From the archives of the Passionist Fathers, located at the Monastery of St. Michael, Union City, NJ, one read of the vast area tended by this community in the mid 1800's. They administer and later organized eleven parishes in what is today Union City, Weehawken, West New York, Guttenberg, North Bergen, Shadyside, Hoboken, and Jersey City.
The generosity of the staunch Catholics and the blessings of God soon built a church-St. Joseph's of Guttenberg. In 1869, Rev. Eusebius Sotic, C.P. became the first resident pastor.
There are no records in the parish or in the diocesan office about the work of the Franciscan Sisters until 1880 when it tells that a convent-school was built and the Sisters began to teach. In the archives of the Motherhouse of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, however, it mentions that Father Eusebius asked for and received three Sisters in 1873.
By 1876, four Sisters were teaching at St. Joseph's School in Guttenberg and Sister M. Clare just released from the position as director of Our Lady of Angels Academy, Peekskill, which she had helped establish, was appointed superior and principal. With the building of a comfortable frame residence for the Sisters on Sixth St. in 1899, the convent-school in Guttenberg was used as a school and here the Sisters taught until 1903.
Realizing that a larger church was needed to accommodate the ever-growing population, it was decided to move the parish center to where the people were within the confines of West New York. Property was purchased on Palisade Avenue where a large church, with a basement auditorium and an adjoining rectory was built.
Since larger facilities were needed for the school due to the increasing enrollment, part of the basement of the new church was used for this purpose. And here, for the next seven years many children of the parish received their education. The Sisters' convent was moved from Guttenberg to its present position on Palisade Avenue. A three story brick building was built on old 20th St. now 64th St., for a school which opened in 1910 with six classrooms. Sister M. Alberta was named superior and principal. By 1912, two more classrooms were added, making eight in all.
In 1911, Rev. Wm. Keyes began his pastorate which was to last for thirty-five years and due to his zeal and great love for the children, the school, and consequently, the parish grew beyond all bounds. In 1920, an additional grammar school was needed due to the ever increasing enrollment and so a lovely building was built on Palisade Avenue consisting of twelve classrooms and a basement and in 1930 a third story was added to the building.
With the demand for further education for the children of the parish, the building on 20th Street was converted into a high school in 1931. In 1958 the building of St. Joseph Catholic Center on Broadway was opened.
In order to more easily accommodate the children living at the extreme northern and southern sections of the parish, two extensions of the grammar school were opened; Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1954 in the North Bergen area and Cor Jesu in 1958, occupying a portion of the new high school building. At one point, more than forty Sisters were teaching in the parish schools. However, with the exodus of religious in recent years, the number of Sisters serving at St. Joseph's was decreased to twenty-nine, thus necessitating additional lay staff.
In the hundred years that the Franciscan Sisters have served St. Joseph's parish, despite the hardships and inconvenience experienced, the many thousands of children who have passed through its portals, may recall with love and gratitude the dedication and loving service rendered by these noble women.
The elementary school is in the building on 64th Street and Palisade Avenue.