Located in downtown South Bend, St. Joseph is widely considered the oldest Catholic worshiping community in the area.
“We are a Holy Cross parish founded by Fr. Edward Sorin, CSC, in 1853,” said Father Daniel Ponisciak, CSC, who is in his third year as parochial vicar at St. Joseph. “The Congregation of Holy Cross has proudly served this community for over 150 years.”
“The many wonderful families that comprise our community of faith help to create a dynamic and welcoming church. In particular, our grade school, which is our largest ministry by far, continues on in the Holy Cross tradition of educating minds and hearts so that our children grow to know, love and serve the Lord Jesus.”
Father Kevin Russeau, CSC, pastor of St. Joseph, has been with the parish since 2013. The parish also has an expansive team that helps it to provide for the members of its community and others. Members of this team includes Pat Stockrahm, business manager; Sean Kennedy, director of communications and marketing; and Jessica Springer, the director of liturgy and music. Director of religious education is Peter Mueller, and the director of youth ministry is Katie Ball-Boruff. Lisa Slott is the Safe Environment coordinator and administrative assistant, and Julie Hallenius is the parish secretary.
Initially, the parish community worshipped at St. Alexis Chapel, which was a mission chapel founded by Father Sorin, who is also the founder of Notre Dame. Later, in 1853, both a school and church were erected at what is now the intersection of LaSalle and Hill streets. Eventually the parish would be named St. Joseph, now referred to as St. Joe by many in the community.
Over the years, several new churches were built as the St. Joseph community expanded or as former buildings were torn down due to fire or decay. This lead to the current church structure, which was built in 1965 and today serves over 900 South Bend area families.
As St. Joseph Parish expanded, so did its school. Today, over 400 students attend the school, which includes a preschool and a grade school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Leading St. Joseph Grade School is George Azar, who just completed his first year as principal. He took over after the school’s long-time principal, Suzanne Wiwi, retired after 32 years. In 2011, while under her tenure, the school was named a National Blue Ribbon School, a nationwide award given to schools that exhibit academic excellence.
For as long as the grade school has existed, it wasn’t until 2013 that it added a preschool. It started because of an initiative by St. Joseph’s previous pastor, Father John DeRiso, CSC, who created a preschool planning committee in 2012. The preschool currently accepts children who are of the ages three and four. The director of the St. Joseph preschool is Melissa Cowden.
Thanks to St. Joseph Parish’s excellent staff and large community, it is able to put on a number of events throughout the year, as well as feature several ministries. Members enjoy events like the annual parish picnic on Aug. 19 and the St. Nick 6, a 6K race on Dec. 2.
Popular parish ministries include a mom’s ministry and Men’s Adoration and Cigars. The St. Joseph Parish Ministry of Mothers (MOMs) aims to bring mothers together to get to know each other better, as well as to join in fellowship and discuss topics pertaining to family and spiritual life. Men’s Adoration and Cigars brings men together on the last Thursday of the month to pray in adoration. After, they gather on the rectory porch for cigars with the pastor, Father Kevin Russeau.
St. Joseph Parish also puts an emphasis on engaging young adults.
“We are continuing to develop our young adult ministry,” said Father Ponisciak. “Currently, we are partnering with Christ the King Parish to create a ministry that helps our young adults to encounter the living God in their lives and to grow in community with each other.”
Recently, the parish also hosted a concert for Catholic recording artist Audrey Assad, which took place on June 21.
With the opening of St. Joseph’s new gymnasium this past year, the parish has been able to add a number of opportunities for its parishioners to participate in athletic competition.
“We have multiple opportunities for fellowship that focuses on athletic competition,” said Father Ponisciak. “First of all we have an Open Gym Basketball League, which continuously runs every Sunday night at 8 p.m. On Monday nights in the fall, we have a more competitive and official basketball league in which adults can sign up for particular teams. On Tuesday nights we have open gym volleyball. All of these events have fostered greater community among our parishioners, and we have a beautiful new gym to utilize.”
Bright things are ahead for this vibrant downtown South Bend parish.
226 N. Hill St.
South Bend, IN 46617
Sunday: 8, 10 a.m.; 5 p.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m.; 5 p.m.
Holy Day: 5 p.m. (Vigil);
7 a.m., 12:10, 7 p.m.
Reconciliation: Saturday 8:30-9:30 a.m.
Holy Hour: Saturday 8:30-9:30 a.m.
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