A journey with St. Joseph: visiting the five parishes bearing his name in the Diocese of Fort Worth

North Texas Catholic
(Dec 5, 2021) Feature

St. Joseph Church in Cleburne (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

St. Joseph Church in Cleburne (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

Setting out

To honor the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, Pope Francis declared a Year of St. Joseph “to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession, and to imitate his virtues and his zeal,” he wrote in his Apostolic Letter Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart) on December 8, 2020.

To gain greater insights into the spouse of the Mother of God, the NTC made a pilgrimage to the five parishes that hold St. Joseph as their patron. 

St. Joseph Parish, Cleburne

Families: 734    Established: 1888

Only five parishes in the diocese were established before this mission-style parish, which offers two weekend Masses apiece in English and Spanish. About 30 miles south of Fort Worth, the church is tucked into a neighborhood of modest, well-kept homes a block east of Main Street.  

Don’t miss: The church’s three cornerstones, including the cracked, tan sandstone rock dating back to 1741, which was taken from the tower of San Jose mission in San Antonio.

The atmosphere: Like St. Joseph, it’s quiet, calm, and peaceful. The well-worn wooden pews, the wooden ceiling, and wood paneling in front of the sanctuary will remind you of St. Joseph the carpenter. 

The saint’s presence: A large statue of St. Joseph holding the baby Jesus stands outside the front doors, and a second large statue of the saint holding lilies welcomes visitors in the vestibule. But in the nave and sanctuary, religious imagery emphasizes Mary and Jesus. (Isn’t that like their humble protector?)

The community: Long-time member Steve Talavera said the parish demonstrates its faith by actions more than words, like the silent saint — so called because Scripture does not record any of his remarks. The congregation gathers for service days in the community, pro-life rallies, and cleaning days in the parish. “One of the ways we follow St. Joseph’s example is by helping people in need,” Talavera said. 

St. Joseph Parish in Rhineland (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

St. Joseph Parish in Rhineland (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

St. Joseph Parish, Rhineland

Families: 154    Established: 1895

Known as the “cathedral in the cotton patch,” the German Gothic church is visible from miles away, as the only structures that rival its height in Knox County are wind turbines. Step inside the immaculate church to find beautiful stained-glass windows, an ornate hand-carved altar, and arches that soar to the heavens.

Benevolent guardian: A statue of the guardian saint stands atop the high altar, as if he’s watching over Jesus in the tabernacle.

Pray with the saint: The church is usually open in the day for private prayer, so if you can’t make it for Mass, stop in for a respite as you travel to or from Lubbock.

Dreams become reality: Like St. Joseph, who received specific instructions in dreams and followed them, this church (and town) embodies the dream of Father Joseph Reisdorff. Construction on the current church began in 1927, but the Great Depression and World War II delayed completion to 1951. Parishioners made the bricks, six at a time, for a total of more than 80,000.

David Albess, whose grandfather helped build the church, remembers scaffolding in the nave when he attended Mass in his youth. He said the patron saint fits the community, mostly hard-working farmers with a deep spirituality. Whether it’s making bricks or sausage, parishioners follow the example of St. Joseph: working and providing for the family.

Feast Days: Plan a visit on the third Sunday of March (close to St. Joseph’s feast day) or the second Sunday of October, when the Knights of Columbus host a sausage and fried chicken dinner. About 1,200 hungry Texans eat (and bring home) 1,000 lbs. of fried chicken and 3,500 lbs. of sausage, made according to the secret recipe of two parishioners in their 90s. 

St. Joseph Parish in Crowell (NTC/Susan Moses)

St. Joseph Parish in Crowell (NTC/Susan Moses)

St. Joseph Parish, Crowell

Families: 15    Established: 1910

From Nazareth south to Bethlehem. To the temple in Jerusalem. To Egypt and back. The head of the Holy Family led Mary and Jesus roughly 240 miles until they returned to Nazareth. We covered almost 200 miles on our journey to Crowell, sailing into Foard County faster than the Blessed Family fleeing King Herod. The 8 a.m. Mass makes for an early start when you’ve got miles of country roads to cover. 

Find it: On Main Street on the north edge of town. The church, with its arched entrance and single bell, reflects its heritage as a mission.

Check out: At the foot of a statue of St. Joseph with lilies — the flowers symbolize chastity, and often in a group of three to recall the Holy Trinity — an icon of St. Joseph sits. The image dates to the 1880s and came to the town with Czechoslovakian settlers.

Reason to visit: If you’re camping at Copper Breaks State Park or enjoying a weekend of stargazing with the telescopes and observatories at Three Rivers’ Comanche Springs Campus, you’re a short drive away. The friendly parishioners at St. Joseph Parish will welcome you.

The community: Several of the farming and ranching families who constitute this parish are descendants of the families that founded the parish. Mark Halsell was baptized at the Crowell church, as were his children and grandchildren. He said, “There are no strangers here. We’re an extended family, and this parish gets us through sorrows and happiness.”

A saint like us: Halsell called St. Joseph “relatable” to the parishioners, who believe in strong families and work hard. Many of the ranchers or farmers have day jobs to help support the family.

St. Joseph Parish in Nocona (NTC/Susan Moses)

St. Joseph Parish in Nocona (NTC/Susan Moses)

St. Joseph Parish, Nocona

Families: 60    Established: 1948

The love of parishioners for this red brick parish, with a matching parish hall and education building surrounded by a white wrought-iron fence, is obvious when you enter the impeccably maintained and decorated church. 

Their patron is honored with an outdoor statue, holding lilies in one hand and baby Jesus in the other. Ten beautiful stained-glass windows, installed in 2012, include two of St. Joseph: at the nativity of Jesus and His presentation at the temple. 

The faithful: When bells begin ringing 15 minutes before Mass, parishioners are already arriving. They linger at the conclusion of the celebration, too. 

Hobie Meekins, lifelong member and president of the parish’s finance council, said it’s a friendly parish, where everyone grew up together. They typically celebrate St. Joseph’s feast day in March with a pot-luck meal. 

Father figure: Several young families occupied the pews, calling to mind St. Joseph’s role as the foster father of Jesus. Like all good fathers, St. Joseph shared his love, faith, and knowledge as he raised his Son. 

The Gospel of Luke, in verses 2:40 and 52, describes the young Jesus as growing in wisdom, with Joseph and Mary as His daily examples and teachers.

Extra incentive: The church is just blocks from charming historic downtown Nocona with restaurants and shopping. 

The town, on U.S. Highway 82 a few miles south of Oklahoma, also boasts a classic car museum and tours of the baseball glove factory.

St. Joseph Parish in Arlington (NTC/Susan Moses)

St. Joseph Parish in Arlington (NTC/Susan Moses)

St. Joseph Parish, Arlington

Families: 3165    Established: 1988

St. Joseph Parish in Arlington stands out from the other parishes in the diocese that share the Protector of the Holy Church as patron. Constructed this century, its tan brick facility is modern, its location is suburban, and its size is grand. As you approach the property south of I-20, its tall spire with the gold cross is visible from several blocks away.

Don’t miss: On the southeast corner outside the church, a bronze statue depicts St. Joseph talking with a youthful Jesus, who looks up at him with rapt attention. 

Heavenly gaze: Once inside, the lofty architecture and stained-glass windows at the roofline direct your attention heavenward. My thoughts drifted to St. Joseph’s amazement at the message from the shepherds at the nativity, his reflection at the words of Simeon in the temple, and his astonishment of finding his 12-year-old Son in His “Father’s house.”

Bethlehem beat: The congregation is very diverse, with parishioners originating from countries around the world, appropriate for a church named after the patron of immigrants and travelers. St. Joseph, no stranger to long voyages, would have met people from surrounding countries as he traveled to the census in the city of David and later when he fled to Egypt.

Michelle Doskocil, whose father-in-law donated the land for the parish and its school, said encountering people from “all over the world opens my eyes to different lifestyles and ethnicities, and gives me an appreciation for our multicultural world.” 

At certain Masses, elements from several cultures are integrated into the liturgy.

Back home again

Despite the distance and diversity of settings and size, the five parishes are more alike than different. 

Each dedicated to the Patron of the Universal Church, they share a reverence for Jesus and a strong sense of community.

As for this pilgrim, reflecting on St. Joseph during the journey, coupled with a deliberate reading of the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke, gave me a newfound appreciation for the saint’s courage, obedience, humility, and trust. 

Next stop, Holy Family Parish?

St. Joseph, parishes, Pope Francis, Year of St. Joseph, Diocese of Fort Worth, Cleburne, Rhineland, Arlington, Crowell, Nocona, trending-english