98-year-old St. Joseph Catholic Church demolished

A June 29th,1922 issue of The Devine News stated that “St Joseph Catholic Church, white stone trimmed with red brick is nearing completion….The cross on the spire is made of iron piping with bulbs on the ends, and the top of the building can be seen for miles out”….
For 98 years the beautiful and immaculate limestone church and steeple has towered above the community of Devine, built primarily by the hard work and hands of local parishioners in a day and time that many still used horse and buggy. This Tuesday, August 2, 2020 was a sad day for the community, as St. Joseph Catholic Church came crashing down to the ground.
Local man, Eddie Hutzler, recalls that his family helped haul some of the many huge limestone bricks used to build St. Joseph Catholic Church using the family’s horse and buggy. For those who live in Devine, and for those who have passed through, there will always be a void as they drive by the old church site.
Many community members, who felt they had to watch, witnessed the event but wished time hadn’t taken such a toll on this old beautiful church. It has been the site of thousands of weddings, baptisms, first communions, and celebrations of life held by community members and our ancestors since it’s opening in the summer of 1922.
The old Devine News article from June 1922 also stated, “Mr. N.E. Rhodes, who has been in charge of the work, hopes to close up by the last of the week.”
“The church was built in a most economical way by buying an architect’s plans, and hiring a fireman by the day, which has used mostly local men except for two or three stone masons who were brought in. The stones were quarried and hauled in by the congregation.”
“It will, we suppose, be the best church building of its style and architecture if not of any kind outside the largest cities in this part of the state, and the congregation is very eager to get into it, having outgrown their old frame structure. The new building was started in November; the corner stone was laid by the bishop in February.”

Tap or click to see more from Chaparral Ford!

The historic church that we all know and love wasn’t the first church of St. Joseph. The original wood frame church was built on the same property 100 feet south of the historical marker of the parish established in 1897. The parish was organized in the Fall of 1986 with eight families, but soon grew too large for the original wooden church. The original bell inscribed 1897 was hung in the immaculate St. Joseph’s Catholic limestone church that was built in 1922.
The bricks of the old limestone church have softened over the years, and the walls were leaning notably. The church was deemed unsafe years ago, and braces were added. Parishioners have held services in a newer building, and the old St Joseph Church has continued to stand for many years as officials and parishioners tried to decide what course of action to take.
In a letter to the editor, Lydia Benavidez commented, “The building is unsafe. They have been planning on this for a while now. They have taken all the valuable items out of the church including the railings going up to the balcony! The company they chose to tear down the church will save the stones for relics. The stones/relics will be stored in a safe secured site; after COVD winds down they will be available to us at a donation. May God protect the workers on this project and heal the hearts of the building planners, church leaders and us our church family! Our church planners, and leaders have prayed on their moves and decisions every step of the way! If it was at all possible to keep the building they would have kept it if it were safe and cost effective to do so! It’s a historical building and many of us are sad to see torn down.”
Local woman, Katie Shults, was one of many who watched it fall, and spoke of many memories.
“On our 47th wedding anniversary, I am saddened to see my church beginning to be demolished. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Devine, Texas is where I started first grade, made my first communion, was confirmed and was married. I spent most of my youth in and around this church. Thank you for all the beautiful memories. You will be missed.”
We are told that a replica and prayer garden will be built as a memorial. It couldn’t have been an easy decision to make for anyone. Many said it had to be done, many said it shouldn’t, all wished it really wouldn’t.
Pat West and her husband moved to Devine in 1976, and she has been a parishioner of the church ever since, and has taught faith formation classes for over 42 years.

“The church has touched so many lives, it’s hard to put it into words,” Mrs. West said. “It was hard to see it come down, but it had to be done. The church building has been condemned for close to 10 years now. But when you think of all the happy memories within that building, within the church, it’s sad. It really is, but the bell (inscribed 1897) is there on the church grounds in front of the new church.”
The original church bell was hung in the first wooden church in 1897, and then hung in the steeple of the larger church when it was built in 1922, and is now hanging on the grounds of the new church where parishioners have attended for many years.
“The kids still ring it, sometimes,” Mrs. West adds with a smile.
By Kayleen Holder and KK Calame
Editor and Publisher