History of Ss. Peter & Paul Parish
The story of Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church begins with the Catholics who first settled in this area. It is known that about the year 1837, when the Miami Erie Canal had been completed from Cincinnati to Piqua, a sizable number of French people had already settled in the area of Shelby and Darke Counties. Father Louis Navarron was sent to minister to the people of this area. A log church, St. Valbert, was built in 1840 near Versailles, because it was centrally located in the territory under Father Navarron’s administration. As early as 1840, it is recorded that he had become acquainted with the Catholics in the New Port area, and occasionally celebrated Mass in the Village. By 1844 the entire canal had been completed through New Port north to Toledo. During these years, the Village of New Port was administered to as a Mission by the Pastor of St. Valberts.
In 1856 Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Newport was originally built. According to records, it was a beautiful church. The foundation was of stone, and the superstructure was of bricks, hand molded of local clay and burnt near the site of the church. Timbers were cut in adjoining forests and dressed lumber was hauled from Piqua. The men of the parish supplied the labor. Built into the brick wall above the front entrance was a stone cross inscribed, “Sts. Peter and Paul Church, 1856.” This cross has been preserved and is now embedded in the east wall of the present church.
Sts. Peter & Paul Church remained a Mission Church for thirty years. It was administered from St. Valberts and later from St. Remy in Russia. An 1881 financial and statistical report sent to the chancery stated that there were 20 families in the parish – one English speaking, nine German speaking and ten French speaking. The church was valued at $600. There was no rectory. Mass was celebrated at the church once a month, on the first Sunday.
In or about the year 1887, a parish house was built. The lower floor was furnished, and part of the upper floor was used for Catechism classes. Now there was a church and a parish house, but it was still a Mission. A school was also built on parish grounds. It was completed in 1890 but was in operation for only about two years.
In 1893 the first resident Pastor of Sts. Peter & Paul Church was appointed. In 1898 extensive renovations for the church were begun, including a new sacristy, a modern heating system, new altars, windows, statues and carpeting. When the work had been completed in 1903, the pastor’s report to the Chancery showed that there were now 80 families – two English, 23 German, and 55 French. The value of the church property was $15,000.
The parish was now firmly established; buildings were in good condition; there was no debt. This is important to note for during these years the canal was dying, and the activities that grew and thrived with the canal were withering, too. Despite the dwindling prosperity of the community, the church prospered. Its membership was firmly established in homes on farms within the confines of the parish; therefore the death of the canal had little or no effect on the destiny of the church.
The parish continued to prosper. In 1931 the church was 75 years old. A new church was needed to meet the demands of the growing congregation. On June 29, 1936, the Parish observed the 80th and last birthday of the first church. In April of 1937 the original church was demolished to make way for the new and current Church. Following the completion of the Church, a new parish house was built.
During the following years, the church received several property additions. Parishioners volunteered their time to transform the land covered with trees and shrubs into a cemetery, parking lot, and ball field. Work on the interior of the church also continued during these years, and included a main altar, side altar and decorating the walls and ceiling of the church. A report in 1956, at the end of the first 100 years of Sts. Peter & Paul Church, shows the parish had grown to 167 families.
The next 50 years brought many changes. The cemetery and parking lot were extended, and the basement was renovated to accommodate a variety of parish activities. A new altar was built, facing the congregation. Decorative painting was done on the wall behind the altar. The old school house was remodeled, to be used for CCD classes and other parish functions. At the turn of the new millennium, the rectory’s interior was completely renovated, and a new roof was added several years later. The sanctuary of the church was also remodeled.
The year 2005 brought one of the biggest changes to our parish, now consisting of 300 families. With the Archdiocesan-wide planning for the shortage of priests, Sts. Peter & Paul Parish of Newport and St. Michael Parish of Ft. Loramie were combined to form a Pastoral Region. Thus, both parishes remain open, with one priest assuming the duties as pastor of both parishes.
The year 2006 marked the 150th Anniversary of Sts. Peter & Paul Parish. During this year a number of social events and improvement projects were completed to celebrate this milestone, including an Anniversary Mass celebrated by Archbishop Daniel Pliarczyk on June 11. Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church continues to be the foundation of our community in Newport. It was built, and continues to grow and prosper, because of the hard work, dedication, strong faith, and love for God shown by the parishioners who are here today, and those who have come before us.