8151 Poplar Ave Germantown, TN 38138 | p 901 754 1204 | f 901 754-0969 | Toll Free 1-877-694-8151
In October of 1948, C. O. Franklin wrote to the Most Reverend William L. Adrian, Bishop of Nashville, expressing a need for a worship space in Germantown. Due to the shortage of priests and the greater need of Catholics in outlying areas, Bishop Adrian responded to Mr. Franklin by saying that he found it difficult to fulfill this need, but would give it serious thought. During the next few years, further appeals were made to the bishop for a Catholic church to be erected in Germantown. Mr. Franklin contacted the bishop again in June of 1950 asking permission to have Mass celebrated in the city hall. In a letter dated August 26, 1950, the bishop appointed Fr. Joseph P. Gresham to create in Germantown a mission from St. Anne Parish on Highland. This parish would be the eighteenth parish in the vicinity of Memphis. Fr. Gresham was named Assistant Pastor of St. Anne’s, though his duties were to celebrate Sunday and Holy Day Masses in Germantown at the city hall.
The original membership of the mission parish consisted of thirty families. Father Gresham celebrated Mass using a portable altar, while a folding screen set up in the corner of the building served as a confessional. Mr. and Mrs. Paul S. Whalen cared for the vestments. When a Mr. Clayton, a charter member, died, he was buried from St. Anne Church since the new church in Germantown was not complete.
In May of 1951, an Altar Society was established in the mission parish. Mrs. C. O. Franklin was elected president; Mrs. R.L. Stevens, vice president; Mrs. Alex Barzizza, treasurer; and Mrs. Jay Crawford, secretary. Funds to build a permanent church were raised and the property for the church site was donated by an Episcopalian family, Mr. and Mrs. Jere L. Crook, Jr., and children, Senter Crook, II and Jere Crook, III of Germantown in honor of Mr. Crook’s father, Dr. Jere Lawrence Crook, M.D., L.L.D., F.A.C.S. The original property consisted of seven and a half beautiful wooded acres, situated on one of the highest elevations in Shelby County.
On June 1, 1952, the first Mass was celebrated in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Germantown. Formal dedication ceremonies were held on October 19 of that same year. The Most Reverend William D. O’Brien of Chicago, and President of the Catholic Extension Society which donated $2500 to the building fund, was celebrant of the dedication liturgy. Twelve days after the dedication of the new church, Fr. Joseph P. Gresham died at the age of thirty-nine from complications of pneumonia and a reaction to penicillin.
On November 8, 1952, Bishop Adrian appointed Fr. James Driscoll to succeed Fr. Gresham as pastor. During Fr. Driscoll’s pastorate, the parish was certainly not idle and many improvements were made.
In November of 1952, a Fall festival was held to raise funds to help pay for the new church. The festival was promoted, with a barbecue supper being the main event, in a letter from Jack Erb and J.W. Wrape informing the parishioners: “We need a pig! It seems that Jim Nelles had received a donation of one pig and there was a need for another!”
The parish continued to grow and in April of 1953 the Holy Name Society presented an evening of song performed by the world-famous tenor, Christopher Lynch. In May of the same year, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary was dedicated to Father Gresham’s memory by Bishop Adrian.
On July 15, 1954, Father Paul J. Morris was appointed pastor of the mission parish when Father Driscoll was transferred to Chattanooga to become principal of Notre Dame High School. During Fr. Morris’ fifteen years as pastor, the parish experienced much growth. The first parish council was formed with John D. Canale, Jr., as its first president. The parish religious education program was formalized under the guidance of the Sisters of Mercy. The first parish census was conducted and bus service from the Catholic schools in Memphis was extended to include the OLPH children.
By 1965, the rectory was built and Father Morris had moved from a rental house on Dogwood Road to the present rectory. The parish membership had grown to about 100 families. The opportunity soon presented itself for the parish to purchase an additional fifteen acres of land adjoining the property. With the renewal of the liturgy called for by the Second Vatican Council, the interior of the church was redecorated and rearranged and an adult choir was organized.
In June of 1969 when Fr. Morris was named Superintendent of Education, Fr. Edward C. “Ned” Elliott was appointed pastor of the parish. Father Elliott soon recognized the great need for an all-purpose building to accommodate the many activities of the growing Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish family. William P. Brennan, Jr., constructed the building and Marshall Tillman volunteered to oversee the construction of the facility. The total cost of the new building was $47,000. John D. Canale donated the office and Martin Shea the wall paneling. The building was named in honor of the parish’s first pastor, Father Gresham.
During Father Elliott’s pastorate, the parish continued to grow and soon the need arose for greater C.C.D. work. Sr. Clement Marie, O.P. (now Sr. Mary Della Quinn) was asked to direct this program, and later on, an adult education program. In the spring and summer of 1970, the CYO was having dances; C.C.D. was held every Sunday; the Altar Society voted to have the red drapes hung in the church and air conditioning was installed.
On January 6, 1971, the Diocese of Memphis was created with the Most Reverend Carroll T. Dozier being ordained the first Bishop of Memphis. In the same year, the 5:30 pm Vigil Mass was added to the weekend schedule. As we move into our new church, it is interesting to note that the following announcement ran in the church bulletin for Sunday, September 26, 1971: “Our attendance at Masses last weekend-Saturday evening 65 people; Sunday morning at 7:30, 82; at 10:00, 276, and at noon 97. Total of 520 persons at Mass here last week.”
Father Gresham Hall was dedicated April 22, 1972. The church was painted and new carpet and drapes installed in 1973. In 1974 plans were initiated for a new parish council. On January 11, 1975, Fr. Michael L. Stewart was ordained to the priesthood. The same year saw Marilyn Guilliams come on the scene as parish secretary-the position in which she continued to faithfully serve our parish for many years. In 1977, the parish celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the dedication of the original church. The year 1978 saw parishioners Walter Chandler and Ned Turner ordained as permanent deacons. And in 1979, the current practice of the offertory or “honor” family was introduced. In the summer of 1979,
Father Elliott completed his first decade as pastor of the parish. At the end of the same year, the Knights of Columbus held their first meeting here.
Parish records show that in November of 1980 there were 478 families registered in the parish. As the parish continued to grow, Callie Johnson and Joseph Brown were hired full-time to care for the maintenance needs of the parish plant. (Callie and Joseph were married on June 23, 1984, by Fr. Ned Elliott.) The growth of the parish in the early eighties necessitated larger offices, which in 1982 were added to the existing rectory.
Recognizing the increased pastoral needs of our thriving parish, the Most Reverend J. Francis Stafford-the second Bishop of Memphis-appointed
Fr. Ed Byrnes the first Associate Pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the summer of 1983. A reception welcoming Father Byrnes was held in
Fr. Gresham Hall in mid-August of that year. Meanwhile Germantown and the parish family continued to feel the population boom. July of 1985 saw a note in the parish bulletin asking parishioners to begin to jot down ideas for the design of a new and larger church.
During all of these years the parish religious education program flourished under the direction of several gifted leaders. Sr. Mary Agnes Sullivan, O.P. followed under Sr. Clement Marie as Director of PRE. Sr. Mary Michael Greaber, O.P., who served as director for five years, succeeded her. Our present PRE secretary, Michal Farrar, came on the scene in August of 1985.
Many changes were seen in our parish during 1986. Fr. Ned Elliott, who served as pastor for seventeen years, announced his retirement. Bishop Stafford appointed Fr. Michael L. Stewart to the pastorate of our parish in the spring of that year, though he would not take possession of the parish until the summer. Also in the summer of 1986, Fr. Gary Lamb was appointed associate pastor of Little Flower parish in Memphis. At the same time, Florence Moisan joined the parish staff and worked two days a week in the parish office.
A farewell reception was held for Father Elliott in July of 1986, followed by a reception welcoming Father Stewart and Father Lamb in August. In the same summer, the diocese bade farewell to Bishop J. Francis Stafford, who had been named by our Holy Father to become the Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Denver. It was in August of this same year that Father Stewart hired Gretchen Smith as director of parish religious education.
Under the excellent leadership and pastoral spirit of Father Stewart, our parish continued to grow and prosper. Many dedicated men and women became involved as lectors, ushers, and extra ordinary ministers of the Eucharist at liturgies. Many of these people became involved as a result of the Ministries Commitment Sunday held in August of 1989. Several hundred responses were received with commitments not only to the liturgical ministries but also to the many and varied ministries in the realm of education and community service.
In September of 1989, a reception was held in Father Gresham Hall to honor Rose and Raoul Vanelli for their eighteen years of dedicated service to our parish. During these years, the CYO flourished under their capable and loving leadership. Knowing their shoes would be hard to fill; Maggie Kluthe rose to the challenge and joined the staff as youth director. It was at the same time that Shona Moore, another parishioner, joined the staff as director of music.
As the parish plant itself continued to grow and all the facilities were being used more and more, so too did our maintenance needs. In March of 1990 Wesley Moore was hired as director of Maintenance.
When Father Stewart was appointed pastor in April of 1986, Bishop Stafford discussed with him the need for building a new church to accommodate the 650 families registered in the parish at that time. By the time Father Stewart’s appointment became effective in July, Bishop Stafford was leaving for Denver. Monsignor Paul Morris, a former pastor of our parish, was called out of retirement to serve as administrator of the Memphis Diocese. He and Father Stewart discussed the plans for future building and it was decided to set forth with the plans to build a new church and family life center.
In January of 1987, Father Stewart met with the parish council to form an ad hoc committee to establish a building committee for the proposed construction. On February 17, the building committee was named and approved as follows: “ Nine Elected Members: John Bies, Margie Brennan, Joe Costa, (chairman), Rosemary Courtney, Joyce Kelly, Bill Moisan, Greg Rich, Jack Richey, and Carol Walls. Four Alternate Members: Jim Whalen, Bobby Fisher, Linda Cerrito, and Les Edwards. Ex Officio Members:
Father Michael Stewart, Father Gary Lamb, (replaced by Fr. John Aiello in July of 1987) and Deacon Walter Chandler.”
An ad hoc committee of finance was established in April of the same year and an open parish meeting was held to discuss and evaluate the parish building philosophy. In the same month, a pledge drive was begun under the title “Challenge to Build.” The pledge drive was organized by the Community Counseling Service of New York and Chicago.
In June of 1987, Granville Taylor of the Firm Taylor, Gardner, and Montgomery was selected as the architect for the project. Father Stewart and representatives of the building committee and finance committee met with the newly appointed Bishop Daniel M. Buechlein to discuss the plans and needs for the new church and family life center. This meeting resulted in a “phase down” from all needed facilities to the “first phase” of a church building.
At an open meeting of parishioners in January of 1988, Granville Taylor presented a project cost summary of $2,450,654.00. Shortly thereafter, John Heirigs of John J. Heirigs Construction Company was selected as our general contractor. Several months after the beginning of construction, his son Jim took charge of the project.
The blessing and groundbreaking ceremony, with Bishop Buechlein presiding, was held on Sunday, May 15, 1988, at 2:30 in the afternoon. Although the original completion date for the new church was scheduled for fall of 1989, many unforeseen delays ensured. The first Mass in our new worship space was celebrated on Saturday evening, April 7, 1990. The celebration began with the commemoration of the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Passion Sunday. The Solemn Dedication Liturgy was held on May 6, 1990.
In 1992, Father Stewart was assigned by Bishop Daniel M. Buechlein to be the founding pastor of the new St. Brigid Church on Lowrance Road. Father Milton Guthrie was assigned as Pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on July 1, 1992.
In discussion of the appointment of Father Guthrie by Bishop Buechlein, the bishop asked that Father Guthrie promote the development of a Catholic School. At the beginning, Father Guthrie met with the school building commission consisting of Mary Anne Wehrum, chairman, Jack Domer, Stan Kristo, Mike Mattingly, and Gretchen Smith. This commission was later realigned into education and building committees.
The education committee was made up of the principals of Holy Rosary School, and St. Louis School; Lee Smith, Assistant Principal of Bishop Byrne High School; Dr. Alicia Tilley, Dean of Graduate School of Education at Memphis State University; Dr. Carol M. Kulpa, Superintendent of Memphis Catholic Schools; Brother Chris Englert, principal of Christian Brothers High School; parishioners Mary Anne Wehrum, Mike Mattingly, Jack Domer, and Gretchen Smith, PRE director of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. At this same period, the finance council was re-activated. This council consisted of: Bill Moisan, Dick Guilliams, Frank Lamanna, Mike Mattingly, Jack Richey, Carlos Cantu, Sr., Deacon Walter Chandler (ex-offico member), and Fr. Milton Guthrie.
Considering the task ahead, it seemed necessary to rejuvenate the parish council with the following members: J. Michael Taylor, president, Marilyn Guilliams, secretary, Rosalie Pecoraro, Mike D’Addabbo and Gretchen Smith. At this time it was decided to hold elections in September of 1992 to build the parish pastoral council. Out of these reactivated groups came the plans for the Family Life Center. Ben Beer served as the first phase chairman, and Frank Herbers was selected as the second phase chairman.
The Family Life Center soon incorporated the plans for a school. These plans became the Family Life Enrichment Center which would contain classrooms, a great room for parish gatherings, a nursery for infants and small children, a new bride’s room (so that the original bride’s room could be transformed into a vesting room for the priests and deacons), new offices so that the entire staff at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church could work together more efficiently. The plan consisted of eight classrooms, four meeting rooms, and office space for every staff member, and
out-of-doors secured play area for the children.
Included in this elaborate plan were a soccer/baseball field, parking lot expansion and improvement, opening for a new picnic area with a pavilion seating up to 100 people, large barbecue and permanent picnic benches. Eagle Scout Michael D’Addabbo, Jr. and Phillip Counce, Jr. spearheaded the work that saw park benches surrounding the picnic area and the Stations of the Cross Trail completed.
In August of 1992, Fr. Edward Fisher, a newly ordained priest, was assigned to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. During that same time,
Fr. Adolpho Valanzuela, a native of the Philippines, was assigned to our parish as well. Sr. Grace Saia, SCN, arrived in 1993 to become director of pre-school and kindergarten.
In 1994, Fr. Joseph Nguyen and Fr. Marian Spadini arrived to serve our membership. Fr. Nguyen was the first Vietnamese priest to be ordained for the Diocese of Memphis. The same year, a welcome addition to our parish, was the Korean community. The blessing and dedication of the new Parish Family Life Enrichment Center, with Bishop J. Terry Steib presiding, was held on Sunday, October 20, 1996, at 2:00 pm. Bishop Steib blessed the building, accompanied by Fr. Joseph Nguyen and James Quinn, Chairman of the building committee. During the sprinkling of the building, Fr. Guthrie led the people to the Cornerstone area where a Time Capsule was placed. A reception followed in the church Narthex. In September of 1996, the blessing of the Pavilion took place, a gift of the Knights of Columbus, Council 7447 and a key was presented to Fr. Guthrie by the Grand Knight, Ray Goetze.
In the summer of 1998, Fr. Guthrie retired and a reception was held for him in July. Rev. J. Edwin Creary was appointed to succeed him and came to the parish in August 1998 and a reception was held to welcome him. With great joy we also welcomed Fr. John Kim in July of 1998.
Fr. Kim was sent to us from the Diocese of Birmingham to serve our Korean Community and the parish family.
The chapel, which once was referred to as “the Church,” is now called the Chapel and is used for daily Mass, weddings, and funerals. It is the first foundation of our community and is cared for lovingly. We continue to grow and our facilities are brimming with activity every day of the week and there is an organization for everyone in the parish community and always a need for more active members. We are very proud of our parish family here at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Germantown, Tennessee and pray for its growth in service to its members and the community at large, always in the spirit of love and charity with the guidance of our Pastor Father J. Edwin Creary, and Associate Pastors,
Fr. Marian Spadini and Fr. John Kim.
In the year 2000 as we entered the New Millennium we celebrated our 50th Anniversary at Our Lady, with many festivities and a special Mass of Thanksgiving. The Mass was held on September 20, The Most Reverend J. Terry Steib, S.V.D., D.D., Bishop of Memphis was the celebrant and the Mass was concelebrated by our Pastor, Fr. J. Edwin Creary and past pastors Fr. Edward C. Elliott and Fr. Michael L. Stewart. The Mass was dedicated in loving memory of our deceased pastors: Rev. Joseph P. Gresham,
Rev. James Driscoll and Rev. Msgr. Paul J. Morris, and all deceased Members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church.
On June 10, 2000 Richard Dennis Coy a parishioner of Our Lady was ordained to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ by the Most Reverend J. Terry Steib, SVD, DD, Bishop of the Diocese of Memphis. He celebrated his first Holy Mass of Thanksgiving here at Our Lady on Sunday, June 11th. Fr. Coy was the first parishioner to be ordained from Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
The year 2001 marked another great milestone in the growth of our parish; we were very proud to dedicate our new Education and Recreation Facilities, Bishop Steib officiated, Fr. Creary our pastor and Fr. Spadini our associate assisted. On this same day, September 23rd, we also rededicated our parish hall in honor of Saint Therese of the Infant of Jesus.
Once again in 2002, another member of our parish family was ordained to the priesthood. John C. Pecoraro’s ordination took place on June 8, 2002 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the Most Reverend J. Terry Steib, SVD, DD, Bishop of the Diocese of Memphis presided. Rev. Pecoraro’s first Mass was celebrated at Our Lady on June 9th at the 12:15 pm Mass.
Reverend Marian Spadini retired due to poor health in March 2003 and Reverend Michael Werkhoven was assigned to the parish as Associate Pastor in July 2003.
In June of 2004 Rev. Marian Spadini former Associate Pastor of Our Lady went to his eternal rest.
Our former Pastor, Rev. Edward C. Elliott, moved from the rectory to the Priest’s Retirement Center (Villa Vianney) In June 2004 and celebrated the 60th Anniversary of his Ordination on September 25, 2004.
On October 1, 2004 we welcomed Rev. Jolly Sebastian, Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, from India as our new Associate Pastor.
After nineteen years as Director of Religious Education, Gretchen (Smith) Kirk left her position and was honored on July 22, 2005 at the closing dinner for VBS. All parishioners were invited to wish her a fond farewell. Mrs. Mary Jo Healy was hired as the new DRE.
In 2006, we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Our Lady of Perpetual Help School and held commencement exercises for our first eighth grade graduating class. We said a fond farewell to Fr. Michael Werkhoven in July as he went on to be the pastor of St. Paul the Apostle and welcomed
Fr. Joseph L. Tagg, III as a new Associate.
Sadly we said goodbye to Deacon John & Margaret Kang who came to O.L.P.H. in 1970. John was ordained Permanent Deacon in 2000 and served our parish community and the Korean community humbly and generously until he and Margaret accepted the call to serve in the mountains of Mexico as missionaries in the Diocese of Tlapa.
In June of 2007 we said goodbye to Rev. Joseph L. Tagg, III and welcomed our newly ordained associate, Rev. Krzysztof (Christopher) Rusin from Poland.
2008 saw a number of milestones in the history of Our Lady. Father Ned Elliot, Pastor from 1969 to 1986, passed away April 17, 2008 at the age of 89. He served our Diocese for 63 years. We celebrated the retirement of the Church Debt, marking the end of 58 years of mortgage payments with a fun and entertainment filled dinner to thank all those who gave so generously to help make Our Lady debt free. Parishioners John Moskal and Adam Rust were ordained into the Diaconate, and Father Creary celebrated 10 years as Pastor of Our Lady. The church acquired a Columbarium through the generous donations of Fran Costa.
During 2009, Our Lady and the Diocese observed the ordination of our own Father Adam Rust, along with Father Robert Favazza, Father Jacek Lukasz Kowal and Father Kevin Stockbridge at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on June 6. Father Rust said his first Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help on June 7. In July we said goodbye to Mary Jo Healy as Parish Religious Education Director and welcomed Craig DeMille in her place. Mrs. Healy retired to join her husband traveling. Mr. DeMille was the Adult Sunday Study facilitator before becoming Director of Religious Education. A statue of St. John Vianney was added to the Garden of Saints in honor of Year for the Priest
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, bestowed a wonderful honor on the Diocese of Memphis, the entire priesthood, and our Parish in 2009. The title of “Chaplain to His Holiness,” with the title of Monsignor was given to Our Pastor, J. Edwin Creary, and five other priests in the Diocese: Monsignors Albert and Thomas Kirk, Victor Ciaramitaro, John McArthur and Valentine Handwerker. The ceremony of Investiture was conducted at the Cathedral on September 8, the Feast of the Birth of Mary, our Diocesan, and parish Patroness. A public reception was held at Our Lady in St. Therese Hall on September 23, beginning with Evening prayer at 6:30 pm in the Church.
Deacon Paul Hamblen passed away on April 7, 2010. The conference room 109 complex in St. Therese Hall was named in his honor and with a commemorative plaque installed outside the main entrance to the rooms in August. Deacon Dave Lucchesi and his wife joined the parish in June of 2010 coming to us from Incarnation parish in Collierville, TN. Deacon Dave was ordained in June of 2007. Father Johnnie Smith, a former parishioner at OLPH, was ordained on June 5 and joined the Parish June 23 as its newest associate when Father Krzysztof (Kris) Rusin was transferred to Immaculate Conception Cathedral.
We were saddened to hear former associate Fr. Joesph L. Tagg III passed away on March 19, 2011. Christopher Schaefgen (Friar Thomas Schaefgen, O.P.) of our parish professed his Solemn Vows to the Dominican Order of Preachers on May 25, 2011. Brother Thomas spent the summer in residence at St. Peter Church and preaching in Spanish at Resurrection Parish. He is currently studying at the Aquinas Institute in St. Louis, Mo. In July Fr. Jolly Sebastian, MSCB, was transferred to St. Francis of Assisi Parish. September marks the start of a new venture to remodel Fr. Gresham Hall beginning with renovation and repairs to the exterior of the building. Modernization of the interior will follow once the exterior is updated.
In June of 2012 we said goodbye to Father Johnnie B. Smith who left to become Pastor at St Paul’s in Memphis. Father Gary Lamb transferred from Lexington, TN in the Deanery to OLPH and newly ordained Father Patrick Hirtz joined our staff. Renovations to the exterior of Father Gresham were completed in early 2012. The roof, windows and doors were replaced and all new landscaping added. In July 2012 we acquired the property next to the rectory known affectionately as “The Lil White House” from the owners and parishioners Al and Gerry Darr. In early August we added two new Columbariums to each side of St Francis in the Garden area between the Gym and Church.
John Paul Miles of our Parish entered the Jesuit, St Stanislaus Novitiate in August of 2012 and Rev/fr Thomas Schaefgen, O.P. was ordained to the diaconate on September 15, 2012 in St Louis, MO.
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