The chief sources of information on the life of Saint Joseph are the first chapters of our first and third Gospels; they are practically also the only reliable sources, for, whilst, on the holy patriarch’s life, as on many other points connected with the Saviour’s history which are left untouched by the canonical writings, the apocryphal literature is full of details, the non-admittance of these works into the Canon of the Sacred Books casts a strong suspicion upon their contents; and, even granted that some of the facts recorded by them may be founded on trustworthy traditions, it is in most instances next to impossible to discern and sift these particles of true history from the fancies with which they are associated. Among these apocryphal productions dealing more or less extensively with some episodes of Saint Joseph’s life may be noted the so-called “Gospel of James”, the “Pseudo-Matthew”, the “Gospel of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary”, the “Story of Joseph the Carpenter”, and the “Life of the Virgin and Death of Joseph”. Saint Matthew (1:16) calls Saint Joseph the son of Jacob; according to Saint Luke (3:23), Heli was his father. This is not the place to recite the many and most various endeavours to solve the vexing questions arising from the divergences between both genealogies; nor is it necessary to point out the explanation which meets best all the requirements of the problem; suffice it to remind the reader that, contrary to what was once advocated, most modern writers readily admit that in both documents we possess the genealogy of Joseph, and that it is quite possible to reconcile their data.
At any rate, Bethlehem, the city of David and his descendants, appears to have been the birth-place of Joseph. When, however, the Gospel history opens, namely, a few months before the Annunciation, Joseph was settled at Nazareth. Why and when he forsook his home-place to betake himself to Galilee is not ascertained; some suppose — and the supposition is by no means improbable — that the then-moderate circumstances of the family and the necessity of earning a living may have brought about the change. Saint Joseph, indeed, was a tekton, as we learn from Matthew 13:55, and Mark 6:3. The word means both mechanic in general and carpenter in particular; Saint Justin vouches for the latter sense (Dialogue with Trypho 88), and tradition has accepted this interpretation, which is followed in the English Bible.
It is probably at Nazareth that Joseph betrothed and married her who was to become the Mother of God. When the marriage took place, whether before or after the Incarnation, is no easy matter to settle, and on this point the masters of exegesis have at all times been at variance. Most modern commentators, following the footsteps of Saint Thomas, understand that, at the epoch of the Annunciation, the Blessed Virgin was only affianced to Joseph; as Saint Thomas notices, this interpretation suits better all the evangelical data.
It will not be without interest to recall here, unreliable though they are, the lengthy stories concerning Saint Joseph’s marriage contained in the apocryphal writings. When forty years of age, Joseph married a woman called Melcha or Escha by some, Salome by others; they lived forty-nine years together and had six children, two daughters and four sons, the youngest of whom was James (the Less, “the Lord’s brother”). A year after his wife’s death, as the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in the tribe of Juda a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age. Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates; a miracle manifested the choice God had made of Joseph, and two years later the Annunciation took place. These dreams, as Saint Jerome styles them, from which many a Christian artist has drawn his inspiration (see, for instance, Raphael’s “Espousals of the Virgin”), are void of authority; they nevertheless acquired in the course of ages some popularity; in them some ecclesiastical writers sought the answer to the well-known difficulty arising from the mention in the Gospel of “the Lord’s brothers”; from them also popular credulity has, contrary to all probability, as well as to the tradition witnessed by old works of art, retained the belief that Saint Joseph was an old man at the time of marriage with the Mother of God.
This marriage, true and complete, was, in the intention of the spouses, to be virgin marriage (cf. Saint Augustine, “De cons. Evang.”, II, i in P.L. XXXIV, 1071-72; “Cont. Julian.”, V, xii, 45 in P.L. XLIV, 810; Saint Thomas, III:28; III:29:2). But soon was the faith of Joseph in his spouse to be sorely tried: she was with child. However painful the discovery must have been for him, unaware as he was of the mystery of the Incarnation, his delicate feelings forbade him to defame his affianced, and he resolved “to put her away privately; but while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost. . . And Joseph, rising from his sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife” (Matthew 1:19, 20, 24).
A few months later, the time came for Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem, to be enrolled, according to the decree issued by Caesar Augustus: a new source of anxiety for Joseph, for “her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered”, and “there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:1-7). What must have been the thoughts of the holy man at the birth of the Saviour, the coming of the shepherds and of the wise men, and at the events which occurred at the time of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, we can merely guess; Saint Luke tells only that he was “wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him” (2:33). New trials were soon to follow. The news that a king of the Jews was born could not but kindle in the wicked heart of the old and bloody tyrant, Herod, the fire of jealousy. Again “an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee” (Matthew 2:13).
The summons to go back to Palestine came only after a few years, and the Holy Family settled again at Nazareth. Saint Joseph’s was henceforth the simple and uneventful life of an humble Jew, supporting himself and his family by his work, and faithful to the religious practices commanded by the Law or observed by pious Israelites. The only noteworthy incident recorded by the Gospel is the loss of, and anxious quest for, Jesus, then twelve years old, when He had strayed during the yearly pilgrimage to the Holy City (Luke 2:42-51).
This is the last we hear of Saint Joseph in the sacred writings, and we may well suppose that Jesus’s foster-father died before the beginning of Savior’s public life. In several circumstances, indeed, the Gospels speak of the latter’s mother and brothers (Matthew 12:46; Mark 3:31; Luke 8:19; John 7:3), but never do they speak of His father in connection with the rest of the family; they tell us only that Our Lord, during His public life, was referred to as the son of Joseph (John 1:45; 6:42; Luke 4:22) the carpenter (Matthew 13:55). Would Jesus, moreover, when about to die on the Cross, have entrusted His mother to John’s care, had Saint Joseph been still alive?
According to the apocryphal “Story of Joseph the Carpenter”, the holy man reached his hundred and eleventh year when he died, on 20 July (A.D. 18 or 19). St. Epiphanius gives him ninety years of age at the time of his demise; and if we are to believe the Venerable Bede, he was buried in the Valley of Josaphat. In truth we do not know when Saint Joseph died; it is most unlikely that he attained the ripe old age spoken of by the “Story of Joseph” and Saint Epiphanius. The probability is that he died and was buried at Nazareth.
Saint Joseph was proclaimed as the patron saint of the Universal Church in 1870 by Pope Pius IX. Catholic tradition tells us that Saint Joseph died in the arms of Mary and Jesus, and thusly is the patron of a happy death. Popularly, Saint Joseph is also the patron of fathers, carpenters, and is invoked against doubt and hesitation. Saint Joseph is honoured on two days in the liturgical calendar, 19 March (Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and 1 May (Saint Joseph the Worker). Here at Saint Joseph, Huntington, we honour Saint Joseph on 19 March.
-Compiled from New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia
Our Parish History
In the early days of Cabell, Wayne, and Putnam Counties and the City of Huntington, the spiritual needs of the small Catholic population were met by missionary priests who travelled along the Ohio River who would briefly visit the small community present before continuing down the river to Kentucky and Ohio. The first recorded priest to serve the area was the Reverend Father Charles Farrell. Father Farrell was ordained in 1845 in Richmond, Virginia and served until 1847, when he was transferred to the See of Wheeling when the Most Reverend Richard Whalen became the first ordinary of the Diocese of Wheeling in 1850.
The beginnings of Saint Joseph Parish actually occurred in nearby Guyandotte. In 1872, the Reverend Father Thomas Quirk, a native of Clonmel, County of Tipperary, South Ireland, became the first pastor of the Catholics in Cabell County and the surrounding area. Father Quirk established a parish there, and entrusted it to the patronage of Saint Peter. This was only a brief start, and the parish of Saint Peter was quickly disbanded. Father Quirk began to gather the Catholics in the area and erected a temporary church on Eighth Avenue at 20th Street. The first Holy Mass offered in this building took place on the last Sunday of October, 1872. An ardent supporter of Catholic education, Father Quirk also established a small parochial school in Huntington. Thanks to the early work of Father Quirk and the support of Bishop Whalen, Saint Joseph has had a strong presence in Catholic education to this day.
In the early 1880’s, high water flooded nearly the entire City of Huntington. Father Quirk noticed that the area of 6th Avenue and 13th Street was out of the high water district. After the flooding had stopped, Father Quirk quickly purchased the land where the present campus of Saint Joseph Parish and Schools is located, save the current high school building south of 6th Avenue.
In September of 1884, the Most Reverend John J. Kain, second Bishop of Wheeling, transferred Father Quirk to a mountain parish in Lewis County. The Reverend Father John W. Werninger, a native of the Diocese of Wheeling became pastor. In 1889, Father Werninger built the present church building which housed both the church and the school. In 1894, Father Werninger engaged three Sisters of Mercy to take over the school; the Sisters of Mercy were succeeded by the Diocesan Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1900. During his time as pastor of Saint Joseph, Father Werninger was charged by the bishop to oversee the establishment of mission churches throughout the southern section of the diocese. In the interim, the Reverend Father Joseph Gormley served the people of Huntington. After Father Werninger’s return, Father Gormley stayed on as an assisting priest.
In 1899, Father Werninger was transferred to Saint John Parish in Benwood, and the Reverend Father Henry Altmeyer was assigned as pastor. During his pastorate, Father Altmeyer oversaw the enlargement of the church by removing the wall between the church and the school (roughly located where the side entrances are today). The new altar was located where the steps into the sanctuary currently are located. Father Altmeyer also undertook the modernization of our church building by replacing the gas light fixtures with electric ones; he also replaced the original plain windows with our present stained glass. In 1913, Father Altmeyer built the present rectory building. In 1916, to accommodate the rapidly growing Catholic population, Father Altmeyer again enlarged the church building to its present size by adding the area where the current sanctuary and sacristies are located. Included in this renovation was the addition of the four stained glass windows depicting the Evangelists, as well as a further modernized lighting system. The exterior of the church was also updated, which gave us our current stucco exterior and a new main entrance. Due to his faithful service to the people of God, Pope Pius XI, on the recommendation of the Most Reverend John J. Swint, Fourth Bishop of Wheeling, Father Altmeyer was elevated to the dignity of a Domestic Prelate, giving him the title of the Right Reverend Monsignor Henry B. Altmeyer. Sadly, after 30 years of holy service to the people of Saint Joseph, Monsignor Altmeyer returned to the Lord while on vacation in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the summer of 1930.
To succeed Monsignor Altmeyer, Archbishop Swint named the Right Reverend Monsignor James F. Newcomb, P.A., as the fourth pastor of Saint Joseph. Monsignor Newcomb briefly served as Superintendent of the Diocesan School System shortly after his arrival in Huntington, and was a fervent supporter of Catholic education. He immediately set out to build a new high school building and in January, 1932, the new (present) high school building began to function. In 1933, Monsignor Newcomb replaced the wooden altars with marble ones and installed the present mission-style crucifix above the main altar. Monsignor Newcomb also replaced the wooden church floor with terrazzo due to an infestation of termites. At this time, Monsignor Newcomb also installed the present south entrance. In August of 1960, after a long period of illness, Monsignor Newcomb passed away at Saint Mary Hospital.
To succeed Monsignor Newcomb, Archbishop Swint appointed the Very Reverend Monsignor George J. Burke as the fifth pastor of Saint Joseph Church. Monsignor Burke’s term as pastor saw the renovation of the church’s sanctuary to include a marble altar for versus populum celebration of the Mass, construction of a new grade school building in 1971, and the retirement in 1972 of the debt accumulated by Monsignors Altmeyer and Newcomb.
The Reverend Father Robert Wanstreet became pastor in 1976 and served until 1978.
The Reverend Father Joseph Mascioli served as pastor from 1978-1983. During his tenure, Father Mascioli introduced the ecumenical movement to the parish, began the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and instituted bingo (since discontinued) as a fundraiser for the parish.
The Reverend Father Harold Moore was named pastor in 1983. He brought a good sense of humor to Downtown Huntington, and was an enthusiastic supporter of the catechesis of our children. Father Moore began the Carpenter Campaign to bring about much needed repair to the physical plant and the parish’s spiritual life was challenged to new heights.
The Reverend Father (now Monsignor) Frederick Annie was named ninth pastor in 1992. During Father Annie’s time as pastor, the rectory was refurbished and restored to its former glory; carpet, new paint, and new lighting was also added to the church at this time. Father Annie’s greatest achievement was the construction of the Connection between the church and old grade school building, which added much needed indoor space for catechesis, outreach, and parish fellowship.
In 1997, the Most Reverend Bernard W. Schmitt named the Reverend Monsignor Lawrence J. Luciana tenth pastor of Saint Joseph Church. Monsignor Luciana’s tenure saw many improvements to the sanctuary, including replacing the carpet with Italian marble tiles and the return of the tabernacle to the main altar, keeping our Eucharistic Lord as the center of one’s attention in the church. The front steps of the church were also rebuilt during his tenure; Monsignor Luciana also headed the campaign to restore the stained glass windows in the church. Monsignor Luciana was responsible for the construction of the new grade school building, which helps the parish carry out the mission of the Church of education and evangelization. Poor health, complicated by a serious fall in late winter of 2012, led Monsignor Luciana to retire as pastor of Saint Joseph Church.
The Most Reverend Michael J. Bransfield named the Reverend Father Dean G. Borgmeyer as eleventh pastor of Saint Joseph in April of 2012. Under Father Borgmeyer’s pastoral leadership, the parish continues to strive for liturgical excellence, compassionate outreach to the community at large, the encouragement of vocations and service to Holy Mother Church, and the zeal for the building up of the Kingdom of God on earth.