It was certainly a long wait between the time the German speaking Catholic immigrants arrived in East Mauch Chunk, somewhere in the years around 1740, and the establishment of St. Joseph Church in 1871 with Rev. John Gerhard Freude saying Mass for the Community until being named the First Pastor. However, Fr. Freude continued to live in Lehighton.
The first Church building for St. Joseph in East Mauch Chunk was established in the year 1871. It was an event of enormous importance to these German speaking Catholics who had waited long for a Church to call ‘home.’
During the Fall of 1874, St. Joseph Church was asked to provide a home for a few exiled Sisters of Christian Charity who had been turned out of Germany by Bismarck. At that time, the Sisters had opened a small Provincial Motherhouse in Wilkes-Barre, where they were receiving many of the Sisters who had been forced to leave their Fatherland. Of course, St. Joseph Parish, welcomed the Sisters of Christian Charity with open arms, gave them a home to live in and in turn these Sisters began teaching the children of the Parish. It was not long before ground was broken at the corner of Sixth and School Streets for construction of a combination building of convent, school and parish hall.
As the parish grew, the need for a larger Church grew as well. In 1895 the parish decided that a larger church building was needed. Money was raised and much of the work was given freely by the parishioners of the time. The new Church was completed in 1901.
The Church is gothic in its style of architecture. The exterior is of gray granite stone veneer with cement trimmings. Coming into Jim Thorpe from Lehighton and Nesquehoning, a visitor is greeted by the beautiful gothic steeple which stands 17 ½ stories tall. Located in the center of the east side of town which is surrounded by green mountains and elevated above the banks of the Lehigh river, the church forms a commanding ornament for the beautiful landscape viewed from the neighboring hills.
The interior of the Church, as well, with its’ gothic elegance, leads one upward and inward. The beautiful stained glass windows admit a soft mellow light to the sanctuary and the body of the Church. They depict holy moments in Scripture, such as: the Annunciation, the Birth of Our Lord, the Resurrection; Pentecost; the Good Shepherd along with many familiar saints (German & others). The Stations of the Cross, large and telling, are easily witnessed and lead one along the way of the Cross of Our Lord. Numerous statues of the Saints, positioned around within the Church, remind us that we have many friends in heaven pleading our cause before the Throne of God.
Since its founding, St. Joseph Church has been blessed with many good Pastors and as the parish grew, it has also been blessed with many of its sons and daughters becoming priests and religious sisters.
As for the Sisters of Christian Charity, they have continued to play a very significant role in the life of St. Joseph Parish from the time they arrived in 1874 even to the present day. Although they no longer reside with us, they are still very much a part of our spiritual life. Blessed Mother Pauline’s Thrift Shop is housed in the former Convent for the Sisters of Christian Charity. The Sisters come throughout the year to visit the Mother Pauline’s Thrift Shop (named for their Foundress) and St. Joseph Regional Academy.
Do you have group photos or pictures of the early days of our parish life or church buildings tucked away in your attic?
Please drop them off at the church office and we will consider posting them on our website as part of our parish’s history. Thanks!