St. Joseph
Catholic Church

110 N. 5th Avenue
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
920.743.2062

Handicap Accessible

Mailing Address

526 Louisiana Street,
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

Click for directions

Office Hours

Monday-Thursday
8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Friday 8:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

History of st. joseph

Today it doesn't seem possible that a small frame 35 x 45 foot building placed on land purchased for $66.00 in 1865 was the first St. Joseph Parish church. It was served by visiting priests from the neighboring communities of Kewaunee, Ahnapee, and Rosiere until its first pastor was assigned in 1869.

Fur traders came to this area first, and then fishermen came for the abundant harvest of fish from the clear waters surrounding the Door Peninsula. Next came lumbermen to clear the vast forests of timber, and finally the farmers. Steamships and sailing vessels made use of excellent harbors. They brought supplies, settlers and visitors, and carried back timber, fish and other products. By 1853 mills were started in Sturgeon Bay and some other places on the Peninsula. congregation

By 1865, there were enough Catholic settlers in the city of Sturgeon Bay and outlying areas to establish a parish. (Records state that the first parish Mass was celebrated in the John Long home, which stands on Louisiana Street, between Second and Third Avenue.). The hard work of volunteer parishioners and the few dollars some sacrificed from their meager wages paid for the land and the materials to build that first church.

Sometime in 1867, Eugene Madden was baptized. His was the first Baptism on the parish record. By January of 1869, there were ten more Baptisms of infants recorded in Sturgeon Bay. The minister listed was P. Pemin. Rev. Ferdinand Stem was appointed resident priest in 1869. He remained only a short time, residing at the old Northwestern House hotel. During that time the first church bell was brought to Sturgeon Bay.

By 1872 there had been 17 Baptisms recorded, 59 Confirmations, 50 First Communions, 11 marriages, and 12 deaths. February 18, 1872 was the date on record for the first recorded marriage between Godfried Flapp and Magdalene Feldmann.

Until 1872 St. Joseph's had been a mission church. In 1872 on New Year's Day, the Rev. John Adelaar came, and on January 12, 1872, the church was dedicated by him. He remained for 15 months until April 1873. The church was again without a pastor for three years but was served by the pastor from Ahnapee, Rev. John Rhode whose missionary trips covered the entire peninsula. church interior

On April 30, 1876, Rev. Englebert Blume took charge. Rev. Blume was succeeded by Rev. C.J. Pellegrin on November 8, 1884. He remained until September 9, 1887. Rev. Alphonse Broens began his pastorate in 1887. He was to remain until 1930.

In the first financial report Sent to the Diocese at the end of the year 1887, the total value of the church property was given as $3,000.

A record kept from August 1887 to January 1888 of pew rents showed that fifty-four pews were listed as rented, some by one and others by two individuals. The amount paid per person varied from $3.88 to about $10.00

In 1888 a parochial school, Holy Guardian Angels was established. A spacious, two story, four room brick school was built. The Racine Dominican Sisters came to teach. Sister M. Ramona was the first principal. Dedicated on October 2, 1888, the school opened with 111 students.

Ground had been broken for a new brick church to replace the old frame building on August 2, 1888. October 3, the new corner stone was solemnly blessed. Priests from neighboring cities and towns gathered for both church and school cornerstone ceremonies.

Work resumed the next spring and pushed vigorously so that the church could be dedicated by October 6, 1889. The new church was 40 x 90 feet. The steeple was completed in 1891. The total cost was $6,000.

In 1893 a book of Rules and Regulations was printed for St. Joseph's Congregation. This dealt mainly with pew rents and parishioners' financial responsibilities. The amount of money asked of parishioners in 1893 covered school tuition - $3.00 - $6.00 for families and $3.00 for single parishioners.

The new four-room school not only educated children through the eighth grade, but evidently some students were given the equivalent of a high school education. The scholastic report of one young graduate indicates that she was accomplished in such subjects as: Christian Doctrine, Reading, Arithmetic, Spelling, Geography, U.S. History, Penmanship, and Bookkeeping. In the summer of 1900 the sanctuary and sacristies were added to the church making a total length of the building 110 feet. The old frame church was donated to St. Mary's Church in Baileys Harbor. Stations of the cross, the church organ, statues of Saints Anthony, Bernard, Boniface, Francis Xavier, Aloysius, and the Sacred Heart were generously donated to the new church, in many cases anonymously.

All old debts were paid in full in December 1901. The parish remained free from debt during the next few years.

In 1903, the chime of the three bells was purchased. The largest bell called "St. Joseph" weighed 1,598 pounds without the mountings. The second one "Star of the Sea" was 840 pounds. The smallest, "Guardian Angel", 510 pounds.

A new parsonage was started in 1903 and completed in 1904.

In spite of additions to St. Joseph's church, it became evident that a larger and safer building was becoming absolutely necessary. In the fall of 1908 part of the foundation walls were built. This work was continued early in the spring of 1909. During this year the main auditorium was completed and the old church razed so that all building materials could be utilized in the new building, thereby reducing the costs. On Sunday November 28, 1909 the first services were held in the new church. Work on the interior of the sanctuary was continued during the winter months. The following year saw the entire building completed. The solemn dedication took place on Sunday November 14, 1910. A building fund report from December 25, 1907 thru December 25, 1912 lists all contributors who gave $5.00 or more. The total cost of the building was $38,295.61.

From 1930 to 1932 Rev. August Garthaus was pastor.

In 1932 Rev. Anthony Koeferl was appointed pastor. He is remembered as an astute business man. During his years here the new school and parsonage were built. After the new school was completed in 1938, Father built the present parsonage on Louisiana Street, which was eventually connected to the church. The old parsonage then became the convent for the Franciscan sisters and their previous convent was moved across 5th Avenue and is now the Hunsader residence.

In 1964 Father Koeferl died and the Rev. Norbert Van de Loo was appointed pastor.

Rev. Alfred Loehr, a retired army chaplain, came to St. Joseph's in 1966 and stayed until 1970.

In 1970 Father Dan Gilsdorf was assigned to the parish During Father's stay a large garage was added, the social hail and kitchen were renovated. A cemetery chapel and mausoleum were also built.

In 1986 Father Tom Golden became pastor. In his four years in the parish he organized and directed a complete remodeling of the church. Needed structural repairs and new side entrances were built, one of which is wheelchair accessible. The church interior was also redecorated.

On September 18, 1990, Father Robert Karuhn began his ministry at St. Joseph's. With the physical plant in good repair, Father Bob realized that there was a great need to concentrate on the spiritual growth of our parish and the needs of the community. He actively participated in ecumenical, inter-faith liturgies here in Sturgeon Bay. A strong advocate of religious education he devoted long hours to building a Religious Education program for all the parish from toddlers in preschool to the students both in St. Joseph's school and those enrolled in the public elementary and high schools. He instituted an adult religious education program, also.

Rev. Charles Mocco succeeded Father Karuhn in September 1999. Almost immediately he was involved with the serious challenge that related to the Bishop's Diocesan Plan to link the parishes of St. Joseph's and St. Peter and Paul in Institute. With the shortage of available priests, the mandate was necessary.

In July 2000, Father Mocco was faced with a near disaster at St. Joseph's when a fire broke out in the ramp entranceway of the church. Fortunately no one was hurt and there was no serious damage to the church interior. However the black smoke that had filled the building marred the wails and coated the pews and ceiling, all of which required cleaning before the church could be used.

On August 1, 2002 Rev. James Gilsoul was named Pastor of St. Joseph's. Sadly Fr. Jim passed away February 12, 2003.

Fr. Dominic Peluse, SCJ was named pastor on March 23, 2003.

The stained glass windows have been cleaned, repaired and encapsulated. The church, offices, and parsonage were air conditioned in 2006. The sound system in the church has been upgraded. Due to declining school enrollments, a study group was formed to explore the consolidation of St. Joseph's, Sts. Peter and Paul, and Corpus Christi schools.

In the summer of 2007, the three schools were formally closed and a new school, St. John Bosco, opened utilizing the former Corpus Christi school building as the main campus for grades K-8. The St. Joseph school building is being used as the auxiliary site for 4 year olds.

The 4-year-old program has now been moved to the main St. John Bosco campus. Our school building is utilized as the Faith Formation Center for the Quad-Parishes of St. Joseph, Holy Name of Mary, Ss. Peter and Paul and Corpus Christi.

On Sunday, November 28, 2010, Bishop David Ricken joined Fr. Bob Konkol in celebrating the 10 a.m. Mass commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the dedication of our Church building.

A vibrant youth ministry program under the guidance of Sarah Gavin has been established for the Quad-Parishes. The Life Teen program serves the high school students and includes a 5 p.m. Sunday Mass alternately celebrated by Fr. Bob and Fr. Carl. Our middle school students are seved by the EDGE program. Both programs educate the students in our faith and prepare them for the appropriate Sacraments.

On Saturday, September 5, 2015, Bishop Ricken joined us once again to celebrate the 4 p.m. Mass commemorating our 150th Anniversary as a Parish.

As you approach the city of Sturgeon Bay from the south, you arrive at the crest of the hill overlooking our small city. The view of the twin Gothic towering spires of St. Joseph Church is awesome. They seem to be silent guardians - mute testimonials to the faith, hope and charity of Father Jacques Marquette and those who in the past three hundred plus years followed in his footsteps.

This history of St. Joe's was researched and put together by:

Jeanne R. Weber
Bill Graf

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