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In 1954, St. Joseph Church was established as a mission of St. Patrick Church, now The Church of the Most Holy Trinity. Father Charles Mahoney was assigned to formalize the mission and establish the church that would minister to the Catholics of South Augusta know at the time as the Fleming Heights area. Burns Memorial Methodist Church on Lumpkin Road graciously allowed us to celebrate Sunday Mass in their facility and 360 people showed up for the first Mass. Before long rapidly increasing attendance made it clear that we needed a larger and more permanent church. Thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Bessie Sherling and her daughter, Mrs. Joseph Petty of Worchester. Massachusetts – who donated a nine acre tract of land on Lumpkin Road Extension – the people of St. Joseph could now dream of a home of our own. On Sunday, November 27, 1955 that dream became a reality as ground was broken for our new church. At this time only 200 families called our parish home, and the support and sacrifice of these dedicated families was critical to the growth we would experience in the years to follow.
In 1956, after less than a year of building, Father Mahoney celebrated the first Mass in our new church on June 13, 1956. Father Mahoney remained our pastor until July 16, 1958 when Father Nicholas Quinlan, who was serving at St. Mary on the Hill, was appointed pastor of St. Joseph Church. Our facilities were limited to our church building, so Father Quinlan moved into a small room in the back of the church. That same year Lourdes Hall was built to house our CCD program and other church activities. We were beginning to see our parish life expand beyond Sunday Mass as our parish ministries grew. Then, in 1960, at the request of the Bishop we built our present rectory. Under the gentle guidance of Father Quinlan, St. Joseph parish continued to grow both in numbers and in ministry until he retired in 1970.
In 1970, Father Andrew Doris was appointed pastor. It was under his leadership that a permanent Parish Council was established. This was an important development in our parish since for the first time we had a group of parishioners who were responsible for helping the pastor direct the parish’s plan. In 1972, St. Nicholas Hall was built to allow us to host more activities and expand our religious education program as the parish continued to grow.
In 1975, Father Edward Frank was assigned to our pastor and Father Doris was assigned to Savannah. Father Frank brought with his liturgical management skills, which contributed to the growth and health of our parish.
In 1985, Father Frank went on sabbatical for further theological studies, and as we said goodbye to Father Frank, we welcomed Father Michael J. Ring as our new pastor. Father Ring had been serving as associate pastor at St. Joseph, so we had already grown to love him. He was instrumental in the expansion of our parish facilities to accommodate our growing family. In September 1993 we broke ground for our new church, which was dedicated in July 1994. Father Ring then faced a three-year battle with cancer which took him to the loving arms of Christ in July 1997.
In 1997, as our parish mourned the loss of our beloved pastor, Father Ring, we welcomed Franciscan Father Sam Zebron, OFM Conventual as our new pastor. This Franciscan priest lovingly guided and trained us in many Vatican II areas, particularly Liturgical Reform and Pastoral Outreach. Under his direction our Worship and Spiritual Life Committee was formed, the religious education program was expanded to offer educational opportunities for parishioners of all ages, the pastoral council was restricted, and our parish outreach ministries flourished. During his pastorate the Pastoral Council voted to accept the stewardship model of parish leadership inviting parishioners to embrace their baptismal responsibility to support our parish with their generous gifts of time, talent and treasure.
In 1999, when Father Zebron was transferred to Macon, Father Robert Girardeau served as our Administrator until our new pastor, Father John Lyons, arrived in December.
Father Lyons embraced the idea that Stewardship offers parishioners an opportunity to more fully live out the Catholic faith and to strengthen the parish as a true family of faith. Some of the new programs introduced by Father Lyons were soup and bread dinners during Lent, first Friday adoration, yearly Mass at the lake, and Children’s Liturgy of the Word. Father Lyons oversaw the renovation of Lourdes Hall to become the church office, renovation of St. Nicholas Hall and installation of a new church roof. Father Lyons encouraged both the Hispanic and Korean Communities to take part in St. Joseph’s parish life making us one of the most diverse parishes in the country. In June 2005, Father Rafael Estrada was appointed as parochial vicar under Father Lyons ministering to the needs of the Hispanic community.
The Korean community being as integral part of St. Joseph has had the privilege of having three different Korean priests minster to their spiritual needs. Father Sang Won Lee served from 2003 to 2007. Upon his return to Korea Father Cheol Hyun Jung joined our parish and remained until 2011 being replaced with Father Hyeong Ryeol (Joseph) Kim as parochial vicar.
In 2009, Father Lyons was assigned to Savannah and Father Estrada was assigned to Baxley. Father Thomas Healy became the new pastor along with Father Matthew Ericksen becoming parochial vicar. Father Ericksen ministered to the needs of the Hispanic people until 2012 when he was assigned to Warner Robins. Father Pablo Migone became the next parochial vicar serving the Hispanic community both here and at St. Teresa of Avila Church.
Under Father Healy’s spiritual guidance a great deal of emphasis has been placed on improving religious education for our children. He was appointed head of the committee for “The Year of Faith” for the Augusta Deanery.
Father Healy’s most ambitious undertaking has been that of building a new rectory that has desperately been needed. With work beginning in July 2012 the rectory was blessed by Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. on April 26, 2013.