By Vicki Clark
As I was gathering information for this piece I talked with Msg. Raul Trevizo, who was raised in Hayden. He described the history of St. Joseph’s Parish as a trinity…The Founding, The New Church and The Remodeling. The three were equally important to help build and blend the parish into what it is today. This is the second and third installments of the trinity.
The New Church
A few years after Fr. Machain came to the parish, it was decided that a new church should be built. The existing St. Joseph had served the Catholic faithful for more than 40 years, but the cost of maintaining and repairing the old building was climbing each year.
A site was selected and construction began. The new church would sit high on a hill on Mountain View just off Hwy 177 overlooking the Gila Valley below. The original plans called for a modern fan shaped building with a basement that would house a parish hall and kitchen. But those plans were changed much to the surprise of the parishioners who were hard at work raising funds for the building.
After the top of hill was leveled and the basement was dug out, orders came from the Diocesan Office of Property and Planning to fill the hole back in and the plans were being changed. It wasn’t known at the time why, but later it was discovered that the changes were thanks to a certain person in that office who was embezzling funds. He skimmed off the differences in the original costs and pocketed the money. Two other parishes in the Diocese also fell victim to this scheme. The person was eventually caught and served time, but unfortunately not before the buildings were well on the way to completion.
The first Mass at the new St. Joseph was held in December of 1974 and the church was officially dedicated on Mar. 16, 1975 with the most Rev. Bishop Francis Green officiating. Fr. Machain wanted to give everyone before some time to get acquainted with the new building to see how things worked before the dedication.
Finishing work still had to be done on the structure and landscaping and road improvements were needed. Fr. Machain praised the new church’s versatility, saying that a soundproof screen could be used to divide the main room into a parish hall and a worship area. The altar, pulpit and lectern were in the middle of the room.
Other features included a prayer room, offices, a confessional, storerooms, a kitchen and a dining area. In addition, Fr. hoped to have a new rectory built. The parish had raised $175,000 of the church’s costs and was built by the Matt Lang Construction Co. of Tucson. It was designed by architect Jim Smith, also of Tucson.
Worship services at the old St. Joseph’s ended with the opening of the new church but the facilities were still used for church functions and as a youth ministry center for awhile.
In the meantime, plans were being made for the fate of the Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was to be demolished but not forgotten. The mission became a pile of rubble and the old church in Hayden was abandoned but the heart of the buildings live on.
Fr. Bryan Sherry, who came to Hayden in 1976, said at the time he didn’t think the people would mind as long as the cherished symbols were moved.
The life sized statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe which was located above the main altar was installed in the sanctuary of the new church and the life size crucifix of Christ from the Hayden church was placed opposite the statue. Also moved were the bells from both buildings and they still ring out to call worshipers from high on the hill.
By moving the bells and the statues to the new church “the past is included in present tradition.”
Before Fr. Sherry arrived at St. Joseph’s Fr. Joseph Bartos served the parish for a short time. Fr. Ed Carscallen followed Fr. Sherry and other priests were between October of 1983 and June of 2001 included Fr. Leopold Gleissner, Fr. Kevin Clinch (who served for 12 years), and Fr. Larry Kasper.
Soon after Fr. Dale Branson arrived at St. Joseph’s in July of 2001, he began formulating plans to update the church to make it more usable and comfortable. His enthusiasm got the people excited and many projects were completed during his 10 year stay at the parish.
The folding doors behind the back altar were replaced with a solid wall and a door opening. The Blessed Sacrament Chapel was created, the rails to the altar were constructed and the interior of the church was painted with murals by local artist Wanda Mitchell-Tucker.
New lighting was installed to highlight the statues and artwork. Stained glass windows replaced the old windows and new doors were also installed.
The most enthusiasm came when new padded pews replaced the old folding chairs and a steeple went up on the roof of the building.
As one parishioner said, “He turned a funeral home into a church,” and another said, “Now it’s a Church.
Fr. Robert Rodriquez came to the parish in November of 2011 and did a little remodeling of his own by expanding the office areas and adding more space to the religious gift shop.
Fr. Robert left in June of 2013 and the parish is now ministered to by Fr. Matthew Thayil, a missionary from India. So it has gone full circle in the last 100 years, a parish founded by a missionary is now again served by a missionary.
Many sacraments have been given and received at St. Joseph’s many buildings over the years, some of these buildings are gone, but the spirit of the people remain strong in their belief in their parish. As Fr. Thayil says, “It’s not the church building that makes the parish, it’s the people.”
I want to acknowledge Homer Ortega for providing such great material and pictures, Msg. Raul Trevizo and Fr. Dale Branson for allowing me to pick their brains and most of all Fr. Anastasio G. Font, OCD, who did the research and put together the booklet called Carmelites Among the Miners where the majority of my information came from.