How Tragedy and Outreach Inspired the Restoration of the Shrine of St. Joseph and Downtown St.Louis

Mark / Architecture, History / / 0 Comments

If you missed my previous post on the photographs and history of the Shrine of St. Joseph in St. Louis, as part of my Churches Under God photographic project, you can read that post here. From 1870 to 1910 St. Joseph reached its peak of membership and success with membership rolls reaching about 4,000 with 5 masses every Sunday in 1910. In the 1950’s a nearby school had closed, as more settlers left the city and moved further west. By 1965 the Jesuits left the church and gave it to the Archdiocese.

In the fall of 1979 tragedy struck. Father Edward Filipiak who served as the parish pastor of St. Joseph was the victim of burglary and a beating that resulted in his death. I described the details and the miraculous community outreach to St. Joseph that followed at

Father Filipiak’s death hit the Archdiocese and the community so hard that Arch Bishop John May agreed to lease the church to the Friends of St. Joseph for $1 per year to see if they could raise the money to save the church. To St. Joseph’s joy labor unions and local businesses donated enormous amounts of time and resources to saving the church. When word got around of all the support for St. Joseph’s Parish, a housing development company poured $50 million into restoring the housing around the church. Sad as it is, it is believed that Father Filipiak’s death became a catalyst for saving St. Joseph’s Parish and in turn making him a martyr. Shortly after, in 1982, St. Joseph’s Parish became the Shrine of St. Joseph.

The “Friends of the Shrine” began a grassroots effort to raise money for the restoration projects for the Shrine of St. Joseph as tasks could be afforded. Their hard work has resulted in raising over $5 million to restore this historic church. Many believe that the restoration of the Shrine of St. Joseph helped spark the restoration of other parts of downtown St. Louis like that of Washington Ave.

I remember in the mid 1980’s Washington Avenue looking very different with old buildings in disrepair. I knew something had changed drastically when I returned in the late 1990’s and again in 2004. I had no idea that the Shrine of St. Joseph was at the center of that massive revitalization of downtown St. Louis until I heard this story.
A statue of Jesus on the cross with Mother Mary at his feet, between two Stations of the Cross.
The antique statue of Mary and Jesus originally intended for the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
The artwork on the walls and the statues are truly beautiful, and like the other churches I have captured, really do deserve an in-person visit.

To be notified of new postings, events, and promotions, Subscribe on my newsletter and you won’t miss all that’s planned for 2024.

Leave a Reply

error: ©Copyright 2024 Mark Polege. All Rights Reserved. Content is protected !!