St. Joseph Parish celebrates centennial April 5

By Susan Grossardt | For The Compass | April 3, 2014

Green Bay parish’s patron saint has taken fatherly care of parish for years

GREEN BAY — What we all know and love about St. Joseph, as the foster father of Jesus and husband of Mary, is one of the key reasons why Irene Jankowski, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Green Bay, is certain that the parish is in good hands.

Sharon Zambrowicz, left, Sr. Toni Jendrasiak, SSND, Betty Van Den Plas and Betty Mailhiot holds items that are part of St. Joseph Parish’s centennial celebration. The Green Bay parish will celebrate 100 years with a Mass on April 5. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Sharon Zambrowicz, left, Sr. Toni Jendrasiak, SSND, Betty Van Den Plas and Betty Mailhiot holds items that are part of St. Joseph Parish’s centennial celebration. The Green Bay parish will celebrate 100 years with a Mass on April 5. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“I just feel at home at St. Joe’s. St. Joseph is one of my favorite saints and it would have been hard to have been a part of or led by anyone other than St. Joseph. I figure if he can take care of our Lord, he can take care of us. He has always been a favorite of mine,” explains Jankowski.

On Saturday, April 5, the parish will offer special thanks to St. Joseph on the occasion of the parish’s centennial. Bishop David Ricken will celebrate a 4:30 p.m. Mass, followed by dinner at the Rock Garden. Alumni from St. Joseph School will also be invited for a reunion to relive and celebrate their Catholic education memories.

The centennial events kicked off at the beginning of the calendar year with a pancake and porkie breakfast, centennial ornament sale and decorated stars hung throughout the church. The feast of St. Joseph on March 19 was also celebrated with a special Mass. Special quilt squares have been given out to parishioners and will be sewn together and presented to the parish later in the year.

St. Joseph Parish boasts of having, at one time, the largest grade school in the diocese. Back in the early 1960s there were nearly 1,300 students in kindergarten through the sixth grade. At one time, the parish held 10 Masses each Sunday beginning at 5:15 a.m. There were no Saturday or Sunday evening Masses.

Between 2006 and 2008, St. Joseph School went through a number of transitions. It was first consolidated with Trinity Catholic School and resided at Annunciation Parish. In 2007, the school’s name was changed to Holy Apostle Catholic School and in the next year a difficult decision had to be made to close the school.

Fr. Don Everts, pastor, led the parish through this transition and provided the vision for the future. “The hardest change is the fact that we had to close the school and to alter that sense of mission,” he said. “That was such a large part of our mission. It was a very challenging time. The other big challenge is that we now have four churches here that are linked together so parishioners don’t have their own individual pastor anymore.”

Fr. Everts further explained the spiritual significance of this important transition. “The great thing that has happened for us is coming to discover the universal Catholic Church, how we don’t get everything that we want but we know, in time, we become more by working together.”

St. Joseph Parish has approximately 550 families. While the numbers have declined over the years, Carol Kittell, business administrator for the Quad parishes, notes an eye-of-the-tiger toughness and determination about St. Joseph parishioners. “I think they would fight tooth and nail to keep their parish alive.”

Where the school bell previously rang for students at St. Joseph, upbeat youth music and other happy parish events have taken its place. The building is now being used for faith formation for the four parishes and reaching out to west side parish youth. The Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) retreats are being housed at that facility, along with the annual parish Mardi Gras celebration.

“I believe that the renewed emphasis and focus on youth at St. Joseph has helped to heal some of the wounds from having closed the school,” adds Sr. Toni Jendrasiak, pastoral associate for the Quad parishes.

The former school building itself has undergone a facelift as well. Two classrooms have been renovated and have now become a chapel for faith formation groups and Lenten prayer services. There’s a St. Joseph room and a Marian room painted and dedicated to Mary and Joseph, all energized by the efforts of parishioners. The south side of the building houses the “Holy Grounds Café” dedicated to youth ministry with its snack bar and performance area, along with plenty of space for arcade games and gathering.

Everything is a collaborative ministry for the Quad parishes, each having its own niche. St. Joseph oversees the efforts of faith formation, St. Patrick manages the food pantry, St. Jude is currently being rented out by Providence Academy, a non-denominational school, and the priests reside at Annunciation of Our Lord Church.

The logistics of blending four parishes has presented a challenge and opportunity for all. “We’ve had a moving project just about every year since we began linking with the other parishes,” Sr. Tony notes. “But it’s really exciting to see the four parishes working together. We’ve come a long way and it’s so neat to see people attending events at different parishes, something that they may not have done in the past.”

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