ago when the Village of Pleasant Ridge was incorporated on July 11, 1891. In 1912 Cincinnati annexed Pleasant Ridge. This event caused many people to decide to make the rapidly growing neighborhood their home. In 1917, Archbishop Moeller carved from the northern boundary of Sts. Peter and Paul in Norwood and from the southern boundary of St. John the Evangelist in Deer Park a new parish called Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Father William Egan was appointed the first pastor.
The new congregation lost no time in getting started. The first parish Mass was celebrated at Pleasant Ridge Town Hall on Sunday, March 11, 1917. Soon the parish purchased the Davis property at the southeast corner of Ridge and Woodford. In April, Fr. Egan was replaced as pastor by Fr. Burke. No sooner had Fr. Burke arrived on the scene then plans were made to erect the first church.
Fr. Burke was a good politician. He walked around the Ridge with a pocket full of cigars talking to people and selling them on Nativity.
A frame addition was added to the rectory on the south side and joined to a large front room paralleling Ridge Road. The congregation assembled for the first Mass on June 16, 1917. So much had been accomplished in such a short time.
The home that became the first parish house had been built just prior to the Civil War. Fr. Burke was an amiable man and highly regarded by all who knew him. He had made it his task to sell Nativity to the community.
The First Church
Because of the rapid Catholic population increase, it soon was necessary to plan for both a school and a new church. On Sunday, November 14, 1920, the cornerstone for the new structure was blessed. By the spring of 1921, the church was ready for use and in September of 1921 the school consisting of four classrooms opened for the fall term. The Ursuline nuns were brought in as the teachers in the new school.
On November 15, 1925 Fr. Jerome Bartel was appointed the third pastor. If Fr. Burke was the right man for the early years of Nativity, Fr. Bartel was the right man for the job for the next 37 years of growth. Fr. Bartel’s tenure was accompanied by great growth in the Catholic population of the community, which necessitated vast changes in the physical plant of the parish.
Four more classrooms were added in 1928, thus completing the structure we now call the “old building.” It was then that the Sisters of Mercy took over the administration of the school.
The Parish Grows
By the 1950’s crowding in the school required further expansion. In the fall term of 1952, an additional 8 classrooms were added to the south side of the “old school.” Also in 1952, the parish purchased a two story frame house next to its property as a home for the nuns. Prior to that, they had been living in the school in the middle classroom on the top floor.
The building of a new church had long been the dream of Fr. Bartel. Even though he had paid off all the construction costs for the school addition and amassed a fund of $500,000, his dream was not to be realized. On October 19, 1962, the grand old man of Nativity was called to his Maker.
The New Church
In May of 1963 Fr. Imbus was appointed the fourth pastor of Nativity. He lost no time in finalizing plans for the new church. Work began in June of 1967. Archbishop Alter presided at the first mass in the new church on May 18, 1969. The first wedding in the new church celebrated the marriage of Dave and Beth Lucas. Dave teaches science in our junior high.
The 1960s and early 70s were a difficult time for Nativity. Vatican II renewed our Church, but the parish was caught between those who wished to implement the directives of the Council and those who were concerned about the loss of our traditions.
New Direction for Nativity
Fr. Imbus retired in 1974 and Fr. Allison became the fifth pastor. The 1970s saw the parish come together under the leadership of Fr. Allison. The historic covenant with All Saints Episcopal Church was the result of our ecumenical efforts. We welcomed our first Deacon – Art Runnells. In 1979 Fr. Stan Neiheisel was appointed the sixth pastor of the Church of the Nativity. In 1979 the parish – and in particular Nativity School – had reached a crossroads. There was a new pastor and a new principal, Sr. Carren. The central questions were:
How could Nativity continue to be a parish for all people within the community?
What kind of school would draw students from all parts of the community?
Under the leadership of Fr. Stan, the liturgical renewal continued. The education the children received was deepened and broadened as Nativity led the way in children’s liturgy. Nativity began to incorporate the fine arts into the curriculum through the addition of specialists in art and music, as well as participation in the Ohio Arts Council Artist in Education Program. Membership in International School-to-School Experience brought students from around the world to our school community.
Computer science classes were introduced under the leadership of Cheryl Weisgerber. The option for Latin for Grade 8 enabled students to fully appreciate our classical tradition. PTA funded new religious art for the classrooms that is of high artistic integrity and is based upon a sound theology.
In 1985 Fr. Stan was transferred to All Saints in Kenwood, and Nativity welcomed its seventh pastor, Fr. Ray Kellerman. That same year Nativity was nominated for the Post Corbett Award by WCET. Nativity was again nominated in 1987 by musician Tom Jordan. The community began to recognize the significant contributions our school was making to the lives of its students and the life of the community.
During the 1987-88 academic year Nativity responded to an invitation from the United States Department of Education to “tell our story”. After review by several panels and a visit from the Site Inspection Team, Nativity was designated an National Exemplary School - one of 57 non-public schools throughout the nations so honored that year. …a school judged this year to be a model of unusually effective elementary education.
Nativity in the 1990s
In 1989 we welcomed our eighth pastor Fr. Bob Farrell. Throughout the 1996-97 school year we celebrated Nativity School’s 75th Anniversary. It was a year we will long remember:
The Nativity Players under the direction of Joe Beiting developed a new paradigm when The King and I was presented on the presidium stage in the gym – staring Dave Arbogast, Nativity’s physical education teacher.
The report cards were computerized and the Publishing Center got off the ground.
The Parish inaugurated the Annual Fund designating funds for the renovation of the ground floor of the original building and the establishment of an endowment fund for our school.
For the first time in history the 8th grade class defeated the faculty in the annual 8th Grade-Faculty Volleyball Game.
We added after-school Spanish and French classes, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Torkinmaki School in Finland and completed our first teacher exchange when Pat Burwinkel spent three weeks at Torkinmaki School.
A New Century with New Challenges
In August 2000 we welcomed Fr. Marc Sherlock as our new pastor, and the parish moved ahead with the task of creating a Master Plan that will guide us for the next twenty years. The result was a plan that calls for the renovation of the worship space, a new parish center/gym, new parish and school offices along with a new science room and library. The current gym is envisioned as a space for the performing arts. The price tag: $5.5 million.
In February 2004, Fr. Marc asked for a transfer which the Archbishop granted the following June. The Master Plan was put on hold pending the appointment of a new pastor.
On July 1 Fr. Paul DeLuca was installed as the new pastor. Having served as the Associate Pastor in the early 1980s, Fr. Paul was returning home. His appointment was warmly received by the parish. In September of that year Nativity School was inducted into the Greater Cincinnati International Hall of Fame in recognition of the work it does to prepare students to be citizens of the global village.
Mr. Bob Herring, Nativity’s principal since 1984, was named one of the nation’s 12 Distinguished Catholic School Principals at ceremonies held during the annual convention of the National Catholic Educational Association in Atlanta.
Since Fr. Paul’s arrival the Master Plan has been revisited and scaled back to a more affordable project. The new gym, the installation of an elevator to make the school accessible to all, and a reduced renovation to the church are the key components of the new Plan. In 2009 that work came to fruition.
Teaching at Nativity has always been a challenge. Each one among us can tell stories of frustration and disappointment. But we can also tell stories of our and our students’ accomplishments. And the story continues. Tales can be told about:
• The Publishing Center, Computer Lab and the Young Americans.
• No Snow Days, ice storms and leaking roofs.
• IPDPs and SCIPS.
• Buddy Days and Buddy Schools.
• Land Labs and trips to Germany, France, China and cyberspace, aka, The Cloud.
• Our collaboration with Xavier University for teacher training in technology integration.
• A staff that never stops working.
• Alumni and friends of Nativity whose generosity funded computers, networks, roof repair, and classroom renovations.
It’s an exciting time for our school. Nativity has been faithful to its mission of providing a solid academic education with a global perspective, one that is enriched by the arts and rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In partnership with parents we have worked hard, put in countless hours, and spent a few sleepless nights doing our best to make sure that these students entrusted to our care are loved and challenged.
Nativity is ready for the 21st century; our tradition of excellence continues.