Parish News

Our Heritage

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Beginning in the 1840’s, hundreds of Irish and Italian immigrants found employment in Baltimore County in the numerous kilns and quarries as well as on the railroad which linked Baltimore with Pennsylvania. To care for the spiritual needs of these immigrants, the Reverend Thomas O’Neill held Mass from 1846 to 1850 in the home of John Clarke on Church Lane. Eventually, Mr. Clark donated land and stone for the construction of St. Joseph Church. On October 31, 1852, the church was dedicated with a celebration attended by over 1000 people. In the 1880’s a bell tower was added and the cornerstone of the church was relocated to the front of the tower above the main entrance.

Many of the parishioners of the early days lived in what was called “Catholic Row” on Railroad Avenue and on Church Lane. The church was the focal point around which their spiritual lives centered. The names of many can still be seen on the old tombstones in the parish cemetery.

In 1856, the first parish school was started. For 70 years this school was managed by the Baltimore County School Commissioners in conformity to the public school education system without infringing on the right of Catholic parents for the religious instruction of their children after school hours. By 1926 the local community had outgrown the school building. The county built a public school building and the Sisters of Mercy came to staff St. Joseph School for the Catholic children who continued to attend school at the parish. The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart conducted catechism classes each Sunday.

In 1946, 100 years after the celebration of the first Mass, St. Joseph was the only Catholic parish between Towson and Pennsylvania. Parishioners had grown to 1000 in number. The parish was rapidly changing from a country parish to a suburban parish.

A new school building was opened in 1959. The parish School Hall, which had been constructed in 1924, was renovated in the mid 60’s into a two-story building with classrooms on the top floor and large halls on the main floor and in the basement. The church was enlarged with the addition of two transepts and the seating capacity was increased to 900 persons.

As the suburbs moved farther north, a new parish, the Church of the Nativity, was created in 1968 to serve the people between Texas and Towson. In 1974, a second parish, Our Lady of Grace, was created in Parkton to serve people living near Pennsylvania. Finally, in 1992, a third parish, St. Francis Xavier, was established in Hunt Valley, immediately north of St. Joseph.

Meanwhile the home parish, St. Joseph continued to enlarge facilities and increase services to the residents of Timonium, Cockeysville, and Mays Chapel. In 1994, the “Windows of St. Joseph” were installed in the church. Major improvements including construction of new classrooms, education offices, and a library and multi-purpose room were completed by 2000. The original parish social hall received a second renovation to become the Parish Center with parish offices and meeting rooms. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the dedication of the church in 2002, a permanent Baptismal Font was located in the sanctuary to the side of the altar.

The parish staff continues to study the demographics of the Cockeysville-Hunt Valley area in order to respond to the changing needs of the residents. A Hispanic community is now part of the parish and has a celebration of Mass in Spanish on Saturday evening. New staffing is addressing the needs of a growing number of retirees living in the parish. Parish school and parish youth programs are reviewed each year to address the ever changing concerns of young families with children. And “Texas” continues to be appended to the parish name, a reminder of the small community of families who settled around Church Lane and Railroad Avenue, formed the parish, and built the original church, school, and rectory.