By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
COMMERCE — It took a few attempts to get the paper to light but that didn’t diminish the jubilation on May 7 as parishioners at St. Joseph Catholic Church came together to celebrate a major milestone for their parish.
“We are small, but mighty,” said Father Marcus Chidozie, pastor, who led a ceremony after the celebration of Mass when the Commerce parishioners burned the church’s mortgage note in celebration of having paid off all the debt. “What this parish, this community, has accomplished is truly amazing.”
Rich Lawrence, a former member of the parish council who once led its finance committee, agreed.
“We’re not a very big community, but we’ve had a lot of good people do a lot of good things to make this happen today,” Lawrence said. “We now have the church, we have the parish hall, we have a rectory, and we have a learning center for faith formation. We’ve accomplished a lot, and to have this day when we are paying it all off is wonderful.”
Longtime parishioner Carey Roberts said the parish community is what makes St. Joseph a special place.
“We are a very diverse community,” she said. “We all just come together and work together to get things done.”
The parish celebrates just one Mass on Sundays, which Roberts credits for helping create a sense of unity in the community.
“Everyone knows everyone else. You see everyone every Sunday,” she said. “It helps bring us all together and keep us together.”
The Commerce parish was first established in 1895 as St. Peter Catholic Church before being renamed St. Jospeh Catholic Church — in honor of the patron saint of the late Bishop Joseph P. Lynch — with construction of a new church in 1955. In 1996, Father Stanley Corcoran was assigned as pastor of the parish and began the push for a new sanctuary. In 2003, Father George P. Monaghan became pastor and would oversee the building of the current sanctuary, which was dedicated by Bishop Kevin J. Farrell in October 2008. The old church building was converted into a fellowship hall and connected to the sanctuary by an arched breezeway.
Denise Morgan, who chairs St. Joseph’s finance committee, said that at that time the parish secured a $400,000 mortgage to build the church and finance other renovations.
“To pay that all off and to do so a year early, it’s quite an accomplishment,” said Morgan, who serves as superintendent of public schools in the neighboring community of Campbell. “I think that is probably the most exciting aspect — this parish was able to fund a new church that housed the parish even through the COVID crisis when people weren’t coming and across the nation finances were tough for churches. As a small community, to know that we can say, ‘We did it!’ — that’s just really exciting.
Morgan added that the parish is excited to know that it can continue offering things for the next generation of Catholic growing up in Commerce.
“This community and this church aren’t going to go anywhere,” she said. “Our children will always have a place to go and, as adults, we can be proud of that fact.”