In May of 1890, 15 Ursuline nuns from Peoria, Illinois came to York to open a new school. By September, 46 children from St. Joseph parish were coming to school on the grounds of the current St. Joseph School.
The seven-acre campus and original buildings (one a three-story brick building with a basement and the other a two-story residence hall) were part of the Nebraska Methodist College purchased by Bishop Thomas Bonacum in 1888. A new three-story building was built in 1909 (named St. Angela’s Hall) and was used along with the others until the night of May 30, 1936 when a fire destroyed some of the buildings, taking with it the library, the personal belongings of the sisters and the boarding students, and all the records of the grade and high school students.
By spring of 1938 a new building was constructed on the campus and all was back to normal until 1942 when the Ursuline sisters, who had served the school for so long, were sent by their superiors to teach in other schools. Their replacements, the Benedictine Sisters of Yankton, South Dakota, arrived in time to open St. Joseph Grade and High School in September of 1942.
On August 5, 1951 workmen began remodeling St. Angela’s Hall as a building program began at St. Joseph School. A combination gymnasium-auditorium and school building project began in February 1952 with the demolition of the old college building. The completed structure was dedicated the following December.
Kindergarten at St. Joseph School began sometime before 1954 and occasionally disappeared and reappeared until 1976 when it returned permanently to the school curriculum. The high school continued until the summer of 1966 when declining enrollment led to the decision to close. St. Joseph Grade School opened in the fall of 1966, with an enrollment of 162 students who quickly adjusted to the newly found space of the former high school classrooms.
The 8th grade moved to York High School in 1968 as the transition of St. Joseph High School to York High School continued. For some time the school year was culminated with the graduation of the 7th grade class. In 1975, with the public schools completing their new high school and moving into a 9-12 only building, the 8th grade class returned to St. Joseph, enabling some students to graduate twice, as 7th graders in 1974 and 8th graders in 1975.
A new elementary school, dedicated in 1981, followed the demolition of the old St. Joseph School and Convent. The gymnasium and its attached classrooms from the 1952 addition were maintained, and the new school spread to the east with an accompanying parking lot to the south, serving both the school and the convent which was built in 1964.
Once again the school lost its beloved sisters as the Benedictine Sisters were recalled to South Dakota in May of 1991. After much searching and a great deal of prayer, the Franciscan Apostolic Sisters from the Philippines came to join our parish community in August of 1992 and are with us today.
In 1995 we continued to expand our educational opportunities for children with a once-a-week afternoon program for 4-year-olds called Little Angels Preschool. The preschool eventually switched to a 3-day-a-week, morning program, grew to include 3-year-olds, two mornings a week in 2003, and in 2010 an afternoon session for 4-year-olds was added because of the increased demand. In 2012 afternoon has been added for 3-year-olds as well.
The final stage of the physical renovation of St. Joseph Parish was completed with the construction of the new church, dedicated by Bishop Bruskewitz in 1998. The new church is attached to the school by a hallway of the 1952 addition, effectively joining the school’s past and present with the church’s future.