Parish History

The Begining

St. Joseph Church, located in Imperial, formerly of Kimmswick, began as a mission church in March of 1874.

St. Joseph Parish has thrived since its early mission days when Mass was celebrated in different homes. In May of 1876, the deeds of four lots were acquired and by June the original frame church was erected on ground then known as Sylvan Heights. In May of 1877, the Vicar General Henry Muehlsaipen blessed the church. The first recorded baptism was on Oct. 22, 1876, when the infant daughter of Michael Arnold and Margaret Schwarz was named Elizabeth and received into the church.

The Franciscan Fathers were in charge of the parish until 1880. Visiting priests, many from Maxville (the present city of Arnold) spoke from St. Joseph's altar for many years.

A New Parish

It was a joyful day, Oct. 3, 1905, when Archbishop Kain appointed Fr. Edmund Salland as the first resident pastor. Fr. Salland, formerly of Holy Ghost Parish in St. Louis, was known for his devotion and dedication and spent 22 years in service to the parish. While at St. Joseph he built a convent, school and a rectory. In 1927 he built the masonry Kimmswick church but was transferred to a neighboring parish in Maxville before its dedication.

The school, built in 1909, was staffed with lay teachers in its earliest days and then the Ursuline Sisters took charge. In 1941, the Dominican Sisters took over and five years later the new social work order known as the Christ the King Sisters were in charge of the school. In August of 1949, the School Sisters of Notre Dame took on the duties at the school for the coming decades. The 13 families enrolled when the first opened were described as ten German, two Irish, and one French student.

Onward from Humble Beginings

Fr. Daniel Sullivan became the second pastor and, like Fr. Salland, remained at the parish for 22 years, from 1927 to 1949. Fr. Michael Toomey succeeded Fr. Sullivan but only served about two years before falling ill. The fourth pastor Fr. John Denehey, served a short time until his abrupt death in February of 1952. One month later, Fr. James Franey was appointed pastor and ministered to the parish for the next ten years.

It was in 1952 that the elaborate new Wurlitzer organ was donated to the church by Mr. and Mrs. Anthony P. Naes and dedicated by Fr. Franey. In 1955 the "Carillonic Bells," also a gift from the Naeses, were installed and dedicated on New Year's Day.

In 1956, the old frame church, which by now housed three classrooms, was torn down. The parish was given the use of the former Riverside Tavern for the third, fourth and fifth grade classrooms until the new school was finished. The Kimmswick school was open for occupancy on Sept. 16, 1957, and His Excellency, Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter, was present for the school's dedication on Nov. 3 of that year.

Fires and Floods

In February of 1958, fire broke out in the church and according to witnesses, the fire originated behind the altar. At the time, the schoolchildren were eating breakfast in the basement. The fire was discovered by one of the sisters, and there was much damage. Neighbors, local priests, and Liguori workers helped to remove vestments and statues from the Church. Notably the image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in our current Church survived the fire. For a while, Sunday Mass for St. Joseph parishioners was held in the newly constructed chapel at Liguori.

Frozen and busting water pipes in the convent as well as an explosion in the furnace followed the Church fire. Finally, tainted cistern water caused the clergy and the sisters to carry water in buckets from the rectory and convent to the school until an new water connection could be made.

During his last year at St. Joseph’s, Fr. Franey was given a part time assistant, Fr. Lawrence Schieber. When Fr. Franey and Schieber were appointed to a St. Louis parish, Fr. John Geoghegan then began his 10-year stint at St. Joseph.

Fr. Ralph Zimmer took Fr. Geoghegean’s place as pastor in 1972. After one year he was replaced by Fr. George Haar, who spent five years at St. Joseph. Fr. Haar made many needed repairs to the rectory and convent. He also replace the roof of the church that had been damaged in the fire years before. Fr. Haar was reassigned in June of 1978.

Fr. Ronald Tiefenbrunn was immediately appointed pastor. Fr. Tiefenbrunn knew the original pastor, Fr. Salland well, as Fr. Salland had been his childhood pastor at Immaculate Conception in Arnold after Fr. Salland left St. Joseph.

On a bitterly cold November night, another fire broke out in the basement under the rectory dining room.  Fr. Tiefebrunn barely escaped. This brought the various improvements to parish buildings to an abrupt halt.

The 72-year-old structure was boarded up and Fr. Tiefenbrunn moved into a temporary mobile home. Father worked with dedicated parishioners to replace all the documents and information that had been destroyed. The rectory was torn down and rebuilt.

Moving to Imperial

In 1985, Rev. Eugene R. Sinz was appointed pastor with 1,100 registered families and 250 children enrolled in the school.

Fr. Andrew Sigmund arrived in June of 1992. Fr. Sinz lit the torch for a new school and church and now that torch was handed over to Fr. Sigmund to see it through to reality.

The expansion committee was created in December of 1992 to answer the initial question, to expand on the present site or to move the parish campus to a new site? The present Kimmswick site was only 2.7 acres and it was decided that 10 acres was needed. An ambitious search for the new home site for the parish campus began. This would be property that would hopefully never be burdened by flood.

In January of 1993 associate pastor, Fr. Paul Telken, arrived to help the parish during this exciting time.

After much suspense Alice and William Mall of Imperial signed the contract for sale of 15.5 acres on Oct. 10, 1993. The acreage included a house and about 3.5 acres to be sold to the state for the extension of Imperial Main Street to Old Antonia Road.

In November of 1993, Art Stauder of Stauder Architecture of St. Louis was chosen as the architect as he was experienced in designing spiritual structures. The church would seat 450 guests initially with room to expand up to 900 within the church and the spacious vestibule.

In January of 1994 the capital campaign began with the motto, "three for three for Thee." Parishioners were being asked to give three percent of their income over three years. The Good News reported that "over 200 parishioners braved the cold, crisp air on May 1, 1994, at the blessing of the new parish site."

Archbishop Justin Rigali wrote in a congratulatory letter, "Your plan that Fr. Sigmund has explained convinces me that you are unselfishly planning not only for yourself, but also for those who come after you."

Patricia Kirk arrived as school principal for the start of the 1995 school year. By the end of that school year preliminary excavation had begun on the new church site.

Paving of the Old Antonia Road extension began on July 17, 1996. This relatively short strip of asphalt connected the new parish grounds to Imperial’s Main Street and Interstate 55.

Finally, the time had come. The official groundbreaking ceremony took place on May 4, 1997, when 300 parishioners, shovels in hand, simultaneously dug into the earth along the outline of the future church.

Hof Construction of St. Louis was awarded the bid for the general construction of the church. Parishioners were to do much of the work on the lower 13 feet of the building. The total building and furnishing costs for the church came to $1.7 million dollars.

After a time of negotiation the Windsor School District agree to purchase the old church/school property in Kimmswick for $1,230,677 in January 1998. After a no tax bond issue was passed by the voters the deal was complete. Now planning and construction of St. Joseph School could go forward.

In June 1998 Fr. Frank Koeninger replaced Fr. Telken as associate pastor. On the evening of December 17, 1998, Fr. Sigmund celebrated the first Mass in the new church. Many donors and workers were on hand to celebrate. On Sunday, Feb. 7, 1999, St. Joseph parishioners were honored by the presence of Archbishop Justin Rigali as he dedicated and blessed the newly completed church with the framework of the new school in the background.

On January 26, 1999 thirty-five youths and five parents attended the Papal Youth Rally with now-St. John Paul II at the Kiel Center in St. Louis.

In June 1999 Fr. Charles Deister took up the role of Associate Pastor.

On August 30, 1999 the new St. Joseph School was dedicated. The school opened the following day. The principal’s office was in the hallway, as the room that would become the principal’s office was to serve as the parish office for a few months. The pastor had his office in what was to be the nurse’s office. With the help of many dedicated volunteers plans for a new parish office and food pantry were drawn up and the building opened in early December 1999.

Under the spiritual leadership of Fathers Sigmund and Deister there were 1,400 registered families in the parish and 263 students in the parish school. From the fall of 1999 to the fall of 2000, 233 new families registered with St. Joseph Parish.

When 40 students applied for kindergarten in the spring of 2000, it was obvious that the school would need to be doubled in size as soon as possible. In August of 2000 the Mall family, who sold the land for the Church to the parish, gave the parish permission to move into the their old house on the property. It was remodeled in September, and the priests moved in on October 1, 2000.

On Saturday, Oct. 14, 2000, parishioners coordinated and managed the first fall festival at the new church grounds. The festival with its auction and Dreams 2000 raffle made the event a financial success and the parish's largest annual fundraiser.

In September of 2001 parishioners began building a two storied building of meeting rooms, known as the Bridge Building. It was completed almost exclusively with volunteer help and donations. It passed final inspection on July 19, 2002.

The third Capital Campaign began in October of 2001 with the purpose of raising funds for an 11 classroom and Rec Center addition.

Fr. Deister was replaced by Fr. Ed Goldian in the summer of 2002.

On November 7, 2002, McGrath and Associates, having built the first stage of the school building, were awarded the job expansion with a bid of $2,330,000

Partnering with several local parishes, starting in January of 2003, St. Joseph would host a weekly Life Teen Mass for the next 8 years.

The eleven new classrooms were ready just in time for the 2003-2004 school year. The addition was dedicated on October 4th, 2003. The Rec Center was opened in December.

Parish Life in Imperial

2004 was the first year since 1995 that St. Joseph Parish did not have any major construction. That same year saw the first parish Vacation Bible School which has continued on since.

Fr. Sigmund ended his 13 years at St. Joseph as he took an assignment at St. Francis Borgia parish in Washington, Missouri on January 19th, 2005. Fr. John Brennell became pastor on February 22, 2005.

The 2005-2006 Parish Centennial Celebration began in October, included a parade from the old Kimmswick parish grounds to the new location, and concluded with an ice cream social. There was a parish Mass/dinner with Archbishop Raymond Burke on Sept. 4, 2006.

Other centennial events were the first (now annual) All Souls Day Mass at St. Joseph cemetery and the parish mission with Fr. Pete Schavitz and the theme was "Prepare the Way of the Lord." In addition, there was the first (now annual) Advent wreath-making gathering.

Hurricane Katrina hit the shores of Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005. The following Sunday John Chapman, chairman of the Pastoral Council and the Fall Festival committee, asked that half of the proceeds from the Fall Festival go to hurricane victims' relief. After council approval, $40,000 dollars was donated from St. Joseph to the effort. It was the largest gift given by any parish in the St. Louis Archdiocese.

Brian Selsor was ordained to the Diaconate on June 2, 2007, and assigned to serve at St. Joseph. St. Joseph also welcomed a new school principal, Mary Ellen Smith, in July of 2007.

Don Kintz was ordained to the Diaconate on May 10, 2008, and assigned to serve Our Lady Parish in Festus.

Fr. Edward Nemeth, assigned to weekends at St. Joseph as a transitional deacon, was ordained to the priesthood on May 24, 2008, and assigned as Associate Pastor to St. Joseph. Fr. Nemeth was also assigned to be chaplain and part-time teacher at St. Pius X High School.

Fr. Ed Goldian, S.J., moved to St. Mary Magdalene in St. Louis city.

Fr. John, as he prefers to be addressed, was named a monsignor on July 1, 2008.

Thanks to a parishioner's anonymous gift, the parish was able to contract Wicks Organ Company of Highland, Ill., to design/build an organ specifically for St. Joseph. Parishioners donated their time and talent to build the platform, which holds the two ranks of organ pipes and the speakers. The first time the organ was used was on Easter Sunday of 2009.

In 2008, the Rock Community Fire District inquired about St. Joseph selling the 1.5-acre parcel of land across from the church. After the land was assessed at S700,000, the pastoral council voted to sell. The property was sold to the fire district in February of 2009, for the construction of a new firehouse to replace their house on Imperial's Main Street.

For more than 20 years, St. Joseph Parish has used the 9 acres of athletic fields through the kindness of the Wiles family. In the midst of planning for the possibility of losing those fields, Mary Wiles approached Jim Schaefer, Athletic Association president, to work with the parish to ensure that the fields were always available to the children of St. Joseph. St. Joseph completed the legal necessities to receive the 9-acre gift from Mary Wiles. Fr. John said he believes this to be the largest gift the parish has received in its 105-year history.

In June of 2011 Fr. Nemeth was assigned full time to St. Pius X High School and took up residence at Sacred Heart in Crystal City. The newly ordained Fr. Anthony Gerber became the new Associate Pastor.

In 2012 a project was begun to build an expanded food pantry attached to the Bridge Building.

In August of 2012 Msgr. Brennell was assigned as Pastor of St. Monica’s parish. Msgr. Timothy Cronin became the new pastor.

On Easter of 2014 a new tabernacle was installed in the sanctuary. Two new impressive statues of Mary and Joseph were also placed on either side of the sanctuary.

When Mrs. Smith retired as principle in 2014, Mrs. Melissa Langevin was brought on to lead the parish school. In June of 2014 Fr. Gerber was reassigned and Fr. Nicklaus Winker became the new associate pastor. 

In February 2015 Msgr. Cronin was assigned as associate at St. Clement of Rome parish. Fr. Daniel Shaughnessy was named Parochial Administrator.

Based on a text edited and in part written by Beth Chipley, parishioner.


Parish Church Slideshow

The Pastors of St. Joseph Parish

Fr. Edmund Salland 1905-1927
Fr. Daniel Sullivan 1927-1949
Fr. John Denehey 1949-1952
Fr. James  Franey 1952-1962
Fr. John Geoghegan 1962-1972
Fr. Ralph Zimmer 1972-1973
Fr. George Haar 1972-1978
Fr. Ronald Tiefenbrunn 1978-1985
Fr. Eugene R. Sinz 1985-1992
Fr. Andrew Sigmund 1992-2005
Msgr. John Brennell 2005-2012
Msgr. Timothy Cronin 2012-2015
Fr. Daniel 
Shaughnessy 2015-Present

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