In the summer of 1979, the Springfield Catholic Council sent a letter to Archbishop Daniel Sheehan requesting a parish. We received the answer to our prayers nearly a year later, and on April 11, 1980, the Archdiocese of Omaha’s newspaper, The Catholic Voice, printed the decision to bring Saint Joseph’s Parish into existence. That summer, a census revealed 150 Catholic families living in the Springfield area and confirmed the need of a parish in the community.
After a year of diligent fundraising, the funds were raised for the purchase of land for parish buildings. By late summer of 1982, the new mission parish achieved another milestone: the purchase of a house for a priest and the naming of a resident pastor, Fr. Robert Preisinger. The “mission” had become “a parish.”
Ground breaking for a parish worship center, a space for parish gatherings, religious education classes and Sunday Mass, took place in early November 1984. Ten months later, we offered the first Masses on Labor Day weekend of 1985. Unbelievably, less than four years later, the first mortgage of the parish was symbolically burned when the church made the final payment on the bank loan for the parish worship center.
The next target for the parish was a “real church.” On December 15, 1989, Archbishop Daniel Sheehan dedicated the permanent church of Saint Joseph Parish. The final structure on the parish campus was the new rectory, completed in 1992, and made it possible for the Pastor to walk to church.
During this time, the church’s spiritual development far exceeded the physical growth of the parish. Baptisms, first communions, confirmations, marriages and funerals testified to the faithful spirit of the parish. The church was thriving!
Fr. Preisinger received a new assignment, in June 1995, to St. Bernadette Parish in Bellevue. Fr. James Cain arrived, after founding a large parish in West Omaha. He would lead the parish until June 2002, when he retired.
Two subsequent pastors spent one year each at St. Joseph: Fr. Richard Swolek (who was diagnosed with cancer and moved to a parish in Omaha to receive medical attention) and Fr. Joseph Broudou. The parish embraced each priest for his talent and commitment.
In 2004, Fr. Chuck Swanson arrived in Springfield after several years at Holy Cross Parish in central south Omaha. With him, Fr. Rafael Librea added an international dimension as a Filipino priest and spiritual director of the Catholic Filipino Community of Omaha. Fr. Swanson celebrated the 25th anniversary of the parish in 2005, and both Fr. Swanson and Fr. Librea retired from active parish ministry in mid-June of 2010.
Shortly after their retirement, the youngest pastor in the history of the parish arrived, Fr. Matthew Gutowski. St. Joseph was his first parish, having come from academic studies and seminary teaching in St. Louis. With him, a unique addition to the pastoral leadership of the parish was introduced: Zeke, the dog.
On July 1, 2017, the eighth pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Fr. Michael Gutgsell, arrived to continue the parish pastoral ministry and to support the active community that began and developed over the previous 38 years in Springfield.