A History of Saint Joseph's - Racine

Saint Joseph's Parish
July 16, 2009

A Personal Glimpse | 125 Year Chronology

A Personal Glimpse
In the year 1838, Rev. Thomas Morrissey, an itinerant Catholic priest, traveled up and down the Indian trails within an area now known as southeastern Wisconsin.  He ministered to the early settlers in this newly found land of promise.

Following an illness, he passed away in a little settlement, now Burlington.  A stunned community, left without spiritual guidance, asked itself “now what?”  Winter was lying heavy with deep snow and bitter cold.  Under these severe conditions of the wilderness, two men walked to Milwaukee to the office of the Hierarchy for instructions as to the disposition of the remains of Fr. Morrissey.  The word was “just keep cool – put the good Padre on ice until spring, when improved weather conditions will permit a proper burial.”  Such was life (or death) on the frontier.

In the year 1842, at the corner of Wisconsin and Fifth Streets, Fr. Martin Kundig established a church dedicated to the memory of St. Luke.  Three years later it was moved to the corner of Eighth and Lake.  It was enlarged and the name changed to St. Ignatius.  It was a parish of mixed nationalities, those of German descent in the majority.  This group banded together and built St. Mary’s Church which was dedicated by Bishop Henni on August 15, 1853.

The Irish, seeing what the Germans had accomplished, also became active.  They came over to the north side and purchased property on Douglas Avenue.  In 1856 the cornerstone was laid and St. Patrick’s Church was dedicated on September 1, 1861.  Going into 1862, we find Fr. Sailer pastor at St. Mary’s and Fr. Gibson at St. Patrick’s.  St. Ignatius was closed due to lack of support.

Purchase Three Lots
Following the dedication of St. Patrick’s, the German speaking people on the north side decided that they, too, should establish a parish.  Consequently on April 30, 1862, three lots were purchased on the southeast corner of St. Patrick and Erie Streets.  It is interesting to note tha6t this property marks the northwest corner of the “original plat of Racine” as established by Guilbert Knapp, the founder of Racine, when he staked out his claim in 1834.  On November 15, 1867, this property was deeded to John Martin Henni, Bishop of Milwaukee.

A school was built in 1868.  All class work came to an abrupt end when the school was destroyed by fire in 1869.

Fr. Birkhaeuser new was pastor at St. Mary’s.  He recognized the plight of the north-siders and with his able assistance, a new two-story school was erected.  It was ready for occupancy by the end of 1870.  Classes and church services were held in the school on weekdays, but on Sunday all went to church at St. Mary’s.

It will be noted that during periods of open water, it was necessary to ferry across the river.  The cost was a penny per-person per-ride.  Of course, during cold weather the river was frozen over and a walk across spared the ferry expense.  Speculation has it that a number of those “pennies saved” found their way into the collection box.  In those days, taking up a collection amounted to pennyante.

In 1873 Fr. Birkhaeuser was transferred to St. Francis.  This created a dilemma for the northsiders but it was brief.  Being intrepid they rallied their forces, drew up plans and went to work.  The corner stone for the new church was laid on May 12, 1875.  On November 17, Fr. Michael Beiter became the first pastor and the church was dedicated on Christmas, 1876.  It was named St, Joseph’s

The church did not have a sanctuary or steeple.  A simple cupola stood at the highest point of exterior adornment.  One of our old-timers had said that if the second floor were removed down to the sub-floor, we would see inscribed thereon the design or from for the Gothic arches of the ceiling.  The arches were built around this design or form and hoisted into position via the gin pole method.

In those days, the pulpit occupied a prominent position in our church’s architecture.  It stood along the north all where the first station is presently located.  It was supported by a very ornate pillar and topped by an elegant, carved canopy.  At a later date, the canopy and pillar were removed and a confessional became a permanent part of the pulpit structure.

Legend has it that the fire and brimstone pouring from this vaunted position caused the most stalwart to tremble.  Many an ear became chafed by searing predictions of things to come as a result of derelict activity.  From this position of authority, the orator could look down on his parishioners and note with subtle disdain those nonchalant members trying to settle for a nodding acquaintance.  But woe betide the nodder.  A sudden, dazzling flash of brimstone followed by a devastating clap of thunder would snap him to attention.

In April, 1877, Fr. Victor became the new pastor.  His tenure, however, was short, being succeeded by Fr. A. Foeckler in August of the same year.  The Dominican Sisters now took charge of the school, relieving secular teachers.

Cyclone Hits
Late in the afternoon of May 18, 1883, a cyclone came roaring out of the southwest aimed directly at St. Joseph’s.  The cupola was torn loose and dashed into a pile of wreckage on the northeast corner of St. Patrick and Wisconsin Streets.

Following this disaster, a new steeple was erected, compete with bells and clock.  A new organ was installed at a cost of $3,600.  John Broecker was the first organist.  Two years later a large sanctuary was added to he church and a beautiful rectory rounded out the list of capital improvements.

Fr. Foeckler passed on in November, 1889.  At this stage of its energetic career, St. Joseph’s had only $1,900 in debts.  Fr. Fessler became the successor and further improvements in the church saw the installation of steam heat to replace the old church stoves.

Suitable facilities, adjacent to our property, were purchased for a young men’s club.  In 1894, the clubhouse burned and the land was sold.

Illness compelled Fr. Fessler to resign in October, 1892.  On December 15, Fr. Friedl arrived to carry on.  In May, 1894, he, too, became suddenly and seriously ill and was forced to resign.  Fr. John M. Bach served as the interim pastor until August 1st, when Fr. Frantz arrived.

At this time, the high altar and the two side altars further added to the dignity of the church.

In 1897, the school was enlarged and an auditorium added upstairs at a cost of $8,000.

In 1899, gas light replaced the old kerosene lamps in the church, school and rectory.

The old well was given second rating in 1900 when city water and hot water heat were installed in the rectory.

A new Sisters’ convent was erected in 1906 at a cost of $4,270.  Prior to 1906, the kids “just left school” after completing the seventh grade.  During the 1905-1906 school year, the eighth grade was added under the able guidanc34 of Sr. Clara.  As a consequence, St. Joseph’s had its first graduating class in 1906 – six girls and one boy.

Fr. Frantz passed away August 15, 1914.  Fr. Kirsten became his successor with Fr. Biwer as assistant.

Side Doors Installed
The two side doors were now installed at the church.  A new slate roof cost $1,350 and new windows $2,300.  Fr. Biwer was replaced by Fr. Stier.  Fr. Kersten died of a heart seizure while waiting for a streetcar.

Fr. Heder arrived on February 1, 1915.  His regime introduced the new stations and electric lights in the rectory.  Boilers do not last forever.  Ours went haywire and one from the Miller Shoe Company replaced the old one.  Illness compelled Fr. Heder to resign the pastorate on September 30, 1916.

Fr. John M. Bach arrived on October 1, 1916.  During this year we also switched to electric light in the church.

On February 3, 1917, a solemn Triduum introduced the Holy Name Society.  December 2, 1917, noted Pete Schuster’s first payday as custodian.

The property north of the church was purchased in 1920.  Pew rent and reserved seats were abolished in 1922.

In 1924, the Carrara marble altar rail replaced a gem made of wood and handcarved.  In 1925, St. Joseph’s observed a Golden Jubilee on October 18th.

By the late twenties our school, as a building, commenced to fall into disfavor.  It was becoming outdated, its facilities inadequate, and it presented a fire hazard.  Consequently, it fell before the heavy ax of condemnation.  We had no alternative and at a parish meeting held January 13, 1929, the decision to build a new school was written into the pages of parish history.

Before having it pass from view, a few moments in retrospect with the old building will ease the sorrow of parting.

The old school was a two-story, narrow, west-to-east brick structure, placed midway between our church and St. John’s property.  This set-up provided a playground between the church and school for the girls and the area south of the school for the boys.  What a contrast in recreation!  The girls confined their activities to jacks and ball, jumping rope, hopscotch, clap in and clap out and face tag.  The boys resorted to baseball, playing chase – using real leather harness lines – crack-the-whip, etc.  The Sisters invariably campaigned for strictly feminine activity among the girls.  The mild-mannered Sr. Hilary always came through with the reminder that the Blessed Virgin would cry if the girls played ball.  But for a marked contrast in personality and real excitement, all one had to do would be to wait for Sr. Corona to “come up to bat.”  Wow!

A real gem is the following never-to-be-forgotten classic.  A family named Stoffel resided in a house on the west side of Erie Street opposite the boys’ playground.  The glass companies did a pretty god business with the Stoffel residence.  If you, dear reader, can hum a little, try doing so to the tune of “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More.”  Here are the words:  “A baseball sailing through the air Whizzed ‘cross the street a hummin’; The center fielder hollered “RUN” when he saw ol’ man Stoffel comin’.”

But, Alas!  It did rain some more.  The rain was the flood of a vociferous tirade as the stormy Sr. Stoffel blew his top.  The pastor of the day or the head sister would be sure to find himself or herself at the peace table playing the role of claim adjustor.  Fortunately, however, no one ever went to jail.  Mr. Stoffel never sued for damages; what he needed was repairs.  And so it went.  Some of the boys got into trouble and some of the girls sent to the convent.

 Snowball Fights
Each winter saw a good old snowball fight between the Catholics and the Lutherans.  The calm and quiet of a winter day would suddenly be disturbed when a snowball would casually lob into enemy territory.  Just a trial balloon!!  It could come from either side.  Both had the “atomic bomb."  Hostilities would cease and quiet restored only after one side or the other would be driven back into the shelter of its own respective school.  Casualties??  Well, maybe a window or two.

The new school was quite something for the era.  Bright, cheery classrooms, a kitchen and dining room.  “Good Heavens!  Even a gym!”  Here’s where the old-timer stroked his beard.  It was wonderful.  Modest but equal to the demands of a changing world.  Within the bonds of limitation and capability, it was a product of vision.  Everyone was happy.  Many a mother endorsed the new school as a picnic.

But the shades of night were commencing to fall on a balmy day of prosperity.  Shadows were lengthening.  Many a dream on the horizon of hope was moving out of focus in the bewildering twilight of recession.  Naturally, this was frustrating.  All obligations associated with indebtedness called for recognition.  Industry could shut down, commerce could be curtailed.  But St, Joseph’s was a beating heart in a community dependent for its life blood on the now unemployed and hard-pressed membership.

In 1931, we recorded a mortgage of $118,766.10.  The only comforting feature, however, was the thought that the nature of our problem was widespread.  It wasn’t “just US.”

The gray skies of depression continued to hang around.  This was more than just a three-day rain.

Fr. Bach moved to St. Thomas at Waterford, and in a later assignment became resident chaplain at a Senior citizens’ Home in Milwaukee.

Lights are dimmed on a quiet gathering at St. Joseph’s.  In this moment of tense expectation, the curtain on the stage of Destiny is parted and a man steps into view.  A well-built man.  He radiates an aura of confidence and strength.  His first words are a calm, subtle plea for acceptance:  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  The strange man is Fr. Henry J. Schmitt.

Sr. Schmitt moved about slowly, cautiously.  He recognized a problem.  Much of the hard earned cash was going down the drain as interest.  He soon found a number of parishioners ready and willing to forego any return on their savings.  These savings would be loaned to the parish without interest.  The money saved would help reduce the debt.  Fantastic!

This fortunate episode was among the first in a long chain of ambitious events, enabling us to arrive at a point where we could start to live again.

By the mid 1930’s, people were becoming handcuffed and shackled by the forces of depression.  To counter this confinement and promote some old-fashioned togetherness among parishioners, a family parish picnic was enjoyed at the George Schliesmann farm.  What a day and what a crowd!  Boys and girls, men and women, ran themselves ragged.  By nightfall, all were enjoying (or suffering) one thing in common – all were pooped!  But this was happiness.  This was togetherness.  This was St. Joseph’s.  The event encouraged further participation in parish social life.  When unable to do other things, parishioners came to the school to talk and play and sing and work and pull together.  This is the spirit that will not be denied.  There was always something doing.  The rolling stones gathered no moss.  Ice cream socials, theatrical plays, card parties, style shows, bake sales, bazaars, festivals, raffles, bingo.. Rarely was money given for prizes.  Donated merchandise was used for that purpose.  Activity revolved around the social aspect.  Consequently, in 1937, the first mortgage was $65,000. 

No Salary
This was a result of a good overseer.  Lest we forget, for a long period during St. Joseph’s financial crisis, our pastor did not take a salary.

To interrupt the activity of an illustrious career, Fr. Schmitt suffered a light stroke.  Improvement was normal and positive.  Caution, however, became a watchword in the back of his mind.  This was fine with all who knew him.  The heavy lifting was finished and now he was entitled to coast.  Further deference prompted the assignment of a second assistant to help alleviate the pressure.

History recorded another momentous occasion for jubilation.  As a reward for dedication and outstanding achievement, Fr. Schmitt was elevated to the rank of Monsignor.  Henceforth, in courteous regard for his rank, all references to tour leader were title “The Monsignor” or Monsignor Schmitt.”  St. Joseph’s was to be congratulated.  Again it had a winner.

In the year 1950, St. Joseph’s celebrated its Diamond Jubilee.  Much preparation was undertaken to mark this event.  The choir loft was given a facelift, the pulpit removed and the church redecorated.  New confessionals became a permanent part of the church structure.  The main and the two side entrances were transformed.  It will be remembered the exterior steps were hazardous, especially in winter.  A new floor presented a bright side to one bowing his head.  New pews replaced those becoming creaky with age.  The kids complained that the old kneelers had “nails in ‘em.”  They, too, were removed.  The contractual estimate was upwards of $26,000. But by now we could afford it, and the dressed up appearance gave one a confidence experienced when sporting a new hat.

By 1958, enrollment in the school was sufficient to tax normal facilities.  To relieve congestion, the Boy Scout room was transformed into a classroom for first grade pupils.  Cost of this operation was $3,748.  A little later, another classroom was arranged in the cafeteria.  This project with an addition to the rectory resulted in an outlay of $5,144.

Concern was frequently expressed for the Sisters and their crowded convent which required much modern improvement.  Property at the southwest corner of St. Patrick and Erie Streets was contemplated with an eye for something nice for the Sisters.  The land held an occupied home and time was consumed ironing out the wrinkles before purchase of the property was finally consummated.  By the time the house was vacated and razed, much had suddenly occurred to alter the way of convent life.  Sisters were abdicating to pursue other ways of endeavor.  Many Sisters were leaving the convent as a home and were taking up residence in apartments.  Fewer girls were entering the convent.  Many lay teachers were taking over in the schools.  It seemed that in our apparent procrastination to start building, the hand of intervention was working for us.

About this time, the two-story brick building north of the church was razed.  For many years it housed the John Chobanian shoe repair shop.

Parish Grieves Loss
In 1967, Monsignor Schmitt suddenly passed away.  Fate closed the curtain on an outstanding personality.  We were all visibly shaken.  We sorrowed in thought that we had to give him up, but happy that we had him to give.  In passing we bade min au revoir but not goodbye.

Fr. James Schlaffer assumed the pastorate following the death of the Monsignor.  The parish status quo was maintained.  Parishioners enjoyed Fr. Schlaffer’s sermons as being short and sweet.  His tenure as pastor was of short duration because of his assignment to the newly-established St. Monica’s home for senior citizens.

Fr. Erwin Mogilka, pastor, and Fr. Gerald Brittain, curate, appeared as the new team at St. Joseph’s  Their outgoing way of life immediately created much friendship and soon they were referred to as Fr. Erv and Fr. Jerry.  Fr. Erv soon recognized St. Joseph’s needs.  His first project was the remodeling of the Sisters’ convent.  His concern for the Sisters’ welfare was a follow-through from the point where our efforts came to a measured halt just prior to the Monsignor’s death.  Through Fr. Erv’s efforts and direction, with the able assistance of the talented craftsmen in the parish, the convent was transformed into a beautiful, practical, modern residence.

And then the church.  Al necessary scaffolding equipment was secure.  It was erected by capable parish personnel.  Steeple jacks from the parish went to work with buckets and brushed.  These boys didn’t fool around; they started right in at the top.  The marble altar rail was removed and partially reinstalled between the sanctuary and the main body of the church.  The side altars were removed, although the walled ornamentation above, slightly altered, remained.  The beautiful new altar facing the congregation is the product of imagination and skill.  A sound system and new sanctuary carpeting rounded out this extensive project.  So there you are!  A thing of beauty is a joy forever.  Remodeled for less than $2,000.

Folks who have read the “Good Book” scratched their heads with the comment, “Fr. Erv’s the one who can tear the temple down and in three days put is together again.”  Witness his and the crew’s activity at the rectory.  A complete remodeling job involving the combined talents of all crafts represented in the parish.  Plans for a new building were folded away.  The old home was new again.

Yes, the school was next in line for a facelift.  Environmental changes in the dining room, a new, up-to-date kitchen evoked universal acclaim.  Here an up, there a down, here a change, there a change; here a problem, there an answer.  Again, imagination and concentrated effort gave the school a rating above par excellence.

In the meantime, Fr. Erv celebrated his Silver Anniversary.  A quarter of a century of hard work, always capped by success.  He had hitched his wagon to a star.

The national economy was rolling right along.  People were prosperous and happy.  Our parish roster was growing.  Finances presented no problem, because the family of St. Joseph gave in labor, time and skills.  Our reputation was maintained in the wake of all papal, national and archdiocesan appeals.

On this, our centennial, St. Joseph’s finds itself an honored and respected society.

Peering through the mist across the vale of time, a philosophical view of St. Joseph’s history brings much spiritual satisfaction to the soul.  In observing the unfolding of drama at St. Joseph’s, one finds himself first of all in an atmosphere of awesome reverie.  Look at those mental giants:


In the face of hardship or reversal, one sees the emergence of growth, something new, bigger, better.  Again and again, one observes the twin team of challenge and determination making itself known and heard.

Following the cyclone in 1883, we saw the determination of St. Joseph’s courageously challenging Fate, “Take the old cupola – we’ll build a new steeple to the skies taller and better.”  And so it was.

New!  Change!  Growth!  That is the order in the great cosmic plan.  God does not repeat Himself.  “Tis said, no two snowflakes are alike, no two leaves the same, no two people alike but we are all one in the great plan life.  Our life is God.  God has given us life in order that He might express Himself through us.  We are one with our ancestors.  St. Joseph’s is God’s expression through our ancestors and us.

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125 YEARS  [1975-2000]

A 125-Year Chronology:

Some of the highlights of our 125-year history at St. Joseph’s.

The Right Reverend Bishop John Martin Henni assists in laying the corner stone for St. Joseph’s Church on May 12.

Rev. MMichael Beiter is named St. Joseph’s first resident pastor on November 17.  He occupies a small house on the site of the present rectory.

Under Rev. Beiter’s direction, the church is completed and dedicated on Christmas Day with the celebration of its first Holy Mass.

Rev. S. Victor succeeds Rev. Beiter as pastor on April 17.

 St. Joseph’s first church organ is purchased for $3600.

Rev. Anthony Foeckler succeeds Rev. Victor in August.  Rev. Foeckler’s administration sees the establishment of the church tower, which replaced the cyclone-damaged cupola, a set of three-belled chimes purchased from the old Milwaukee courthouse, and a tower clock.

Four Sisters of St. Dominic appointed to St. Joseph’s School.

A sacristy is added to the church and the present rectory is built.

St. Joseph’s parish lists 111 members.

Rev. Charles Fessler succeeds Rev. Foeckler.

The church and school are provided with steam heating apparatus.

Rev. Fessler resigns the pastorate in October because of ill health.  During the next two months the church is served by two Capuchin Fathers from Milwaukee:  P. Cyrillus and P. Bernardus.

The Most Reverend F.X. Katzer, Archbishop of Milwaukee, appoints Rev. John Friedl to St. Joseph’s on December 15.

Rev. John M. Bach is appointed by Archbishop Katzer to take charge of the parish until a successor is appointed for Rev. Friedl, who had become seriously ill in May.

Rev. William Joseph Frantz is appointed to the pastorate at St. Joseph’s on August 1.  During his tenure he directs the purchase of the High Altar and the two side altars and a confessional from the Art Institute at St. Francis.

St. Joseph’s School is expanded to include an “entertainment” auditorium on the second floor at a cost of $8000.

Old-fashioned kerosene lamps in the church, school and rectory are replaced with modern gas lighting.

City water and a hot water hearing plant are introduced into the rectory.

A pew rent system is submitted to the Chancery on April 6, of which the following is a partial quotation:  “All members of the congregation who have pews in the church are obliged to occupy their respective pews in Early Mass and High Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.  Those acting contrary to this rule, i.e., those who have rented pews and still intrude into the pews of others, shall be fined 10 cents for every transgression.”

A new house for the Sisters is erected.

Fr. Frantz resigns because of poor health, and is succeeded by Fr. Norbert Kersten as pastor with Fr. Anthony C. Biwer as the first assistant at St. Joseph’s.

Fr. Kersten directs the installation of two side doors in the front of the church.  Up to this time there was only the center entry.  At this time also, a new slate roof is added, new windows are installed and the interior church is redecorated.

Fr. Wendelin J. Heder is appointed by Archbishop Sebastian G. Messmer as pastor of St. Joseph’s after Fr. Kessler’s sudden death on December 7, 1914.

Stations of the Cross are installed in the church.

On September 30, Fr. Heder resigns because of ill health.  Archbishop Messmer appoints Fr. John Bach to the pastorate of St. Joseph’s on October 1.

Holy Name Society is organized on February 3.  Parish debt in December amounts to $5119.  Father Bach takes a personal canvass of the entire parish to discuss procedures for collecting money and to determine what language parishioners wish to use in the church.  Some 95% of parishioners favor the English language, which becomes the official language at St. Joseph’s

Electric lighting is introduced to the church, the altars are regilded and the statues redecorated.

The present playground is purchased on July 27 for $23,000 with the intention of building a much needed high school.  (In 1924, the Dominican Sisters opened St. Catherine’s High School, obviating the need for building a Catholic High School at St. Joseph’s)

At a full parish meeting on January 2, it is decided, after much deliberation, to abolish the old pew rent system and reserved seating system.  These are replaced with a new finance system and a democratic seating system.

A Carrara marble altar railing is installed in the church.

St. Joseph’s Parish celebrates its Golden Jubilee.  There are 280 families in the parish.  One this occasion, Fr. Bach, pastor, writes:  “In view of this record and of the fact that all our debts are paid, it appears that we owe thanks to our pioneers and to their successors, and on the Golden Anniversary Jubilee Day to bow our heads and lift up our hearts in unspeakable gratitude to almighty God for the immeasurable blessings so lavishly showered upon the people of this community during the last fifty years.”

Fr. Bach introduces the “Envelope System” and begins a school fund.

A financial Statement for the year ending 1928 reads:  “You will remember that at the last parish meeting at the beginning of the year 1928 it was agreed that … all members who are in any way able were supposed to double their subscriptions in favor of a school fund.”

The year receipts total $18,688.

Current school is built at a cost of $135,000.  Financial Statement shows loans on notes of $127,000.

Fr. Bach resigns the pastorate on November 15 because of poor health.  Fr. Herbert Waldkirch serves as acting pastor.

Rev. Henry J. Schmitt is appointed pastor of St. Joseph’s on April 11 by Archbishop Samuel Stritch.

Parish indebtedness nears $140,000.  A new system of envelope collection begins.  “Everyone aged 18 or older will be expected to drop an envelope, even visitors will be handed an envelope by the usher.  We feel this allows more liberty than door money and at the same time gives the pastor a way of checking his church supporters.”

Since the building of the school, nearly $100,000 is paid off on the parish debt.  About $80,000 in interest remains to be paid.

Fr. Schmitt celebrates his Silver Jubilee on June 23.

Fathers from Milwaukee, P. Cyrillus and P. Bernardus.

Nine hundred Holy Name Society men from 296 parishes of the Archdiocese attend Mass at St. Joseph’s Church, which is celebrated by the Most Reverend Moses E. Kiley.

Item:  Parish Bulletin – July 22
“This morning we were able to record a fact toward which we have been working for years.  We have now sufficient funds to meet the last of our notes.  St. Joseph’s is out of debt.  This was incurred by building of the new school.”

Blacktopping and fencing of the playground is completed.

A new garage for Assistant Priests is erected with the help of parishioners on September 13.

Religion classes for parish children attending public schools are introduced in September.

St. Joseph’s Ushers Club is formed.

New loudspeakers are installed in the church.  Confessionals are recessed into the walls.

St. Joseph’s Church celebrates it Diamond Jubilee.  Major renovations are made to the church.

Fr. Schmitt is elevated to rank of Monsignor.

An 11:45 a.m. Sunday Mass is provided for those who prefer a late Mass.

St. Joseph’s School enrollment reaches record 544 students.

Girl students begin wearing uniforms.

Parish purchases an automobile for the Sisters’ use.

Demonstration of the English Mass is given at St. Joseph’s for the priests of Racine.

For the first time, Mass is celebrated facing the congregation.

Commentators assist the celebrant.

New altar and carpeting are purchased.

Monsignor Schmitt celebrates his Golden Jubilee.

Monsignor Schmitt passes away on August 27.  Archbishop William E. Cousins appoints Fr. James Schlaffer to the pastorate of St. Joseph’s.

Sisters are given option to retain habits or wear civilian clothing.

Fr. Erwin E. Mogilka is appointed in June to the pastorate of St. Joseph’s by Archbishop Cousins, replacing Sr. Schlaffer who is assigned resident chaplain at St. Monica’s Home.  Fr. Gerald Brittain is appointed Associate Pastor.

Sisters’ convent and school classrooms are remodeled.

Church interior is remodeled and painted by members of the parish.  The steeple is re-roofed and the clock and bells electrified. 

Work begins on refurbishing and expanding the rectory, again through the industriousness of parish members.

Graduating class of 1922 celebrates its 50th anniversary of graduation from St. Joseph’s School.  A new tradition begins!

Gymnasium is remodeled and shower rooms are updated.  The third floor of the Sisters’ Convent is converted to private rooms.

Major renovation of the school hall and kitchen begins.  Modernization of cafeteria, kitchen, lower corridor and heating plant is completed at a cost of $68,000.

Record 1,000 families now make up the St. Joseph’s Family.

Parish celebrates 100th Anniversary.

 Church expands with additions alongside the sanctuary, which now accommodate our disabled and parents with young children.  The rectory (now Parish Center) is thereby connected to the church.

After 7 years service, Fr. Gerald W. Brittain is reassigned as associate pastor to St. Mary Parish, Kenosha, and Fr. Richard J. Talaska becomes our new associate.  Prophetically, a pending shortage of priests begins to be discussed in Racine and our Archdiocese.

Rembert G. Weakland, OSB, becomes Milwaukee’s ninth Archbishop.

The decorative woodwork enclosures for the new rooms alongside our sanctuary are installed.

Our mother parish and Racine’s then oldest, St. Mary’s, moves from downtown to its present location near the lake in the Crestview area of Caledonia.  The former St. Mary’s becomes Cristo Rey Parish, with a special ministry to Hispanic Catholics.

Our pipe organ is electrified and a new console installed.

The connecting lobby between church and school for additional office space is completed.

Fresh concrete poured in front of church is guarded overnight by Kurt and Linda Yust on the eve of their wedding.

Sr. Rose Marie has her 50th Anniversary of vows.

Church steeple receives necessary repairs.  The construction of an additional 1200 sq. ft. of multi-use space to school and church facilities relieves overcrowding.

Fr. Richard Talaska is assigned to the pastorate of St. Casimir’s, Kenosha.  Fr. Gerald McAdams is assigned as new associate with Fr. Erv, who begins to suffer heart problems this year.

St. Joseph’s participates in the Renew program.

Archbishop Weakland confirms here for the first time.

Fr. Erv has heart surgery.

Bernadette Myers, our church organist for 35 years, retires.  Catherine Lofy becomes our new organist.

Sr. Helen Brower has her 50th Anniversary of vows.

Ceiling fans are added to the church and four new garages are built to replace those vandalized by fire.

Fr. Isidore Dixon, OCD, becomes our new associate pastor when Fr. McAdams is reassigned.

Charles T. Cooper replaces Sr. Dorothy Ann as school principal, freeing her to serve as Parish Secretary.

Our present small parking lot is cleared and fenced in as a playground space for littler children.

Chandeliers are added to our church entryways, our roof and drainage systems are repaired, and computers make their first appearance in school.

Two young brothers, Jim and Tim Keefe, die tragically in a drowning incident – a flowering tree to the left of our school doors remembers them.

The multi-use room built in 1980 is named Mogilka Hall.

One of our school children, Natalie Simonsen, dies of childhood cancer – a blue spruce at the southwest corner of our school remembers her.

Our beautiful stained glass windows are removed, one at a time, for restoration and repairs.  Our pipe organ is also completely renovated.

Lavatories for church are added to the school lobby as those in the church side stairwells were prone to frequent freeze-up problems.

A beautiful statue to the Blessed Mother is located in the school back yard.

Fr. Raymond Adamsky becomes our new associate pastor when Fr. Dixon is reassigned.

Sr. Dorothy Ann celebrates her 40th Anniversary of vows.

Old radiators are removed from church with installation of a new heating system.

Allen Lechner is hired as new custodian, replacing Eugene Kosch.

For the first time in our school’s 120-year history, tuition is charged.

Church is air-conditioned through generous bequest from Otto Schwarza.

Susan Gehrig is hired as our Director of Religious Education.

A Parish Council is elected for the first time in recent parish history.

Church is thoroughly redecorated, pews and floor refinished, walls repainted, sanctuary recarpeted.  St. Joseph’s receives recognition from Preservation Racine, Inc., as a building of significant, local historic interest.

Srs. Helen Brower and Dorothy Ann Grieber retire, the last Racine Dominican Sisters to serve our school and parish since 1877.  The convent is razed, the backyard enlarged.

Fr. Erwin E. Mogilka retires after 21 years as pastor.  Elizabeth Heidorn, housekeeper for three pastors, also retires after 30 years, and Marge Floyd is hired.

Fr. Richard J. Stoffel becomes our new pastor in the fall.

An additional blue spruce is planted in front of school in memory of Norman Friedel, a parish council member who died suddenly.

A baby grand piano is purchased for church music, and Catherine Lofy, or organist, receives additional responsibilities as our first full-time Liturgist/Pastoral Musician.

We begin participation in a Racine Northside Catholic Collaborative Council to discuss how all northside Racine parishes could work more effectively together as the shortage of priests nears.

A parish census is taken.

In addition to his duties here, Fr. Rick serves as temporary administrator at St. Rose Parish.

A Religious Education program for area Special Needs children is begun at St. Joseph’s

Fr. Raymond Adamsky accepts assignment as chaplain to St. Monica’s Home and, as no priests are available to follow him, St, Joseph’s again becomes a one-priest parish, after having had associate pastors in residence for 84 years.

Annual involvement with the National Night-Out Against Crime begins.

The Sts. Anne & Joachim Society is founded for our senior members.

Two trees are added to the backyard – a crimson maple in memory of Rebecca Rose Nelson, and a ginko in memory of Steve Wigman.

Etched glass windows are added to the inner doors at church entryways, preserving the decorative patterns which formerly appeared on the church ceiling.

A fun, 5-K Run/Walk called “St. Joseph’s Steeplechase” is introduced as part of our Fall Family Festival.

Jeffrey Small, priest-son of the parish, is ordained for the Diocese of Peoria and has his Mass of Thanksgiving here.

The Sesquicentennial of the Milwaukee Archdiocese sees both Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, OSB, and our auxiliary, Bishop Richard J. Sklba (native of Racine) make a pastoral visit to our parish.  The rectory (pastor’s residence) relocates to 1712 Chatham Street, a home donated to the Parish by the Joseph & Mildred Weill family.

The church confessionals are remodeled into more suitable reconciliation rooms.

Weekend and weekday Mass schedules change due to priest shortage.

New pew bookracks and church hymnals are purchased.

The former rectory building, now referred to as Parish Center, is remodeled for additional office and meeting space, as well as beginning a Pre-School/Daycare Program and a Youth Center.  Church seating area at the south side of the sanctuary is specially renovated as a cry room.  New, brighter lighting for our parking lot is installed.

School receives new computer lab and adds a Before/After Care program for students.

In addition to duties here, Fr. Rick is appointed temporary administrator of St. Patrick Parish until their new Parish Director is appointed later in the following year.

Little Joe’s Daycare/Pre-School opens with Joanne Balistrieri as Directress.  Peggy Taylor begins work with us as our first Parish Nurse.  The gym exercise/storage room is remodeled to serve as Music classroom, allowing for expanded Pre-School as well as Before/After Care services.

Trumpet pipes are added to our church organ in memory of Charles and Myrtle Lechner.

Our backyard is attractively fenced in to the safety of little children at play.

Fr. Michael E. Nowak, priest-son of the parish, is ordained for the Milwaukee Archdiocese and celebrates his Mass of Thanksgiving here.

New desks are acquired for the school.  The church’s original statue of the Sacred Heart is found in the basement beneath the sanctuary and restored to original appearance as in the 1860’s, and enshrined in the lower school hallway.

Serra Club has testimonial dinner for Fr. Mogilka, honoring his years of service to our parish and the city of Racine.

Michael & Marsha Iggulden are named Pastoral Associates.

Our ceremonial chalice, a gift of the first priest-son of St. Joseph’s (Fr. Bernard Salbreiter) in 1901, is restored and returned to liturgical use.  The statues of our nativity set undergo restoration.  Fr. Rick begins the tradition of a Catholic “drive-by” blessing of automobiles each Memorial Day weekend.

St. Joseph’s participates in the National Bell Ring for Independence Day.

Five southside Racine parishes (Holy Name, Holy Trinity, Sts. Rose, Stanislaus, & Casimir) merge into the new St. Richard of Chicester parish – 24 parishes across the Milwaukee Archdiocese merge into 9.

New boilers are installed to heat school and church.

Plans begin for celebration of parish 125th Anniversary in coincidence with the Great Jubilee Year 2000 and New Millennium.  A parish mission entitled “A Year of Favor from the Lord” begins our celebration.

Our backyard is relandscaped and designated Siena Gardens in honor of the Racine Dominican Sisters who served our school and parish from 1877-1990.

A plan to renovate our church steeple takes shape, including not only needed maintenance but also updating clock/bell controls, repainting the exterior, repairing interior access stairs and landings, and placing stained glass in tower apertures to be lit from within at night, making our steeple a local landmark and light on a hill which cannot be hidden, a sign of our faith, the true “Light from Within.”  The feast of Joseph, Husband of Mary (March 19), sees an all-parish dinner/dance at Roma Lodge and a Mass of Community Rededication at which Bishop Sklba presides.  A float in this year’s local 4th of July parade, participation in Preservation Racine’s annual tour of historic places and a closing Parish Mission featuring the music ministry of Vince Ambrosetti conclude a celebration intended to fit us for the future as a community in alliance with our neighboring Catholic parishes.

Work on the renovation of the steeple begins.

Archbishop Weakland retires as Archbishop of Milwaukee and is replaced by Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Fr. Richard Stoffel is reassigned to St. Peter's parish in Slinger.

Fr. John Aiello is appointed pastor of St. Joseph's parish.

Catherine Lofy, Liturgist and Music Director retires after 22 years of service to the parish.

Mr. Joseph Dominic is hired to replace Catherine Lofy as Director of Music and Liturgy.

Work on the steeple renovation is completed, including an antenna for cellular phone service imbedded within the steeple, which provides additional income for the parish.

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