The New Town of Cumbernauld was founded in 1955 and its rapid growth saw the need for the provision of churches for the Catholic population, which had previously been served from Holy Cross, Croy. Sacred Heart Parish was established in 1959, but by the time the church was built, the number of people in the town had risen greatly, especially in the Carbrain and Seafar areas. This created the need for another church to serve these areas and, in June 1967, Archbishop Scanlan agreed to establish a new parish church in Cumbernauld placing it under the patronage of St. Joseph.
On 8 September 1967, Fr. James Quinn left St. Martin’s in Castlemilk (where Fr. Harry started out) with the task of founding the new parish. As there was no accommodation available in the town, he was based at Sacred Heart with Fr. Jaconelli until a suitable house was found. It was at Sacred Heart that Fr. Quinn baptised the first child in the new parish. He was joined by the first curate sent to the parish, the newly ordained Fr. John McGuire, in July 1968. Three months later, the two priests moved into 13 Craigieburn Road, Carbrain, which was to be the heart of the parish for the next few years. It was here that Mass was said each day in the small oratory, and on 29 October, Mark James O’Brien became the first child baptised there. For Sundays and Holy days, however, the premises were too small, and Dumbarton Education Authority agreed to the use of St. Mary’s Primary School.
The first confirmations in the parish took place at Sacred Heart Church on the 13 June 1969, when Archbishop Scanlan administered the Sacrament to 86 boys and 99 girls from St. Joseph’s. By 1970, a site had been found for St. Joseph’s church at the top of Broomlands Road. Messrs. Lane, Bremner and Garnet were given the contract and drew on their experience to design a structure which would suit the site. The church was designed to accommodate 550 people and was built with an “open plan” nave with a balcony above and side sacristy which connected to the presbytery via a side door. Archbishop Scanlan blessed and laid the foundation stone on 28 May 1970, and he returned on Friday 8 October 1971 for the Solemn Opening of St. Joseph’s. The wedding of Francis Dennison and Mary Theresa Clark, the first to be held in the new church, took place the very next day.
The parish continued to expand, which can be seen in the numbers baptised – 47 in 1969, 52 in 1970, 66 in 1972 and 73 in 1976. The records show that baby Noreen Mary Slaven, baptised 6 June 1970, was among the first to be baptised in the new church, shortly before it was opened by the Archbishop. Having overseen the establishment of the parish, Fr. James Quinn was transferred to St. Gabriel’s, Merrylee, in 1975. The parish has since been served by a number other priests.
In 1982, the parish celebrated the ordination of Peter Smith, the first parishioner to be ordained from St. Joseph’s. Peter left Our Lady’s High School, Cumbernauld, to study for the priesthood and on 29 June, the church was packed to capacity as Archbishop Winning ordained Fr. Smith. He is currently the Parish Priest of St. Paul’s, Whiteinch.
The church building itself has undergone numerous developments since its foundation. The original heating system was found to be inadequate (a problem compounded by the very high roof) and it was not uncommon for the roof to leak. A new gas heating system was installed and went far toward solving the worst of the heating problems. However, the roof continued to leak until 1985, when it was decided to re-roof the whole church. The opportunity was then taken to make some other improvements, and a new sacristy was opened at the back of the nave making use of the veranda area under the balcony. This allowed the old sacristy to be used as a meeting room, which has been of great use to the parish. Bench seating from St. Joseph’s, North Woodside Road, Glasgow, was also acquired to replace the chairs that had been used previously. These were later replaced with new benches, more appropriate for a modern church, which were acquired from St. Stephen’s, Sighthill, when it was forced to close.
At the same time, there was some discussion about building a hall to promote the social life of the parish and to give the youth a church-based focal point, although this did not materialise until much later, when Fr. Harry, the current parish priest, enlisted the support of the then Archbishop and many parishioners and succeeded in having the area of the church beside the vestibule converted into a hall. Here, people meet for tea and coffee after Mass on Sunday’s and gather for social events. More recently, Fr. Harry has brought St. Joseph’s right into the 21st Century by installing air to air heat pumps and solar panels, which have greatly improved the heating situation and dramatically reduced the parish’s electricity bills.