A Brief History of St. Joseph's Parish for the 150th Anniversary, 2007.
From, Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Jesuit Parish of St. Joseph, by Rev. E.J. Jacques, S.J., (Mobile: St. Joseph Parish, 2007.)
During the 1820 and 30's German immigrants settled in Mobile, and although Mobile had two other Catholic churches, the need arose to minister to the German-speaking Catholic Community. Bishop Michael Portier appointed a Jesuit priest, Father Peter Imsand, as pastor of St. Joseph Parish, and construction of the church began in 1857. Prior to that time the Catholic church for German speakers was at the southwest corner of Claiborne and Conti streets. The new church was solemnly dedicated n August 15, 1858.
During this time the parish school was also established. It was, however, lost to the fire in the 1870's, but quickly rebuilt. Miss Maggie O'Driscoll and her sister are reported to have been teachers at the first school. Brother O'Meara, of the Christian Brothers, assumed administration of the school during the 1870's. After that, the Sisters of St. Joseph and later the Sisters of Mercy directed the school. A new facility was built in 1927 and it continued to provide a Catholic for children of the parish until the school was closed in 1967, due to declining enrollment. The school building was sold in December of 1972.
One of the historical highlights of St. Joseph's is the fact that its first pastor, Father Peter Imsand was allowed to minister to soldiers of both the Confederacy and the Union. During the time of much bloodshed, Father Imsand was allowed safe passage. This respected Jesuit was also very active in services during the Yellow Fever epidemic.
Due to the influx of many new parishioners plans began in 1907 for a new and larger church. Land was purchased from the Prador family, and the church was designed mainly in the Gothic style. The cornerstone was laid by Bishop Allen on August 8, 1908. [The church is located at 808 Spring Hill Ave., facing Ryan Park.]
In 1907 several parish organizations were established under the leadership of Father Linus Schuler. Among these were: the Altar Society, the Holy Name Society, the St. Vincent de Paul Conference, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, and the Holy Childhood Association.
On the 5th of August, 1924, ownership of the property was transferred from the Jesuits to the Bishop of Mobile, who paid $1.00 for the church property.
The year 1957 marked the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the "German Church." With a general migration of families to the western part of the city, the number of parishioners began to decline. In 1997, 60 parish census forms were turned in and the 52 boxes of envelopes were requested.
The members of St. Joseph's and the patients at the several neighboring hospitals have been valiantly served by the Jesuit Fathers and Brothers since its inception. Until 1994 there had always been a Pastor and one or more other priests assigned to the Parish, and often also a Jesuit Brother.
Jesuit Pastors of St. Joseph Parish
Anthony Free - 1880-1883
Joseph Windelreid - 1883-1887
John A. Downey - 1887-1890
Dominic Beaudequin - 1890-1903
Linus Schuler - 1903-1907
Daniel J. Murphy - 1907-1913
William Salentin - 1913-1920
Leo Dowling - 1920-1921 (acting pastor)
Linus Schuler - 1921-1926
Andrew Doherty - 1926-1928
John Buckley - 1935-1937
J.J. McCarthy - 1937-1947
Carmine Benati - 1947-1952
Florence D. Sullivan - 1952-1954
Joseph T. Burleigh - 1954-1958
John Q. Minvielle - 1958-1964
Cornelius J. Thensted - 1965-1969
Aloysius B. Goodspeed - 1969-1977
Sidney A. Tonsmeire - 1944-1994
E. J. Jacques - 1994-2009