Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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Mason City, Mason Township, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa

The year 1877 saw the beginning of the 40 year tenure of the Rev. Michael CAROLAN. Each year, the St. Joseph's parish grew. It was at this time the seeds of the current parish festival were planted. In 1883, St. Joseph's was officially out of debt. From here, grounds were purchased and plans were begun for a "Sister School." In 1890, St. Francis Academy was completed as a boarding school for girls and a day school for both boys and girls, which was staffed by the sisters of St. Francis from Clinton, Iowa. First classes were held at St. Francis in 1891.

In 1899, Fr. CAROLAN was assigned his first assistant Fr. Laurence HAYES. By this time the congregation had grown so large that plans were started to build a new church. Construction was begun in 1901 and completed in 1903 on the same location as the old St. Joseph's. In 1908, fire destroyed the school. The school was then rebuilt with basically the same architecture and reopened in September of 1910 as St. Joseph’s Academy. Beginning in 1912, high school classes were added a grade at a time.

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The Globe-Gazette, Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Mason City Centennial Issue
Monday, June 01, 1953, Section 7, Page 26

Largest Project

Largest church building project of these first years of the new century was the St. Joseph's Catholic Church and school. The present [1953] large brick church was erected in 1901 under the direction of the pastor, Father Michael Carolan, replacing a church that was built in 1871 at a cost of $2,000.

The new St. Joseph's Church was part of a wave of church building that got under way in the later 90's. It proved for the rapidly increasing membership that has grown from 52 families in 1878 to 500 families at present [1953]. Succeeding Father Carolan was the Rt. Rev. Msgr. P. S. O'Connor who served the parish from 1918 to 1944 (sic, should be 1945), being succeeded by Father P. J. Behan and since 1947 by Rt. Rev. Msgr. P. F. Malone.

The church has undergone redecorating a number of times and in 1950 and 1951 the exterior was completely refinished and the interior remodeled to include a new sanctuary, altars and pipe organ. In early 1953, for the first time, the basement of the church was completely excavated and made into an auditorium. The St. Joseph's cemetery was established in 1875 and was enlarged in 1932.

NOTE: Father Michael Carolan was born December 2, 1844, and died December30, 1917. Monsignor P. S. O'Connor was born in 1863, and died in 1945. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

St. Joseph Cemetery and Elmwood Cemetery were both deeded to the city in 1949, hence combined to create Elmwood-St. Joseph Municipal Cemetery.

Build Parish School

In 1909 the St. Joseph's parish school, erected at an initial cost of $35,000, was opened with the Presentation Sisters from Dubuque in charge of teaching under the direction of Sister Mary de Pazzi. The school replaced the St. Francis Academy, a three-story red brick building. The academy, which was started in 1878, had a large number of out of town students.

In 1919 the school was remodeled at a cost of $14,000 and other improvements have been added since. In 1920 the school was accredited by the Iowa commission on secondary schools and colleges.

In 1927, due to increased enrollment a new wing was built on St. Joseph's school costing $75,000. This is now [1953] the present high school and auditorium.

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During this time, St. Joseph's had grown so rapidly that it was decided to make a second parish in Mason City. In October of 1908, Holy Family held its first Mass in the Public Library. Fr. E. J. DOUGHERTY was the pastor.On December 30, 1917, Fr. CAROLAN passed away. During his time here, most of what we know today as St. Joseph's parish was built. In fact, it was under Fr. CAROLAN that the Parish was officially named St. Joseph's.

His successor was Fr. Patrick S. O'CONNOR. In 1933, Fr. O'CONNOR was made a member of the Papal Household and as a domestic prelate, was given the title of Rt. Rev. Monsignor, the first priest in Mason City to receive this honor. During his time, the school was renovated so that the high school could obtain accreditation with the Iowa committee on Secondary Schools. Msgr. O'CONNOR retired in 1943 at the age of seventy-nine.

In 1953, additional property for parking and playground was purchased and black topped. In 1960, preparations were made for purchasing land for the new central high school. Monsignor retired in 1960 and was succeeded by Rev. Paul J. MAGUIRE.

Fr. Maguire presided over St. Joseph’s parish from 1960 to 1969. Due to his efforts the school enrollment increased, and Newman High School opened in 1961.

In 1973, a Central Catholic Grade School was begun, with Kindergarten through grades five in the St. Joseph building and grades six to eight in the Holy Family building. Rev. Carl A. RIES was appointed pastor of St. Joseph's in 1991 and served until 2003. Under Fr. CARL, St. Joseph's thrived, including the renovation of the church and purchase of the Garfield School lot. In 1998, the parish celebrated 125 years. A new elementary school was completed on the Newman campus in 2003, and the St. Joseph building was closed.

~ This history was adapted from the one compiled and recorded by Margaret WELLEN, which appears in the 1998 Parish Directory.

SOURCES: http://www.stjosephmasoncity.4lpi.com/
Globe-Gazette, Mason City Centennial Issue, Monday, June 01, 1953, Section 7, Page 26

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, February of 2011; updated December of 2014



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