Bishop Celebrates Mass Honoring 150th Anniversary of the Diocese of St. Joseph

Bishop Johnston celebrated a Mass honoring the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Saint Joseph on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph on March 19. The Diocese of Saint Joseph and the Diocese of Kansas City were combined in 1956. (Photo courtesy Sara Kraft)

By Sara Kraft

“We are here to look back and give thanks,” explained Bishop Johnston on the occasion of celebrating the sesquicentennial (150 years) of the founding of the Diocese of St. Joseph. Fittingly, the Mass was held on the Solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19 at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph.

“We are all a bit of a length in a chain,” said Bishop Johnston. “We only have the faith because someone passed on the faith to us. As we give thanks to God for the Church here, we are reminded of our duty to the next generation to pass on the faith, which is the most precious gift of all.”

“We stand on the foundation of that diocese. It was the original diocese that led to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. It was founded, of course, after the diocese of St. Louis. We enjoy the fruit of a lot of the labor that went into the founding, especially the spiritual founding,” Bishop Johnston said.

He recalled that the City of Saint Joseph was founded by French trader Joseph Robidoux in 1843. Several plans were proposed for the new town. One plan wanted to name the town after Robidoux, but he decided to name it after his patron saint, Saint Joseph. “The French are good about naming things to remind them of the faith,” explained Bishop Johnston. “Even though Joseph Robidoux had his failings, he still had faith.”

The first Catholic Church in the city was established in 1845. In 1868, Father John Hogan was named the first bishop of the newly formed Diocese of St. Joseph at the age of 39. Twelve years later in 1880, the Diocese of Kansas City was formed and Bishop Hogan became the first Bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City.

“I am successor to Bishop Hogan in both the Diocese of St. Joseph and the Diocese of Kansas City,” explained Bishop Johnston. Bishop Johnston pointed out that the establishment of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is unique in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. When the two dioceses were combined in 1956, neither one was suppressed (or became a historical diocese). While there are many other hyphenated dioceses, this is the only one in the United States that was brought together.

Bishop Johnston explained the importance of Saint Joseph within the Catholic Church.

“Saint Joseph is not only important for us in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, he also looms large in the Universal Church,” he said. Just as Saint Joseph was the earthly head and protector of the Holy Family, he has also been deemed the patron and protector of God’s Family on earth, the Catholic Church, the bishop explained.

Saint Joseph’s attentiveness, obedience and chastity are three qualities that have particular relevance for our time.

Additionally, Saint Joseph acted on God’s word in obedience. He not only heard, but also acted. His courage after the birth of Jesus shielded Jesus and Mary from the evil plots of those seeking to destroy Jesus. “Obedience is a virtue that has always been challenging, but even more so today. Submitting one’s will to something or someone greater requires humility,” stated Bishop Johnston.

Finally, Bishop Johnston reminded that Saint Joseph is a model of chastity. His manly purity is typically symbolized by a lily in his hand. One of the most unusual parts of Saint Joseph’s vocation is to be called to be husband and serve in the role of father but yet to live out that life in celibate chastity.

Participants were moved by the combination of Saint Joseph’s solemnity and celebrating the sesquicentennial of the Diocese of St. Joseph.
“It was touching to see Bishop Johnston here on the feast of Saint Joseph. To realize the struggle of the people who built the Cathedral and all the people who have come before us. It’s just beautiful to be here today,” Brian Gordon said.

“As a father and having a family, there’s no better saint than Saint Joseph to provide an example of what we are called to do as fathers,” said Ben Richey.

Following the sesquicentennial Mass, Bishop Johnston and attendees were invited to Cathedral’s annual Saint Table, which was established in the late 1920s. The funds raised from the Saint Joseph Table and spaghetti dinner benefit the Cathedral Food Pantry, which serves five to six hundred families a month.

“As we celebrate his feast, and we look toward Easter, let us do so having learned some foundational virtues for the Christian life from dear Saint Joseph,” challenged Bishop Johnston. “Saint Joseph, pray for us!”

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Sunday
July 22, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph