One of the earliest writings mentioning Catholicism in Hanover, Pennsylvania, is a letter written by Rev. Charles Merinchx, found in the Bollandist Jesuit Library in Brussels, Belgium, which reads: "May 6, 1806, ... I also attended a neighboring town of about 120 families called Hanover and said Mass for the 7 or 8 Catholic families residing there ..."
An historic entry in the first baptismal record of Saint Joseph Parish, dated November 3, 1863, describes the first step that led to the establishment of the parish. On that day, Father Peter Dompieri, S.J., wrote: "Here begin the names of those baptized from the town of Hanover where at this time the Jesuit fathers from Conewago, in the house of Jacob Hilt, on Wednesday heard confessions, distributed Holy Communion, and instructed the youth in Catholic doctrine."
One year later, in 1864, the parish was established and the Methodist Church on Baltimore Street was purchased. It was used for services as well as a parochial school. When Father John B. Emig, S.J., came to Hanover as the first resident pastor in 1877, he immediately set about the task of building a new church. The result was St. Joseph's church on Baltimore Street, dedicated on November 1, 1880.
Father Emig came to Americain 1812 and was ordained on March 12, 1839 at Frederick. He was replaced as pastor inHanoverby Father J. C. Foin. Fr. Foin studied at Mt. St. Mary's and St. Vincent's Seminary, Latrobe, where he was ordained for the Harrisburg Diocese on May 1, 1878.
Father Foin was succeeded in 1903 by Father James A. Huber. Fr. Huber remained at St. Joseph's for 36 years until his death on January 23, 1940 at the age of 82. Fr. Huber was succeeded in 1940 by Father Edward D. O'Flynn, a native of England. It was under his guidance that three schools were built, one in Waynesboro, one in Littlestown, and one at St. Joseph's. Fr. O'Flynn died onAugust 31, 1948 at 72 years of age, before St. Joseph's school was completed.
The next pastor at St. Joseph's was Father William J. B. Weaver, a native of McSherrystown, Pennsylvania, who was ordained in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Harrisburg, on May 26, 1923. On New Years Day, 1950, Fr. Weaver had the honor of laying the cornerstone of St. Joseph's school. The new school was of the most modern design and cost approximately $260,000. Fr. Weaver's untimely death occurred December 11, 1950 at the age of 54.
Father Charles Park succeeded Fr. Weaver. Fr. Park studied at St. Charles' Seminary, Philadelphiaand at St. Vincent's Seminary, Latrobe. He was ordained on June 10, 1922. It was during Fr. Park's tenure that one of the saddest events in the long history of St. Joseph Parish occurred. The venerable church, which had served the parish for over 80 years, was declared unsafe for public assembly in 1963 and had to be demolished. Services were conducted in the school auditorium, which was converted into a temporary church until the new Saint Joseph Church on Grandview Road was built in 1975. In 1964, Fr. Park became Pastor Emeritus (he died in 1972) and Father Robert C. Gribbin became Pastor of St. Joseph. Fr. Gribbin was already well known in Hanover since he had served as assistant to Frs. O'Flynn and Weaver from April, 1948 until September, 1950. Fr. Gribbin was born in Shamokin,PA in 1923, studied for the priesthood at Mt. St. Mary's College and Seminary and was ordained at the Cathedral in Harrisburg on May 31, 1947.
Under Fr. Gribbin's leadership, the parish debt was retired by 1968, funds were raised, and a magnificent church was erected on Grandview Road and dedicated on September 1, 1975. The parish under Msgr. Gribbin's direction again, managed to clear this debt by 1984. Msgr. Gribbin's next goal was the construction of a parish social center next to the church to accommodate the tremendous growth in parish membership. In 1996, the Monsignor Gribbin Parish Center was completed and dedicated on Labor Day, September 2.
On June 15, 1998, Fr. Joseph F. Gotwalt suceeded Msgr. Gribbin. Fr. Gotwalt is a native son of St. Joseph Parish and was ordained on May 15, 1965. He then offered his first mass at St. Joseph the following day, May 16, 1965. He received his Bachelors degree of Sacred Theology in 1964 from St. Mary's University in Baltimore, and received his Masters degree in education from Loyola College in Baltimore in 1964. Shortly after his appointment as pastor, Fr. Gotwalt led a capital campaign to erect a new parish administrative center and priests' residence. The new building was completed and occupied in December of 2001. During his tenure, Fr. Gotwalt introduced a stewardship way of life, resulting in significant revitalization of the parish; an increase in ministries and volunteers; and greater connectedness among its members. On June 17, 2012, Fr. Gotwalt retired and registered as a member of St. Joseph Parish.
Msgr. James M. Lyons succeeded Fr. Gotwalt on June 18, 2012. A native of Pittsburgh, Msgr. was most recently Pastor of Prince of Peace Parish in Steelton and was the Diocesan Administrator between Bishop Datillo and Bishop Rhoades' tenures. He was the Vicar General of the Diocese under Bishop Datillo.
As of June, 2012, there are more than 2,424 households with 7,819 registered members of St. Joseph Parish, more than 400 students enrolled in St. Joseph Parish SRI program (2011/2012 term) and 194 students educated in St. Joseph Parochial School.
By the grace of God, St. Joseph Parish will continue to grow and flourish.