St. Joseph Parish faith community dates back to 1787. Between 1787 and 1793, over 140 Catholics were baptized in this area, which was then called Loretto. After Florida was purchased from Spain, the visits by the Spanish priests from St. Augustine were rare events. This, coupled with efforts by Protestant Churches, slowed the growth of the Catholic Church in this area. In spite of setbacks, there were continued attempts to keep Catholicism alive in this mission area. The vision was one of a deep love of God, commitment, sacrifice and a tried and true sense of our universal tradition of faith.
In 1867 Bishop Augustine Verot and two of the Sisters of St. Joseph from his native town of LePuy, France, recognized the importance of Catholic education and began their missionary work in Mandarin. This was the beginning of St. Joseph School. The Sisters faced many obstacles: yellow fever, lack of funds, and the challenges of the wilderness. Through all this, the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine carried on the ideals of Catholic education. St. Joseph School was always known for excellence due to their sacrifice and devotion over the years. Since 1975 dedicated lay people, who are confronted by new and different challenges, have carried on the work they began.
The early 1970s brought about growth and change. With the construction of I-295 and the Buckman Bridge in 1971, Mandarin, now part of Jacksonville, had become more accessible. The old village of Loretto began experiencing urban sprawl and the subsequent growth of countless subdivisions. In order to meet the needs of the growing Mandarin community, many areas had to be addressed: a need for new buildings, new sources of income, enlargement of the school plant, improvement of the school curriculum and general parish development. St. Joseph Parish community and faculty accepted this challenge, and all areas were given attention simultaneously.
Our humble journey of faith is not over. Our area continues to grow, and we as a faith community are willing to meet that challenge of growth. As we attempt to live out the gospel challenge, we recognize our dependency on Jesus Christ. As the psalmist writes in Psalm 127, “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain does the builder labor.” Christ has been our guide, His Spirit our guiding force. It has been so for one hundred and thirty-five years. We, the People of God at St. Joseph Parish and School, are confident it will continue to be in the years ahead.