OXFORD – Spring, the season of life and rebirth is here. It is also the Easter season, brought to life each year to honor the death and resurrection of Jesus.
For Christians, Easter is the rebirth of hope for the salvation of mankind.
At St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Oxford, N.Y. a parish in the Diocese of Syracuse, this year’s Easter celebration also nearly coincided with the 175th anniversary of the birth of St. Joseph’s parish and church.
The Mass for the anniversary of the establishment of St. Joseph's is at 1 p.m. on April 30, celebrated by Bishop Lucia, Monsignor Putano, and the present pastor, Fr. Paul Machira.
Along with the Bishop, many past resident and visiting priests and deacons who were assigned to St. Joseph’s are invited to attend. Reservations for a buffet dinner and dessert at Fred’s Inn in Norwich following Mass can be made by calling the Parish office at (607) 843-7021. The invitation is for any who would like to celebrate the anniversary, reunite, and share memories with each other.
Part of the celebration is a display designed and created by a parish team which includes parishioners Albert Denz and his daughter and son-in-law, Amy and Lance Thorne, Cathy Rood, our parish historian. Also, much of the research was uncovered by Gerard Lademan, a news researcher, and Debra Ivarson, a retired librarian, both of whom researched photos and articles related to Oxford, St. Joseph’s R.C. Church , and priests who resided and were assigned to or came from our parish.
One such priest was a Fr. O’Connor, who was raised in Oxford and became a Jesuit priest. He served in WW II and after the war was assigned to be chaplain for Nazi war crime prisoners during the Nuremberg trials. The latest vocation from St. Joseph’s was of Fr. Thomas MacNamara, who was, for many years, the Agriculture teacher at Oxford High School before joining the seminary and becoming a Caputian priest.
Finally, the canvass for the historical display of articles and photos was created by a local talented artist, Ryan Warner, of Oxford, NY. It depicts the “road” that illustrates the past to present events and people who touched the lives of those who walked the “journey home” which is, in this case, St. Joseph’s. The artistic display is open for public viewing at St. Joseph’s Parish Hall during office hours and after Mass every week until Pentecost Sunday at the end of May. Visitors are encouraged to sign the guest book for posterity.
St. Joseph’s Catholic Church is the oldest functioning church in Chenango County and is historically important as residents past and present seek a place for communion and worship. In 1826, the first Catholic residents, the Flanagan family of Smithville Flats (the Flats), hosted visiting priests who, arriving on horse and buggy, celebrated Mass in the Flanagan’s homes in “the Flats” and later, at the Flanagan home on Greene Street in the Village of Oxford. The parish of St. Joseph’s was officially established in 1848. Once the church, cemetery, and parish were established, it has remained a thriving place of worship and also an active part of the community of Oxford, Norwich, and the surrounding areas of Chenango County. To this day, St. Joseph’s involves itself in the community of Oxford as it offers a monthly fish dinner (take-outs still due to the pandemic), donates to the food pantry, participates in activities with other Christian churches in Oxford, and has hosted Community Thanksgiving dinners for anyone who is alone or in need of a good Thanksgiving meal and good company. It has hosted meals for farmers to celebrate with each other, hosts card making groups, Irish dance groups, pot luck dinners, facilitates Protecting God’s Children programs, provides religious instruction to youth and adults, runs Bible Study groups, coffee hours after Mass and welcomes Oxford ladies’ social groups, and hosts many other activities. As the pandemic subsides, it hopes to resume hosting sit-down dinners again.
St. Joseph would like to thank all parishioners, Oxford community members, and the Diocese of Albany and Syracuse for helping to keep this parish active and alive from 1828 to the present. Many hands make great works and St. Joseph’s is a testament of that. Happy 175th Anniversary, St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Oxford, NY.
A few of the historical highlights are described below.
1826 – First Masses in the area; held in homes in Smithville Flats (the Flats); visiting priests were Fr. McCloskey, Fr. Quarter, and Fr. Buckham.
1834 – First recorded baptism in area celebrated by Rev. F.J. O’Reilly from Pennsylvania.
1842 – Earliest masses celebrated in Oxford with six attending families in the James Moore log cabin six miles west of Oxford.
1848 Fr. James Hourigan celebrated the first mass for the new St. Joseph's Parish at the home of James Flanagan with eight attending families (of a total of 13 families: five from the 'Flats', three from Preston, four from Norwich, and the Flanagans in Oxford).
1849 Oxford Lot #15 was purchased from Ethan & James Clarke for $1.00 by Rt. Rev. John McCloskey, Bishop of Albany. The church building was begun under the leadership of Fr. James Hourigan; completed in 1851. The first marriage was held and recorded before the roof was completed.
1855 Cemetery land was purchased from C. Locke through the efforts of Fr. Callan. Burials in Riverside Cemetery were discontinued. The cemetery was enlarged witb the purchase of additional parcels in 1900 and in 1962.
1857-1889 St. Joseph's was a mission of Norwich.
1870 The church was enlarged, two front doors and a rose window were added. Stained glass windows replaced plain glass. Pews and a small white altar adorned with four silver candlesticks were included. The main part of the church was beated by two large stoves and the vestry by one smaller box stove.
1875-1882 Rev. James Harrigan purchased an organ and a choir was organized.
1886 St. Joseph's became part of the Syracuse Diocese formed from the Albany Diocese.
1889-1903 Rev. George C. Mahon was appointed to St. Joseph's as the first resident priest.
1889 One main door replaced the two front entry doors. The altar was moved to the vestry space and an additional room was added for the vestry. An altar to the Blessed Motber was designed and constructed by Oxford resident Isaac Sherwood. Old oil lamps were replaced by electric lights. Certificate of Incorporation Sept. 3 1889
1890 The Theodore Burr House on Fort Hill was purchased for use as a rectory for Fr. Mahon on April 10, 1890 from the Cannon family for $2,800.
1899 Property at 3 Scott Street was purchased across from the church and became the current Rectory. Purchase price $2,000; Dec12, 1899 Lot #17 purchased from William & Emma Hamilton.
– St. Joseph’s Catholic Church