From its earliest beginnings in 1964, St. Joseph the Worker Parish has proudly identified itself as "the parish of the worker". It was founded by miners and farmers who built the original church with their own hands. Founding priest, Monsignor John Sullivan, was well known for his strong support of workers rights.
To honor the working men and women who built the church, the parish was placed under the patronage of St. Joseph the Worker. The feast of St. Joseph the Worker was started in 1955 by Pope Pius the XII. Pius intentionally set this feast day on May 1, in response to the "May Day" celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists. He expressed the hope that this feast would accentuate the dignity of labor and would bring a spiritual dimension to labor unions.
Over the years, the parish has remained primarily a working class community. Picks and shovels may have been replaced by cash registers, computer screens and telephones, but most parishioners still rely on their labors to support their families. Many parish families require that both parents work in order to meet the demands of ever rising prices, high unemployment, and great losses to life-long savings & investments.
Nevertheless, when it came time to build a new church, the parishioners dug down deep. They may not have held a hammer in their hands, but they pulled together their hard-earned resources. They proudly dedicated their new church on May 1, 2011, the Feast Day of St. Joseph the Worker.
Stunningly contemporary and strikingly beautiful, the new church is far more than a "pretty" face along Redwood Road. Sparano + Mooney Architects made sure that the new structure honored the proud past and respected the strong sense of identity of this hard working parish. The architects did this in a number of creative and innovative ways:
Design. The design of the new church incorporates familiar materials which are manipulated to become something extraordinary. These materials are transformed by the "worker" or craftsperson into something which emphasizes the craft, not the raw material.
Board-formed Concrete. It is rough hewn , looks like aged wood and is a reminder of St. Joseph, a carpenter. It is extensively used throughout the new building.
Rich hand-crafted wood. Used throughout the project, the wood is reminiscent of the wood siding in the old church and is yet another reminder of carpenters, builders and crafts persons.
Copper Cladding. Both the Day Chapel and the large skylight atop the sanctuary are covered in copper to honor the church's historic connections with the copper mine and the miners who founded the parish.
Donor Wall. The new donor wall lists of the names of original founders as well the names of those who have donated to the new church.
Use of Items from the Old Church. The old sculptured walls which stood outside of the old church have been carefully preserved and now stand outside the entrance to the new church. The old Stations of the Cross, and the beloved old Crucifix look beautiful in their new home in the new sanctuary. The old cornerstone (1964) stands opposite the new one (2011) at the entryway to the new courtyard.
Time Capsule. There is a space in the new courtyard reserved for a time capsule. In time, the parish will bury relics of the past and present so that future parishioners will gain an understanding of their particular charism as the parish of the worker.
Still to come:
On the one year anniversary of its dedication, the parish will be hosting a special inter-faith Prayer Service and Reception, very fittingly dedicated to the Dignity of Labor. Two new items will be officially unveiled and dedicated at the event:
Workers Wall. A larger than life mural dedicated to the Dignity of Labor. This mural celebrates the community's origins amid miners and farmers.
Dorothy Day Memorial. A mural dedicated to Dorothy Day, founder of the American Catholic Workers movement. Day's life was dedicated to the needs of working class people. Her cause for canonization is underway.
Special guest, Martha Hennessy, granddaughter to Dorothy Day will be in attendance.
This will be a unique event that will educate the public about the current plight of workers, the importance of labor unions and the need to protect the rights of workers. It will stress the principles of Catholic Social teaching, especially as it pertains to the dignity of labor. It will be a joyous evening with music, song and prayer celebrating workers and their contributions which enrich us all.
Everyone is invited. For more information, please contact the parish office 801-255-8902.
Article written by Anne Kurek, Saint Joseph the Worker.