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City of Syracuse

Submitted by Elizabeth Batcharie Kaufmann, 1999

St. Joseph’s (German) Church         1882 -1962

St. Joseph’s (German) Church was located in the 500 block of Seymour Street in Syracuse, NY.  The congregation  began as a group of German speaking immigrants on the west side of the city.  There were no parish boundary lines.

The parish began in the early 1880’s when several German families on the west side of Syracuse organized their efforts to begin a parish of their own.  Prior to this time, they had to make a long walk each Sunday to Assumption Church on the city’s north side, where the Masses were said in the German language.  My great grandparents, Theodore Bernhardt and his wife Beata Strahl Bernhardt had lived in the German area of the north side for several years before purchasing a dry goods store and butcher shop on the west side at the corner of Oneida Street and Seneca Street.  They were among the original parishioners of  St. Joseph’s (German) Church.

Petitions for the new parish were sent to Rt. Rev. Francis McNierney, Bishop of the Albany, NY Diocese.  At that time Syracuse was in his jurisdiction.  Bishop McNierney received sanction of the Franciscan Fathers of the Assumption Church and gave his permission.  The parish had its very beginnings.

The first pastor was The Rev. Joseph Pickel.  Masses were celebrated on the second floor of a blacksmith shop at 505 Oswego Street.  The charter members started a fund drive to purchase the sight for the church on the north side of Seymour Street between South Geddes Street and Oswego Street.  The price of the property was $2700.

Construction of the church building was begun in 1881 and on May 8th the cornerstone
was laid.  Bishop McNierney blessed the church and dedicated it to St. Joseph, using the first name of its first pastor.  As work continued on the church, the tiny parish was faced with financial difficulties.  To assure the construction would continue, the parishioners bonded their homes as security for a bank loan to meet the need for more money.

Soon after the church building was completed in 1883, a school was formed with classes taking place in the church basement.  In 1885, the school building was constructed just west of the church, between the church and the rectory.  It was a two-story wood building with two classrooms on each floor.  Each classroom served two grades.  The teaching sisters lived in a small convent behind the school.  Classes were taught in German in the morning and in English in the afternoon.

Father Pickel, who was also able to speak Polish, held services at St. Joseph’s for several years for a large number of Polish speaking residents.  After completion of the Sacred Heart Church on Park Avenue, the Polish families left the parish.  The transfer of Father Pickel in 1891, brought Rev. Aloys Heller, who served the parish briefly.  Next, came Rev. Stephen Priesser, who had studied for the priesthood in Germany.  Father Priesser performed the wedding ceremonies of my grandparents.  My mother’s parents, Elizabeth Haas and Joseph Kallfelz, were married at St. Joseph’s on February 23, 1892.  My father’s parents, Kathryn Bernhardt and Charles Batcharie , were married at St. Joseph’s on April 21, 1897.  My mother, Margaret Kallfelz was born September 25, 1907.  She and my father, Carl Batcharie, who was born August 27, 1906, were both baptized at St. Joseph’s (German) Church by Father Priesser.  Father Priesser was later assisted by Rev. Michael Steines.  After the death of Father Priesser on August 20, 1917,  Father Steines was pastor for a while, serving in that capacity when my mother was graduated from eighth grade at St. Joseph’s School on June 26, 1921.  Father Ullrich became pastor in 1923.  He was newly ordained when he came to the parish and was pastor at the time the church celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1931.  Father Paul Hemmer was the next pastor, followed by Father Norbert Lutz who came to the parish in 1944.  Father Lutz died in 1961.

For eighty years the little red, brick church served proudly.  The original families descended to many more parishioners.  Changes came to the surrounding area.  The neighborhood was no longer predominantly  German.  Many families moved to the suburbs.  The Masses were now said in Latin with the sermons in English.  No longer the jewel of the German community, the building began to slip into disrepair and became unsafe.  The cost of renovating the parish properties and the ultimate financial burden to the small parish forced the church to consider closing.

Rev. Aloysius V. Jankowski made the announcement of the decision to close the church and discontinue the parish, in accordance with a letter received from Pope John XIII, June 23 1962.  The school had graduated its last class that year.  The school and convent were demolished in August of 1962.  The church was officially closed after the 10:00AM Mass on October 28, 1962.  All church and rectory furnishings, etc. were sold to other churches in the diocese.  Records were transferred to St. Lucy’s Church on Gifford Street.

Elizabeth Batcharie Kaufmann
213 Dutchmill Drive
Flushing, MI  48433

Submitted by Kathy Crowell

Source:  Dwight H. Bruce (ed.), Onondaga's Centennial.  Boston History Co., 1896, Vol. I, p. 536.

This society was organized November 19, 1881, and in the next year the corner stone of the house of worship was laid; the building was dedicated November 21, 1882.  A school building was erected in connection with the church in 1883, the cost of both being about $25,000.  Rev. Joseph Pickl was the first pastor in charge and was succeeded by the present incumbent, Rev. S. A. Preisser.

Submitted 18 July 1998
Updated 4 March 1999