Welcome To St. Joseph The Worker Roman Catholic Church!

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Welcome to St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church, a Christ-centered community of believers from diverse backgrounds and interests. The parish was established in 1906 to meet the religious needs of several families that had emigrated from Italy and settled in St. Helena, Pender County. These were joined later by families immigrating from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Russia and the Ukraine. In 1952, the current site of the church and cemetery, about a mile south of Burgaw on NC Highway 117, was purchased and the Church was built. The rectory and parish hall were added later. The modestly sized parish is located in a predominantly rural farming region and through its ministries it serves people from Pender, Duplin and New Hanover counties. More detail

The St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church and parish has its origins in the early twentieth century when the Wilmington businessman, Hugh MacRae, sought to turn around a stagnant economy by establishing farming colonies that would be an alternative to tenant-farming and share-cropping. In 1906, several Italian immigrant families, later to be augmented by families from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Russia and the Ukraine, settled in St. Helena in Pender County. Beginning in that year, the St. Joseph Parish was established. Priests from Wilmington ministered to the community and said Mass in the homes of families. In 1908, three brothers, members of the Perseghin family, constructed the original church building in St. Helena with a capacity of about 200 persons. This structure was destroyed by fire in 1934.

In May 1909, Fr. Umberto Donati took up residence in St. Helena as St. Joseph’s first pastor. He was followed in 1911 by Fr. Charles Kneusels whose vision led to the building of a school adjacent to the church in 1920. Fr. Kneusels actually made the bricks and did other work on the structure until his death in 1924. Fr. Kneusels died while on a fundraising trip to New York. The school was completed and formally opened in 1935 by the Franciscan Fathers (O.F.M. Conv.) to provide academic and religious education for the region.

In 1952, the current site of the church and cemetery, about a mile south of the town of Burgaw on U.S. Highway 117, was purchased and the church was built. The rectory and parish educational center (church hall) were added in 1972 and 1974, respectively. In addition to this site, the parish also had mission churches in three other locations; however, only Transfiguration Catholic Church in Wallace (Duplin County) continues as a mission of the parish as it celebrates its centennial. In its first one-hundred years, the parish has been blessed with the service of twenty-one pastors.

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