December 19, 2023 // Bishop

St. Joseph, Mishawaka, Marks 175th Anniversary

On Sunday, December 10, Bishop Rhoades celebrated the 175th anniversary of one of the diocese’s oldest parishes – St. Joseph Catholic Church in Mishawaka. All parish choirs sang for the special 11:15 a.m. Mass, and staff held a brunch in the school gym immediately after to mark the milestone anniversary.

Bishop Rhoades gave thanks for all of those who have been a part of St. Joseph’s long history throughout the years, praying for all ancestors who worshiped and served at the parish. In his homily, he reminded the faithful about how God remains with us through turmoil and urged attendees to open their hearts to receive the Lord and make a highway for Him.

Photos provided by St. Joseph Parish
Faithful in the pews look on as Bishop Rhoades speaks from the elevated ambo during a Mass on Sunday, December 10, to mark the 175th anniversary of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Mishawaka. Bishop Rhoades prayed for all those who have served the Church’s mission at St. Joseph throughout the years.

“For 175 years, St. Joseph’s parish has been a spiritual home for thousands of parishioners who have drank here from the waters of salvation,” he said.

In 1842, Father Edward Sorin and other clergy from the Congregation of Holy Cross were sent to northern Indiana to establish the school that became the University of Notre Dame. These Holy Cross priests, like the French missionaries before them, would come to Mishawaka to celebrate Mass and provide the sacraments.

On December 10, 1848, this missionary church in Mishawaka became an official parish called the Church of the Holy Angels. That original church building was destroyed by a fire 13 years later – which was believed to have been arson. They needed to rebuild, but the Civil War had just begun. The parish was already home to 125 families, almost all poor Irish and German immigrants. The parishioners made great sacrifices to rebuild the church and buy the land that shortly after became the parish cemetery.

From left, Father Christopher Lapp, Father Terry Fisher, Bishop Rhoades, and Father Kenneth Amadi sit during Mass on December 10 marking the 175th anniversary of the founding of St. Joseph Parish in Mishawaka. The Mass was followed by a brunch in the school gymnasium.

Their new church was dedicated on December 8, 1861, and was given the title of St. Joseph, changing the patron of the parish from the guardian angels.

St. Joseph’s grew considerably through the years, and the community came to need more room. In 1893, the current building was completed – a large church with Gothic-style architecture.

“You’ve had some very long-serving pastors over its history, and I’m very grateful to Father Chris [Lapp], who has been a pastor here for seven and a half years,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Today in this Mass, we remember in prayer all the priests, sisters, and lay faithful who have served the Church’s mission here at St. Joseph’s these past 175 years. We give thanks for the heritage of faith they have left for us.”

Bishop Rhoades concluded his homily with a prayer: “I pray that this parish will continue to flourish as an evangelizing community, one that reaches out to spread the Kingdom of Christ here in Mishawaka; one that continues to pass on the faith to your children; one that has a special love and care for the elderly, sick, and suffering.”

After Mass, families walked to the school gym next door for brunch and fellowship.

Margaret Cabaniss, President of the Parish Council and parishioner for six years, organized the event. Outside of the gym, in the entrance hall, two tables held documents and information on the history of the parish.

“Our parish historians found articles that were written about the dedication of the ‘new’ church building in the late 1800s; it’s fun to think that our little 175th-anniversary celebration will be part of that history now,” Cabaniss told Today’s Catholic.

According to Cabaniss, preparing for the event was a shared enterprise among a variety of volunteers in the parish – families who help host a semi-regular post-Mass brunch, individuals who have been researching the history of the parish, and the choir members, altar servers, and “folks behind the scenes who helped make the Mass itself so beautiful.”

Setting up the brunch specifically was the work of several different volunteers who helped cook food, decorate tables, and put together the historical display, as well as all those parishioners who donated dishes to share.

“St. Joe’s is a wonderfully generous community, so we had lots of hands to help,” Cabaniss said. “We have parishioners whose families have been here since the mid-1800s, and it’s wonderful hearing their memories about the community and the parish itself over the years.”

Dozens of families attended the celebration brunch, and the line stretched out the door.

“The St. Joe family is a wonderful community,” Cabaniss said. “It blends members whose ancestors and families have grown up in the parish, as well as recent transplants to the area, but I think everyone is made to feel welcome and as though they have a personal stake in the community – something that they can offer to help build up the parish family,” she said. “Never is that more apparent to me than when we host events like this that bring the community together in prayer and thanksgiving, as well as celebration.”

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