St. Joseph's Parish History

This information was gathered from various sources, notes and registers, prior to 1977, from Mr. Clayton Brown, town Historian of Greenfield, and from some of the older members of the parish whose membership dates back to the early days.

Before 1927 the spiritual needs of the growing number of Catholic people in the town of Greenfield were served by the priests from St. Peter's Parish in Saratoga Springs. Father Patrick Scully was Pastor. Sunday masses were celebrated in various homes in the area, and frequently in the home of Mr. Joseph Stetina on what is now Bockes Road, the first little house on the left off Route 9N, and the big white house across the road. The congregation was made up largely of the old families whose names still abound in the town.

A summer resident, Mr. Robert McMullen, who lived in what later became the Dake house, now the Peacock house, on South Greenfield Road, donated a plot of land on Route 9N as the site for a Catholic church for the community. He also contributed generously toward the construction of the building.

In October, 1927, Father Scully presided at the ground-breaking for the new church. Anthony Hayes provided the horses that were used for clearing the ground and excavating the cellar. The late Paul Grisek was the chief carpenter on the project, assisted by many volunteer workers who did the foundation work, brought the prefabricated wall sections from the depot with their farm teams and wagons, and worked on the actual erection of the new building.

On Christmas Day, 1927, the first mass was celebrated in the new church by Father Scully.

From 1927 until 1940 St. Joseph's remained a mission of St. Peter's in Saratoga. The altar boys came up with the priests from Saratoga Springs, Bernie Collins and Joe Manilla among them. The first Greenfield altar boys were Raymond Sherrill and Martin Hike. Joe Stetina and Anthony Hayes were the first ushers, and Mrs. Victor Hainault was the first organist. On September 16, 1940 St. Joseph's was established as a separate parish, and Father William B. Connell became the first resident Pastor. The rectory on the south side of the little church, and the parking lot and ball field were purchased from Mr. Windsor Cote. Father Michael Scully followed Father Connell as Pastor for a short time, and then in 1944 Father John McNamara arrived. The parish blossomed during his tenure, with many improvements to the church such as the colored glass windows. During his six years and the next six years under Father Gregory Connelly, the turkey suppers served in the Grange Hall by the ladies of the parish became well known through the area. During this time the heating system was improved, and the sacristy was added to the little church. Anthony Hayes brought the pews and the bell down from the church that no longer needed them in Fort Ann. The sanctuary was done over with beautiful woodwork by George Hodges and with statuary that had been removed from St. Peter's in Saratoga. Father John W. Keefe served as Pastor for the next six years augmenting and solidifying the work that had been so well begun.

In September, 1963, Monsignor Vincent Gorski was appointed Pastor. He had served with valor as a Chaplain in the U.S. Navy for many years, and during his pastorage at St. Joseph's, he celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination. It was an event that will long be remembered by the parishioners who organized and worked so diligently. It was attended by over five hundred well-wishers, both clergy and laity. During the Monsignor’s pastorage a great push was given to the building fund, an effort that was sincerely appreciated by succeeding pastors. The Monsignor retired on September 1, 1970, and was called to his eternal reward a little more than a year later.

Father Peter Malin was appointed in September, 1970, to succeed Monsignor Gorski. A graduate of the Collegium Pontificale with a Licentiate in Theology, Father Malin had previously been pastor of St. Vincent de Paul parish in Cobleskill, New York. On August 1, 1974, Father Lawrence Frank was appointed to the pastorage to take the place of Father Malin who requested relief from pastoral duties for reasons of health.

Mr. Anthony Hayes and the late Mr. Joseph Pasek had been the first Trustees when the parish became independent in 1940. Mr. Hayes still served as of 1977. Following the death of Mr. Pasek in 1962, Mr. Alex Torda was appointed by the Pastor, Father Keefe.

The Redemptorist Fathers from St. Clement's in Saratoga have for many years been associated with St. Joseph’s by assisting the pastors with the Sunday masses both at St. Joseph's and at St. Paul's in Rock City Falls, a one hundred year old parish which became a mission of St. Joseph's in 1949, during the Pastorage of Father McNamara.

The Sisters of St. Joseph were also associated with the parish for many years; journeying from Saratoga on Sunday mornings to instruct the youngsters in the basics of the Faith following the early mass. The need for additional space for worship, and for educational and social purposes, had long been realized. The building fund had been growing gradually for decades. In January, 1975, it was decided that the time was ripe for expansion; the need was urgent, and building costs would continue to rise. It would never by any cheaper to build. The Architecture and Building Commission of the Albany Diocese was consulted, and its recommendations were followed faultlessly. A Parish Council had first to be established.  Mr. Bill Shay agreed to serve as chairman for the steering committee to work on the setting up of the Council. Elections were held, and the first council meeting was early in May.  A Building Committee was next inaugurated, and after many interviews, the architectural firm of Crozier Philippi Associates was engaged to perform the mandated Feasibility Study.

During the late Summer and Fall of 1975 a survey of parish needs and options was conducted, including a questionnaire to solicit the desires and opinions of the parishioners. It was decided that the best way to go was to renovate and enlarge the little church, with a large parish hall for educational and social needs attached. The firm that did the survey work was engaged to design and supervise the construction. Planning took many meetings with Council, Building Committee and Architects, and many months. Drawings and specifications were prepared, and the bids went out during August 1976. P. J. Kenneally Company of Albany was the lowest qualified bidder. Ground was broken shortly after Labor Day.

Mr. Joseph Jarvis, a parishioner and a member of the Building Committee, was foreman for the Kenneally firm for the construction project.

Through a combination of happy events, and through the intercession of St. Joseph our Patron, the project was enhanced tremendously by items that we were able to obtain from the Little Sisters of the Poor. They had just completed their new home in Latham and were dismantling the chapels in the old homes in Troy and Albany. It is through their graciousness that we have the beautiful stained glass windows, and the pews, plus many other furnishings which add greatly to the beauty and simplicity of the completed church. At the same time other furnishings which fit in beautifully were gratefully received from St. Peter's in Saratoga Springs, statuary and stations which had been in the chapel of the Sister's Convent.

The old organ in the church wheezed its last just before Christmas, 1976. Through the generosity of Mr. James Fitzsimmons of Lake Desolation, a new organ was installed in honor of his parents. For six weeks in the Spring, mass was celebrated in the nearly completed hall while the renovations were being completed in the church itself. The first mass was celebrated in the renovated church in mid-April. A plaque is permanently displayed in the hall to recognize those whose sacrifices and donations to the Building Fun made the construction project possible.

Father F. William Whalen succeeded Father Frank in August of 1982 and served until November 1994. Father John J. Weyand relieved Father Whalen and served until July 2002.

When priests were no longer available, Parish Life Directors assumed pastoral leadership duties at our parish. This began in the Summer of 2002. Sr. Dianne Schoff CSJ was the first assigned Parish Life Director, serving until December 2006. Succeeding Sr. Dianne was Deacon Gary R. Picher, who serves at the present time.

Meanwhile, with the onset of non-priest pastoral leaders came the need for visiting priests to celebrate our masses on weekends and to hear confessions. To date, our parish has hosted approximately 50 different visiting priests on weekends since 2002.


Despite the changes, however, the mission of Jesus continues as together, we live out our Baptismal calling through our parish mission statement:

To Serve God and to Welcome All People to God's Love!