St. Joseph Church started as a mission church in 1874 under the direction first of Franciscan friars, and then visiting priests. In 1905, St. Joseph Kimmswick became an official parish with Fr. Edmund Salland as its first residential pastor. In the 22 years of his service to the parish, Fr. Salland oversaw the building of a convent, school and rectory, and began the masonry Kimmswick church.
The school, built in 1909 in Sylvan Heights, was staffed with lay teachers, and then by the Ursuline Sisters. The 13 families enrolled initially were described as ten German, two Irish and one French. 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. In August of 1949, the School Sisters of Notre Dame took over directing the school for the following decades.
In 1956, the old frame church, which housed three classrooms, was torn down. Briefly, the third, fourth, and fifth grade classrooms were housed in the former Riverside Tavern until a new Kimmswick school opened on September
16, 1957. Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter was present for the school’s dedication on November 3, 1957. For the next decade facility issues impacted the sisters, priests, and children. Two fires in the church occurred while children were eating breakfast in the church basement.
Several pastors worked to make repairs, enduring a third fire in the rectory that caused that old building to be razed. The pastor, Fr. Tiefenbrun, moved into a trailer until the rectory could be rebuilt. In his last years as pastor, he invited The Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to administer the school. A principal, Sr. Lucy Marie Nicosia and several sisters arrived in August, 1983; the Apostles continued to administer and teach at Saint Joseph until June of 1992.
In 1985, Rev. Eugene R. Sinz was appointed pastor with 1,100 registered families and 250 children enrolled in the day school. Fr. Andrew Sigmund arrived in 1992, and carried out the drive that Fr. Sinz had begun to build a new school and church. After studying the 2.7 acre lot in Kimmswick, the building committee and Fr. Sigmund decided to purchase a 15 acre site on an elevated site in Imperial that would be safe from flood damage and offer room for expansion.
By the end of the school year in 1995, excavation for the new church had been started, the same year that Patricia Kirk took over as principal of Saint Joseph School, still located in Kimmswick. Work on the new school had to wait until January of 1998, when negotiations with the Windsor School District to purchase the Kimmswick property were concluded.
On December 17, 1998, Fr. Sigmund celebrated the first Mass in the new church, and on Sunday, February 7, 1999, Archbishop Justin Rigali dedicated and blessed the newly completed church with the framework of the new school in the background. When the new Saint Joseph School was dedicated on August 30, 1999, the principal’s office was in the hallway as the pastor had to use the administrative area for his office until the new parish office and food pantry were built and opened in December, 1999.
Under the spiritual leadership of Fathers Sigmund and Deister, there were 1400 registered families in the parish and 263 students in the parish school, with 233 new families registering for the parish the following year. When 40 students applied for kindergarten in the spring of 2000, plans were initiated to double the size of the school. The eleven new classrooms were ready just in time for the 2003-2004 school year. The addition was dedicated on October 4th, 2003.
Monsignor John Brennell served as pastor from 2005-2012. After the retirement of Ms. Patricia Kirk who had headed school growth during this expansion, St. Joseph welcomed a new principal, Mary Ellen Smith, in June of 2007. Under her direction, the school continued to thrive, adding enhanced technology by installing interactive whiteboards in classrooms and updating the computer lab. A Pre-K 4 class was added in 2010. Monsignor Timothy Cronin served as pastor from 2012-2015. When Mrs. Smith retired as principal in 2014, Mrs. Melissa Langevin was brought on to lead the parish school and initiated a Pre-K 3 classroom to serve growing family population.
Fr. Daniel Shaughnessy became pastor in 2015. He was and remains the visionary leader and pastor of the parish. Fr. Shaughnessy's passion for the school is extended to all families who want a Catholic education and he has sought additional sources of financial assistance for those in need. His continued support of the teachers and administration has created a positive and exciting future for the school. In August of 2016, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus again returned to serve at the invitation of Fr. Shaughnessy. Sr. Carol Sansone, ASCJ, was named principal. Under their leadership, Sr. Carol and Fr. Shaughnessy welcomed the Clavius project, a robotics program, into the school. In addition, technology was raised to a new level and a partnership was established with the Missouri Botanical Garden Association with the creation of a child-centered garden, a collaborative effort between students and parishioners.
With the cooperation of the School Board Safe Environment Committee, considerable attention was also given to improving the overall safety of the facilities. A Mock Trial Team was established and the Bellarmine Speech Team was reintroduced.