Parish History

St. Joseph Calasanctius Parish owes its origins to a small group of the faithful who requested a Mass in Jefferson from Bishop Josue Young of Erie, Pennsylvania. On May 24, 1858, Bishop Young visited at the request of Mary Smalley, a girl only 13 years old at the time, and celebrated Holy Mass on the apple orchard of the Stoekel Farm. As was the case in many places in the United States at the time, there was a strong anti-Catholic sentiment in Jefferson. Missionary priests visited sporadically throughout the next several years to celebrate the Sacraments and offer Mass with the few Catholics.

In response to the growing Catholic population in the area, in 1869 work was begun to build the Mission Church in Jefferson, which was dedicated in September under the patronage of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After only six months, an arsonist burned the original church to the ground. Only five Masses had been offered in the building. Work began immediately to plan and build a new church for the growing congregation. In the meantime, a new parcel of land was purchased, where the current church is now. The property included a residence that was constructed in the 1820’s, which still serves as the Parish Rectory. Finally, in 1876, enough funds were acquired to begin construction of a new frame church, which was dedicated in August 1876, under the patronage of St. Joseph Calasanctius. He a Spanish priest who lived in the 16-17th Centuries, who dedicated his priestly ministry to serving and educating under-privileged children.

At the beginning 1920’s, the parish had grown too large for the church building. A campaign was put in place to raise funds so that a new, modern church could be built. Due to the generous response of the parishioners, and with the permission of Bishop Schrembs, ground was broken for the new church, which is made of stone and red brick in the Spanish-Romanesque style. It was dedicated on April 2, 1925, and has served the stable congregation well for 90 years. In the 1970’s a renovation of the Church was undertaken to correspond to the liturgical rubrics in force since the reform following the Second Vatican Council. An attempt was made to emphasize the noble simplicity called for by the Church in our modern time.

Throughout its long history, many priests have served the parish as pastors and missionaries. When the Diocese of Youngstown was created, Bishop McFadden invited the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate to staff St. Joseph, which they did until 1980. Many parishioners remember the Oblates with fondness, especially Frs. Murphy, Tighe, Waggett, and King. In 1980, priests of the Diocese of Youngstown took over the staffing of the parish. Frs. Frederick Slaven, James Cassidy, Bernard Vacca, Joseph Malik, Stephen Wassie, Charles Poore, and John Sheridan have served as pastor in these years. Since 2002, the pastor of St. Joseph Calasanctius also serves as pastor of St. Andrew Bobola Parish in Sheffield.