Evansville’s First English-Speaking Church
In 1905, Saint Joseph Parish was organized to serve the growing population of the northeastern section of the city of Evansville, Indiana. Saint Joseph was designated from the beginning as the first English-speaking parish of Evansville and was formed from areas that had belonged to Saint Anthony, Saint Mary and Assumption parishes. Saint Joseph was the first new parish of the 20th Century in Evansville.
The first location for the celebration of Mass was a former grocery store located at 519 North Main Street. The diocese at the time owned property nearby that had been used for a cemetery and a portion of this land became the site for the parish. In 1906, under the direction of Father Patrick Rowan, construction on the Church/School building and the convent began. In the following year, 1907, the Benedictine Sisters of Ferdinand began a 79-year teaching relationship with Saint Joseph Parish.
In 1915, an addition to the Church/School made it a “double-decker”. The Church space was now on the top floor and classrooms were on the main floor and lower level. On May 20, 1923, the cornerstone of the “new” Saint Joseph Church was laid. The construction of the church was begun in 1923 and completed in 1924. The neo-Romanesque architecture, marked by its rounded arches and stately limestone columns, is unique to the churches of the city of Evansville. Francis Joseph Reitz contributed significantly to the new Church building to acquire the exquisite marble sanctuary furnishings. Italian artisans came to install all of the marble pieces and the mosaic of the “Death of Joseph” in the baldachin. On August 9, 1924 the altar was dedicated by Bishop Emmanuel B. Ledvina of Corpus Christi, Texas and on August 10, 1924, the Church building was dedicated by Bishop Chartrand.
In 1944 the Diocese of Evansville was formed, led by Bishop Henry J. Grimmelsman. In 1947 much of the northern section of the parish was set aside for the new parish of Saint Theresa. In 1954 the new school with 14 classrooms, gym and cafeteria was completed and dedicated. At this time, Magdalen Hildenbrand, the first lay-woman teacher in the Catholic elementary schools in Evansville, was hired.
Starting in 1953 and continuing on into1963 extensive remodeling was done in the church.
With the sale of the Assumption Cathedral in 1963 the church acquired part of its pipe organ and the large marble statue of St. Joseph.
In 1968 to conform to the new liturgical directives from Vatican II the front platform in the sanctuary was extended and a new granite front altar was erected. In 1981 the interior of the church was repainted, new carpeting and cry rooms installed and the marble cleaned. It was during this renovation that the small baldachin (the small marble canopy over the tabernacle) was accidentally knocked off its base. It crashed to and through the floor making a hole around 3 feet in diameter. Fortunately, The Marble Shop of Knoxville, Tennessee sent a representative to inspect the damage and on his next trip to Italy this man took with him a picture and the design. 14 months later the high altar with its baldachin was as good as new.
Enrollment in the school was declining and costs were increasing. The decision was made to close St. Joseph School and in the Fall of 1987, St Joseph School merged with St. Anthony School under the new name Ascension School. Ascension School closed after one year of operation.
On July 1, 2015, St. Joseph Parish and St. Anthony Parish merged to form All Saints Parish and begin a new life in a unified parish.