Parish History

Since its founding in 1917, St. Joseph Parish in Needham has warmly welcomed all into its vibrant and growing community. Today, the parish is the spiritual home to 8,500 registered parishioners from more than 2,000 families. The campus hums with activity from an elementary school, a middle school, and a number of religious, community and service organizations.

The following is a brief history of how Saint Joseph Parish and Schools came to be. We are forever indebted to the many visionary pastors and parishioners in our long history, to the many priests who have served here, to the Sisters of Charity who instructed thousands of children through the years in the faith and academic excellence, to our current lay staff of dedicated teachers and school staff, and to the many volunteers and parish staff who have infused the parish with their ideals, service and commitment to Christian values.

Humble Beginnings

The presence of a Catholic community in Needham dates back to at least 1850, when the first recorded Mass was celebrated – a Mass held at a private residence, the Newell home, on Christmas Day. In the second half of the 19th century, Saint Joseph Parish had its origin as a mission of parishes in Roxbury, Newton Upper Falls, and Natick.

In 1891, the cornerstone for the first church building was laid at the corner of Highland and May streets where the current Saint Joseph Church now stands. The wooden building was dedicated in May 1894, but was tragically destroyed by fire in February 1913. The Needham community came together to help clear away the ruins and reconstruction began. In April 1917, Saint Joseph’s became a canonical parish and opened its new church a year later in November 1918 – a handsome gothic-style building.

The Growth Years

Over the next decades, St. Joseph’s grew as Needham grew. In 1955, the long-time dream of Pastor Twigg became a reality when a nine-room school and a parish center were dedicated by Cardinal Cushing. The next logical step was to build a convent, which opened in 1959 to house the Sisters of Charity of Halifax who ran the school, which doubled in size after just five years.

Meanwhile, the church building itself became too small to hold the rapidly-growing number of parishioners. The decision was made to tear down the gothic-style church and replace it with a new one on the same site. The new Saint Joseph Church was dedicated on March 19, 1966, on the feast of our patron saint.

The Updated Campus

After the new church was built, Mary’s Garden, featuring a beautiful statue of our Blessed Mother, lovely plantings and park benches, opened at the corner of May Street and Oakland Avenue. A handsome pipe organ was added to the upper church in 1982.

In 2001, the convent was renovated into an early childhood facility to house the kindergarten classes. Other upgrades to the elementary school included a media center, computer lab and art room. A new state-of-the-art middle school opened in 2002 and was named for Monsignor James. J. Haddad, whose vision made the school possible.  A pre-kindergarten program began in 2013, and the two schools – St. Joseph Elementary School and Monsignor Haddad Middle School – are considered flagship Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston, educating children from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

Today, St. Joseph Parish is strong, active and fiscally robust. Campus facilities continue to be maintained and improved. Religious education continues at a high level. Most importantly, the Saint Joseph Parish community continues to grow in worship and service together, rooted in Christ and bonded by prayer.


About Saint Joseph Parish

Pastors of St. Joseph

Rev. Henry A. Walsh 1917 - 1923Rev. Hugh M. Smith 1923 - 1927

Rev. Edward P. Twigg 1937 - 1952

Msgr. Thomas H. Kennedy 1952 - 1973

Rev. Francis P. Connors 1973 - 1987
with Maude

Msgr. James J. Haddad 1988 - 2002

Rev. Michael Lawlor 2003 - 2010

Saint Joseph Parish Centennial

In 2017, St. Joseph Parish will mark its centennial with events that will celebrate our history, increase our faith and strengthen our parish community.

Planning is ongoing under the directions of Diane Schwerdt, Jill Meyers and Susan Horne. Read more.



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