St. Joseph Parish traces its history to 1875 when the request was made to Bishop Peter Baltes to establish a new parish on the north side of the city of Springfield. Local industry was bringing a growing residential population into the area. The request for a parish "to serve the English speaking Catholics north of Carpenter Street" was approved. Rev. Manasses Kane was sent in 1876 to establish the parish of St. Joseph. It began with 111 families, many of them with Irish heritage. Property owned by Mr. George N. Black in the 1300 block of both Sixth and Fifth streets was made available to the parish, and construction began on a church and school. The first Mass was celebrated in the new church on Christmas Day, 1877. The original school, a four classroom building, is still standing (the Scout Hut). The school was directed by lay teachers until 1892, when the Ursuline Sisters assumed its leadership.
Reverend Patrick Joseph (P.J.) O'Reilly served the longest term of any pastor assigned to St. Joseph, 1907-1930. An Irishman with a strong personality, quick wit, and soft heart, his reputation became legendary in the annals of St. Joseph Parish. Fr. O'Reilly was committed to Catholic education. In 1910, the cornerstone was laid for a new three-story school. Athletic programs were established, scout troops were formed, and a two-year commercial course was created to prepare students for the job market. The "St. Joseph's Gem Minstrels" began in 1912 and endured for thirty-six years. Fr. O'Reilly was responsible for redecorating the church, expanding the rectory, enhancing the quality of the parish liturgies with choirs and musical accompaniment, and for establishing the Holy Name and the Altar and Rosary societies in the the parish. He died unexpectedly in February 1930 after a brief illness.
In 1930, Bishop Griffin invited the Clerics of St. Viator to create a Catholic high school for boys in the city of Springfield. At the same time, he assigned the parish of St. Joseph to their pastoral care. Rev. Daniel O'Connor, C.S.V. was appointed principal of the high school and pastor of the parish. The two roles were divided in 1931 and the Rev. Joseph Moisant, C.S.V. was named pastor. He is remembered for his efforts on behalf of youth and by his concern for parishioners' spiritual and moral quality of life. Weekly Holy Hours and novenas were established. Parish missions were conducted and a Sodality was formed for young women. Youth groups and summer camps were created as recreational outlets for young people. The late 1930's and the early 1940's were difficult years for the nation, but they were years of strength and prosperity for the parish.
Years of Change
The post-war years brought growth and expansion. A succession of Viatorian priests and Ursuline Sisters provided educational and spiritual leadership. A fire in the third floor auditorium of the school in 1949 resulted in extensive reconstruction. A parish gym was built in 1956 and extra classrooms were added onto the school. The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine saw over 200 adult parishioners meeting in family homes. Rev. Edward Gorman, C.S.V. was appointed pastor in 1962, a few months prior to the Second Vatican Council. The convergence of the Council's new directions, the expanding population of the parish, and the repair needs in the church led to the decision to replace it. Construction of a new church began in 1966; it was dedicated on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 1968. In 1986 new additions were made to St. Joseph School and the 1910 building was demolished. Parish offices were added in 1988. Today, with its modern church, new buildings, and new vision inspired by Vatican II, St. Joseph Parish is well equipped for its future.