(During the Year of St. Joseph, The Catholic Messenger is featuring parishes whose patron saint is St. Joseph.)
The parish: St. Joseph Parish in Montrose has 50 families. Trevor Pullinger serves as parish life coordinator and Father David Brownfield serves as priest moderator. Father Brownfield, along with retired priests Father John Spiegel and Father Joe Roost, and other area priests Father Marty Goetz, Father Joseph Phung, Father Dan Dorau and Father James Flattery, celebrate Mass at the Montrose parish.
History: The first Catholic church in Montrose was established in 1860. Land for the building was acquired from Walter I. Ruddick, with the title paperwork going back to the original Spanish Land Grant to Lewis Honore Tesson. Village residents and others from the outlying areas worked to construct the building, making use of local stone from the McManis quarry south of Montrose, native lumber from the town sawmill, and bricks from the kiln of William Graham, who donated to the project. The pews of the first church were hand hewn. John Arthur and William Leeper hauled the stone slab for the front door from West Point. Kerosene lamps provided lighting.
Bernard McBride served as committee chairman and Leeper kept records, including information about labor on the church. Charles Slattery, an experienced bricklayer, served as building superintendent. Arthur served as chairman of the foundation and basement work, along with Joseph Strope. Several years later, supporters organized a picnic in McBride’s pasture and the $600 in proceeds provided funds to purchase an organ. A bell was donated from an old steamboat and used by the Catholic and Methodist churches.
In the days before assigned priests were available for the area, priests from Nauvoo, Illinois, baptized most of the babies. Father John Daley from Farmington served at the Montrose church. Even after the Davenport Diocese formed in May 1881, the Montrose parish was considered a mission. Responsibility for tending the needs of the parishioners shifted to Keokuk, and later to Fort Madison.
Fundraising for a new church began in 1961 due to growth. In 1966, the bishop approved blueprints for the new church. Construction was postponed because projected costs exceeded available parish funds. Finally, the building and finance committee devised a plan to build the church using volunteer labor. A.V. Gustafson of St. Paul, Minnesota, was hired as construction supervisor and the plan of architects Steffen and Stotz of Ottumwa was slated for construction.
Mr. and Mrs. William Metzinger donated a property and Father L.J. Leinen officiated a groundbreaking ceremony on April 23, 1968. A majority of work was done on evenings and weekends. Bishop Gerald O’Keefe dedicated the new building on June 15, 1968. The original flagstone from the old church was placed in the welcome sign and planter in front of the church and the first Mass was celebrated on Christmas Eve 1968.
The use of volunteer labor and materials resulted in a modest mortgage, paid off by using “improvement fund” envelopes. A mortgage burning party was held in 1972. In 1971, Father Philip Cardenzana became the first resident priest. Discussion about building a rectory led to completion of that project, with parishioners completing much of the work. Many priests have served St. Joseph Parish since that time. Priests from various area parishes continue to serve the parish.
Year of St. Joseph: A special feast day Mass was celebrated and an outdoor social held earlier this year.