St. Joseph’s Church
A Brief History
St. Joseph’s was originally established in 1936 as a mission of Sacred Heart Cathedral when Bishop Robert Lucey acquired property at 1201 North Randolph (now Martin Luther King). Construction of the mission building was subsidized by a generous donation from Dr. John Joseph Sullivan, a Boston philanthropist interested in founding a church for the Mexican-Americans (it would be dedicated to the memory of his mother). The chapel was situated just one block from Guadalupe School, and accommodated about 250 people.
The mission achieved semi-independence in 1942 when it was first permitted to keep parish books separate from those of Sacred Heart. According to entries in the first book, Fr. Arhed J. Knittles, O.F.M. celebrated St. Joseph’s first infant baptism on January 1, 1942, when Juan Andrada and Lidia C. Andrada baptized Vicente de Paul Sosa, son of Pedro C. Sosa and Rosa Carrasco. Two months later Fr. Knittles conducted the first marriage at the parish, uniting Leopoldo Zuniga and Trinidad Ornelas in matrimony (padrinos were Juan and Maria Estrada). On April 26, 1942, fifty-three children, all under twelve years of age (the youngest, Juan Rodriguez, Jr.- one month old), celebrated the first Confirmation in the parish, with Most Reverend Lawrence J. Fitzsimon, Bishop of Amarillo, presiding. A few weeks later, May 10, 1942, was the first celebration of First Communion at St. Joseph’s, celebrated by twenty-four boys and seventeen girls.
According to these records, Teofila Gonzalez, who died on January 20, 1942, was the first parishioner from St. Joseph’s to be buried at Calvary Cemetery. In 1952, St. Joseph’s was the scene of an untimely fire which destroyed the frame hall behind the old chapel. The pastor, Fr. Fidelis Aibrech, O.F.M., decided that, rather than rebuild the old structure, it would be more practical to build a new church on property located at the corner of 17th Street and North Randolph. The guiding spirit behind the move for a new church was the ever creative Father Fidelis who envisioned an architectural design modeled after the early missions to the west. Efforts to carry out the plan began in earnest in 1953 and the new church, modeled after Father Fidelis’ plans, was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1957. The new facilities included a church able to accommodate 280 people and a family hall with a seating capacity of 400. The mission and hall, with their high stucco walls and inner courtyard, became a church structure unique to San Angelo and West Texas.
Despite the accomplishments of the Catholics at St. Joseph’s their church still remained a mission of Sacred Heart. Happily, this arrangement ended on August 1, 1961, when St. Joseph’s achieved elevation to the status of parish. The first pastor, appropriately enough, was Father Fidelis. The parish adjusted to the changing times of Vatican II by refurbishing the church in 1965. Among the major changes were turning the altar so that the celebrant could now face the people and taking down the communion rail between the sanctuary and the assembly. The parish continued to grow and by the late 1970’s the parishioners were considering plans for a more modem church. In August 1980, when Dominican Father Angel Vizcarra, O.P., became plans had already been submitted for a new church to Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza. These ambitions were taken up by the new pastor and in August 1982, ground breaking ceremonies for the new church were held. A year later, on August 14, 1983, the new Church was dedicated.
For the next 10 years, the parish used the old mission and living quarters for CCD classrooms, hoping all the while to eventually build new classroom and youth facilities. As the parish continued to grow (from 350 families when the Dominicans arrived in 1982 to over 1,000 families in 1993), so did the religious education and youth program. By 1993, it was apparent that the old mission buildings -- which were deteriorating rapidly -- were sorely inadequate for parish needs.
Realizing the parish's situation, Eva Camuñez Tucker, a St. Joseph parishioner, expressed her interest and desire in a project that would provide the facilities the children needed while restoring the old mission. Through her generosity, work was begun in June 1994 on Project San Jose. It would include remodeling the parish hall, restoring the old mission church, and landscaping the courtyard. The parish hall would be converted into a Religious Education facility and the old mission would become a new Parish Life Center.
In the first phase of Project San Jose, the parish hall was converted into a 7,000 sq. ft. Religious Education facility with 12 classrooms, complete with modern furnishings and audiovisual equipment. The second phase involved a complete face lift for the old church. It included rebuilding the original arches; uncovering and restoring the art work on the walls, the tile Stations of the Cross, and Spanish tile on the floor; repairing the exterior wood beams; new roofing; and painting all the buildings and courtyard walls. The Lady of Guadalupe Grotto in the rear of the church was also restored. Additional renovation included building a kitchen into the north wing and a conference room into the south wing of the old church to enhance its usefulness as a Parish Life Center. Local artist, Eddie Flores, generously donated many hours to restoring the beauty of the paintings on the mission walls and the statues in the grotto, most of which had fallen into a state of disrepair from water damage over the years.
The crowning touch was restoring of the tile mural on the front of the mission which depicts the death of St. Joseph. Most of the mural had fallen down over the years and was impossible to restore. However, after weeks of work, using old photographs and pieces of the original mural, artist Maline McCalla, of Austin, Texas, was able to duplicate the original mural. On April 14, 1994, with Bishop Michael Pfeifer presiding, the parish celebrated the re-dedication of the old mission as a new Parish Life Center and Religious Education Facility.
WHAT WE DO
FIND YOUR FAITH
If you would like to know about your faith and Catholic Church please join us our RCIA program. We also have Bible Study both in English and Spanish.
Si desea saber sobre su fe y la Iglesia Católica, únase a nuestro programa de RICA. También tenemos Estudio de la Biblia tanto en inglés como en español.