Foundation of Saint Joseph Catholic Church, LaGrange, Indiana
It is so easy to take the beautiful grounds and inviting atmosphere of the church for granted without knowing the diligence of the founding fathers and the strong support of the Bishop of the Diocese to create this parish. LaGrange County was the last county in Indiana to have a Catholic parish.
It is believed that the first Catholic Mass held in LaGrange County was celebrated by Father Duehmig in 1871. The setting was a log cabin in Milford Township (Stroh) owned by Patrick Foley. The next recollection of regular Masses in LaGrange were for the catholic railroad workers employed to build the Wabash Railroad in 1891. It is documented that Most Reverend John Francis Noll celebrated Mass at the dedication of Fox Camp on Big Long Lake (Milford Township) in 1929.
In 1932 Father Ehrman was invited by a Methodist Minister in LaGrange for an inter-denominational lecture. Bishop Noll approved his participation. Father Ehrman supported the Catholics that were in attendance at the lecture and that was the beginning of the first Missionary Parish in LaGrange. In 1933 Bishop Noll appointed Father Francis Sheridan as the first Missionary Pastor. The Catholics in the county met in a hotel, filling station and empty buildings to participate in Mass. Unfortunately Father Ehrman passed away so to fill the void, Bishop Noll requested the Franciscan Community in Angola, IN to serve Mass in LaGrange. Father Clement Orth accepted the request and was the first Franciscan to serve the needs of LaGrange Catholics.
The Bishop offered to support the request in 1936 of Henry Bir and Mike Brady to build a church. The Diocese provided $1500, the Extension Society donated $1500 and the parish was to provide the balance needed to build the structure. The Bishop advised to plan to spend $4000 and not to exceed $5000. The only condition was the name of the church must be Saint Joseph as requested by the donation from the Extension Society. The terms were accepted by the people and a building fund was underway. This was an ambitious project since it was during the Great Depression. Area churches were very generous in making donations of an altar, pews and vestments. A group of eight families, led by Henry Bir and Mike Brady, carried much of the responsibility to see the new church built. The church would be located on South Sherman Street. Dedication was on St. Josephís Patron Saint Day of Friday, March 19, 1937. Bishop Noll blessed the new church. Twenty-three priests were in attendance, Father Basil Heiser celebrated the Mass and the Franciscan Community provided the music.
From 1940-1957 Mrs. Ora Logan provided housing rent free for the priests that served Saint Joseph.
The Bishop gave the church the status of parish in 1957 and a full time Pastor, Fr. Raymond Oosdyke, was assigned to Saint Joseph. The first Rectory was over 100 years old and in need of much repair. It took six months and the help of Fr. Raymondís family to repair the house.
Forty years later, 1977, Father Crowley attended a celebration of dedication to the community. The parish decided a new church and Friary were needed. The Brady family donated the ground on the corner of US 20 and CR 100E. Groundbreaking took place in the summer of 1977. Christmas Eve Mass, 1979, was the first Mass celebrated in the newly constructed church. On April 26, 1980, Bishop McManus dedicated the new church. A real testimony to the parishioners was the burning of the mortgage nine and half years later. Bishop McManus also attended the Jubilee Celebration of Saint Joseph Church. Reverend Father George Schroeder was the Pastor. A huge reception was held after the Mass.
Saint Joseph Catholic Church has had to overcome many obstacles to fit into the LaGrange community. All priests had to work to breakdown the barriers of other faiths and prejudices. But the parishioners love their church and take pride in itís rural setting on the eastern edge of LaGrange, IN.