St. Joseph’s history begins in 1840, before we were even a parish! Catholicism took root in Downingtown with the Irish immigrants and although there was no church, priest, or parish, people simply gathered in each other’s homes to pray.
The Establishment of the Parish
In 1851, Downingtown became a “mission parish” of St. Agnes in West Chester. We still did not have a church, but the pastor traveled here once a month to say Mass in a parishioner’s home.
During his first visit, he suggested building a church here and people were so enthusiastic and supportive that the church was completed a year later, in June of 1852!
We have been growing ever since – in faith and families.
Our first church was built on Bradford Avenue in the Johnsontown area of Downingtown. For more than 100 years, it served us well, undergoing expansions and renovations to keep up with our growing parish. During these 100 years, the parish:
- Grew to nearly 900 families.
- Took on a mission parish of our own – what is now Sts. Philip and James.
- Built a rectory, the St. Joseph Cemetery, and our first school.
- Welcomed the IHM Sisters.
- Began CCD/PREP, May processions, St. Anthony Day parades, and community picnics.
- Saw an influx of Italian immigrants, who made the parish their own.
Our second church was built in 1971 across town on Manor Avenue, on land donated by Gunard and Margaret Carlson. For 42 years, it continued to serve our flourishing parish. Over those years, the parish:
- Grew to more than 4,300 families.
- Built a new, larger elementary school/education center.
- Built a Parish Meeting Center & gym.
- Renovated parish offices to include a Perpetual Adoration Chapel.
- Initiated our annual Corpus Christi procession, monthly Holy Hours, and parish councils.
- Welcomed St. Martha Manor.
- Became the first parish in the Archdiocese to adopt the full measure of stewardship.
Our current church was dedicated on June 15, 2013. The planning process began in 2007 and after five years of studies, surveys, research, and approvals, we broke ground in March of 2012. The front of our church looks like the first church in Johnsontown. In fact, the bell in the steeple was part of our first church. Many of the items in the daily Mass chapel are from the second church.
More Than 160 Years Later
We are so glad you are here! With more than 4,600 families, St. Joseph is the second-largest parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. We have been growing – in faith and family – for more than 160 years and we are excited to keep building up the community of Christ here, where, from its beginning, faith brought families together to pray.