St. Joseph in Baxter Springs closes namesake year with blessing of renovations
St. Joseph Parish in Baxter Springs closed the Year of St. Joseph with a church renovation and an altar consecration.
Fr. Jeremy Huser, pastor of the parish located just a few miles from the intersection of the Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma borders, said the parish is celebrating its sesquicentennial as the Year of St. Joseph draws to a close.
Bishop Carl A. Kemme consecrated the new altar and blessed the renovations at a Mass Saturday, Nov. 13. The Year of St. Joseph closes on Dec. 7.
The parish, erected in 1871, is commemorating 150 years but the Catholic presence was established in Baxter Springs in 1868 to serve U.S. Army troops at a nearby fort. Over the century and a half since it was founded, the parish has gathered in several different locations.
The current church building, built in 1917, was moved twice before being moved to where it is located today at 324 E. 12th Street. The last time the church building was moved – in 1946 – the builders added 23 feet to the church, bricked the outside of the wood structure, and set it over a dugout basement.
“In honor of our anniversary we have a new altar that features an image of the dormition, the death, of St. Joseph on the front of the altar,” Fr. Huser said.
The pastor enlisted the help of Michele Bowman, the owner of Restorations Plus in St. Louis, Missouri, for part of the renovation. She visited the parish and studied old photographs of the church to locate an altar that was close to the church’s original Romanesque architectural design.
“I found an altar relief front with St. Joseph reposed,” she said and sent a photograph of it to Fr. Huser. “He also wanted a reredos (a large altarpiece) behind it, so I found a large Daprato side altar that was in a trailer…that had deteriorated.” Bowman restored both pieces for the church and had an altar constructed around the St. Joseph relief.
The parish has an original Daprato statue of the Blessed Mother, Bowman said. Father Huser asked Bowman to find a matching statue of St. Joseph for the restoration. “I found a statue of St. Joseph from the exact same time period and the exact same size,” she said.
The four Daprato brothers, immigrants from Italy around 1860, were statue makers who brought their work to America. The Chicago company is now called Daprato Rigali Studios.
An arch was also painted around the altar’s crucifix to tie in with the renovation. A more accessible bathroom was also added.
Mass was celebrated in the basement while work was underway in the church.
Fr. Huser is also pastor of St. Bridget Parish in Scammon, St. Patrick in Galena, and St. Rose in Columbus.