WILLIAMSBURG - A Williamsburg church will celebrate an impressive milestone Sunday when St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church marks its 150-year anniversary.
Father Aron Maghsoudi, pastor, said St. Joseph's was established in 1861 after Father John Walsh, pastor of Hollidaysburg's St. Mary's Church, authorized that funds be collected to build a church in Williamsburg. Dedicated on Oct. 9, 1861, the Williamsburg parish was placed under the patronage of St. Joseph.
Maghsoudi said the church will celebrate its anniversary 150 years to the day.
(Courtesy photo) St. Joseph Catholic Church will celebrate its 150th anniversary Sunday. Parishioners made candy for six years in the 1970s to pay off a $250,000 mortgage on the current building.
Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. by Bishop Mark L. Bartchak and a special Croatian hymn will be sung in remembrance of the immigrant heritage of the parish. After Mass, parishioners will meet and greet the bishop in the church hall. A dinner will be served at noon.
Reflecting on the church history, Maghsoudi said, through the years certain things remain constant in the church.
"The job of a parish is to help bring home to people the timeless truth of the Catholic faith in a way that's applicable to people. Truths don't change, but they speak to people in their own contemporary settings," he said. "The challenge is to convey the beauty and richness that has been handed down to us as Catholics. As St. Augustine would say, 'Beauty ever ancient and ever new.'"
The love of Christ continues to be the heart of Catholicism, he said.
For its first 60 years, the parish was served as a mission of St. Mary's with priests traveling to Williamsburg on train and horseback for sacraments and pastoral visits. Organists, choir members and altar boys from St. Mary's journeyed to Williamsburg for Sunday and Requiem Masses.
The number of worshippers at St. Joseph continued to increase and Father James P. Padden was assigned to St. Joseph Church as a resident pastor on July 21, 1921.
On June 11, 1972, ground was broken for a new church building and rectory, with Brown's Construction of Spruce Creek as the general contractor. The new St. Joseph Church was blessed on April 28, 1974, by Bishop James J. Hogan. A bell tower was erected over the site of the old church, which was razed on July 26, 1975.
To raise funds to pay off the debt of the new church, a small group of people in the parish made and sold candy under the direction of Cecilia Burkett. The group labored seven days a week in the church basement from October until Christmas, when the candy makers took a week off.
Work resumed after the holidays and continued through Easter.
"In six years we paid off the $250,000 debt and had money in the bank," said Dorothy Leipersock, a lifelong member of St. Joseph Catholic Church.
She also was the first female lector at the parish.
"I commented to my nephew the other day that the church is my second home, and he said, 'no, it's your first home,'" Leipersock laughed.
Tom Sault II is another lifelong member of St. Joseph's.
"I've gone there all my life and I'll be 81 next month," he said. Sault, a member of the Knights of Columbus for 57 years, said a fourth degree color corps will be in attendance for the Mass. He said the church has sent invitations to every person who has been a member in the hope that they'll attend the celebration.
Sault said the parishioners are looking forward to the event.
"Everybody's excited about the whole thing, and we're looking forward to having a full church," he said.
Maghsoudi said the anniversary celebration is an opportunity to honor the contributions of past parishioners.
"These people made sacrifices because they saw the great value of their faith, how the timeless truths spoke to them in their situations," he said. "That's the gift they pass on