St. Simon of Cyrene's History

St. Simon's Mission began in what has been called the "Great Depression". In the 1920's a number of Black families had moved from the crowded West End of Cincinnati to an area north of Lockland and east of Woodlawn. This settlement was called Woodlawn Terrace. It was later to become incorporated as the City of Lincoln Heights. Small houses were built and streets laid out. A few small stores were started. As the Depression began and deepened, many persons became unemployed, some lost homes, others their household belongings, and many of the area families became impoverished.

As the Sisters rode past this area on their way to and from Cincinnati, they became conscious of the poverty and the lack of Churches. Mother Beatrice, our Superior, seeing the condition of Woodlawn Terrace, wrote: "As we drove past I said to the Sisters: 'Something ought to be done!' Then one day, in 1930, an inner Voice said, 'Do it

yourself'." After consulting with her Council, and seeking help from Associates and friends, money was raised to buy a small two-story frame house on the corner of Independence and Douglas Streets in the northeast corner of what was called "the upper subdivision", or more familiarly, "the Upper Sub". The house was fitted out for mission work -- a large first floor room as the Chapel and meeting room (what today would be called a "multipurpose room"), a kitchen; on the second floor a small room for group meetings, a good sized storeroom, and the bathroom.

Underneath the house there was a good-sized furnace room. There were two lots in addition to the one upon which the house stood. At the back of the second lot was a small garage. The house was called "the Mission House of St. Simon of Cyrene."

A service of dedication was planned for February 9th, Mother Foundress Day. Before the day of the Service, several Sisters visited in the neighborhood, telling the people of the work being planned. The first Service was held on the Eve of Mother Foundress Day, February 8th, 1931. The Rev. Gerald Lewis, Chaplain of the Mother House in Glendale, was the Celebrant; Canon Gilbert Symons preached the sermon, his topic being St. Simon of Cyrene. The first floor rooms were crowded with adults and children. It was announced that there would be a regular Sunday Service and that certain activities would be started. It was soon evident that a Church building was needed, and in 1932, Mrs. Mortimer Matthews offered $10,000 for its construction. Her son, Stanley Matthews, an architect, designed an attractive crypt church to be built next to the Mission House. Mr. James Hunter and Mr. Walter Espy, residents of Lincoln Heights, were hired as contractors. Mr. Hunter’s sons, Julian and Cecil, and a number of other residents assisted them. As they all had been out of work, to help the Church for their employment, they offered to work for pay one day, and give their services the second day. Almost all of those helping to build the Church later became active Communicants.

Throughout the forty years of its existence St. Simon's Day School not only helped in the education of hundreds of children but trained many for leadership in Lincoln Heights and elsewhere. John Marvin Evans, a first-grade pupil in 1931, went on to college and seminary to become the first Episcopal priest from St. Simon's Mission. He served as a Chaplain in the Navy for many years and when he retired from the Navy was in charge of St. Barbara's Mission in California until his untimely death in 1986. Samuel Mays, another in the 1931 first grade, became a Lincoln Heights Councilman and was active in civic affairs. Willis Holloway and Eddie Starr were prominent in the educational field. The members who became a deacon were James Mobley, Theorphlis (Top) M. Borden and Colenthia Hunter. Perhaps the best know was Nikki Giovanni, who has excelled as a poet and in other artistic accomplishments. Of course, the most important result was the forming of Christian character in the lives of many and the providing of Christian leadership in the community and in the Church. The Priests who became a bishop were The Rt. Rev. John M. Burgess and The Most Rev. Michael Curry.

More history can be seen in the article below.


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