Jefferson - St. Joseph
With the close of the Civil War, America turned its attention to building a transcontinental railroad. By 1866, this brought Irish workers to the pioneer village of Jefferson, and a Catholic Church was soon opened.
A permanent church was a far off dream, but its seeds were planted in a little shack, home of a track construction foreman. Father Butler came to celebrate Mass in the presence of the foreman, his wife and one other couple. There followed a succession of priests, first from Fort Dodge, then from Boone and then Grand Junction.
St. Joseph's was a mission of St. Brigid's Parish in Grand Junction, which for many years was a center of Catholic faith in the area. In 1877, an existing church building was purchased and converted into Jefferson's first Catholic Church.
In 1893, Father O'Farrell, who had previously served as a missionary pastor in Jefferson, became the first permanent pastor of St. Joseph's. Father Bernard O'Reilly became pastor of St. Joseph's in 1902, and Father John McAuliffe succeeded him in 1908.
In 1909 and 1910, the present St. Joseph's church was built at a cost of $20,000. Furniture brought the total to $25,000. Within a few years, the rectory was built at a cost of $15,000. Generous contributions for the rectory came from the faithful St. Paul's Parish of Scranton, then a mission of St. Joseph's.
Pastors succeeding Father McAuliffe were Fathers Peter J. Murphy (1919-1932), A. E. Zimmerman (1932-1955), J. P. McGuire (1955-1975), Msgr. Dean Walker (1975-1977), Jerome Degen (1977-1979), Richard Macke (1979-1986), Harold Cooper (1986-1988), Msgr. Lawrence Hoffman (1988-1989), Roger Linnan (1989-1996), Daniel Guenther (1996-2000) and Donald Ries (2000-present).
During Father McGuire's pastorate, the parish was the first in the diocese to form a broadly based CCD program. With alterations, it remains central to parish life. Interest in the program began with religious education. Though building funds were raised through the years, St. Joseph's was never able to staff a parish school, so in 1971, a parish center and religious education facility was built.
From 1971 to 1977, four Franciscan sisters in residence at St. Joseph's, directed religious education for the youth. Since then, a full-time director has supervised the program.
To date, St. Joseph's has produced four priests, including Father Victor Ramaeker, Father Bill Brunner, Msgr. Kevin McCoy and Father Thomas Walker. Two young men of the parish are preparing for the priesthood as pre-seminarians.
St. Joseph's is one of the four parishes in Greene County. The four parishes are clustered, served by two priests, each of whom is pastor for two parishes. St. Joseph's is paired with St. Brigid's.