In 1861, St. Joseph Parish began as a mission church in Menomonie serving pioneers and loggers of Canadian, Irish, German, and Austrian descent, who worked in the vast pine forests in the winter and in the saw mills of the renowned Knapp, Stout & Co. Company during the summer.
The first Mass was celebrated by Fr. Smeddinck in the home of John Nolan. Construction on a small frame church began in 1861 on land donated by Knapp, Stout & Co. Company. It was built from donations by the mill hands and camp crews in the area. The church was completed in 1865.
By 1874, the parish numbered about 500 members. As the parish continued to grow, so did the need for a larger building.
In 1883, a much larger church, 55 x 135 feet, was built on the southeast corner of what is now Wilson and 9th Street. This church was completed in 1885.
In 1888, interest for adding a parish school began to evolve. By the fall of 1890, St. Joseph School opened its doors with instruction provided by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of La Crosse. The school enrollment grew to 136 students by 1896.
On February 19, 1899, St. Joseph’s Church burned to the ground. The fire was believed to have started from a defective furnace. Fortunately, most everything of value in the church was saved. Using parts of the remaining walls and foundation of the former building, the church was rebuilt within nine months. On October 9, 1899 the new church was dedicated.
In 1901, a larger school was erected due to enrollment increases. By 1907, this school building also was too small to accommodate the increasing number of children so in 1912, another new school was built. The previous school built in 1901 was later remodeled into a convent in 1915.
To make our church accessible to all, in 2006, a handicap entrance and elevator addition were completed along with a new roof on the church.
In 2011, St. Joseph Parish celebrated 150 years of existence with the theme that we are "blessed, broken, and given." During this year, we were also able to celebrate the 100th birthday of Monsignor Blecha, our beloved Pastor Emeritus!
With God's blessings, our parish continues to thrive today with over 1,000 families May we continue as a parish to be a place where the Gospel is heard and lived, where our lives are broken and shared, and where people are cherished more than things.
The parish and school continued to grow. By 1925, the parish had over 200 families, four societies including the Ladies Altar Society, the Men’s Holy Name Union, the Knights of Columbus, Council 2055, and the Knights of Wisconsin.
On the afternoon of July 25, 1940, lightning struck, set fire and destroyed the 150 foot church steeple. A new steeple was reconstructed in its place with a castellated tower.
The year 1961 marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of St. Joseph Church. During the first 100 years, the congregation had grown from a few scattered Catholics to more than 500 families. With the increasing membership, there was a need for a larger church.
Ground was broken for the current church that is located on the corner of Wilson and 10th Street in Ocotber 1963. On May 17, 1964, the cornerstone was laid in place. The new church was approximately 1000 square feet and featured a "hyperbolic paraboloid" designed poured concrete roof which weighed about 368 tons and was supported by two concrete buttresses.
The first Mass in the new church was celebrated on Palm Sunday in 1965. The old 1899 church was eventually razed in June of 1969.
Looking to the future, parishioners were inspired to build a modern and integrated Parish Center and School facility to help further minister to our members and our community. This building was erected in 1994 and is actively used today.
Recent Pastoral History:
Monsignor Charles Blecha 1955-1984
Fr. Vaughn Brockman 1984 - 1995
Fr. Lyle Schulte 1996 - 2003
Fr. Tom Krieg 2003 - 2014
Fr. John Selva Manohar 2014 - 2015
Fr. James Kurzynski 2015 - 2018
Fr. John Selva Manohar 2018-Present
Current Parish Center