Just entering the doors of our church, you can almost feel the rich history behind the structure. Within its walls is the history of faith for many of our families and a reminder of those who brought us to the parish that we are today.
Sts. Joseph and Paul Catholic Church
St. Paul’s is one of the oldest parishes in our diocese. Our roots date back to 1886 when it was announced that a parish would be established as an offspring of St. Stephen’s Church. Due to the increasing number of Catholics residing in Owensboro, it became necessary for additional churches to be developed. The first congregation of St. Paul’s worshiped in a temporary church on a lot at Fourth and Pearl Streets, across from St. Joseph’s, the German-American church. The first pastor was the Very Reverend Thomas Francis Gambon and the first Mass was celebrated on Passion Sunday, March 27, 1887.
Unfortunately, the new church was destroyed by lightening and it became necessary to build a new place of worship. A temporary chapel was erected which served as the worship space for the new congregation until the permanent structure was built at the present location on Fourth and Bolivar Streets. Although not totally completed, members of the parish moved into the permanent structure and a dedication ceremony was held on January 13, 1889 by Bishop William George McCloskey, Bishop of Louisville.
The current structure was completed in early 1900. On Easter Sunday, April 6, the congregation gathered for the first time in the completed church. According to an article which ran in The Messenger the following day – “The ceiling spaces between the graceful arches that support the roof have been frescoed in water-color tints in three shades of green, and the ceiling of the sanctuary in shades of blue with stars and gilt. The walls are finished in orange and green touched with gold.”
The next major change occurred in 1948 when an announcement was made by Bishop Francis R. Cotton (the first bishop for the Diocese of Owensboro) that the parishes of St. Paul and St. Joseph’s would be combined to form one parish. Although not a popular move among either congregation, Monsignor Peter Braun, who was named pastor of the combined parish, sought to achieve a relatively smooth transition. For a time, Masses were held at both churches in order to placate parishioners during the transition.
A fire once again threatened St. Paul’s when portions of the church burned on Christmas Eve 1984. By God’s grace, the building was not destroyed. While repairs were made, Masses were celebrated at the old St. Joseph’s Church.
On April 2, 1989, the 100th anniversary and rededication of Sts. Joseph and Paul church was held with the Most Reverend John McRaith presiding. It was a truly joyous celebration of our history.
Throughout the 115 years of Sts. Joseph and Paul there have been many changes. There have been turbulent times and sad times; prosperous and joyous times. We have celebrated life and celebrated death. The sacraments of the Church have been performed tens of thousands of times amongst our people; our family of faith.
We are grateful to the 14 pastors who have led our congregation throughout these many years – from Fr. Gambon to our current pastor, Fr. Carl McCarthy. We are grateful to the religious and the laity who have shared their talents and their faith. Together we share a history and a common bond – we are the family of Sts. Joseph and Paul.