Initially known as Kranji Chapel, St Joseph’s Church was built in 1846 by French Missionaries, Father Anatole Mauduit, dedicated to St. Joseph. It was intended to serve the Chinese Catholic immigrants workers who had left China to work in plantations in Singapore. Traditionally designed, it was one of the few churches that had its own attached cemetery and features a pagoda-type tower.
Father Joachim Teng, who began his ministry in St Joseph’s in 1949 saw through a few changes to the Church. Father Teng started the ‘St Joseph’s Farm’, where the large carpark currently lies, and tended to many fruit trees and reared livestock in the area. The fruits and milk collected were sold to maintain the parish. However, the farm was relinquished after Father Teng’s brush with death — a bull, part of the livestock community, attacked him but was stopped by its caretaker before it could fatally gore him.
Huge plots of land in the area were owned by the Church previously, which were later used for other (mostly educational) institutions. In 1948 and 1949 respectively, Boys’ Town and Assumption English School were built on the land adjacent to the Church. In 1957, the Infant Jesus Sisters’ Convent and a school for girls were built in Chestnut Drive. The current St Joseph’s Church Kindergarten, previously known as the Sino-English School, was also under the Church’s charge.
After World War II, Father Joachim Teng overseen a major renovation to construct the sanctuary and wings at the back of the Church. The main body and Church tower were then integrated into the wings and alter, and a new St Joseph’s Shrine was installed. The Church also installed its life-sized Stations of the Cross in 1991, which attracted many Catholics upon its completion particularly during the Lenten season.
The ensuing years saw more expansions to cope with the growing Catholic community in the area. The Chapel of Resurrection was built over the area that was its former cemetery. It was blessed and opened by Archbishop Gregory Yong in 1995. This was followed by a new parish hall being built in 1997.
In 2011, it was announced that the Church will be going through a major renovation for the first time since Father Joachim’s time. Some of the works included an extension of the Sanctuary, relocating the altar, reworking of the tabernacle and expansion of The Chapel of Resurrection columbarium to allow for more seating for parishioners.
As part of its 170th anniversary celebrations in 2016, the Church launched a comprehensively research book on its own history titled “Mission on a Hill Far Away”.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of August 2019 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.