The history of St. Joseph’s Church and the first days of the work of the Society of St. Pius X in Michigan can be traced back to the Committee of Concerned Catholics. This Committee was established in 1967 by conservative-minded Catholics who wanted to preserve the teaching of the Catholic Faith from the attack of liberalism which was invading the Church since Vatican II. In 1968, the Committee began conducting religion classes in the homes of some of its members and by 1971 had a combined enrollment of about 300 students.
In the Fall of 1972, Archbishop LeFebvre took this group under his wing and, in July of 1973, sent Fr. Anthony Ward to serve as pastor. In November of the same year, the Society of St. Pius X established its first American seminary and, in the summer of 1974, purchased a brick farmhouse on 3 acres of land in Armada, Michigan to house it. On November 10, 1974 the church on School Section Road was officially dedicated.
In October of 1979, the American Seminary of the Society of St. Pius X moved from Armada to Ridgefield, Connecticut. In 1986, the Sisters of the Society of St. Pius X established their first American Novitiate in the Society’s house at Armada, and Fr. Dominique Devriendt became their Chaplain and the first resident Pastor of the parishes of Armada and Redford.
In the Spring of 1989, Fr. Devriendt was assigned to the Society’s seminary in France, and Fr. Stephen DeLallo, formerly assigned to the Society’s Church and School in St. Mary’s, Kansas, replaced Fr. Devriendt as Chaplain for the Sisters and Pastor of St. Joseph’s and St. Anne’s.
In the early part of 1990, Fr. Albert Gonzales came to St. Joseph’s to assist Fr. DeLallo and began the work of preparing (and constructing) the building for the future parish school. In the Fall of 1990, the Society opened its first parochial school at Armada, St. Joseph’s Academy, with 35 students in grades K-8.
In the fall of 1996 the newly ordained Fr. John Fullerton became the pastor of St. Joseph’s. In June of 1997 the academy had their first true graduating class made up of four young men.
In 2003, Fr. Fullerton left to become the new US District Superior in Kansas City, MO. With Fr. Benoit Wailliez as the new Prior and Academy Principal, the boys’ high school students, along with parishioners from St. Joseph’s and St. Margaret Mary (Allendale), travelled to Grand Rapids with Fr. Michael McMahon and prayerfully ousted a group of Buddhist monks from the Catholic basilica. United in the zeal of that historical event, the boys’ high school continued to prosper and, under the leadership of Fr. McMahon, moved to Georgetown, IL to become Notre Dame de LaSalette Boys’ Academy in 2005.
With an eye on the future, the Operation Philomena Campaign was begun in 2012 to amass the substantial funds necessary to secure the future of St. Joseph’s Church and Academy. The diligent fundraising efforts of academy students and parishioners was supplemented by several national appeals to help provide for the more efficient buildings which were becoming increasingly necessary.
Thankfully, St. Philomena was victorious and 2015 saw the purchase of two recently constructed buildings on 7 acres in nearby Ray Township. This proved to be the most prudent solution to the near-crisis situation in Armada. The portable classrooms had deteriorated to an unworkable condition. Structural concerns and drainage issues plagued the church building itself, and the cost of repairs outweighed any possible benefits. St. Joseph’s stood poised to occupy their new facility as Fr. Richard Boyle arrived in the fall of 2015.
Unfortunately, zoning regulations prevented the scheduled opening of the Academy in Ray Township as planned in September of 2015. Major renovations were quickly arranged and were completed in time for the School Blessing ceremonies and the first Mass on December 8th of that year. Sunday Masses have been celebrated at the new Ray Township location since that time, and the weekday Masses also moved to the new facility with the end of the last school year in Armada in June of 2016.
St. Joseph’s Church is now a prominent fixture in its new location and welcomes visitors and new members to become a part of its vibrant and truly Catholic parish life.
To read more, please read the article found in the September 2009 issue of the Regina Coeli Report.