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Parish History - St. Joseph

A Parish Is Established - 1870

Northwest Manitowoc County was in the process of change from dense forest land to productive farms during the years 1852 to 1868.  These were difficult and trying years as recorded in the history of the people who settled here.

In 1852, about fifteen Bohemian families settled in and around what is present day Kellnersville.  By 1862, up to eight hundred Bohemian families migrated from Europe to this area to make a new home and life with great hopes for freedom and peace.

Although the Kellnersville area was settled around 1852, Saint Joseph’s Church was officially dedicated in 1870.  Prior to the first mass by Father George Brunner at Kellnersville, the people attended mass at small log churches in the area.  One of these was in the town of Cooperstown and was known as Saint Wenceslaus at Greenstreet.  The best history of the area was that written in German by Father Adalbert Cipin and has been translated.

Father Cipin was pastor of Saint Joseph’s on three different occations.  In the history of the parish he is shown to have guided the faithful through many difficult times.  His first assignment to Kellnersville was in 1894.  He returned again in 1902 for a short time and then in 1905 for nine years.  He was known to have been a peacemaker and was called away to work in other parishes that required his skills.

Construction of the school was started during the period when Father Joseph Maly was pastor.  He too was with Saint Joseph Parish for several periods of time.  The school was completed under the guidance of Father Ignatz Lager in 1885.  He was instrumental in securing a teaching staff from the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity.  The school had been a central feature of the parish community for many years.  Records show that students enrollment was around 120 in 1888.

In the early 1900’s much discussion took place on building a new church.  It was during the third term of Father Cipin’s pastorate starting in 1906 that the parish agreed to build.  Land was purchased south of the present church and the old school building was moved there.  An addition to the school was completed in 1908 and classes began on November 19 of that year.  However, it took until 1912 before it was agreed to build the new church and rectory in Kellnersville.  This project was guided to completion by Father William Braun.  The church cornerstone shows that it was laid in 1915.

In more recent years Monsignor Kalisek, Father Frank Svatek, and Father Francis Kerscher have guided the parish.  During this period of calm and growth, the parish prospered as did the community and country.  The final addition of the new classroom wing was completed in 1957.  The last class to graduate from the school was in the summer of 1988.  The school officially closed with the start of the fall term.  Since that time it has been used for youth retreats.  Many Teen Encounter Christ retreats, popular with high school age young adults, have been held there.  This gave new life to a school with a history of nearly 110 years of service. 

Monsignor Alfred Schneider came to Saint Joseph’s on February 10, 1972, and stayed for ten years bringing change as directed by Vatican II.  He instituted the Eucharistic Ministry program in the parish and encouraged members to join in lay ministry formation programs sponsored by the diosese.

Father Ronald Reimer followed Monsignor Schneider as pastor of Saint Joseph from 1982 to 1986.  During that time the church was completely repainted, the side altar redecorated, and the risen Christ was added to adorn the altar.  Side walls were covered with vinyl and the wood trim stripped and lightened.  All completed through generous contributions from parishoners.

Father Frank Reinke was Pastor of Saint Joseph’s from May 1986 to 1988.  Father William Eberhardy then ministered to the parish from 1988 until May 1, 1992.

A new era was ushered in with the appointment of Sister Marlene Greatens as parish director on May 1, 1993.  Sister Marlene is one of several religious women who fill this need for our Catholic church in the Green Bay Diocese.

No church history is complete unless we recognize the sons and daughters the parish community has given to Christ through ministry.  Father Emil Shimek was ordained June 7, 1919, and died June 22, 1946.  Father James Decker was ordained April 14, 1916 and died June 6, 1935.  Father Florian Milbauer was ordained April 11, 1950 and died January 6, 1969.  Daughters of our parish who dedicated themselves to ministry include:  Sister Flavia (Agnes) Hochman, Sister Gervase (Flora) Seidl, Sister Juliana (Florence) Weber, Sister Karlene (Ann) Berger, Sister Karen Ann (Catherine) Berger, Sister Patricia Touhey and Sister Catherine Elmer.  In May of 1995 Richard Meidl, a member of Saint Joseph Parish was ordained a permanent deacon.  Deacon Meidl served the parish until December of 1997.

After Sister Marlene Greatens was appointed as Parish Director, the sacramental needs of the parish were provided by Father Ronald Colombo of Saint James of Cooperstown.  However, in 2000 Saint Joseph Parish lost the services of Father Colombo when he became pastor of All Saints Church in Denmark, in addition to Saint James in Cooperstown.

Nevertheless, Saint Joseph Parish was fortunate to get Monsignor Robert Gulig, a retired priest form Green Bay, to provide for the sacramental needs of the parish and Sister Joleen Van Dyke to lead the parish as pastoral musician.

Over the next several years, several major improvements took place.  The concrete steps leading to the entrance of the church were enclosed giving the front of church a whole new look.  New carpeting was installed in the entire church, and the addition of an elevator made the church handicap accessible.

December 23, 2004 brought shock and sorrow to the parish of Saint Joseph.  A fire in the living quarters adjacent to the church took the lives of Sister Marlene Greatens and Sister Joleen Van Dyke.  A great loss, felt throughout the community brought Father Ron Colombo back to Saint Joseph to serve as  temperary administrator.

The following year Saint Joseph Parish experienced yet another loss.  At the age of 70, Monsignor Robert Gulig passed away on November 9th 2005.  Saint Joseph Parish then welcomed retired priest, Father Rallen Stencil into it's parish family.

In 2006, Saint Joseph Parish under the direction of Father Ron Colombo, joined the existing linkage of All Saints - Denmark, Holy Trinity - New Denmark, and Saint James - Cooperstown.  In September 2007, Sister Gerri Krautkramer joined Father Ron as Pastoral Associate to help in the ministerial duties throughout the linked parishes. 

Once again Saint Joseph felt loss when Father Rallen Stencil was hospitalized after a serious auto accident in May 2009.  Not able to return to his duties at Saint Joseph, the diocese sent Father David Koch as Sacramental Minister to help Father Ron Colombo with the spiritual and sacramental needs within our growing linkage.  With the addition of St. Mary's - Glenmore/Stark in September 2009  mass schedules changed to allow both priest to cover mass and sacramental needs for all 5 parishes, today known as the Circle of Faith.  

We can truly be proud and thankful for what we have at Saint Joseph.   May we continue to grow in faith as a parish family for many years to come. 



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