Sometime after the current St. Joseph church was opened in 1959, the old church on Beech Street was demolished. Parishioners were invited to remove anything they wanted to save from the old church.
The Traub family of Warren elected to save a Black Cherry Redemptorist cross that was apparently first placed in the church in 1863 for a parish mission. The date appears prominently on the cross, although it was covered in later years by an imported carving of the body of Christ.
Tom Traub said that he found the cross in his father's garage "10 or eleven years ago." He noted that his father always wanted the cross returned to the church, and when he asked Reverend Rich Toohey about it, "He was excited to have it returned.
Times Observer photo by Rob Andersen
A second mission
The 1881 date also painted on the cross records another mission held at St. Joseph’s, according to research done online. Most church displays would be done in gold leaf, but the dates on the cross were painted on, making cleaning a delicate challenge.
The cross had been disassembled at one point, and coats of varnish had drooled down behind the body of Christ. Bruce Atwood volunteered to re-assemble and clean the cross, and after a week of work, the cross was returned to St. Joseph's.
The cross will remain in the main church from Oct. 6 through Oct. 9 for the upcoming parish mission, according to Catherine Watkins-Atwood, co-chair for the event.
No local information about the 1863 mission was recorded for history, presumably because of the events surrounding the Civil War.
Becky Harper, a retired librarian recently researched and found several articles about Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos who traveled through ten states including Pennsylvania from 1863 through 1866, and it is possible that he participated in that mission.
Seelos was called "the saint of the missionaries" by his fellow missionaries, and many miracles were reported after he prayed for divine assistance.
Harper also found an entry in a history of the Redemptorist Missions about the 1881 mission, which is also recorded on the cross, reporting 400 attendees.
The Redemptorists were founded in 1732 to preach to the poor and abandoned. Today, with about 5,500 members in 78 countries, they are involved with social issues and pastoral work through parish missions.