There is only one church in the Diocese of Burlington named for the grandfather of Jesus.

St. Joachim Church is in the small, mountainous town of Readsboro, on Vermont’s southern border, not far from North Adams, Massachusetts, and from Wilmington.

It was a priest from North Adams who celebrated the first Mass in Readsboro in 1886 in a house that belonged to Edward Goullette. Today, it is a priest from Wilmington who celebrates Mass in the white clapboard St. Joachim Church on Tunnel Street.

Herald of Good News Father Ilayaraja Amaladass lives at the rectory of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Wilmington and serves that church, St. Joachim’s and St. John Bosco Chapel in Stamford.

“This is a close-knit community that works together and with people of other faiths,” he said of St. Joachim Church, which as 45 registered families, many of whose families have attended the church for generations.

Bishop John Michaud, coadjutor bishop of Burlington at the time, blessed the cornerstone of the church in 1892. It was named for St. Joachim, in honor of the then-pope, Pope Leo XIII, whose given name was Joachim Pecci.

St. Joachim’s is the “mother church” of that area of the diocese, that is, the first Catholic church in that area.

Today parishioners come from Readsboro, Whitingham, Stamford and Jacksonville in Vermont and Heath, Monroe and Rowe in Massachusetts.

Parishioners — some descendants of Italian, French-Canadian and Polish immigrants who worked in the logging, paper-making and electric-power industries — help one another. “When we have a death, everyone is joined together in prayer and provides a dinner after the burial,” said parishioner Betty Perenick.

There is a great devotion to St. Anne in the parish, and she and St. Joachim are acknowledged with an icon of them holding the Virgin Mary.

“This parish reflects family. It goes back to St. Joachim whose family was very important,” said parishioner Susan Bailey. “You see generations of families in church. There are close ties in the community.”

She and Ernie Bolognani, both grandparents, agreed the role of the grandparent is important in a child’s life. “The love for a grandchild is more of a hands-off love, but it is not any less than your own children,” he said.

Bailey’s advice to grandparents is: “Love them. Love them. Hug them. Kiss them a lot because they grow up quickly.”

St. Joachim is an intercessor for grandparents, Father Amaladass said. “There is so much love poured out to grandchildren.” Added Bailey, “We can look at St. Joachim and say we want to be like St. Joachim.”

—Originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.

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