Changes at Richmond Parish Point to Past and Future
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
February 16, 2023
RICHMOND—Parishioners at St. Joseph Parish in Richmond are understandably proud of their parish, which will celebrate 125 years of being “St. Joseph Church” in 2024.
They’ve been collecting photos and materials about its history.
“We’ve found everything from a 1930’s postcard of the old church to pictures from the 1960’s of an abandoned lumberyard being burned down to make room for our parking lot,” notes Edward Varga, a longtime parishioner and staff member since 2019. 
The parish was established in 1858 as a satellite parish of St. Patrick Parish in McHenry, housed in a small log church in Richmond. In 1899, parishioners built a new, frame church located just north of town, which was dedicated on Nov. 26 and renamed in honor of St. Joseph.
The parish gained independent status with an official resident pastor in 1925. The 1899 church soon was sold, and an unused Protestant church was purchased and renovated to be St. Joseph’s third church. The present church was built and dedicated on May 30, 1949.
“Using social media, we’re canvassing the community to see if any photographic record of the first church exists,” Varga notes. “We have all of three photos of the second church, but none of the inside … a few of our current parishioners were baptized there.
“Certainly, our box of photos is getting larger, and we’re trying to figure out how to preserve and present them for the future generations.”
Although the anniversary celebration is more than a year away, there already have been improvements made at the church and its campus, with more to come.
When Varga became communications director for St. Joseph Parish, he soon realized the need for a “unified design language” to be used “from the sign out front, to the bulletin, to letters from the parish, to the website, and even social media.” He describes the result:
“Red for St. Joseph, of course. The cross for additionally obvious reasons. Square because favicons are square. Finally, the ‘S’ to the left of the cross forms the abbreviation of Saint, and the ‘J’ for Joseph.” 
A carpenter’s square then was incorporated into the design as a nod to the saint’s livelihood.
“Now anything produced by the parish bears this brand,” Varga says, adding that during the pandemic, “We ended up communicating visually since we were all masked and distanced. Having this new look generated a lot of positive feedback in a time when everything was somewhat frightening and dismal.”
New lighting also brought good results.
“During the pandemic we began opening the church during the day for private prayer,” Varga says. “It did seem a little dark in there however. Leaving all of the lights on seemed a waste so we tried installing footlights on either side of the altar … the reaction was positive but slightly lacking. 
“The final touch was adding a light behind the tabernacle. The light was intimate and not overpowering, and directed the eye to what was most important.”
Additionally, “A parishioner decided the whole church should have that warm feeling and donated soft white bulbs for relamping all of the fixtures,” Varga says. “They also paid for upgrading the ceiling fans, which was a definite plus.
“This seemed to create a domino effect as soon we had collected donations for new statues of Mary and Joseph to replace the 75-year-old ones.”
A project currently in the works will happen outside the church building.
“We’ve had a capital campaign running for a few years now,” Varga explains. “On the north end of our campus are two single family residence buildings that are likely over 100 years old, and both badly in need of repair. The parish owns both and we’ve decided that it is time to give ourselves a little breathing room.
“Everything is very tight on the north side of the church and rectory with the buildings only allowing 20 feet or so of space. On the west, south, and east, we’re hemmed in by roads … By example, the 1960 photo of the school we have shows our kids playing volleyball on Liberty Street. The lack of open space has dogged us for years.”
“The pavilion idea hatched from discussions about what to do with the space when the (two houses) are town down. None of us could imagine (what) having that kind of breathing room could do for us so we wanted to capitalize on having space reserved just for us.”
Varga, a civil engineer, drew up some ideas for the parish building committee to consider. The committee chose a building that “will have room for our maintenance man to store tools and equipment, a garage for the pastor’s use, and an open pavilion for the parishioners to use,” Varga says, adding, “The handicapped parking will be expanded and in the open space that remains (will be) a reflection garden.”
Plans are “to recreate a devotional wall that used to exist on the north side of the church,” Varga says.
“God is great, and in His name we dedicate this anniversary to all of the parishioners who came before us, building the home which we are now the stewards of, preserving and strengthening it for future 
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