1858 - The Early Years
The history of the three Catholic churches in LaPorte begins with the settlement of the region that occurred with the building of the railroads. In the early days, Holy Mass was held in the homes of Catholic families and priests traveled by horse to reach LaPorte. The first Catholic church established in LaPorte was Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (later known as St. Peter’s) in 1853. (see St. Peter’s)
As was typical of the time, waves of immigration resulted in pockets of families of various nationalities banding together to form their own tight-knit community, bound by a common language and culture. It was this desire to worship in their native tongue that lead to the establishment of the various other parish communities in LaPorte. Since St. Peter’s primarily served the Irish American community, in 1858 the German American community organized the Parish of St. Joseph. Fr. Martin Scherer was the first permanent priest assigned to St. Joseph’s.
In addition to the serving the German American community, St. Joseph’s also ministered to the small but growing Polish American community in LaPorte. At various times, Polish-speaking priests came to the church to administer the sacraments to the Polish Catholic community in LaPorte. In 1913, the Polish speaking community organized their own church and left St. Joseph’s to start Sacred Heart Parish. (see Sacred Heart).
The original church building of St. Joseph's remained the same until 1908 when it was enlarged to twice its size. In 1922 the exterior of the church and rectory were covered in the Ashler cut stone that is seen on the building today. 1929 brought various improvements to the interior and exterior of the building including 14 new sculptured stations of the cross and the mural on the ceiling depicting the death of St. Joseph.
The first hospital in LaPorte can be credited to Fr. Messman, pastor of St. Joseph Church. In 1900, Fr. Messman purchased the Kummere residence, the building which would be used as Holy Family Hospital. From its beginning as a simple frame structure with just 14 beds, the hospital grew to serve the LaPorte community until the late 1950's.
Thank God for the graces you have received, and rejoice with the souls near and dear to you. Here your forefathers worshipped; here they were comforted, strengthened by being nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ."
St. Joseph's School
152 Years of Education
From the moment St. Joseph Church existed, there was also a school. The first school was a building across the street that was owned by Meinrad Rumley. In 1863 new school was build on the location of the current school building. The school would be rebuild and enlarged two more times: 1911 and 1954.
Although Fr. Scherer, the first pastor of St. Joseph's was the first teacher, sisters soon came to the school to take on the responsibility of educating the German Catholic community in LaPorte. The Sisters of the Most Precious Blood came in 1896 and were replaced some years later by the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 1930, the Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration arrived at St. Joseph's School. The order remained until 2011, when St. Joseph School closed.
The closing of St. Joseph School was a sad moment for many. After 152 years of Catholic education, the increasing costs and dwindling number of students made it impossible to keep the school open. The school building is currently being used for religious education classes, with portions of the building being rented by the LaPorte School district.
Where we are Today
Tri-Parish Catholic Community
Starting with the seeds planted in the 1800's, to the growth and change over the years, St. Joseph Church has remained a strong, faith-based community. In addition to the numerous parish ministries, St. Joseph's boasts a vibrant Hispanic community, which has specific ministries to fit the community's needs.
In 2016 Fr. Ian was assigned as the pastor of Sacred Heart, St. Joseph, and St.Peter's Churches, thus combining what was once the three distinct ethnic parishes into one vibrant parish community. Over time, the Mass schedules changed to better reflect this new combined parish structure and the various ministries have worked together to combine their efforts to reach out to the parish and community.
Currently, the three parishes continue to find new ways to collaborate in living the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.