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History of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Stoneham, Texas

The restoration of St. Joseph was begun in October 2001 by Fr. Edward C. Kucera, Jr. [1999-present]. He was contacted by an antique dealer with whom he was acquainted, having bought a pulpit for his previous church in Hempstead. He was asked to come and look at an altar the dealer had brought from Iowa to sell at the popular antique show in Round Top, Texas. The altar was from a church in Buffalo, New York. It was complete and in need of little restoration. Initially, Fr. Ed. Expressed little interest in the altar. The restoration of St. Joseph was not even on the horizon. However, after looking at the dissembled altar [all 50+ pieces] and doing some quick measurements, he agreed to bring it to St. Joseph’s hall for the members of the congregation to see. He was also informed that should it not be purchased by a church, it was being considered for use as a bar-back.

On an October morning after the 7:30am Mass, the congregation reassembled in the hall to view an altar in pieces. With faith and trust in their pastor, the gathered parishioners agreed to purchase the altar at the cost of $5,000. Immediately, Mr. Joe Magna announced that he was donating it in memory of his recently deceased wife, Dorothy Magna. [The altar has been appraised for $100,000]. The altar originated from the Church of the Assumption in Buffalo, New York. It was from their original church of 1855 and moved into their new church as one of a pair of side altars in 1917. The Main Altar was of the same design, but twice or more the size. The Buffalo parishioners are aware of their altar’s present location and are extremely glad that it has found a proper home and considered a treasure. Minimum restoration was undertaken by Mrs. Donnel Hill, who was also the guiding artist in the restoration of St. Mary/Plantersville. It is a wooden, painted altar with faux marbled columns and inserts. It was designed to display three statues, as was St. Joseph’s original altar. The statues are now displayed and reverenced on the altar in the same manner as when first installed in the church in 1909. St. Joseph’s original Altar Stone was found and reinstated in the altar. The statue of the Blessed Mother is on a stand to match the Back Altar, again in its original location. The first phase of the restoration began with the sanctuary and the placement of the altar. The windows in the sanctuary were reinstalled, though located a little higher. It seems that the thought behind the removal of the windows was to eliminate the intense glare of the rising sun. The annoying glare is now mitigated by sun screens outside and cloth hangings inside. The restoration of the sanctuary was donated by Jennifer Dodson and Family in memory of Ramona Langley, her sister.

In 2003 the restoration of the nave of the church was undertaken, with Mass celebrated in the church hall. The entire interior was gutted, revealing the original beaded-board and the front windows. A new air-conditioning/heating system was installed, now in the attic area of the church. Because of the poor condition of the original beaded-board, insulation was added and new beaded-board placed over the old. The decision was made not to paint the interior its original white color, but to merely seal it, giving the interior now its warm, golden color.

The pulpit is not original to the church. It dates to about 1860 and is from the East Coast. It was purchased from St. Katharine Drexel [originally Mary, Mother of God] in Hempstead. It was purchased by Fr. Ed. for that church in 1995. The community in Hempstead no longer had a use for it. It was restored to match the Back Altar by Mrs. Donnel Hill and donated by Barbara and Leland Fougeron in memory of their parents.

The Stations of the Cross are also not original. They were found in the John Holt antique shop in Houston in 2003 and are French, dated to the mid-1700’s. They are painted on copper with a simple wooden frame without inscription. They are hung in the old style, leaning from the wall. Many of the old timers at St. Joseph comment that they closely resemble the original stations.

The presider’s [priest’s] chair is early Texas from LaGrange and has an inscription on the back which reads: ?for the lodge’. It was purchased at the Warrenton Antique show in 2006 and donated by Sylvia Corolla in memory of her aunt.

The confessional area is an interpretation of the confessional of Sacred Heart Mission in Latium, Texas, a church of the period. The matching music board on the right front pillar was made my Bob Armstrong, a parishioner of St. Mary, and is a symbol and indication of the cooperation between the two communities.

The Baptismal font is not original to the church but is of the period. It was purchased on Ebay and comes from a church on the East Coast. It original church is being researched. It was restored by Mrs. Donnel Hill and dedicated to the memory of Hilda Noski by her family.

The Sanctuary Lamp is original to the church, though hanging to the right of the Back Altar, not in its original location in the center of the Sanctuary. The hand bells which are rung at Mass are also original, as is the bell in the bell tower. The lighting fixtures in the nave are not original. They were purchased at the Warrenton Antique show and are of the period. They were installed in May 2008, in time for the annual church festival. The carpeting of the main and side aisles is custom made and is of a Victorian design of the period. The Sanctuary carpet is a Persian design.

The restoration of St. Joseph is now complete. Though not able to be restored to its original 1909 appearance, it is now seen as a church of the period, with a living and loving community of Faith united with their Pastor and Bishop in serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Each year on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, the parishioners welcome home those who live elsewhere but have strong bonds of family and friends at St. Joseph and embrace the visitors who come to celebrate a home-cooked meal with fun and games for all. The church building of 1909 is, of course, the focal point and purpose of all that is done for the honor and glory of God. The Roman Catholic Community of St. Joseph is proud of its long history but, at the same time, is excited about the present and future opportunities to give undivided witness to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith handed down to us from the Apostles and our ancestors who settled and built this church.

We hope you enjoy this holy place.

The Parishioners of St. Joseph/Stoneham & Fr. Edward C. Kucera, Jr., Pastor.

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