In the first month of 1920 nine English-speaking families planted the seeds in Chatham soil for a new Catholic church that has thrived for 100 years. At that time, Chatham was a village of 800 souls. The new church began as a mission church of Auburn, a village a few miles south of Chatham. Bishop James Ryan gave new pastor Fr. Daniel Quinn permission to say mass in the home of Mary Johnson until a church could be built. Fr. Quinn's first mass was attended by twelve adults and fifteen children. Later masses also were celebrated in the home of Michael Evoy.
Although the original families were not affluent in material possessions, there were rich in dedication to constructing a church. To this end, they donated what they could and did a great deal of the labor in building the church. In this way, the modest little brick church was put up at 211 East Chestnut Street. Catholics and non-Catholics alike helped with the work.
The corner stone was laid on July 20, 1920. Bishop James Ryan dedicated the new St. Joseph the Worker church in the same month.
The exploding population growth of the 1950s led to the need for a new church for St. Joseph the Worker parishioners by the early 1960s. In 1963 Monsignor Casimir Toliusis began a drive to raise funds for its construction. Fr. Thomas O'Connor was appointed pastor on January 1, 1969. He was the first resident pastor in Chatham and continued the effort to secure funding to build a new church. He purchased a rectory at 711 East Chestnut Street. This rectory later was sold and another one one purchased at 629 East Spruce Street, closer to the site of the new church.
Ground was broken for the new church on June 28, 1970, at the southwest corner of Spruce and Ball Streets. The new facility, at 700 East Spruce Street, was completed in 1971 at a cost of $165,000.
The first mass in the new church was celebrated on Wednesday, August 4, 1971. Approximately 75-80 were in the parish at this time. Bishop William A. O'Connore officiated at the dedication ceremony in October of the same year.
A new 9,345 square foot Community Center was begun in November 1988 at a cost of $850,000. The addition, consisting of multi-movable partitions, a new kitchen, fellowship area, and room for an eventual preschool, was dedicated on January 7, 1990. Fr. Martin O'Hara was pastor. Bishop Daniel L. Ryan was celebrant at the dedication.
The growth of the church and its needs was reflected in the active lay organizations of this period. They included: Parish Council, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for grades K-12, Christian Initiation of Adults, Catholic Youth Organization, as well as the Women's Guild and the Men's Club.
The primary money maker for the parish from the early 1950s until 1972 had been the ever-popular Chicken Dinner. However, by 1973 the rising cost of chickens and their limited availability caused parishioners to retire the chicken dinner and debut the Ice Cream Social, mow a popular social event but no longer a fundraiser. The Mostaccioli Dinner, which began around 1975 and the Pancake and Sausage Breakfast, Which began sometime shortly after, both continue to carry on the tradition of preparing meals and eating together as the way of raising funds to help the church. The chicken Dinner returned in 2003 as a fundraiser for Catholic Heart Work Camp.
In 1992 the parish was home to more than 500 families and more than 400 young people were enrolled in the Parish School of Religion. By the mid-1990s, more space, programs and personnel were needed. In 1996 the parish has increased to more than 650 families with more than 500 children in the Parish School of Religion.
Project 2000, a capital fund drive with a goal of adding an entire new church building to the existing complex, began in 1997. The new church would accommodate up to 725 worshipers. Plans included a quieting room, a separate gathering space, a covered car port entrance, and a day chapel to seat 30. Fr. Robert Franzen monitored the project. The cost for the project was $2.5 million which included architectural fees, additional land purchase, the construction itself, and some furnishings. Ground was broken in 1999. The old worship space was remodeled into seven classrooms.
All this effort came to fruition with th completion of the inspiring edifice which we worship in today. The new church was dedicated on September 17, 2000, Bishops Daniel L. Ryan and George J. Lucas were in attendance.
A series of deacons have served St. Joseph the Worker . Deacon Tom Miller was at the parish from 2001 - 2004; Deacon Frank Maynerich served from June 2009 until August 2013; his nephew, Greg Maynerich, began as deacon in July 2016 until he resigned in December 2018 to become Director of Villa Maria and Associate Director of Deacon Formation. Rob Sgambelluri served as Deacon Candidate from 2019 until he was ordained in 2021.
In addition to positive developments made during this period, painful losses occurred. Fr. Robert Franzen, who had served the parish as pastor from 1990 - 2022 and Parochial Administrator from 2002 - 2007, died in October 2008.
In August 2013 Deacon Frank Maynerich, along with his youngest son, Paul, were killed in a car accident.
The parish mourned these losses that occurred in such a comparatively short period of time. With the grace of God, parishioners honored the memories of these men and carried on.
Fr. Johns Nolan's first appointment as pastor of st. Joseph the Worker was from July 2007- June 2013 when he was assigned to Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. He was succeeded by Fr. Dennis Kollruss who served as pastor from July 2013 until his sudden death on May 25, 2015. St. Joseph's all-purpose room as named Kollross Hall on May 25, 2019, on the fourth anniversary of his death.
Fr. Nolan returned to the parish as Parochial Administrator from May 25 - December 31, 2015. His second pastoral appointment began on July 1, 2016 and he retired June 30, 2021.
Fr. Jospeh Molloy was appointed the new pastor on July 1, 2021.