St. Joseph Church, Maximo, History
1850: St. Joseph is established as a “Mission Church” of St. Louis
1850-1857: Masses celebrated at the private residence of Jean Pierre Promot and Peter Anthony Erisey
May 1857: Fr. Louis Florence D’Arcy acquires property from Mr. Erisay
1857: Fr. Louis Grevin, of Sacred Heart of Mary in Harrisburg, builds first church in Maximo
1864-1870: Fr. Louis Hoffer (from Louisville)
1870 -1877: Fr. John B. Buerkel (from Harrisburg)
1877-1883: Fr. Joseph Ahern and Fr. James O’Leary (from Alliance)
1884-1885: Fr. Francis Senner and Fr Andrew Suavedet (from Harrisburg)
1886-1905: Fr. John P. Kunner, Fr. Joseph Hetet, Fr. Thomas F. McGuire, Fr. Thomas Kolb, Fr. Michael Philippart
1905: St. Joseph becomes an official parish unto itself (no longer a mission)
1905-1907: Fr. Charles H. Gardner (first resident Pastor)
1907-1915: Fr. Edward T. Calvey
1915-1917: Fr. James Nolan
1917-1918: Fr. Thomas P. Mulligan
1918-1919: Fr. Michael F. Shannon
1919-1921: Fr. Thomas E. McKenney
1921: Fr. Joseph L. Kuta
1921-1935: Fr. Raymond J. Gorman
1935-1941: Msgr. M. Willard McMahon
1941-1944: Fr. James P. Peppard
1944-1953: Fr. Gordon Gutman
1953-1955: Fr. William O’Neil
1955-1961: Fr. Ralph Friedrich
1961-1969: Fr. Paul J. Dehnke
1969-1973: Fr. Robert Sabatino
1973-1990: Fr. Thomas C. McNally
1990-2002: Fr. William Bantz
2002-2011: Fr. Thomas Ungashick
2011-2012: Fr. Howard Ziemba
2012-2013: Fr. Patrick Manning (Pro-tem administrator)
2013-2021: Fr. Joseph Ruggieri (also served Regina Coeli in Alliance)
2021-present: Fr. G. David Weikart (St. Joseph becomes a member of the Catholic Community of Alliance, Maximo and Sebring)
St. Joseph Catholic Church, Maximo *History
The founders of Maximo were French Catholics, who named it Strasburg after Strasburg, France. Oldest and most prominent of these French Catholic families was the Maudru Family, whose name is conspicuous on the only mausoleum in the cemetery. The vault containing eight crypts, was built of 80 tons of Barre Vermont granite in 1915 by John J. Maudru.
When the post office was established, it was named Maximo, probably to avoid duplication with Strasburg in Tuscarawas County. Both names were carried in the 1870 and 1875 atlases, but only Maximo in the 1896 atlas.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered for the first time in Maximo in a private residence located on what is now the southerly portion of our cemetery. The dwelling which burned sometime later, was the property of Jean Pierre Promot. After the unfortunate destruction of this building, Mass was celebrated at the home of Mr. Peter Anthony Erisey. This building, also destroyed by fire some years later, was located immediately north of the original church.
From the years 1850 to 1857, when Mass was offered in private homes, the members of this pioneer mission parish were ministered to by priests from Harrisburg, Louisville, St. Peter’s in Canton, and St. Mary’s in Massillon.
In May 1857 the ground on which the original church was located was transferred by an agreement made between Mr. Peter Anthony Erisey and Father Florentine Darcy. In June of the same year Father Darcy deeded it to the Rev. Amodeus Rappe, first Bishop of Cleveland. The same year the original brick church was erected under the direction of Father Louis Grevin from Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Harrisburg. He had it dedicated to the Glory of God in honor of Saint Joseph.
Father Louis Hoffer attended the parish from 1864 to 1870 as a mission from Louisville.
Saint Joseph School
Father Louis Hoffer purchased additional land, and upon it erected the little brick school in 1868, which stood until about 1946. The school was located directly across the street from the original church on a site which is now part of the parish cemetery. The erection of a parochial school during the early years of this rural parish, speaks eloquently of strong faith and unreserved generosity on the part of both pastor and people.
Miss Clementine Rebrassier, who later became Mrs. John Beuchat, was its first teacher. Other teachers who succeeded Miss Rebrassier were Miss Celestia Balizet, Miss Elizabeth Bartholomew, Miss Susan Bartholomew, Miss Josephine Bartholomew, Miss Mary King, Miss Josephine Monnot (who later became Sister Marcelline), Miss Margaret O’Connor (later Mrs. Edward McQueeney), Miss Edythe Miday, and Miss Clara Balmat (later Mrs. Lloyd Johnston).
The little building was in use from the time of its erection until 1875, and again from 1879 to 1884. During some of these years, full terms were taught; during others, summer terms. At times it served more as a catechetical school.
Due in part to the distance and lack of enrollment, the school was discontinued until September of 1923 when it was reopened for an all-year term under the efficient direction of Miss Edythe Miday who had previously taught in the same building.
Under Father Gorman’s leadership, ground was broken March 31, 1924, for the new school. The building was ready for occupancy by fall and was dedicated September 28 by the Most Reverend Bishop Joseph Schrembs of Cleveland.
The pupils of the new school were taught from the beginning under the direction of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine who had conducted classes in catechism from September 1922 until June 1923. For the first year in the new school, the sisters came daily from the orphanage in Louisville, but on the occasion of the closing of the orphanage, a convent was built for them beside the school in 1925.
Some years later, the Sisters of Notre Dame from Cleveland taught in the school for several years. Then the Sisters of Notre Dame from Cleveland taught in the school for several years. Then the Sisters of Saint Francis taught a short time with their motherhouse in Youngstown.
When the Sisters of Saint Francis moved their motherhouse to Texas, the school was left without sisters. Maximo felt the national shortage of religious vocations to the teaching profession when, in spite of all efforts of pastor and bishop to obtain sisters, the school had to remain closed for the term 1954-1955. However, through the efforts and charity of the pastors of Maximo and Harrisburg, Father William O’Neil and Father Edward Gallagher, the Maximo children were taken by bus and admitted to Sacred Heart of Mary School in Harrisburg.
By September 1955 Bishop Walsh had been successful in obtaining the Sisters of the Holy Ghost from Pittsburgh to teach in the school. The first Sisters of the Holy Ghost to come to the parish were Sister Cheslova, Sister Dorothy, and Sister Anne. Sister Anastasia, Sister Philomena, and Sister Dolorosa came in later years to teach.
The school was consolidated with Sacred Heart of Mary School in 1970, and in 1971 all classes were transferred to the Harrisburg building.
The school building today is used primarily for religious education of our children and also for social events.
Saint Joseph Church History continues:
From 1870 to 1877 this mission was attended to by priests from Harrisburg. The belfry of the church was erected early in the year 1874. The fact that the list of subscribers towards its erection included the names of a number of non-Catholics, gives evidence that the present good spirit of this community has existed for many years.
The bell, purchased by Father J. B. Burkel at the cost of about four hundred dollars, was paid by the subscriptions of the people. For most of the time since 1874 it has announced daily the hours of the Angelus, called many to divine worship, and now and again has tolled the departure of some member of the parish. It was for a time used as the town bell. The names of the sponsors engraved on the bell were: Joseph Maudru, Serophine Maudru, John C. Vesseriat, Mrs. Mary Moinet, August Ruflin, and Sophia Schillig.
The bell was transferred from the old church to the new church in 1958 and was placed above the Shrine of Saint Joseph.
From 1877 to 1883, the Saint Joseph mission in Maximo was attended from Alliance. It was on a trip from Alliance to Maximo that Father Joseph Ahern fell from his horse and broke his leg. In 1879 under the direction of Father James O'Leary from Alliance, an addition of about twenty feet was built to the church to form the new sanctuary. The time of this improvement was noted by Joseph Vesseriat, who received his first Communion in 1878 in the old church, and Confirmation in the new sanctuary in 1879 when he was a pupil in the old school across the street.
In the years 1884 and 1885, the people of this parish enjoyed the ministrations of Father F. Senner and Father A. Suavedet from Harrisburg. For another year, 1886, Father James O’Leary and Father John McHahon came from Alliance.
From 1886 to 1907, the flowing priests from Harrisburg served the Catholics of this vicinity: Father John P. Kunnert, Father J. Helet, Father T. F. McGuire, Father T.M. Kolb, Father M. Philippart, and Father Charles H. Gardner, first resident pastor. He lived in a house rented from Simon Maudru. This house still stands and is owned and occupied by Floyd Parish and family.
Father Gardner was succeeded in 1907 by Father Edward T. Calvey who remained here until 1915. The church property had been extended by a donation by Mr. Joseph Berg. On this newly acquired property the erection of the present pastoral residence was made possible by popular subscription. Much of the work was performed by way of donation from members of the parish and was completed in 1910. This was a great accomplishment and another evidence of the generosity of the people.
From 1915 to 1917, Father James Nolan served as pastor. He was succeeded by Father Thomas P. Mulligan until August 1918, when he entered the service of the United States as an Army Chaplain. From this time until 1919 Father Michael F. Shannon was in charge of the parish. He was succeeded by Father Thomas E. McKenney, returned Army Chaplain.
During the greater part of the year 1921, the parish was in charge of Father J. L. Kuta. He was succeeded on November 11, 1921, by Father Raymond J. Gorman, who served the parish long and faithfully for fourteen years until 1935. During the first three years of Father Gorman’s pastorate, the church was renovated, property was purchased for a new church, and the building which was to serve as the new school and parish hall was built in 1924. The following year the convent was built on the site of the original cemetery, which at this time was moved across the street near the old school.
Father Gorman was succeeded in 1935 by Father M. Willard McMahon as pastor until 1941 when Father James P. Peppard was appointed.
In 1943, this parish became part of the new Diocese of Youngstown when it was canonically erected and the parish rejoiced that their first bishop in the new diocese was their beloved Bishop James A. McFadden.
In 1944, a successful campaign was conducted to reduce the parish debt. Later that year Father Gordon Gutman was appointed as pastor, and during his pastorate the parish was cleared of all debt after twenty-five years of payment. Then the fund was begun for the erection of the new church.
The centennial of the parish was celebrated November 23, 1950, Thanksgiving Day, with a Pontifical Mass by the Most Reverend Bishop Emmet M. Walsh, Coadjustor Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown.
Also during Father Gutman’s pastorate, the original school was razed as part of the cemetery development. Later in 1958 additional land for cemetery expansion was purchased from the Pennsylvania Railroads.
Father William O’Neil succeeded Father Gutman in 1953, and through his untiring efforts, the children of Maximo had the advantage of Catholic education in Harrisburg during the year that sisters were not available for the school in Maximo.
In January 1955, Father Ralph J. Friedrich was appointed pastor.
The need for a new church had been foreseen many years before when land had been acquired at the crossroads and later when at the seventy-fifth anniversary of the parish, the erection of the new church was predicted for about the time of the centennial of the parish, but especially since 1944 when the building fund began. The need became more acute every year, with some natural increase in the parish and in the school enrollment. The main body of the old church had seats for only 144 persons, yet before movement was done from the old church to the new, the school enrollment had risen to 165 – a daily reminder that the old church, in spite of its two additions, had become too small for the parish.
Still the parish could hardly afford to build. However, after about ten years of saving and with building costs rising constantly, it was thought best to build before the parish savings should devaluate further – even if only a “shell” of a church could be built.
Bishop Walsh granted his permission to proceed with plans for a church of contemporary style, and for solemn consecration of the church after it should become debt free. Accordingly, the architect was instructed to draw plans meeting liturgical requirements for consecration while also stressing exteriorly and interiorly the place of Sacrifice and the place of Baptism.
It was decided also that our church should be of substantial quality and real beauty even though our budget was rather limited. We considered this as possible with some extra planning, effort, and prayer.
The prayers of the parishioners, especially the children, were enlisted, realizing the truth of God’s word in the psalm, “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it.” These prayers have not ceased yet today, and it is to them and to the goodness of God first of all that we attribute whatever success we have attained till now. Relying upon the same prayer and goodness, we are confident that our building will someday be completed by solemn consecration.
Additional land was acquired for a parking lot beside the new church, having been secured many years earlier.
Original contracts for general construction, lighting, heating, and plumbing were signed for about $128,000 in January 1957. The official groundbreaking ceremony took place March 3. Bishop Walsh laid the cornerstone “To the glory of God in honor of Saint Joseph” on August 21, 1957, while he was assisted by visiting priests including the former pastors Father Gutman and Father O’Neil and by Father James Channell, a former pupil in Saint Joseph School.
After many months of labor and prayer, the first ceremony at the new church took place on Labor Day, 1958. On that day Mass in honor of Saint Jospeh the Worker was celebrated in the old church, then all present marched in procession, and sang hymns to the outdoor Shrine of Saint Joseph at the new church. There workers, tools including farm implements, were blessed; and the bell which had been transferred from the old church, rang officially for the first time. Hymns of thanksgiving were sung in conclusion.
Later that month, September 28, 1958, our great day arrived – the day of the blessing of the new church. Monsignor Habig, who blessed the church in the absence of Bishop Walsh, began the ceremony at the main entrance. He sprinkled the entrance with holy water as the chanters sang. During the chanting, Monsignor Habig with his assisting priests walked around the entire church and sprinkled all the walls on the outside with holy water.
Then he entered the church and went directly to the main altar and blessed it. From the main altar, he proceeded through the church and sprinkled all the walls on the inside. When he arrived back at the main altar, he chanted the final prayer of the blessing.
The church then dedicated to the Glory of God in honor of Saint Joseph, was witness to its first solemn Mass celebrated by the pastor, Father Friedrich, in the presence of Bishop Rozman and was offered together by all the congregation who sang the various parts of the Mass.
Immediately after the Mass, Bishop Gregory Rozmen administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to 93 persons, the largest class in the history of this parish. Then in gratitude to God for His many graces and blessings, the entire congregation sang joyfully the hymn, “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name,” thus concluding the religious ceremonies of our great day.
In 1961 Father Paul J. Dehnke succeeded Father Friedrich as pastor of Saint Joseph.
The 1960’s saw the second Vatican Council with its call for church renewal. During this decade, under the leadership of Father Paul Dehnke, the decrees of the Council were implemented in the parish which seemed to catch the spirit of renewal generated by the Council.
It was also during this decade, under Father Dehnke and later Father Robert Sabatino, that a large portion of the parish debt was paid.
Due to the illness of Father Dehnke, it was necessary for area priests to minister to our parish periodically; namely Father Sargent, Father Rice, Father Robb, and Father Robert Sabatino.
In 1969 Father Robert Sabatino was appointed as pastor. During his pastorate the main altar was moved in the church and, as was stated before, a large portion of the parish debt was paid.
Father Sabatino was succeeded in 1973 by Father Thomas McNally.
*This history was printed in a booklet for the 125th Anniversary of St. Joseph Church, Maximo, Ohio.