St. Joseph Mission in Mayer celebrates centennial

St. Joseph Mission in Mayer celebrated its centennial with a Mass on June 7. (Photo courtesy of Carla Foster)
St. Joseph Mission in Mayer celebrated its centennial with a Mass on June 7. (Photo courtesy of Carla Foster)

MAYER — Church history that dates back at least 100 years is bound to be a bit sketchy. Catholics in Mayer chose the best date they could to celebrate its centennial.

Arizona had barely been admitted to the Union when, according to some records, Ish Davis of Mayer (near Prescott) donated land for a Catholic church in the town in 1913. Other records indicate the church may have been active as early as 1908. A formal blessing came a decade later.

What parishioners and area residents know for sure is that Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted joined them June 7 for Mass, Adoration and celebrations commemorating the establishment of St. Joseph’s Mission on Highway 69 at least a century ago.

Bishop Olmsted gave thanks for those who first brought the faith to the area and kept it alive all these years. He said it is the presence of God the Father in the Eucharist that allies Catholics from around the world with one another.

“From St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to St. Joseph’s in Mayer we share the same mystery of God’s glory and power” offered to us in the Eucharist, Bishop Olmsted said in his homily.

The Gospel of the day (Mark 14) underscored the depth of Christ’s love for us with the telling of the first Eucharist just prior to Christ’s death on the cross.

“Christ wanted to leave us his presence that is the Eucharist, not just as a historical event, but as an eternal one, outside of time. By becoming human, He emptied himself of his glory…and entered into the brokenness of humans,” Bishop Olmsted said.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted celebrates the Centennial Mass, joined by other priests at the altar. P
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted celebrates the Centennial Mass, joined by other priests at the altar. (Photo courtesy of Carla Foster)

St. Joseph’s Mission began to take shape when Sara Bell, widow of town founder Joseph Mayer, donated $800, and two carpenters from Prescott were hired to build the church. Fr. L. Rousell, its first priest, also established churches in Humboldt and Congress. Bishop Henry Granjon of the Diocese of Tucson — which at the time encompassed the entire state of Arizona — eventually blessed St. Joseph church May 13, 1918.

Weekly Mass in the 1970s saw a scant 40 people in attendance. It was in that era when a Society of St. Vincent de Paul store was established. In 1983, the Society provided $42,000 to the building fund for a new church. A further $10,000 came from the Bishop’s Charity and Development Fund.

Fr. Phillip Reiser, known as the builder priest, oversaw the construction of the new church. The first Mass was at midnight on Christmas 1983. An Adoration Chapel was added in the early 2000s.

Management of the mission has rotated among various parishes and today it is in the care of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Camp Verde with SOLT Fathers Alphonsus Bakyil and Alvin Cayetano providing sacraments.

— Mary Dahl