FAITH & FAMILY — Bishop, church members celebrating St. Joseph Church with Sunday spotlight

Published 12:42 am Saturday, September 11, 2021

Seventy years have passed since the beginning of St. Joseph Catholic Church.

To celebrate the milestone, the 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass will be led by Bishop David Toups and Bishop Emeritus Curtis Guillory. There will be a procession after Mass in honor of patron St. Joseph to Cody Hall.

The celebration also includes booths, food, games, music and a dance with Ilusion de Amor from 7 to 9:30 p.m.

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In addition there will be a raffle for a Samsung 65-inch Smart TV, Murray gas push mower and Apple Air Pods. Tickets are $2, and there are other prizes.

People are asked to bring a lawn chair, and no alcoholic beverages are allowed.

Church & community

Through building changes, leadership changes and natural disasters, the congregation of St. Joseph Church remains faithful to this day.

Parishioner Tim Romero summed it up with ease.

“It’s not the most important aspect of Catholicism but it’s an important part. What we have are parishes that create community,” Romero said earlier this week while surrounded by past and current members. “You always have a special bond to where you came from. People will move away, then they will always say ‘I came from such and such.’ You will still see that today even though there are a lot of folks that grew up in this parish and they moved away. They’ll always speak fondly of their time when they lived here, went to church here and of all of the activities.”

Members such as Doris Lasseigne, Maria “Bebe” Gongora and Alice Barnes are part of the Altar Society. Others such as Cynthia Gonzalez are involved with the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Her husband, Torivio, is studying to be a deacon, and their daughter, Patty Ayala, is church secretary.

There’s also Mutzi Lopez, who served as director of religious education and youth ministry.

The Rev. Kevin Badeaux is the pastor to the multicultural congregation of 2,250 families or a little more than 7,100 people.

Badeaux said the church usually holds a festival in May to honor St. Joseph the Worker, but COVID led to the cancellation of the event for the past two years.

Instead, the church will have the festival during the upcoming anniversary celebration. There are plans to bring the festival back in May, he said.

Cynthia Gonzalez has been a member of the church going on 24 years.

“I wouldn’t change my parish,” Gonzalez said in a matter-of-fact tone. “Many priests come and go, but this is our parish, our community.”

A little humor

Romero recalls how close his family was with the church while growing up.

There was a time, when, as a teen he missed his curfew. His father sent him down to the church to stripe the parking lot — on a Saturday morning in June.

One of his “most vivid memories” got chuckles from the others gathered recently at Cody Hall.

He was a teenager at the time and was working on siding on the convent that once was there. The priest at the time was on the roof and Romero was on the second floor when window shade fell down in the nun’s upper bathroom.

“There was nobody in there, but when I looked in, you could see the tub facing the wall. There was a life-sized picture of Elvis Presley,” Romero said with a laugh. “I had to call father down to see. We all knew it was Sister Ernest Marie’s. Ain’t no bones about it, that was hers. After Jesus, that was her second love.”

Through thick & thin

“I want to mention the resiliency of the parish,” Badeaux said. “I’ve been here since 2015 and in 2017 we had Harvey. It flooded here. The people are extraordinary. They came out as soon as they could get back in the ground even though their own house was messed up.

“Not only did they help clean, they also helped deliver food and other necessary items to others while they themselves were in need.”

Some history

According to the Diocese of Beaumont, St. Joseph Parish was officially started Sept. 10, 1951, by Bishop Wendelin J. Nold of what is now the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

It was the first parish opened in south Jefferson County after World War II. Father John Cody, a native of New Jersey and a graduate of Fordham University, was named founding pastor of the parish carved from territory of St. James Parish in the Lakeview area of Port Arthur.

Mass was celebrated in the building that had housed Boudreaux’s Grocery at Stadium Drive and Fifth Street. Under Cody’s leadership, the first church building was dedicated April 15, 1953. The church, rectory, convent and much of the school were built by volunteer labor. St. Joseph School opened in 1954 with Dominican Sisters and operated (later merged with St. James School as Central Catholic School) until the late 80s. Cody’s health failed, and he took a permanent sick leave in 1955.

Other pastors include Rev., later Monsignor Martin Enderle, Rev. later Msgr. Salvador Culotta, Rev., later Msgr. Richard DeStefano, Msgr. Martin Enderle (brother of Marvin Enderle), Rev. Francis Conroy, Rev. James Young, Rev., later Msgr James Vanderholt, Rev. Stephen McCrate and Badeaux.