St. Joseph’s Parish has been a Catholic mainstay in the Yorkville neighborhood since 1873, when it was founded by Jesuits from what was then St Laurence O’Toole Church (now St. Ignatius Loyola) to minister to the German speakers who at the time made up the largest segment of the Yorkville population. Although St. Joseph’s is still the German national parish of the Archdiocese of New York, and there is a month German Mass, the German presence in the neighborhood is smaller than it once was and has yielded to one of the most ethnically and economically diverse demographics in Manhattan.
Our congregation numbers approximately 700 weekend participants, and they come from the brownstones and walk-ups on the nearby side streets, from the apartment buildings overlooking Carl Schurz Park and the East River, from the public housing north of 92nd Street, and from the high-rises scattered throughout this part of the Upper East Side.
The present St. Joseph’s Church was built in 1894-95 and is an impressive example of Romanesque Revival architecture. Its interior is characterized by an inviting simplicity and prayerfulness, with the beautiful stained-glass windows lending color and variation. Of special interest is the fact that the church’s original organ, built by Muller & Abel in 1895, is still in place an in excellent condition.
St. Joseph’s School, which was founded in 1880, is a vibrant part of the parish and is considered one of the two or three finest parochial elementary schools in the Archdiocese of New York. It currently caters to nearly 350 children.
Photos of St. Joseph’s Church by Kent G. Becker.
History of St. Joseph’s
Although St. Joseph’s Parish was founded in 1873, its origins go back more than a decade before that – to the time when the German-speaking Catholic immigrants who were clustered in Yorkville worshipped in the chapel of the now defunct St. Joseph’s Orphanage, located on Avenue A (as York Avenue was then called) and 89th Street.
The large German Catholic population had no church of its own until, in 1873, a delegation from Yorkville approached the Jesuits of St. Lawrence O’Toole Church (now St. Ignatius Loyola), the first church on the Upper East Side, and asked for a German-speaking priest to provide for them.