1920 to 1947
Fr. Richard Grace, pastor
Woodrow Wilson 1913 - 1921
Warren G. Harding 1921 - 1923
Calvin Coolidge 1923 - 1929
Herbert Hoover 1929 - 1933
Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933 - 1945
Harry S. Truman 1945 - 1953
Benedict XV 1914 - 1922
Pius XI 1922 - 1939
Pius XII 1939 - 1958
Radios became common in homes. Charles Lindberg crossed the Atlantic Ocean alone in 1927. In October 1929, the Stock Market crashed and the Great Depression began. Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941 and the United States entered World War II. Fifty one countries signed the United Nations Charter on June 26, 1945. WWII ended on August 15, 1945.
For much of this time the world was in turmoil and our parish was guided by the steady hand of Fr. Grace. Faith was deeply rooted in God.
Some parishioners’ memories of the early 20s and later are of the children playing games at recess because there was no playground equipment. They had to know the Act of Contrition by heart. Sister Mary Hastings taught 2nd Grade and gave wonderful parties after First Communion.
The sisters made cocoa for the children to have with their brown bag breakfast after First Friday Mass and the weekdays of Lent. The cocoa was 2 cents a cup or a dime a week during Lent. No price breaks for the week here. Opinions about the quality of the cocoa varied greatly. The Communion Fast in those years and for a long time afterwards required that one did not eat or drink anything, including water, from midnight until after Mass when Holy Communion was received.The fast did not begin to be relaxed until the late 1950’s.
Remember faucets being covered at home, especially on First Communion Day?
Mother Benedict was school principal from 1925-29.
Are there any stories to share about Mother Benedict's time?
All parish children had Sunday envelopes and were expected to use them. From their contributions the two side altars were installed in 1925. Mary’s Altar was from the girls and St. Joseph’s was from the boys.
In 1929, the silver jubilee year of the parish, the church debt was paid off. Bishop Michael James Gallagher was the bishop and Msgr. John M. Doyle was the chancellor at that time Fr. Grace sought permission to install a marble altar and to decorate the church on the occasion of the silver jubilee. The permission was granted. Bids were obtained from Pustet, Daprato, McBride, and Conrad Schmidt.
The parish and school continued to grow and in the silver jubilee year Sister M. Euphemia opened the 9th and 10th grades.
Who were in those grades? Any stories to share?
In a letter dated September 9, 1931, Fr. Grace states in a letter to Msgr. Doyle that he was able to secure a marble altar for $7000.00. For the decorations he had a very fine sketch from Mr. Dwornick of Detroit for $6600.00. The full amount was on hand to pay for the decorations. The church committee had meetings and they were most eager to have the work done. They wanted to have it completed for Christmas.
In 1931, the main marble altar and reredos were brought in sections from Italy.
Inset at base of marble altar
Artists from Detroit came during the week for a period of time to work on the murals. They stayed in the homes of parishioners and went back to Detroit on the weekend. One of the homes where the artists stayed was that of George and Anna Engemann, the parents of our parishioners Ruth Yerks and Marjorieann Laux.
Programs and plays were a part of school life. There probably were plenty of proud parents and nervous children as performance time drew near. Spring programs directed by Sr. Leon were held in the basement of the school. Sometimes tickets were in great demand. There were Christmas plays and gifts of hard candy and an orange from Fr. Grace. The Feast of St. Richard, Father Grace’s patron, was another occasion for a program. He then gave the students the rest of the day off. He sat in a rocking chair in the front row during the plays and programs.
What are some of your memories of the plays, programs, Sr. Leon or the other sisters of this time?
It was not just for programs that Fr. Grace appeared in the school or classrooms. He regularly handed out report cards. He not only called the names of the waiting students, but he read aloud all the marks as well!
Mother Theodosia was the school principal 1935-45.
What can you tell us about the ten years Mother Theodosia was principal?
On Sundays the children sat by grades in the side aisles of the church. On weekdays, they lined up by grades and walked to and from the church “in ranks” rain or shine. Sunday Masses were at 7:30 AM & 9:30 AM in the 20s and 30s. By the late 40s, the schedule was 7:00 AM, 8:30 AM, 10:30 AM, and 12 noon.
During Lent there were Sunday and Wednesday devotions and Friday Stations of the Cross.
Other memories are of pew rent and later seat collections. Ice Cream Socials, something about Mrs. Cheslek being selective of choir members, and Michael Cizmadji as the janitor are fondly remembered. Well, maybe not that one about the choir members, if you were one of the aspiring members not selected.
What memories can you add about the choir and/the music?
In 1937, St. Joseph Parish came under the jurisdiction of the Most Reverend Joseph H. Albers, Bishop of the new Diocese of Lansing.
By 1939 the Altar Society had grown to having eleven groups. Happy Hour Club card parties were begun.
What do you know about these groups? Who were the members?
Some people recall the Tuesday afternoon vestment mending with Mary DeYoung that took place during the 1940s.
Sadness came upon the community when on September 14, 1943 Pvt. Richard J. Shane, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Shane of 1009 Garden Street, was killed in action in the North African area. He was the first young man of the parish to give his life in WWII.
Who were other parishioners who served in the military? Who else gave their lives?
After young men returned from war in 1945, Joe Salamun began as choir director and would serve in that role for about 18 years.
In the 20s, 30s and early 40s many of the parishioners lived in the neighborhood and walked to church. Others lived in the Milwood areas south of Miller Street. Washington Square was a prosperous business district.
What were the businesses located in Washington Square? Which ones belonged to parishioners?
Many people remember Fr. Grace as a rigid, authoritarian pastor. He probably demanded no more of his congregation than from himself. It is said that he was very frugal. He saved for a very long time to get a marble altar. However, the bishop found out about his stash and knew of another parish that had a greater need. There went the savings! The people were generous again and the marble altar did become a reality in Fr. Grace’s time.
Fr. Grace was a great student of the Bible. He attained wide recognition as one of the outstanding scholars of the Lansing Diocese. He authored several books on liturgy and a catechism used in many parochial schools. St. Joseph School used the catechism authored by Fr. Grace.
Fr. Richard Grace died April 13, 1955.
In what ways was St. Joseph Parish affected by the major events in the world from 1920-1947?