Development of the Catholic Faith in Berks County
St. Joseph Parish
On Sunday, Oct. 3rd, 1886, at 4 o'clock, the corner-stone was laid for St. Joseph's church at the junction of 8th and 9th streets. His Grace the Most Rev. Archbishop Ryan officiated at cornerstone laying ceremony. The regular sermon was preached by Rev. E. V. Rowan, of St. Jerome's church, Tamaqua. All the Catholic societies of Reading, those of St. Paul's and St. Peter's churches and St. Stanislaus' society were invited to be present at the laving of the corner-stone. The different societies met in their halls at 2:30 o'clock, on Sunday afternoon, and proceeded to St. Peter's church, South 5th street, and at 3 o'clock started a procession to the site of the new church.
The walls were put up so quickly that by June, 1887, the plastering of the interior was nearly complete, and the new stained glass windows, made in Philadelphia, were ready to be installed.
In early September, 1887, St. Joseph's Church was dedicated. Archbishop Ryan officiated at the dedication ceromony.
In early June, 1897, Rev. Father James H. Flannigan, was appointed pastor by Archbishop Ryan. Father Flannigan came to St. Joseph's from the Church of St. Francis, in Philadelphia, where he was assistant. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 31. 1890, in the cathedral at Philadelphia, and came to Reading upon the 7th anniversary of his ordination. This was his first charge, he having been assistant at different churches in Philadelphia, since being ordained.
On Tuesday September 4, 1906, a new parochial school opened with an enrollment of 160 pupils; thus, a long wish of the pastor, Rev. James F. Flanagan, was realized. For some years he has been looking forward anxiously to the time when St. Joseph's congregation would have its own school to educate its several hundred children who, until now, have been compelled to seek an education elsewhere. Father Flanagan had labored earnestly to gain the desired end and in this work he had the cooperation and assistance of his congregation.
The new school, a three-story brick with basement, 60 by 68 feet in dimensions, cost about $22,000, and was designed by Architect W. A. Leh, of South Bethlehem, who designed the school building of St. Mary's Catholic congregation at Twelfth and Spruce.
Not only was it be adapted to school purposes, but it contained quarters for a young men's club as well as a large hall for the holding of meetings, entertainments. etc. Quarters for the club were in the basement. It contained four large rooms. These were nicely furnished and contained billiard and pool tables, shuffle hoards, etc.
The first and second floors were devoted to school purposes. Each floor has four large rooms, joined by spacious halls. A hall, loctaed on the third floor, could accommodate a large number of people. A stage was erected later.
Adjoining the school building and to the front of it, is the convent building. This was the home of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who presided over the school.
The convent was formerly the residence of Dr. M. LeRoy Wenger. Sr., and was purchased from him for $8,000. It is a two-story building and needed little renovation to suit it to the requirements of a convent.