St. Joseph Parish
The formation of St. Joseph Church began under Fr. A. Rappe, a missionary from France, who organized a predominately Irish Toledo Parish know as St. Francis de Sales Church in 1841. The rapid growth of St. Francis de Sales made it impossible for the Church to accommodate all the parishioners for Sunday Mass. There was a plea from the German element of the Church to have a national Parish, and in 1854 St. Mary's Parish was built in downtown Toledo to accommodate this group of people.
The French people were still to be satisfied. In the summer of 1854, Fr. Evrard established the French Parish of St. Joseph. Fr. Evrard raised a subscription of $600. and at the cost of $1,800. He built a small brick Church on the rear portion of the grounds, shared by an Ursuline Convent on Erie Street, which had been built for the purpose of the Ursuline convent. It should be pointed out that the Church was erected for the joint accommodation of the Ursulines and the French. At the time the Church was built, there were about 150 French and Canadian families living in Toledo and within four or five miles from the city.
Fr. James Rouchy would be appointed the first Pastor of St. Joseph in February 1863. The Parish must have grown as indicated from the records of baptism. His first year found 30 persons baptized; in 1866, there were 67 baptisms.
As time passed, the Ursuline sisters needed all the grounds connected with the Convent and Academy, and it became necessary to secure another site for the Church. Portions of the three lots were bought on Erie Street on April 19, 1870. This was at the junction of Erie and Locust Streets. Father James Rouchy was Pastor, followed by Father Jecker, who commenced the present brick Church, which faces Locust Street. The lack of means and Parish difficulties prevented him from completing the Church.
In January 1878, Father Andrew Suavadet was named as a new pastor. His was the difficult task to finish the interior of the Church. It must have been a glorious day for all when the Church was dedicated on December 8, 1879, by Reverend W. Kockerols as the Bishops Delegate. Although the Church has some imitation of the French Gothic lines, it is difficult to classify its architecture along the various historical styles.
Once the new Church had been completed, the old Church was used as a school. The Ursuline Sister had charge of the Parish school, since its organization in September 1878, when the Chapel on their Convent grounds was converted into a school, and thus used until June 1880. The next Priest to take over was Father Sauvadet, who built a brick addition in the rear of the Church at the expense of $1,500. It was used as a school beginning in September 1880. This eventually became the sacristy to the present Church. The "sacristy" school soon became too small, and the rectory deeded to the next pastor Father Braire, by his predecessor, was converted into a two-room school. In May 1889, the present rectory building at 626 Locust Street was purchased for $2,800.
Upon Father Braire's death in 1892, Father Nougaret became pastor of the Parish until 1913. Father Nougaret had the Church renovated and decorated in excellent taste, at the expenditure of about $2000. This included a new sanctuary, new pews, a set of stations, and frescoing. This meant that the former school in the rear of the Church became the sacristy, and the sacristy on the right side of the Church became part of the sanctuary.
In 1920 a fire destroyed the high altar and did other damage to the Church. A new high altar was donated by a longtime benefactor of the Church. Some of the statues which were damaged in the fire were not replaced. The statues that are still a part of the Church's adornment are those of St Joseph's above the main altar, 1878. Our Savior in the Sepulcher was donated in 1902. The statue of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Saint John the Evangelist are dated 1878.
In September 1951, Father Joseph Kaufman was appointed administrator of the Parish. In less than ten years, he literally change the look of the entire parish plant. In the year of 1954, a Schantz Pipe organ was installed in the Church. In the same year, the electrification of the bells was made possible by donation. New front doors to the main entrance of the Church were hung. New wrought iron lights, communion rail, and pulpit were donated for the Church. The year 1957 saw the Church completely redecorated at the cost of $7200. The new red Oak pews for the nave and the choir are made of beautiful Appalachian plain red oak. They were installed at the cost of $6408. The present seating capacity in the nave of the Church is 322.
The Ursuline Sisters had come to Toledo in 1854 and the Sisters of Charity of Montreal in 1855, both communities were a French background. The Ursuline Sisters had charge of the Parish school from its organization in September 1878 when the Chapel on their Covenant grounds was converted into a school and used until June 1880. Father Sauvadet built a brick addition in the rear of the Church at the expense of $1500. It was used as a school in the beginning of September 1880. This eventually became the sacristy to the present Church.
The first Church of Saint Joseph, sometimes known as the "French Chapel," belonging to the Ursuline Sisters, was converted into a school once the present Church at Locust and Erie Street have been complete. This Chapel served as the school until June 1880. In September of that year, the school was transferred to a newly constructed brick building at the rear of the Church. This brick structure was of two stories. It is now used as the sacristy of the Church. The building was constructed under the administration of Father Sauvadet at the cost of $1500. In September 1883, these rooms became too small, and the rectory deeded to Father Blaire by his predecessor was converted into a two-room school.
St. Joseph Parish might be said to reach the height of its growth during the administration of Father Lucien Nougaret. He was a Pastor from February 1892 until May 1913. In the summer of 1894, a new building was begun. It was completed that same year. The new school was a brick structure, two stories high with a full basement. It was built at the cost of $2500.
From a Parish calendar of May 1889, we know that the school was under the direction of four Ursuline Sisters, and listed on the Parish calendar, there were names of 111 pupils. The school at that time was supported through the Holy Family School Society, and as the same source mentioned before states, "Every family should belong to the Society of the Holy Family for the support of the school. Dues of .25 cents a month payable the second Sunday in Church or to the collector."
The Parish school continued uninterrupted under the diligent care of the Ursuline sisters until December 27, 1942. Beginning January 3, 1943, the pupils attending St. Joseph School were transferred to Saint Francis de Sales under arrangements made by Bishop Alter.
The Treasure of Bells at St. Joseph's Church
High in the bell tower is truly a treasure of 11 bells. For many years they were the only complete set of bells in the city of Toledo. The first and largest bell dated March 1, 1881, is dedicated to St. Joseph, Patron of the Parish. On the bell is inscribed the following "Sanctus Josephus." This bell was donated to St. Joseph Church and was given and consecrated to the honor and glory of St. Joseph.
Inscribed on the bell;
"Protector of the Church and Patron of our Parish pray for us now and particularly at the moment of our death. Let this Parish now and forever be wholly centered in your holy heart. St. Joseph, remember us. Pray for us and bring us all to eternal happiness. Amen."
The second bell has inscribed on it the date of July 26, 1882, in honor of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The third bell has inscribed "In honor of the Immaculate Conception" with the engraving of the image of the Blessed Virgin upon it.
The fourth bell is dedicated to the honor of Saint Anne. The date of May 1, 1883, is on it. These four bells are on the first tier of the bell tower.
A description of the upper tier of the bells is as followed the fifth bell dedicated to Saint Andrew dated May 1, 1883.
The six bell is dedicated to Cecelia Marie Wilhemia dated December 25, 1897.
The seventh bell, the smallest one, was dedicated to Saint Peter the date May 1, 1883.
The eight bell has the name Anna Louise Adelaide engraved on it with the date July 1879.
The ninth bell is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist in dated May 1, 1883.
The tenth bell has the name Jan Andrew Alexis engraved on it.
The eleventh bell is engraved with the name Mary Agnes Eleanor, is dated July 1879.
It is noted that all of the information listed concerning the bells is clearly engraved on the bells and legible.
In 1922 the bells underwent repair at the cost of $700. The bells were rung in the 1920s by Mr. George Baumgartner. The old assembly of levers that controlled the bell chime still remains as mute testimony of the work involved in playing the chimes.
The bells were completely electrified by the I.T. Verdin Company through the donation of $10,000 from Roger Martin, La Jolla California. He did this in memory of his father, the late James E. Martin. The bells rang by electric control for the first time on March 15, 1954. There is an automatic ringing for the Angelus. Four bells can be rung from the sacristy, and the complete chimes can be played by keys from the organ.
St. Joseph Parish, is the third oldest Parish in the Toledo Diocese.
The material written above is condensed from;
Through A Hundred and Ten Years
St. Joseph's Parish
By Rt. Rev. Lawrence Mossing, S.T.D.