Located in the center of town, St. Joseph Church in Danville has been a centerpiece in the Montour County community for 150 years.
Its historic bell tower has been a landmark and time keeper for decades, and its interior has witnessed the celebration of the sacraments, welcomed Diocesan bishops, and echoed the prayers of generations of Catholics.
Parishioners marked the church’s milestone during a Mass celebrated by Bishop Ronald Gainer on July 28.
“My first words to you are congratulations on your 150th anniversary. What a wonderful milestone to celebrate together,” Bishop Gainer told the congregation. “Imagine the generosity and the sacrifice freely given by all the departed faithful for you to reach 150 years.”
“We gather as a family of faith, a family of God…. We dedicate churches because this a sacred place where we lift up to God our prayers and he pours down in abundant fashion His grace,” he said.
St. Joseph Parish, with roots dating to the early 1800s, was established in 1845. The flourishing iron industry drew an influx of workers to the town, and the parish’s first church was built that same year. Within two decades, the congregation outgrew it worship site, and the current church was dedicated on July 25, 1869.
The bell in the church steeple dates to 1880. The four-sided clock atop the 90-foot tower served as a timepiece for Danville’s inhabitants, tolling the time for Masses and the start and end of the workday. The parish undertook a fundraiser in 2003 to restore the historic piece, which is operational today.
St. Joseph Church was renovated in 2012. The efforts included new doors, organ, sound system and lighting, as well as the presidential chair in the sanctuary. The refurbishment of the marble, pews and floors and the mural of Christ’s crucifixion lent to a bright and emboldened interior.
In conjunction with the 150th anniversary, St. Joseph Parish created a self-guided tour book for visitors’ education and inspiration of the church and its statues, windows and altar furnishings.
The anniversary celebration is part of an ongoing year, “The Day of the Lord,” at St. Joseph’s, said Father Timothy Marcoe, pastor.
“This year, we are focusing on making The Lord’s Day holy. For the average Catholic in the pew, the experience of The Lord’s Day is attending Mass. However, the day extends from Mass to a time of rest, renewal and service. That’s a challenge, especially today as people see Sunday as another opportunity to get things done,” Father Marcoe said.
The parish, therefore, is hosting various events on Sundays throughout the year to bring families together for renewal and service,” Father Marcoe said, adding, “It is my hope that our individuals and families come together as a parish in particular to celebrate The Lord’s Day.”
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness