St. Joseph Catholic Church

St. Joseph Catholic Church

Le Mars, IA

2012 Completion

$7.6 Million

St. Joseph Catholic Church had a central theme when the parish undertook the replacement of the existing worship space, social hall, and parish offices on the site of the former Gehlen Catholic School. The parish began as three separate parishes that were unified into one through this project. It was important for the parish to honor their history by incorporating elements from the previous church into the new worship space.

As soon as parishioners enter the site, the progression of faith begins. Visitors are greeted by the statue of the church’s patron, St. Joseph, and welcomed to worship by the steeple, which was designed as a replica of the steeple from the old church. The bells date back to 1877 and act as a call to worship and prayer for parishioners.

BCDM Architects was able to successfully observe the central theme of the parish by blending contemporary technologies with traditional styles, integrating as many elements from the old church as possible. The church was designed around a reredos, or large altarpiece that is typically located behind the sanctuary, from the old church that acts as the central focal point of the 800 seat worship space. The church is a neo-gothic structure that evokes the feeling of Catholic tradition through the volume, and use of wood structure, brick, stone, stained glass, and art.  A social hall and office area are visually connected to the worship space by the four supporting legs of the steeple.

The placement of the baptismal font on axis with the altar is a reminder of the connection between Baptism and the Eucharist as sacraments of initiation. Congregants are reminded of the purity of their baptism when they arrive for mass, helping to prepare them for worship. The baptismal font is inspired by the upper basin that originated in the existing church. The wood around the large font was taken from the frontal screens of the pews. This wood is also found in the existing reredos and connects the two sacraments that these elements represent. Above the font is a canopy that integrates stained glass from the old church. Other liturgical art, such as statues and paintings, and furnishings are incorporated into the design.

The overall sense of spirituality within the worship space is achieved through incorporation of artistic stained glass from the existing church in the upper windows together with the spiritual story of St. Joseph depicted in the lower windows, refurbished from St. Michael Church in Munich, Germany.