From farm to freeway, Rosemount parish celebrates 150 years

| August 17, 2018 | 0 Comments

Parishioners of St. Joseph and Rosemount participate in Mass at the parish’s third church in early years after its construction in 1924. The Rosemount parish has been celebrating 150 years this year. Courtesy St. Joseph, Rosemount

Dick Brand, 86, believes his farm family is one of the last of its kind at St. Joseph in Rosemount, a sprawling suburban parish that began as a mission in a farming community 150 years ago.

“It’s completely different. It was all farm families,” lifelong parishioner Brand said of his younger years. “Sunday Mass was not only an obligation. … We did look forward to church.”

He recalls fellow farmers “talking about their crops and what they did the past week [and] if we’re going to get rain” after Mass. “It was a social,” he said.

St. Joseph has grown from a mission parish in 1865 to a suburban parish with more than 2,000 households. In that time, five other parishes have grown out of St. Joseph: All Saints in Lakeville in 1877; Mary, Mother of the Church in Burnsville in 1965; Risen Savior in Burnsville in 1970; St. John Neumann in Eagan in 1977; and St. Thomas Beckett in Eagan in 1990.

John Loch, a St. Joseph historian, said the new parishes “split the congregation and parish families by at least a third, if not more, and then this last time, [with St. Thomas Beckett] it came down that we’re not splitting again.”

Parishioners of St. Joseph in Rosemount gather pastor Father Laurence Cosgrove in the front of the parish’s second church in 1911 following the dedication of stations of the cross. Courtesy St. Joseph, Rosemount

Loch and a host of parish volunteers have been helping St. Joseph celebrate its anniversary over the past year through artwork, archives and activities. Observances began last fall with tours of its two cemeteries to learn more about past parishioners, followed by a 40-part series of bulletin articles exploring parish history. St. Joseph’s biggest celebration will be Sept. 14-16 with its Harvest Festival.

The Harvest Festival itself has a throwback feel, parish staff members said. The parish had a harvest festival for many years, but the celebration was reestablished last year after a long hiatus. In lieu of the Harvest Festival, St. Joseph hosted a big annual fall dinner.

As part of its sesquicentennial, St. Joseph’s historical committee produced a DVD with interviews of longtime parishioners and a book about the parish. The committee also put together a timeline of the history that will be displayed. St. Joseph Catholic School students and staff worked together last school year on a mosaic that will commemorate the parish history.

St. Joseph’s principal, Kelly Roche, has roots in the parish going back six generations. She said her great-grandfather helped in the construction of its 1924 church, both she and her mother attended the school, and her grandmother will be in one of the parish history DVD interviews. Roche previously taught second grade at the school, and her children now attend.

“I knew everybody, and I felt like I could hand my baby off,” Roche recalled about her time as a new mother in the parish. “And I still feel that [sense of community] every time I come to Mass.”

Newer and longer-term parishioners alike describe a strong sense of community in the parish, even as the size has grown.

“Each year, we have a ministry fair, and it’s amazing just how many things are going on here,” said Randy Haney, St. Joseph’s parish director.

Members of six commissions work with the parish council and pastor, Father Paul Kammen, to oversee the many facets of parish life. Parish council member Dave Berg said commissions “are a structure where you’re getting a lot of input from a large group of parishioners.”

The city of Rosemount began with Irish settlers who arrived to farm in the 1850s. German immigrants followed, but the city most visibly identifies with its Irish heritage, with Irish pubs and banners on the light poles along its main street. The high school has an Irish mascot, and the community celebrates Leprechaun Days annually.

St. Joseph parishioners gathered for a parish-wide picture in 2014 at the parish’s current church. Courtesy St. Joseph, Rosemount

Constructed in 2003, the current church is the parish’s fourth. When the parish incorporated in 1865, its first church stood near the intersection of present-day Pilot Knob Road and Dodd Boulevard in Lakeville. It was destroyed by a tornado in 1881. One of the parish’s two cemeteries remains there. The parish build a second church slightly north of the first, and it remained its home until the 1920s.

In 1924, the parish built a third church and used it until 2003. A school followed in 1953; it was run by the Sisters from the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes until 1985.

The church remains a major fixture on the north end of Rosemount’s main street, Highway 3. When the parish outgrew the space, it sold the former church to the city, which now uses it as a community arts center, known as the Steeple Center, a nod to its impressive steeple towering over its doorway.

Prior to the explosion in Rosemount-area development in the 2000s and 2010s, the parish purchased 29 acres of land along Biscayne Avenue and constructed a new church, where the parish moved in 2003. St. Joseph’s school remained at the Highway 3 location until the 2009 completion of a new school building adjacent to the church.

As part of the parish’s anniversary efforts, volunteers are working on getting an electronic sign for the north end of Biscayne Avenue to promote the parish and school. The parish is also planning to launch a capital campaign.

“We in administration have been working with the parish life folks and the 150th committee for a year-and-a-half to put things in place to make the anniversary have as high an impact as possible,” said John Peterson, a parishioner who serves on the administrative committee.

Haney believes the present parish and school campus will serve both long into the future, perhaps another 150 years. He credits the parishioners who purchased and planned the current church site.

“They were visionaries, in my mind,” he said.

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