A HISTORY OF A POLISH PARISH

1892 - 2008

St. Joseph's Home Page

St. Joseph

This web page is dedicated to the founders, parishioners and religious, past and present, of St. Joseph's Parish, South Camden, New Jersey.*

In the introduction of the Diamond Jubilee Anniversary book (1967), church historian Paul Zachary wrote the following:

A church does not age as mankind does. A church measures its span of time, instead, by the continuous bringing of souls closer to God through the graces of the Holy Sacraments, the spiritual services it renders, the cultural development it fosters, the social progress it encourages and supports and the heritage it passes on to future generations.

Thus a church like St. Joseph's, though full of years, remains youthful, vigorous and resilient. In a very real sense it is the product of its time, a creation of the place where it has flourished under the astute leadership of its pastors and the examples of sacrifice, courage and faithfulness set by its followers.

St. Joseph's can be viewed as a mirror - an echo - a response, if you will, to the life of the city and to the faith professed by the many thousands who have worshiped here since the founding day, October 24, 1892. A capsule review of the Seventy-five years of graces though somewhat sketchy in the early days, shows that St. Joseph's history embraces four distinct periods:

The Founding Years (1891 - 1911). A resolute band of Polish immigrants struggled to find the leadership and win the battle to organize and establish a Polish church and parish within the framework of Roman Catholicism, and then, through sheer self-help and self-reliance in spite of economic hardships, rooted firmly the foundations to withstand the vagaries of time.

The Growing Years (1911 - 1934). A new and larger church and school were erected to provide adequate facilities for the spiritual and educational welfare of the faithful, growing from the heavy influx of Polish immigrants and the birth of a new generation. The elementary school grew from four to eight grades with fifteen classrooms, while enrollment in the parish reached the Zenith of its growth with 3,000 families, representing some 10,000 souls.

The Forward Years ( 1934 - 1966). A three-step expansion of educational opportunities advanced the most brilliant 32 years of the parishes history. A Junior High School was established followed by a four-year, fully state accredited Parochial High School. A subsequent addition doubled the size of the secondary school building and student enrollment to nearly 900. The parish complex spread to include a chapel annex and a cemetery of approximately 30 acres.

The Ecumenical Years. A resurgent Catholic and Apostolic Church set aside some time worn, hallowed traditions in a true spirit of amity and unity toward all Christian faiths to meet the challenge of a changing World With a changeless Christ.

The One Hundred Anniversary book included three additional periods namely:

From Poland (966-1870). A brief history of Poland with an emphasis on Polish Culture and the strong Polish Catholic spirit, which has nourished and defined the new immigrants of St. Joseph's Parish.

Preservation Years (1981 - 1992) The Pastor and parishioners worked diligently on the upkeep of the church and to preserve the Polish character of St. Joseph's.

A New Invitation ( 1992 - 2000+). A hope that another generation of Poles will provide St. Joseph's with new families and youth.

The seven chapters (Periods) listed in the frame on the left, tell the story of St. Joseph's Church of South Camden.

A new chapter, "Restoration", has been added. In 2003 the State of New Jersey had declared the church building an historical site because of its importance as a center of Polish culture and community in the beginning of the 20th century in South Jersey as well as its architectural beauty. As a result the State of NJ has given the parish a matching fund Grant of $908,000. A parish campaign is now under way to raise the necessary funds of $454,000 to match the State's funds in order to restore the exterior of our beautiful church. Plans to begin restoration are scheduled for the Spring of 2005.

Please join us in helping raise the matching funds by using the Pledge Card found on the link at the top of the left frame.

The webmasters' original intent was to design a web page featuring the stained glass windows of St. Joseph's church. Most individuals who have seen the windows will agree that they are by far the most beautiful of any stained glass windows of any church of this size in the northeast.

In researching the rich history of St. Joseph's parish the webmaster felt it was his duty to share the story of a Polish immigrant parish with the rest of the internet connected world.

The photos of the class of 1942 were scanned from the Golden Jubilee anniversary book as were those of the class of 1967 (Diamond Jubilee). The photos should be a source of some fond memories for those parishioners who are still living. It will also provide them with an opportunity to share their story of St. Joseph's with their children, grandchildren and possibly great grandchildren.

The children will have available to them a valuable resource that they can use to explore their ethnic heritage and use for school reports, projects etc.

The webmasters goal for this web page can best be summed up by the following comments by Father Chrobot:

Our Challenge

by Reverend Leonard F. Chrobot
St. Mary's College, Orchard Lake, Michigan

We live in a free society with all kinds of opportunities for education. Polish Americans should take advantage of these opportunities. If our children have intellectual ability, we should help them develop it to its ultimate potential.

We as Polish Americans desperately need verbal skills, the ability to put into words what it is that we feel down deep in our hearts - our values - so other people can understand what we believe. I believe America is searching for these kinds of values today.

I believe I have a serious obligation before God, because of my parents and grandparents, to contribute to this emerging American culture. I have an obligation to the gnarled hands and stooped backs of my grandparents, who worked long and difficult hours on farm and in factory so that their children and grandchildren would have a better world. I thank God for them every day. I owe them something. They paid a great price for me to be here today. My only tribute to them would be to contribute to the growth and development of our Polish cultural heritage in America today. America is my country. I am not a Pole living in America, I am an American, but not just any kind of an American.

I am an American of Polish descent, of Polish cultural heritage. I want to cherish that heritage, and I want to teach it to other people so that they can cherish it the same way that I do. This is our task. This is our opportunity. This is our challenge.

<<<<<<---- Click on left frame button News, Events, Programs for pictures of Fr. Pawel's Installation and the Wafer Luncheon (Oplatkowa Kolacja) 2009 .

Best viewed with I E (800x600)

* To my parents who instilled in me a love and appreciation of my Polish/Catholic heritage.
To my family, my wife Barbara, daughters Pamela and Janice and sons Steven and David.
May my children borrow the best from both cultures and strive to be good citizens by being
faithful to their country of birth and never forget their ethnic roots.