St. Joseph Parish History
The first parish in Salem County was St. Mary’s in Salem, founded in 1848 by Father E. S. Waldron. He served for one year, and then visiting priests of St. Mary’s said Mass in what would become the parish boundaries of St. Joseph’s. In 1851, Father John McDermott was assigned as first resident pastor of St. Mary’s – which then served the areas covered by Gloucester, Salem, and Cape May Counties.
In 1853, the Diocese of Newark was established, covering all of New Jersey. In 1856, Father Cornelius Cannon, pastor of St. Mary’s, said Mass on alternate Sundays in the homes of Matthew Durr, of Sharptown, and Michael Byrnes, of Harrisonville. He started a parochial school in 1859.
When Father Secundino Pattle succeeded Fathe Cannon in 1870, the number of Catholics in Woodstown was deemed sufficient to warrant their own place of worship. Each member was assessed $7.50, thereby raising a total of $150.00, and a frame building was started. A storm leveled the building and the builder was financially unable to rebuild; so the sherriff sold the lumber to pay off the contractor’s debts. However, those early Catholics were a dauntless crew and their second attempt at building resulted in a neat frame church at the fork of Mullica Hill Road and Harrisonville Road. The church was 25 by 40 ft.
In 1876, Father Peter J. Dernis succeeded Fr. Pattle and the mission at Woodstown, officially named St. Joseph’s, was assigned to his care.
In 1881, the Diocese of Trenton was created and the Bishop assigned responsibility for St. Joseph’s, Woodstown, to the pastor of St. Jospeh’s, Swedesboro. In 1890, St. Joseph’s, Woodstown was formally established with its own pastor. Father Dernis was transferred from St. Mary’s to St. Joseph’s. However, by 1894 Diocesan transfers left St. Joseph’s without a pastor, and it again became a mission of St. Joseph’s, Swedesboro. The pastor was Father Walter Leahy, and he purchased five lots on what is now Elm Street, from Charles Kuhn for $500 and one lot on Broad Street from Edward Haines for $180. He also had the church moved to its present location and added a sacristy and twenty-five feet in length – which with new pews cost $2,500. In 1899, he bought an adjoining lot from Dr. Ewen and erected the present rectory. He then established the parish cemetery and moved to it the remains of those buried in the old Mullica Hill Road churchyard. With this done, St. Joseph’s was just about established, needing only a resident pastor. The Bishop sent one in 1899.
Father John O’Farrell was the second resident pastor. He was made responsible for missions at Elmer and at Penns Grove – from which neighboring parishes of St. Anne’s and St. James’ evolved. Father O’Farrell and his successors attended these missions on alternate Sundays.
In 1901, Father William J. Morrison became the next resident pastor. In 1904, he remodeled the church; hence the stone with that date that stands in front of the church today.
In 1937, the Diocese of Camden was established. Father John Lubicky, who was pastor from 1962-67, remodeled the church to conform to Vatican II directives. In 1963, he purchased the land on which the Woodstown Parish Center now stands.
Msgr. Pasquale M. DiBuono, who was pastor from 1980-1992, introduced air conditioning in 1987, and bought the house at 39 Broad Street for use as classrooms for the religious education program.
Following Msgr. DiBuono, from 1992-2005 was Father Stephen F. Cervoni. He purchased the Agway property on Broad Street for use as a parking lot, and was responsible for the building of the Parish Center.
Father Edward Friel was pastor from 2005-2009, and was instrumental in utilizing the new Parish Center to bring the parish community together and to reach out to the local community. As membership in the parish grew, so did involvement in the local community.
In 2009, Father Anthony DiBardino was appointed Priest Convener in the process that would merge St. Joseph’s with St. Ann’s in Elmer and Holy Name of Jesus in Mullica Hill.
In June of 2010, the parishes merged to become the Catholic Community of the Holy Spirit.