Saint Joseph Parish

404 W Lawrence St
Appleton, WI 54911


History of St. Joseph Parish

The history of the Catholic Church in the United States bears witness to the fact that the majority of the original parishes were organized and built by the immigrants who came to this country from Europe. Because of the various languages they spoke, it was only natural that they organized and built parish life around their specific language. They wished to pray and worship God in their native tongue. So it was with St. Joseph Parish.

Originally, St. Mary's Parish was the only Catholic church in Appleton, which was started in 1857 by the Irish immigrants. When the Germans began to migrate to Appleton, they could not understand English and therefore longed to have their own community where they could sing and pray to God in German. On March 18, 1867, the feast of St. Joseph, Archbishop Henni of Milwaukee gave permission for the Germans to build their own church, which was dedicated on December 13, 1868 by Bishop Melchoir, the first Bishop of the new Green Bay Diocese. On February 26, 1869, St. Joseph Parish received its first resident pastor in the person of Rev. Joseph Nussbaum.

From the beginning, there were problems between the parishioners and the pastors, which reached their breaking point at the beginning of 1875, a situation which lasted until 1877. Bishop Krautbauer looked for help to the Capuchin Franciscan Friars, with whom he was on very friendly terms. The Capuchins accepted the pastorate of St. Joseph and took possession of the parish on April 22, 1877. Fr. Didacus Wendel was the first Capuchin Friar to be pastor. Since then, many Capuchins, both clerical and non-clerical, have served the parish until the present.

Little by little what had been started in 1867 continued to grow - buildings were raised for a school, meetings, living quarters for the Friars and a convent for the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who taught the children. The Friars were interested not only in the physical part of the parish, but mainly in its spiritual development, and so parish societies were organized - Holy Name, Christian Mothers, as well as societies for young men and women, married women, children who had received their First Communion, and others. Basically the pastor let and the people followed.

With Vatican Council II, parish life changed. The church began to once more recognize the gifts and talents of its lay members. The old societies were replaced with the Parish Council, Finance Council, Ministers of the Word, Eucharist, Hospitality, Music, Assistants of the Altar, Maintenance, etc. Decision making for the direction of the parish was now on a broader base, with the lay members of the parish expressing their desires. Education of children has improved as we evolved from our own school to be fully integrated in the Appleton Catholic Education System (ACES/Xavier).

Today, St. Joseph Parish is an alive, welcoming community. We have recently added an addition that gives us the space for growing parish groups and activities. Our focus, as it has always been, is the full, active and participated worship of God. Our mission is to serve all those who choose to come to us.

May God continue to bless St. Joseph Community.

St. Joseph Parish in earlier times showing the old school and school

The interior of St. Joe's before the changes to the front of the church.

St. Joseph School and Hall built in 1894 and 1907 with the convent behind the school before the school and hall were razed for the new school building.

Old classroom photo, date unknown.

Old classroom photo, date unknown.

Interior during the 1960's.

Interior of St. Joseph Church - 1992
125th Year of Jubilee