||Sisters Diana, left, and Itzel Jimenez, right, joined Marisa Hernandez prior to the March 3 Mass at St. Joseph Church in Madison celebrating the merger of St. Joseph and St. James Parishes into the new Good Shepherd Parish. (Photo by Shine Photografx www.shinephotografx.com)
MADISON -- More than 400 people filled St. Joseph Church, 1905 W. Beltline Hwy., Madison, for the March 3 Mass celebrating the merger of St. Joseph and St. James Parishes into Good Shepherd Parish.
Following the 5:15 p.m. Mass, attendees traveled three miles to St. James Church for a bountiful buffet. The St. James Fellowship Commission prepared the German and Italian buffet food, and Hacemos Pasteles prepared the elegant desserts.
Thirty children led the procession, carrying flags representing the ethnic diversity of the new parish. The four choirs led the singing of “Sing Praise to the Lord/Candad al Senor” in both English and Spanish.
Forty percent of the Good Shepherd parishioners are Latino, with many participating in the weekly “miso en espanol” on Sunday evening.
Joining Bishop Robert C. Morlino at the altar were Msgr. Tom Baxter, Good Shepherd pastor; Fr. Manuel Mendez, parochial vicar; Fr. Greg Ihm, secretary to the Bishop; and Msgr. Delbert Schmelzer, former associate pastor of St. James Parish.
Bringing it all together
Bishop Morlino thanked all who helped to “bring it all together. Don’t take your efforts for granted.” He said, “The situation of two parishes linking together into one tells a story of a certain sadness and hurt.”
He continued, “No one part of this new community should feel a loss. Like marriage, you don’t lose a family member, you gain a new son or daughter.”
Similarly, the new parish is gaining brothers and sisters in Christ. “The new parish has a history and wonderful people that are not lost in the merger. Right now your experience is essential for the good of the Church,” said the bishop.
The bishop acknowledged the division in the Church. He said it is “very hard for two groups to love one another without the charity that Christ demands of us. If love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is alive in the heart of every person, nothing is impossible — we even can overcome deep divisions in the Church.”
Relating his homily to the Gospel of the Transfiguration, the bishop asked, “How is it that we have enough charity to move on? We go looking for the glorious transfigured face of Christ. Anyone who seeks his face will find Him. If we really seek Him, the vision of His face will bring us together.
“Today, let’s realize that the sign is a message of hope for the whole Church. Only if we have unity can the mission of the Church be achieved.”
Process of parish merger
The merger is one of 11 taking place in the Diocese of Madison since the fall of 2007 when Bishop Morlino, along with the Diocesan Planning Committee, organized all Madison diocesan parishes into clusters. Each cluster assessed needs and recommended how to best use the resources of the parishes.
Within a year, following input of parishioners, the merger team from the St. Joseph and St. James Parishes recommended the merger to the bishop. By January of 2009, the bishop selected the name of Good Shepherd Parish from a list of five names that parishioners recommended.
Bill Morehead from St. Joseph and Bonnie Moschkau from St. James co-chaired the merger team which deliberated through 2009 and most of 2010 on how to implement the merger.
Members of both parishes participated in meetings and reviewed studies, including architectural renderings for a new church. The merger team recommended continued use of both the St. James and St. Joseph facilities along with the hiring of a business manager and a full time youth minister/religious education coordinator. The new parish council and the merger committee agreed that the school at St. James will remain an integral part of the new parish.
History of parishes
St. Joseph originally was located within a few blocks of St. James at 20 South Park St. but was forced to relocate when the City of Madison proposed the Triangle Renewal Project in the late 1950s.
Started in 1916 by Italian immigrants living in what was known as “The Bush,” the St. Joseph Church was removed from its location in 1958. In 1961, Bishop William P. O’Connor dedicated the new church at the Beltline Highway location.
On May 20, 1905, St. James Parish was incorporated in response to the needs of Catholics in west Madison. Located two blocks southwest of Regent and Mills Sts. on St. James Court, the parish started a school within a year. Many of the founding members were German.
In 2002, Fr. George Fox, a retired diocesan priest, started a Latino ministry at St. Joseph. Since 2006, Fr. Manuel Mendez has been ministering to St. Joseph’s Latino community, offering not only Mass but retreats and spiritual direction.
The invitation to parishioners to the March 3 celebration said, “This will be a special time to honor where we have come from, the culture and traditions of our Latino community and our St. Joseph and St. James congregations, and to anticipate with joyful praise the formation and growth of our new Good Shepherd Parish.”