St. Joseph’s parish is a slice of Kingston’s rich history.
The church building dates back to 1832, and the parish just completed its 150-year celebration with a Mass offered by Cardinal Dolan Nov. 17.
“I think St. Joseph Church is a cornerstone of…the Catholic religion in Ulster County,” said 82-year-old Philip Sinagra, a parishioner since 1964. “We have an older population, and people are willing to step up.
“I love it there. I spend a lot of time working at the church, and I enjoy every minute of it.”
Kingston served as the first capital of New York state and was burned by the British during the American Revolution. George Clinton, the first governor of New York and later vice president for Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, is buried in the cemetery at the current Old Dutch Church, or the First Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, located a few hundred feet from St. Joseph.
St. Joseph Church was originally constructed in 1832 as the home of the Old Dutch Church, which was founded in Kingston in 1659. The building was used as an armory before and during the Civil War before it was purchased to be the home of St. Joseph’s parish. Father James Dougherty was named first pastor in 1868, and the church was formally dedicated the next year.
“Some of the beautiful things have been preserved very well. It’s a goal to preserve as much as we can,” said Sinagra, who is a parish trustee and president of the parish council.
Some 820 people attend weekend Masses at St. Joseph, 200 children are enrolled in the religious education program, and three CYO basketball teams are playing this season.
The parish has gone through some changes in the past 18 months. In 2017, the archdiocese closed St. Joseph School, which dated back to 1863 and has two buildings located near the church. Kingston Catholic School now uses one building for its students in grades five through eight, and the second building serves as the home to St. Joseph’s religious education program, coordinated by Joan Corton.
In August, Msgr. Desmond O’Connor became the pastor of St. Joseph’s after serving as pastor of St. Kateri Tekakwitha in LaGrangeville. Msgr. O’Connor is hoping to spur increased involvement in current ministries, and to establish others, such as a teen group, in the coming months. A parish picnic is being organized for the spring.
“There is a lot of optimism here that things will happen,” Msgr. O’Connor said. “I would like us to have more social things as a parish, bring together people and increase their enthusiasm to do things in the parish. We want to build a community within the parish.”
Msgr. O’Connor is assisted by Father Cyprien Emile and Deacon Joe Doherty. The parish celebrates weekend Masses on Saturday at 5 p.m., and on Sunday at 7 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Beginning in January, Masses will be offered Saturday at 5 p.m., and Sunday at 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
“I find Msgr. O’Connor is a breath of fresh air,” said Anna Brett, a parishioner of St. Joseph’s for 45 years. “He’s always thinking of what he can do next. He’s very bright and articulate. He gets along well with everyone.
“I like the fact he’s looking forward all the time to make the parish better. He’s begun some projects and I appreciate that. I look forward to working with him on projects.”
Ms. Brett, 67, moved to Kingston in 1973 to begin her career as a teacher and principal in the Kingston City School District. She’s served as secretary of the parish council and as a parish trustee, and has been an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and a lector for about 20 years.
“I grew up on Long Island and was always very much a church going person. When I received my job as a teacher and came to Kingston, I was looking for a parish that was warm, welcoming and kind to parishioners,” Ms. Brett said.
“We continue to attend because it’s still very welcoming and warm. The parish welcomes all people. Our doors are always open to anyone whether you’re Catholic or not.”