A FUTURE FULL OF HOPE THROUGH HISTORY: 1845 – 2009
The city of Tiffin was founded by Josiah Hedges in March, 1822. Catholics then began to settle here and among those immigrants were a number of German families. They formed a part of St. Mary Parish, founded in 1831. In 1845 Cincinnati Diocese Bishop John Purcell gave permission for these German families to organize as a separate congregation under the patronage of St. Joseph. In May, 1845, the parishioners bought two acres of land at the intersection of Melmore and South Washington Streets. By August, 1845, our ancestors built a 40 x 60 foot brick church costing $2500, followed by a school which faced South Washington Street.
Precious Blood Fathers ministered to the needs of our parish until September 1852, when Rev. John Uhlmann was appointed the first resident pastor. Shortly after his arrival, he built a brick residence west of the church. In May, 1855, Father Uhlmann bought two acres outside the southern corporate limits of Tiffin and paid $500 for the land; it is a portion of the present cemetery, which replaced the one originally located where the priests’ garage is now. Fr. Uhlmann was also well-known for his pastoral care to the citizens of Tiffin during the cholera epidemic in 1853. During this period our parish was transferred to the Diocese of Cleveland.
Rev. Joseph Bihn was the pastor from 1856 to 1873. He saw the necessity of both a new church and school. He built the school first, constructed in 1858. This building provided a temporary place for church services. The old church was torn down in the fall of 1860. The new Gothic structured church was consecrated in 1862, measuring 140 x 60 feet, with a spire reaching 180 feet. Fr. Bihn was also instrumental in founding the Citizen’s Hospital and Orphan Asylum (St. Francis Home).
Rev. Charles Evrard was appointed pastor in November, 1873, and his pastorate, known for his success towards the spiritual affairs of the parish, ended on May 11, 1885. The administration of Fr. John Martin Puetz, the first irremovable pastor, opened a new era in the history of the parish. Improvements included both a new brick rectory and school dedicated in 1895. Father was also known for introducing Gregorian chant. Fr. John Peter Puetz succeeded his brother as pastor in May, 1897. During his tenure, the church was electrified in 1901.
Fr. Francis Hultgen was appointed pastor on March 17, 1903, and served for 34 years. Under his leadership church interior renovations were completed, including the installation of new stained glass windows and Stations of the Cross painted by Austrian artist Joseph Vittur. He was also responsible for ministering to the needs of a new parish, Republic St. Aloysius. A weekly envelope system was also begun. A central heating plant serving all parish buildings, a new auditorium (the present old gym) and school addition were begun in 1925 and were dedicated by Toledo Bishop Samuel Stritch on October 24, 1926. The church was destroyed by fire on April 11, 1934, with only the sanctuary and walls remaining. During the period of rebuilding, church services were held in the auditorium. During the administration of Fr. George May (1937-1944), the new church was blessed. Fr. Louis Mayle succeeded Fr. May as pastor, but due to poor health resigned on October 1, 1944.
Msgr. Richard Gabel was appointed pastor on December 20, 1944. During his time here Msgr. Gabel was active in the reorganization of the parish societies and made many improvements to the parish buildings. Msgr. was also a prolific writer, beginning the Sunday Bulletin. He initiated the St. Joseph Credit Union in February 1952 and added the transept chapel (now used for weekday Masses) and Chapel for the Elderly in the mid 1960s. He died on June 16, 1969.
Msgr. Michael Waltz succeeded Msgr. Gabel, but served less than three months when he died. Rev. Joseph Pastorek was appointed pastor from 1970 to 1973. During his tenure a Parish Council was organized. Rev. James Steinle was pastor 1973-1979. Under his leadership the Calvert Educational Foundation was established. Rev. Emery Ignacz’s tenure as pastor was from 1979 to 1982. Rev. Dennis Schroeder (1982-1992) was instrumental in renovating the church sanctuary during 1988 and beginning the St. Joseph School Education Foundation. Rev. James Say (1992-2007) spearheaded the drive for a new Activity Center in the summer of 1997, with the dedication occurring on September 27, 1998, with Bishop James Hoffman presiding.
Fr. Joseph Szybka, our present pastor, has been instrumental in starting the Spiritual Life Committee. This committee planned and executed a Parish Mission, conducted by Fr. William Garrott, O.P. This Mission, which was held the first week of March, 2009, was attended by 500 parishioners and guests.
For almost 165 years the spirit of dedication, volunteerism and sacrifice has been evident in the lives of those who have been a part of St. Joseph Parish. Our parish is people, all bound together with common beliefs and goals. We share a “a future full of hope” toward lasting peace with the Lord of us all. This is really what our faith journey is all about.