(During they Year of St. Joseph, The Catholic Messenger is featuring parishes whose patron saint is St. Joseph.)
The parish: St. Joseph Church of Columbus Junction is the only Catholic parish in Louisa County and has 95 families. Father Chris Weber is pastor of St. Joseph and of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine. Father Hai Dinh serves as parochial vicar at both parishes. Mass and religious education are offered in both English and Spanish.
History: A young missionary priest, Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP, founded the parish between 1835 and 1840 in Columbus City, Iowa, where a small church was built in that vicinity. It was a forerunner of the present church of St. Joseph located in Columbus Junction. On Feb. 18, 1878, Bishop John Hennessey purchased two lots for $45 each. These lots comprise the present location of St. Joseph.
By the late 1870s, the original mission church in Columbus City needed replacement. The nearby village of Clifton did not have a railroad station and had become a dying town. As a result, several buildings from Clifton were moved into Columbus Junction. The church members decided to move the Clifton Community Building to the newly purchased lots for the mission church. The building was transformed into a church and dedicated as St. Joseph Catholic Church. It served in that capacity until 1957. In the early years, Sunday services were held once a month with a priest often arriving by train from Sigourney.
By 1956, the parish had outgrown the old wooden church, which was too costly to enlarge. A new church was built east of the old building on property that belonged to the parish.
Father Clifford Egert, the pastor, knew that little money was available. He used the carpentry skills he learned from his father and worked as the foreman and chief laborer on the project. Several parishioners volunteered to help. The new church was designed to be 74 feet long by 38 feet wide, with a full basement to serve as a parish hall. The basement housed a kitchen and two restrooms.
Parishioners used materials from the dismantled St. James School in Washington to build the new church. Construction started in the summer of 1957 and the first Mass was celebrated Oct. 26, 1958. The volunteer labor and recycled materials from St. James resulted in the new church being built for about $21,000. It was dedicated debt free in spring 1959 by Bishop Ralph Hayes.
In the 1970s, new pews were purchased and some remodeling was done. The Communion rail was removed and carpeting was laid throughout the church. New kitchen cabinets were installed in 1992. In 2010, interior and exterior updates were made to the church, including handicap accessibility.
In 1986, a house in Columbus Junction was purchased for $60,000 to serve as a rectory. Father Theodore Borger, then pastor of cluster of parishes, moved from Nichols to the rectory in Columbus Junction.
He became the first resident priest for St. Joseph, also serving the Nichols and Ardon parishes. The parish had a resident priest until 1999 and then again from 2003 until 2018.
Year of St. Joseph: During the Year of St. Joseph, the parish will recite the Prayer of St. Joseph after the announcements. The parish will also recite the rosary for nine days (April 23–May 1) before St. Joseph the Worker Day, May 1.
Thoughts on the saint: Parishioner Ann Murphy said, “St. Joseph was very faithful and trusting as a watchful guardian and mighty protector of the Holy Family. He was the true example of what a father should be.”
Fidencio Valdez said, “To me, St. Joseph is a wonderful role model as a good protector and provider. He is an example of a caring husband and father through his obedience to God’s holy will and plan. Like St. Joseph, we are called to teach our children and grandchildren to obey God and keep his commandments.”