According to the documentation found in the Municipal Office in Brantford, the Sanctuary of the present church is the oldest part and it dates back to 1880.
All the Catholic Parishes in Brantford belong to the Diocese of Hamilton. In the first years of the twentieth century, Brantford’s population was over 15,000. In 1902, about 30 Polish families settled here. Living away from their homeland, clinging to the faith of their fathers and faithfully nurturing the ancient traditions – these Polish families yearned for a church, where they could pray in Polish. At the time being, there were no available priests who spoke Polish, so the first of our immigrants gathered for the Liturgy at St. Basil’s Church. During and after the First World War, a large wave of Polish immigrants came to Canada. As Brantford was a major center of farm implement manufacture and other diversified industries, many of these immigrants from Poland took up residence in here.
As the number of Poles increased, the need was felt for accommodating them with a Polish-speaking priest. In December 1917 Rev. Lawrence Dogorski was assigned to St. Basil’s Parish and made responsible for the Polish Catholics of Brantford. This lasted for a period of eighteen months, but the Poles wanted to have their own church. Their big dream slowly became a viable reality. Through a joint effort, they bought land, where they built a small wooden church. In June 1919, Fr. Dogorski opened the Church of St. Joseph which was located on Terrace Hill Street, with the rectory at 36 Lyons Ave. But the joy of our countrymen did not last too long.
At the end of the 20s and early 30s, Canada suffered from a global economic crisis. Many people lost their jobs and could not find new ones. Unable to provide for their families, the Poles unfortunately were not able to maintain their own church. In 1928, the prevailing situation led to the closure of St. Joseph’s Church, which had functioned for only 10 years. This painful experience made the local Polish community even more determined to recreate a native parish at the next available opportunity.
Speaking about the beginnings of the Polish parish of St. Joseph’s in Brantford, where our present church stands, we have to read a brief biography of its founder Fr. Tomasz Tarasiuk.
He was born on March 6, 1881 in the town of White Błotków in Lublin province. After high school, he continued further studies in Rome and earned a doctorate in philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University. After his Ordination to Priesthood on June 2, 1906, he returned to Poland. Over the next year he served as a associate pastor in Lvov.
The next stage of his ministry occurred in North America. In 1907 he went to Chicago, where he worked until 1911, then the bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton, Thomas Dowling, invited him to his diocese and entrusted him with a mission. That mission consisted of becoming the organizer and builder of St. Stanislaus Kostka church in Hamilton. Once he had built the church and rectory, he resigned from the office of pastor in November, 1935.
As of that time, the newly revived desires of the Poles in Brantford, arriving in increasing numbers to the city, became the re-establishment of a Polish speaking church. Their strenuous efforts came to fruition on December 19, 1936, when the new Bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton, John McNally, directed Fr. Tarasiuk to take up the spiritual care of Catholics of Polish descent. He was to reside at St. Basil parish, where he could have Masses on Sundays and Holidays. As of that day, Fr. Tarasiuk energetically began to organize a Polish Church in our city. After eight months he had registered over 130 families, among whom there were 400 adults. The pastor quickly realized that he could start thinking about building or buying a suitable building for the church.
An opportunity came along soon. At the intersection of Brant Avenue and James Street, a former St. Andrew Presbyterian Church had been vacant since 1925.
Fr. Tarasiuk assured the bishop, that the creation of a Polish church, would not incur any debt. Through his personal donation of ten thousand dollars, Brantford Polonia was able to buy the church building at the end of 1937, along with a small house which became the rectory.
After extensive restorations, the church was solemnly consecrated on February 21, 1938 by the new Bishop Joseph Ryan. The Church was given the name St. Joseph’s. On June 20, 1947 Fr. Tomasz Tarasiuk legally handed over the land and the church buildings as a donation to the Diocese of Hamilton.
With great dedication and commitment Fr. Tarasiuk served as the Pastor of St. Joseph’s in Brantford until his death, which occurred after a long illness on August 23, 1947. With deep sorrow and pain, the parish said goodbye to its founder, builder, indomitable patriot and wonderful priest.
Such were the beginnings of St. Joseph’s Church in Brantford, its challenges, problems and spiritual victory. The history of this Church and its community still runs through the wonderful providence of God for 75 years. Therefore, our hearts are filled with joy and gratitude.
Let us all praise God for his goodness and blessings which he has bestowed upon us throughout the history of our Church and ask Him to protect this Parish family for the years to come.