Our History


St. Joseph's came into being in 1950, when Father Hermenegild H. Messmer, at the request of Bishop Joseph Toolen, was assigned to Huntsville, by the Society of the Divine Savior. Father Messmer, whose duty was to establish a mission for black Huntsvillians, lived at Visitation rectory until May 4, 1952, when the S.D.S. purchased the 93-year-old Beasley home and property. The old mansion, situated then in the space now directly in front of the Parish Center, had been built as a plantation home and was a large, two story, red brick box-like structure with a square bell tower in the middle. During the 1940's it was a nightclub until a customer was shot; it then became a multi-family dwelling. The house and land, nine and one-half acres, was purchased for $19,600 from two black couples, the late Mr. and Mrs. Nick Fitchard and Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Gurley, with the late Father Jerome Jacobs, then Provincial Superior of the S.D.S., signing the deed.

Father Messmer, along with the late Brother Jude Longmier and Brother Stanislaus Gumieny, continued work at the "colored" mission, which was blessed on September 7, 1952 by Father Theodore L. Flynn, pastor of Visitation Church, and officially named St. Joseph's Mission. On September 14, 1952, the first public Mass was offered in the big house by Father Messmer and was attended by approximately eighteen black parishioners ­twelve Alabama A & M students and six adults, the late James Jackson, Rose Brandon, Ernestine Street, Elizabeth Rooks, Geneva Stegar and Gertrude Langford.

With the monthly $100 assistance sent by the Society of the Divine Savior and the physical and financial help of the small number of parishioners, the ante-bellum home, which was in considerable disrepair, was transformed into living quarters for the clergy and a combination chapel and auditorium where the small congregation worshipped on Sundays, and Wednesday evenings. Many a Wednesday night, following Mass, a family type gathering was held in the auditorium, highlighted by Brother Stanislaus' repast of coffee, cocoa and cookies.

On May 10, 1953, the mission's first nuptial ceremony was held when Rose Waite Brandon and Charles Brandon had their wedding blessed. The late Brother Sebastian Lauer had, by this time, replaced Brother Jude. In February 1954, Father Colman Buehler, a former bandit captive in China, was assigned to the parish.

The parish grew slowly through 1954, with four adults and one infant baptism. A small group of whites were beginning to attend Mass. Fifteen dollars were pledged to Catholic Charities.

Brothers Stanislaus and Sebastian built a rectory (now the convent) in 1955, and the Salvatorians moved out of the mission house into more private living quarters. The rec­tory then consisted of a living room, dining room, parlor, chapel, kitchen, four bedrooms, one bath and a carport. The mission continued to grow through 1955 with three children and five adults baptized, and two weddings celebrated, including that of Ella Mae Henderson to Herbert White, which was the first wedding held at St. Joseph's. Brother Stanislaus and Gertrude Langford took boards found at the old house and carved two crosses; the large one still hangs over the altar in church, and the smaller one remains in the convent to this date.

1956 saw the population of Huntsville, at 30,000 - 10,000 of which were blacks. Of this number there were two thousand white Catholics and fifteen black Catholics.

On August 17, 1956, Sr. Bernadette Kline and Sr. Ruth Dittmann of the Sisters of the Divine Savior arrived in Huntsville, took up residence in the mission house, and began preparations for the opening of a school at the mission. With Sr. Ruth serving as princi­pal, the school was opened on September 4, 1956. Two rooms of the mission were con­verted into classrooms and a total of sixty-one black students, were enrolled in first through fourth grade. Of the 61 students, one was Catholic, Claudia Brandon, daughter of Rose and Charles Brandon, who had entered the first grade. The first (18 pupils) and sec­ond (21 pupils) grades were taught together in one classroom, with the third (7 pupils) and fourth (15 pupils) grades in the other.

By December 1956, the rummage building (later called the Butler Building) was erected by Brothers Stanislaus and Sebastian next to the rectory and was opened for the sale of used clothing. This is the same rummage building that exists today, next to the convent and is used by the St. Vincent DePaul Society. Prior to this, the rummage sales had been held from the back porch of the mission house, but now, with the rummage moved out, the porch was converted into a sometime stage for pageants and plays, and also into a lunch area for the school students.

In 1956, one child and three adults were baptized at St. Joseph's and three weddings were held. The mission now boasted approximately twenty registered adult parishioners.

Archbishop T. J. Toolen visited St. Joseph School in January of 1957 and on January 17, 1957, a Parent-Teacher Association was organized, with Mrs. Johnnie Anderson serving as president. This is the oldest organization in the parish.

On March 17, 1957, First Holy Communion was distributed for the first time with one child, Sylvia Brandon, receiving. Sr. Ruth returned August 20, 1957 to teach at St. Joseph School and was joined by two additional nuns, Sr. Mary Irene Daniels and Sr. Vallery Koerber, a black sister, who, along with the black parishioners, were not allowed to share public accommodations, restaurants, drinking fountains, etc., with the white sisters, clergy or parishioners.

With plans afoot to add one grade to the school, the three nuns moved out of one of their bedrooms and converted it into a classroom. Thus, on September 3, 1957, St. Joseph School opened with 69 students in five grades. By November 16, 1957, the sisters found the living quarters in the mission house too cramped, and so took up residence in the rectory, with Father Messmer and Brother Stanislaus moving back into the old tower of the house. Thus the rectory became the convent and remains so today.

On December 24, 1957, the first Christmas baskets were distributed by St. Joseph's Mission to needy families in the area.

By spring of 1958, the first First Holy Communion class had been prepared by the sisters and on April 13, six children, including Claudia Brandon and Catherine, Edna and James Kelly, Jr., received their first Holy Communion.

Father Messmer installed a merry-go-round and seesaw on May I, 1958 for the children in the front yard of the convent. At that time there was no paved area at all on the property, so the school playground was, in actuality a cool, green yard. The playground equipment had been donated, along with maps for the classrooms, by the increasingly active PTA.

In August 1958, Sr. Anthony Carollo arrived to assume her duties as the new school principal. Sr. Valery had also returned and was joined by a new nun, Sr. Herman Joseph Gindt, and another grade was added to the school. On October 4, 1958, the sisters celebrated the first Mass in the convent chapel. Soon afterward, Sisters Anthony and Herman Joseph began teaching religious education on Redstone Arsenal every Saturday to ninety children of Army personnel.

1958 was a growing year for the mission - the first Girl Scout (34 members) and Boy Scout Troops were formed, there were ten Baptisms, and large numbers of whites were regularly attending Mass.

With Sr. Anthony back as principal, the school opened in September 1959 with 84 stu­dents in grades one through seven, and the Arsenal CCD Saturday morning program had increased to 125. The parish, through its only organization, the PTA, with T. J. Taylor at the helm, began raising funds for the building of a school, as classes in the mission house were extremely crowded.


In February of 1960, Father Jerome, again Provincial Superior of the S.D.S., revisited the mission to look over the plans for the new school. In March 1960, devotion to Blessed Martin de Porres was inaugurated upon purchase of his statue by the parish.

Four nuns arrived in August of 1960 to prepare for the opening of school on September 6. They were: Sr. Anthony Carollo, principal, Sisters Ana Marie Gormez, and the late Cordula Kohlmann, and Fortunate Spoerlein. The opening of school that year found 116 black students registered, of which seventeen were now Catholic. By October of 1960, Magnolia Street was paved, Brother Stanislaus had left for a new assignment, and the new school was almost completed by Baker and Shaw Contractors of Decatur at a cost of $65,415.00.

On December 2, 1960, "at two-forty o'clock", the four nuns and all the school children moved desks, chairs, books, etc., into the 'new- school building.  The school consisted of a large hall (which would be used for Mass), four classrooms, an office, two rest rooms and a small kitchen. Each classroom had its own thermostat, lavatory sink and water fountain. Today, these rooms are the gym and computer room, the 5th through 8th grade class­rooms, the school office, restrooms, P. E. office, clinic and janitor's room.

Five days after the move into the new school, Sr. Fortunate was stricken ill and was rushed to the nearest Catholic hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, where she died. In January 1961, Sr. Theresa Pao arrived to take over her first and second grade classes.

Father Messmer was honored in February 1961 with a testimonial banquet by the Knights of Columbus and Huntsville City officials.

Sunday and Wednesday Masses were now being said in the hall of the school. At that time there was no stage in the hall (the present gym), so the large room extended approxi­mately thirty feet beyond what it does today. The altar for Mass rested against the west wall of the room in the area the computer room now occupies, and a small sacristy had been built to the right of the altar. The mission house was then used for Scout rooms, meeting and religious instruction rooms, the school lunch room, and a guest room as well as living quarters for Father Messmer.

On May 27, 1961 the PTA, now headed by the late Tom Morris, held the first Carnival and Barbecue, the proceeds of which went toward the purchase of a piano for the school.

Father Mark Sterbenz was appointed pastor of St. Joseph's in June 1961, and brought Brother Cletus Nogaj with him. In July 1961, a parish CCD was organized under the direction of Father Mark.

In August three Sisters arrived to teach in the school - Sr. Anthony, still principal, and Sisters Marguerite Rosing and Annette Caron. These three taught the entire eight grades in the school by combining classes.

On September 3, 1961, Stations of the Cross were erected in the school-church-hall. The Stations were carved in Canada and donated to the mission by a couple from Philadelphia in memory of their parents. School opened September 5, 1961, with 128 students in eight grades. Twelve of these students were Catholic.

1961 saw ushers serving in church for the first time, including Clint Davis Sr., and Jr., Arthur Henderson, Sr., who was to become the first black member of the Knights of Columbus in Huntsville, Cornelius Peoples, Charles Brandon and Condredge Holloway, Sr.

With the assistance of Sister Anthony, an Altar Society was formed in 1961 by Nellie Howard, with Dolly Jackson being elected its first president. The parish, now eleven years old, had a second organization besides the PTA to carryon work as directed by Father Mark. In this year, the PTA donated two basketball goals for the still unpaved schoolyard, and work was well underway by Baker and Shaw Construction Company on a rectory. In December 1961, the statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Sacred Heart were placed in the church hall, and on December 24, 1961, open house was held in the new rec­tory. Built at a cost of $24,850, the rectory originally consisted of a small living room and dining room, two offices, four bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, and laundry room. The ground in front of the rectory and school was paved at that time.

An electric organ for church was purchased for $2,100 in January 1962 and at the end of that month, Father Jerome again visited the mission, which had now grown to include the mission house, four classroom school and church hall, convent, rectory, and rummage building.

On February 21, 1962, due to an improperly extinguished candle lighter, a potentially disastrous fire started in the small sacristy of the church hall, but was quickly discovered by neighbors and well under control by the time the fire department arrived. Four days later, the Sacrament of Confirmation was given for the first time at St. Joseph's. Twenty-four young people and adults were confirmed by Archbishop T. J. Toolen.

The average Sunday collection during this period, according to 1962 church bulletins, was $60.00 a week, but every Sunday there was a second collection for various causes, which added a little more to parish coffers. Also, about this time, the Society of the Divine Savior increased its monthly allotment to St. Joseph's to $200 a month.

By spring, 1962, Rose Brandon was elected as the new Altar Society president, and Claude Martin headed the PTA.  The annual PTA Carnival and Barbecue was a tremendous success and in May 1962, St. Joseph School held its first graduation exercises, with four students receiving diplomas.

In July 1962, many tears were shed as Father Messmer, who had been serving as assistant pastor since Father Mark's arrival, was reassigned to a parish in Wisconsin. Father Hubert Kane replaced him, but only remained in the parish until October 1962, when he entered the Navy as a chaplain. During this period, Father Mark gave a series of radio talks on Catholic Doctrine on station WEUP which must have worked, for, by the end of the year, there were 32 black adult parishioners, plus A & M students, plus large numbers of whites who were now registering at the mission. Sr. Valery took over as principal at the rapidly growing school, joined in her teaching duties by Sisters Mary Leo LeClare and Gerard Mogensen.

1963 was not only a most eventful year in the history of St. Joseph's, but in the history of the Catholic Church for it was then that Martin Luther King made his "I have a dream" speech and John Kennedy was assassinated and the Second Vatican Council convened to instigate changes in the church. These events would playa large part in altering the fabric upon which the picture of the parish is painted. In the spring, twelve black students graduated from the eighth grade, Charles Brandon was elected president of the PTA, and an announcement was made in the Sunday bulletin of plans for the building of a church with a seating capacity of 266, and a building fund for the structure was inaugurated.

As fall approached, the parish was like a busy hive, with Father Mark at its head. Jo Morgan became the first white elected as Altar Society president, the mission house was torn down to make room for the new church, $4,000 worth of pews were ordered, and Father Mark, taking time out for a brief stint at the typewriter, asked in the Sunday bulletin that "all parishioners write their Congressmen urging support of Federal aid to all children, including those attending parochial schools".

St. Joseph parochial school, with Sr. Imelda Kunz, principal, and Sisters Yolanda Demers and Gerard teaching, opened with a bang in September 1963 as work began on an addition of four classrooms and a cafeteria. But the biggest bang of all resulted when, for the first time in the State of Alabama, in any public, private, or parochial elementary school, 118 students - 106 black and twelve white - took their places together, constituting historic school integration. Accomplished two days BEFORE George Wallace "stood in the schoolhouse door". The integration was 'reverse', but integration nonetheless, and was "not just peaceful, but warm, welcoming and comfortable", according to the mother of one of the white children enrolled. Among the white families to enter students in September 1963 were the Jim and Roselyn Halls' and the Mike and Mary DeMaioribus'. The late Sally Mottram became the first lay teacher to be hired by the school and along with the rising number of whites, school integration, a new church and additions to the school abound­ing, a new era in St. Joseph history was entered.

The first Coffee and Donut Sunday was held May 3, 1964 under the auspices of the Altar Society, whose other duties then included the cleaning, folding and arranging of all vest­ments and linens for all services, the setting of the altar and placement of the water, wine and book, the providing of fresh flowers for the altar as well as the cleaning of the church. Jo Morgan was reelected to a second term as Altar Society president and Charles Brandon was reelected to a second term as head of the PTA during the spring 1964.

In June 1964, Father Thomas Conrad Mauer (now known as Father Tom, recent assistant pastor at Visitation Parish) was appointed assistant pastor, joining Father Mark and Brother Cletus and Brother Adrian Cuddeback. Father Conrad (Tom) was replaced on August 23 by the late Father Roger Miller, who took up the task of organizing the schools' first daily hot lunch program, served for thirty cents a day in the new cafeteria. Prior to this time, lunch was served once a week in the mission house by mothers of the school students.

The cost of the new additions to the school - four classrooms and the cafeteria - was 85,320 with the work contracted to Baker and Shaw Construction. The CCD program, still under the direction of Father Mark, organized a lay board of directors and elected John Dumbacher as its first president. During this year $899 was pledged to Catholic Charities, a new confessional for the church was ordered for $280, and a pamphlet rack for the church was donated.

On June 21 1964, 51 Joseph Church was officially dedicated. Although the cornerstone was laid by Arthur Henderson, Sr. in 1963, the dedication was delayed because of an unusual season of bad weather which hampered the paving of the parking lot and also be­cause of corrections necessary on gas mains. The dedication ceremony was offered by Father Jerome with Archbishop Toolen presiding. The church, seating 266 was built at a cost of $36,640, $3000 of which came from Archbishop Toolen, $5000 from the Catholic Extension Society of Chicago, $19,000 from the parish building fund, and the balance from friends and new benefactors. Thus the mission became a church.

Sister Frederick Faust had, by now, assumed duties as school principal, while other nuns included Sisters Gerard, Yolanda, and the late Fidelis Ruff. By Christmas 1964, $400 was collected to pay for forty Christmas baskets for needy area families, and Evelyn Morse was elected as the new Altar Society president.  The year closed with a happily successful New Year's Eve dance sponsored by the still powerful PTA. 

Envelopes for the Sunday collections were introduced in January 1965 and also in this month, the fast-multiplying parish announced plans to enlarge the church with an addi­tional wing to seat 300. Hot on the heels of the popular New Year's Eve dance, the PTA sponsored a Mardi Gras dance in February, which proved equally successful.

The new addition to the church was complete in April 1965 at a cost of $39,460, thus creating the noted 'mirror image' design, and the regular Sunday second collection was terminated, to be replaced by collection boxes, built by men of the parish and placed at each church door. Dave Pentecost was elected president of the PTA, and Nick Mangus now headed the CCD. New pews for the east side of the church were installed at a cost of $4000, and John Dumbacher, Ed Moore and Fred Lauraquente built and donated a baptismal cabinet for parish use.

In August 1965, Sister Frederick Faust returned as school principal, joined by Sisters Anne Marie and Stephanie Stimac, and a canned food shower was held for the nuns. The opening of school in September saw the first Physical Education program inaugurated at the school by Isabelle Marrero, The women instructors taught under some difficulty, however, having to adhere to Father Mark's edict forbidding slacks or shorts on the school grounds. The Athletic Program was born in October 1965, with the first girls' volleyball team, and in November, after goals were installed in the gym, Pete Marrero organized a boys' basketball clinic held each Saturday morning. Neither boys' nor girls' teams had anyone else to compete against except Cavalry Hill, Indian Creek, and Scruggs Community Center teams, for segregation still existed in the 'world' outside St. Joseph's and no white team in the city would play against a squad with blacks on it.

The Altar Society held its first Bridge Benefit and Style Show in the fall of 1965, and proceeds from the event went toward the purchase of six large candlesticks to surround the newly purchased ($500) liturgical altar. Toward the end of the year, Mary Barrett was elected to head the Altar Society, the school students had their pictures taken for the first time, and $4000 was donated at Christmas to supply food boxes for ninety-five needy fami­lies, continuing and increasing that eight year tradition.

The election of Bill Barnes as CCD president opened the year 1966 for the parish, fol­lowed by the organization of a Holy Name Society for the men of the parish, with Nick Mangus serving as its first president. The group sponsored its first Communion Breakfast on Sunday, March 13, which featured Mayor Glenn Hearn as guest speaker. On April 3 1966, the school dramatics club gave a performance of the Passion play. Bob Beeble was elected to head the PTA, and the school sponsored its first Clothesline Art Show.

When September rolled around, Sister Frederick returned as principal, joined by Sisters Stephanie, Anne Marie and Fidelis, and the first girls' basketball team was formed, still competing against all black opponents. Father Joseph (Anslem) Turner was assigned to St. Joseph's as assistant pastor in October, joining Fathers Mark and Roger and Brother Cletus, and an addition to the rectory was begun by parishioner, Clint Davis, Sr. in December. 

Shirley Koralewski was elected president of the Altar Society, and the list of needy families assisted with Christmas baskets reached a record one hundred.

1967 was to prove the beginning of another era in the history of St. Joseph's Parish. Melvin Felber was elected Holy Name Society president, Tom Agnew was chosen to head the CCD and in late February and early March, a one-week parish mission was held. $17,814.40 was collected for Catholic Charities that year, about a 100% increase over three years. The schools' second annual Clothesline Art Show was held on April 9, this time in competition with all the area Catholic schools, and later that month, Father Turner left to become a chaplain in the Army.

In May 1967, the St. Joseph school students went en masse to the Jaycee Track Meet and, quite unexpectedly, ran, threw and jumped over all competition to win first place and bring home the school's first trophy, a ten inch high number that looked ten feet tall. Upon returning from the meet, the excited students rode the hoods of cars moving slowly up and down Beasley and Fitchard Streets, blowing horns and shouting for all the neigh­bors, sisters and priests to come out and celebrate their victory. Joe Tucker was elected president of the PTA, which also sponsored, that month, its seventh annual Carnival and Barbecue.

On Sunday, August 6, 1967, a parish reception was held to bid farewell to Father Mark and Brother Cletus and welcome the newly assigned pastor, Father Jerome Jacobs, and Brother John Hail. The Huntsville community felt the loss of Father Mark, as he had been extremely active in social welfare and civil rights action in the area. So it was that, fifteen years after signing the deed to purchase St. Joseph's land and property, Father Jerome be­came head of the parish.

In September 1967, Sister Stephanie Stimac took over as principal of the school, sharing teaching duties with Sisters Anne Marie Quinn, Georgine Ruff, and Jean Marie Hauck, and also heading the organization of the first school clinic. Isabelle Marrero was elected presi­dent of the Altar Society in December of that year, and the parish rolled into 1968.

Jim Hall was elected to head the Holy Name Society and Bill Caldwell was the new president of the CCD as the New Year began. The Deanery Council of Catholic Women was organized in February, and on March 17, 1968, Father Peter Coffee was honored at a wel­coming reception by the parish. The Knights of Columbus state convention was held at St. Joseph's in May, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Vath presiding, and the schools annual Clothesline Art Show was held May 19. Joe Tucker was reelected president of the PTA and the school closed out the month of May with the annual Carnival and Barbecue and its second straight victory in the Jaycee Junior Track Meet. With the parish turning more and more attention to city-wide social ills, a Project Discovery Day Camp was organized at St. Joseph's, to serve 100 needy children and a Helping Hands group became active in rejuvenating county homes and sanitary facilities. The Parish also organized a Catholic Bowling League.

On Sunday, August 4, 1968, the 5 P.M. Mass was inaugurated, and in September, Sr. Stephanie Stimac returned as school principal with Sr. Rosalie Rausch and Sr. Georgine Ruff. Under the direction of Father Jerome, Parish Council was organized, and at the first Parish Family Dinner on Sunday, October 16, John Dumbacher was elected original Parish Council president.  In conjunction with the Huntsville Council of Human Relations, the Parish Social Action Committee initiated a study hall for neighborhood children in the fall of 1968, and the Altar Society, soon to be headed by Jane Vollmer, held its annual Bridge Benefit and Style Show at Dunnavant's Mall on October 23.

Due to the illness of the first grade teacher, Sr. Fidelis, (later known as Sr. Georgine),

Sister Joan Wagner was sent to assume her duties in January 1969. Dick Balser was elected president of the Holy Name Society and John Kilkenny was chosen to head the CCD. The month of January also found the St. Joseph's Youth Group faced with a denial of their civil rights when they were refused admittance to a local skating rink because they were integrated.  The matter was quietly settled by a forceful letter and visit from the Parish Council President and the group was admitted the following month. On February II, the Social Action Committee held a Panel of Involvement, which proved to be the biggest gathering of local VIPs anyone could remember. Equality under the law, social justice and civil rights were the topics, and local law enforcement and government officials were put on notice that the city of Huntsville was more than ready to face these issues and resolve them. Father Roger celebrated his 25th anniversary as a priest on February 13 and a parish dinner was held in his honor and on March 2, the sacrament of Confirmation was administered by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Vath. The first St. Joseph's Parish Assembly was held arch 23, 1969. The first lectors and commentators, all men, began serving in 1969, proving that the Catholic Church was not functioning with total equality.  In April a Folk Music Festival was sponsored by Social Action to raise funds for the under-privileged.   May was another busy month. The first teenage dance was held with 200 in attendance. The Annual PTA Carnival and Barbecue was held, and Dick Balser was elected as the new PTA President. The Catholic Bowling League was still going strong and a girls' softball team was organized to compete in the Scruggs League. The first St. Joseph Family Picnic was held September 21, 1969, on Redstone Arsenal, Sister Stephanie returned as the school's first full time principal, with enrollment of 238 pupils and the kiss of peace was introduced into the Mass for the first time, causing some controversy among certain parishioners.  In 1969, Fr. Jerome announced the parish debt was paid off. In the fall of 1969, the boys' Independent School Basketball League was formed, in which St. Joseph in competition with Randolph, Evangel, St. Mary's, Madison Academy, and Presbyterian Day School, won two division championships. The first home Mass was celebrated at Bob and Terri McGraws' and in November, women lectors also were introduced. Muriel Rees was elected to head the Altar Society and fifty Christmas baskets were distributed to bring the year to a close.


The Holy Name Society was disbanded due to lack of membership in January of 1970, Leslie Jackson was elected president of the CCD and Noel Donlin was chosen to head the Parish Council at the annual Assembly and Dinner on February 8. The PTA Carnival and Barbecue made a record $3500, and Jerry Brainerd took over the helm of that organization. By the end of May 1970, St. Joseph School had graduated fifteen students from the eighth grade, had won the first annual Catholic School Track Meet, and had also swept the championship of the Jaycee Track Meet.

** On July 12, 1970, the parish gathered to bid farewell to Father Peter and to welcome Father Theodore Faschingbaur, In September, Rosaleen Hall became the first lay principal of the school and witnessed the phasing out of the familiar red plaid uniforms in favor of green plaids and solids, The second annual Parish Picnic was held, again on Redstone Arsenal, on September 27. Parishioners were still sponsoring a Project Discovery group, as well as participating in the organization of the Parochial School Boys' Basketball League, St, Joseph School teams performed successfully again, winning four first place and one second place trophies, while the senior girls volleyball team traveled to Birmingham to cop the Catholic Youth Organization Championship, The late Evelyn Lorenz was elected president of the Altar Society, and the parish continued its yearly Christmas basket donation to the poor, Sisters Joan Wagner and Rosalie Rausch were the only two teaching nuns,

In January 1971, the late Joe Robinson was voted to head the CCD and Jim Hall was elected president of the Parish Council at the annual Parish Assembly and Dinner on February 7, Bishop Vath administered the sacrament of Confirmation on February 22 of that year, and the always busy month of May started out with a parish dance.  Father Theodore left St, Joseph for a new assignment in May, and Terry McGraw was selected to head the PTA which, in its 14th year, sponsored another successful Carnival, although many habitués sorely missed the familiar barbecue. On the sports scene, May was again a big month for the school, as the elementary athletes won first place in the Catholic School Track Meet for the second year in a row and the Jaycee Championship for the fourth time,

St, Joseph's, through the Parish Council, joined the Inter-Faith Mission Service, seek­ing to increase ecumenical development, and, in June 1971, Father Keith Brennan was as­signed to the parish as assistant pastor, School students and parents received the sad news that on June 19, Sister Georgine, former first grade teacher, had passed away in Wisconsin, and a garden bordering her classroom was dedicated in her memory, The 5 PM Saturday Mass was introduced on June 26, and the high school girls' softball team copped first place in the Scruggs League to end the summer, Sr. DePaul Shafer came to live at the convent and served as a RN at Humana Hospital and Huntsville Nursing home,

St, Joseph Parish was again involved in another unusual 'first' when, with the opening of school in September 1971, a group of white students attempting to enter the school, had to be admitted under a temporary court injunction, obtained when their parents' filed suit, The case went to the Alabama Circuit Court, which ruled that the school must accept the students, but the Diocese of Birmingham appealed the verdict to the Alabama Supreme Court,

The annual Parish Picnic was held on September 12, and the following month the 6:30 AM Sunday Mass was discontinued. The Social Action committee placed food barrels in the cafeteria for the donation of staples for its emergency food distribution and the St, Joseph ball teams closed out another successful season, winning two firsts and two seconds in the Parochial School Boys' League, the city Public School Girls' Volleyball Championship, the Scruggs League High School Volleyball Championship, and the Parks and Playgrounds 18-and-under girls' basketball championship, Ann Johnston was elected to the presidency of the Altar Society in December 1971, and the parish entered its' twenty-second year.

The verdict of the Alabama Supreme Court on the appealed case of admitting the group of white students to St. Joseph's School was handed down in January 1972, it being that the school cannot be compelled to accept children seeking to escape integration. Bishop Vath visited the school, also in January, and in February, at the annual Parish Assembly, Leslie Jackson was elected to head the Parish Council. On March 2, the first communal Penance Service was held, under the guidance of the active Liturgical Committee. The annual PTA Carnival was held on May 20, shortly after which Gene Austin was elected to lead the PTA for the coming year. The Altar Society held its Mother-Daughter Breakfast on May 21, and the school repeated its winning ways by garnering first place again in both the Catholic School Track Meet and the Jaycee Track Meet. Sr. Bernice Nofs, O.P. was named the first Director of Religious Education.

Bishop Vath visited the parish on September 11, 1972, which was followed, in October, by the Speak-Up, a program encouraging parishioners, to voice their opinions in an open forum type atmosphere. One result of the Speak-Up was the formation of Services Rendered, a parish organization of volunteers to assist those in need. During the week of December 3, a parish mission was held, with Father Werner Hannan as guest speaker, and, on December 8, a surprise party was given by parishioners in honor of the 40th anniver­sary of religious profession of Father Jerome.

The St. Joseph boys and girls basketball teams captured seven firsts and two seconds in the Parochial School and Parks and Playgrounds leagues, Agnes Thome was elected presi­dent of the Altar Society and, at the end of December, sixty Christmas baskets were donated to the poor.

The annual Parish Assembly and Dinner in February 1973, saw Lee Keown elected as Parish Council president, the Altar Society held its Mother-Daughter Breakfast May 13, the PTA Carnival grossed the largest amount ever made on May 19, Kester Cofield was cho­sen to head the PTA, and the school again won the Catholic School Track Meet and the Jaycee Track Meet to close out the month of May.

It had been announced that Father Jerome would be retiring from pastoral duty and that a new pastor would replace him as of July I, but, on June 26, after a brief illness, Father Jerome died in Huntsville, His body lay in state at the church where the funeral Mass was celebrated. The following week, Father Robert Roeser arrived to assume his duties as pas­tor of St. Joseph's.

Father Roeser had the summer to help ease, parishioners grief over the death of Father Jerome, but fall found him working on several activities at once, including the Parish pic­nic and the opening of school, both in August, and the removing of the altar rails for Communion. Helen Guaditis stepped into the principal's job, a position she would hold for the next six years, Sr. Clare Kulas was assigned to teach fourth grade and Evelyn Stonemetz took over the reins of the Religious Education program.

 The Altar Society, under Rita Keown, evolving with the times and changes in emphasis within the church, reorganized itself into a Women's Guild on Sept. 12 and on Nov. 3 the annual Parish Dance was held and weekly collections averaged $1200. The holiday sea­son found the Women's Guild sponsoring its first Country Kitchen with $945 collected for the annual Christmas baskets.

In 1974, Agnes Thome was reelected president of the Women's guild. The annual Parish Assembly was held Feb. 10 to kick off the New Year in activities and John Filippo was elected President. On February 21, the increasingly active Women's Guild sponsored a Bridge-Canasta Benefit-Fashion Show for the first time since 1968. Sheriff Jerry Crabtree was the guest speaker at the PTA in March and also in that month Brother John left the religious life to return to the status of a layperson. Confirmation was presided over by Bishop Vath in April and the St. Joseph Jets again won the Catholic School Track Meet as the school year came to a close.

June 1 was a day of reckoning for St. Joseph parishioners as they bid a tearful farewell to Father Roger, putting a period to his ten years of service in Huntsville, and welcomed Father Keith Brennan as the newly appointed pastor. Keeping up with the semantic changes taking place in the parish, the annual Carnival was renamed Funday and made $5800 for the church and school combined. Construction of a new Religious Education center in the rear of the school building what is now the Kindergarten, was begun under the supervision of Joe Tucker and the parish, for the first time, saw the need to form a School Board that would operate as an independent authority to over-see the eight grade school.

Sr. Clare, fourth grade teacher, was named as the new Director of Religious Education and set out to organize the furnishing and equipping of the fast-growing center. The late Jack Cooley was named the first lay deacon of the parish, the first Eucharist Ministers were appointed and new carpeting, courtesy of the Women's Guild, was laid in the church. The average Sunday collection had risen to $1300 when St. Joseph's entered a significant period of change.

The Parish Picnic was held on September 29, Daryl Brost headed the PTA and the Religious Education Center was dedicated November 1 by Bishop Vath. The school year was through the first semester with Sr. Joan, Rosalie and Clare supple­menting the staff of lay teachers. A Fall Festival Dance, featuring the Charley Lyle combo was held November 9 and Charles Smoot chaired the Christmas Basket program which numbered fifty-five as the Christmas season rolled around and the parish headed into 1975.

Another Parish Speak-Up was held on January 19, 1975 one result of which was the dividing of the parish into areas and the drafting of a new constitution to replace the old operating guidelines. This document was officially adopted in March. In that same month, St. Joseph School received its' accreditation from the State of Alabama Department of Education, the first parochial school in the city of Huntsville to be so designated. After nineteen years the teaching excellence of St. Joseph was "officially" recognized.

In May, John Filippo was elected president of the council at the Parish Assembly, Sr, Clare remained as DRE and Ed Moore was chosen to head the PTA Funday netted $5500, according to chairman Charles Breaux and, apropos of the origins of the school, a Mass was prepared by black students and teachers centering on the music and moods of black culture, During the summer, the stage in the auditorium was closed off and turned into a perma­nent work and storage area, a move that was to be rued years later, Louise Tucker was se­lected as Women's Guild leader and on October 12, Father Keith, for the first time, was identified not as the pastor of the parish but rather as the Team Director and Pastoral Minister. The parish adopted a Vietnamese family through the auspices of Catholic Social Services and fifty-eight Christmas Baskets were distributed,

In April of 1976, at the Parish Assembly, Don Miller was elected president and on June 8, Sr, Clare was given a farewell reception, She was replaced by Gail Franklin and Irene Mangus.  Funday, also headed by Don Miller, raised $6442 and the parish settled into a quiet summer.  In the fall, St, Joseph's School opened on August 30 for its' 20th anniversary year.

Dester Ogden was elected president of the PTA.  Under the leadership of Mary Kay Filippo, the Women's Guild published a cookbook, "Mixed Blessings", which received rave reviews and the weekly offerings in church rose to $1600.

The year 1977 marked an historical occasion for the parish as it celebrated its' Silver Jubilee, marking the many changes which had occurred in the direction, outlook, form and substance of the parish since Father Messmer first stepped into the old Beasley home on May 4, 1952, Work on the church was begun by Harold Construction for $31,210, a renovation from the mirror image design, which had so fascinated people since 1965, to the present centrist altar plan, The first pictorial directory was published in conjunction with the Silver Anniversary and communion in the hand was incorporated. In July of that year, the parish welcomed its' first black priest, Father Bruce Greening, much to the delight and wonderment of African American parishioners, most of whom had never seen a black priest before,

Mary Franklin was elected president of the Women’s Guild, Arnold Humphrey held the reins of the PTA and Don Miller was reelected head of the Parish Council. Jack Blain was hired as the first salaried DRE in August and Robert McDonald joined the parish team as a lay minister. In July, 1977, the parish bulletin listed the ministers of the church as follows: Father Keith, Director of Pastoral Training, Father Bruce, Campus Ministry, Earl Blain, DRE and Robert McDonald, Youth Minister and Liturgical Coordinator.  That year Funday cleared $6300,

When school opened in August, an old friend returned to St, Joseph, Sr. Anthony, back after a nineteen year absence, took up teaching duties in the eighth grade and was warmly welcomed by many members of the old parish on the weekend of the Silver Jubilee festivities" But no sooner was her welcome and the anniversary celebration over when word reached parishioners that Fr, Messmer, founder of St, Joseph's, had died October 14 in Borwang, Germany at the Salvatorian Retirement Home.  Again parishioners drew together, this time in grief, as they mourned the man and his mission.

On the athletic front, St. Joseph School continued to bring in the trophies when Bill Finley's girls basketball team won both the season and tournament titles in the League.

Nick Mangus took over as president of the Parish Council in 1978 and Father Bruce directed a passion play in March before leaving in April. Funday continued to bring in around $6200 for the parish and school, and the start of the summer found Brother Peter Schuessler working with the youth during the summer. In June, Jack Blain and Bob McDonald left their lay Ministry posts and were replaced by Connie Thomas. The community issued a Mission statement which proclaimed the role of the parish to be "that of a servant community of individuals, families and organizations witnessing, serving and celebrating the presence of Jesus the Risen Lord." Father Keith at that time also requested from the Bishop a clarification on the status of St. Joseph's community, formerly St. Joseph's Mission. As a result, the mission conveyed to Bishop Vath the property for the sum of $10.00, who then established the parish of St. Joseph's with the present boundaries of the former Mission.

Carolyn Wingenter headed the Women's Guild and when school opened in August, Brother David Souzer was there to greet the enrolled children, much to their delight. Sisters Joan, Rosalie, and Anthony were still teaching in the school, which had an enroll­ment of 182, ninety-one of whom were black.

The church renovation, begun in 1977, was still incomplete and sometime during the process; the original Stations of the Cross were removed and replaced by smaller picture­ type figures.

1979 was a traumatic year for St. Joseph's School as well as for its' cross-town neighbor, St. Mary's of the Visitation parish. Due to falling enrollment, St. Mary's was closed, and under the urging of Bishop Vath, was merged with St. Joseph's under the name of Holy Family School. John Gronberg of St. Mary's was named principal and a new school board, consisting of members from both parishes, was chosen to operate the facility. Both schools suffered an identity crisis, St. Mary's with the loss of theirs and St. Joseph's with the subli­mating of theirs. It would be a few years before Holy Family was fully accepted as the repository of both institutions' histories and, as a significance, when acceptance finally came, the school emerged stronger for it. Another important event was the announce­ment, in February 1979, as it appeared in the One Voice, the fact that "St. Joseph's Mission, Huntsville is incorporated into the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama, and is raised to the status of a parish of the diocese." A parish census taken in September 1979 revealed that St. Joseph's Church was spiritual home to 425 families, and the small chapel on the east side of the church was used for daily Mass. The parish adopted a second Vietnamese family, and Tony Wingenter became head of the Parish Council. The Women's Guild, however, faced with declining attendance, disbanded, the end of eighteen years service to the parish. Brother Joe Jadgadensky joined the rectory staff for the summer and Brother David moonlighted driving the van to A & M University for students to attend Mass. Jerry Jennings was chairman of Funday.


Father Keith, after six years as pastor and team leader and nine years total service in the parish, said farewell on June 7, 1980.  Father Peter Schuessler, now a priest, arrived on June 27 to fill out the team ministry. Tony Wingenter was reelected president of the Parish Council and in December, the Society of the Divine Savior cele­brated their 100th anniversary with a Centennial con celebrated Mass at Visitation Church and a banquet at St. Joseph's. Seventy-three Christmas baskets were distributed under the guidance of Evelyn Stonemetz.

In 1981, the Religious Education Center was moved to the east side of the rectory (after extensive renovation) and a kindergarten was opened at the school in the former Religious Education room next to the eighth grade classroom, where it remains today. Mrs. Gertrude Northup was the teacher. In May, Sherrie Laraquente led Funday activities which netted a whopping $12,878, a four thousand dollar increase over the previous year. On May 21, Holy Family School graduated thirty students from the eighth grade. Laura Hall was elected president of the PT A and Hanson Howard took over the leadership of the Parish Council. For the first time in eleven years a nun, Sr. Grace O'Neill of the Sisters of Notre Dame, was selected as principal of the school. In November, Sally Mottram, associated with St. Joseph and Holy Family School since 1963 died, deeply mourned by parish and school alike. Eighty-three Christmas baskets were given to the needy that year.

Brother Karl LeClare, a novice, arrived in June 1982 to begin a summer sojourn at St. Joseph's and the second pictorial directory was published. A reception was held for the re­tiring kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Northup, and a Parish renewal was offered during Lent. In September, Sr. Louise Rausch, sister of Sr. Rosalie, joined Holy Family School as the new school secretary. The school now had the largest compliment of nuns in its' history with Sr. Grace, principal, Sr. Joan, 1st grade, Sr. Anthony, 4th grade, Sr. Rosalie, 5th grade, and Sr. Louise in the office. Hanson Howard was re-elected president of the Parish Council and Marjorie Battle led the PTA as the school year swung into action. Brenda Riley and Julie Jennings, co-chairpersons of Funday, raised $12,350 for the coffers of the parish and school.

In the summer of 1983, Father Peter left, but his work remains in the Thursday Club, a "club" for older members of the parish, which he established and which remains active to this day. Funday set a new record with $14,000 netted.

The late Brother Grant-Michael Fitzgerald arrived in October and also in that month pastoral team representatives started work on the establishment of the Office of Diocesan Black Catholic Concerns. Under the chairmanship of Brenda Riley, eighty-four Christmas baskets were distributed.

The New Year was one month along when Father Leonard Walker was assigned as Associate Pastor. 1984 was a year of change, at least in organization, as by May of that year, Father Leonard had organized the first St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Joseph's.  He was only to be at the parish for a year, but he left behind a strong and active group which had evolved from the old Social Action Committee. His mark in the history of the parish had been made. Tony Wingenter was at the helm of the Parish Council and June and Tony Zimmerman co-chaired Funday.  Orena "Reb" Salvo, longtime parishioner, became the parish secretary, presaging one of the most constructive years at St. Joseph's both literally and figuratively.

In 1985, St. Joseph's participated in a three-year program for laypersons sponsored by the Diocese of Birmingham. RENEW was an opportunity to strengthen one's relationship with God, Jesus, the Holy 'Spirit and with members of the parish. The late John McKenna and wife, Doris, our local chairpersons, submitted a two-inch thick report at the end of the first session. This so daunted the recipients that they immediately devised a single-paged form which the evaluators were happy to fill out after each of the next four sessions.

Fr. Leonard was reassigned during the summer of 1985 and he was replaced by Father Gerald Sirois, who took up his duties on July 16, 1985 also saw Arthur Henderson, Jr. start a Young Adult Ministry Program, a three-year program of spiritual development sponsored by the Diocese. The new parish center was built and the rectory was remodeled. The parish center housed the Parish offices, Religious Education and meeting rooms, while the rectory became solely a home for the clergy once again. Keeping up with the parish building boom, a new library extension was added on to the school and accreditation was renewed with both the Diocese and the State of Alabama. The third Pictorial Directory was published and St. Joseph's burst into 1986.

Mike Riley was elected president of the Parish Council and Father Bruce Greening, a former assistant pastor, led the first parish Revival, sparking an interest that was to further develop the Black Ministry in the church. Susan McGraw was named principal of Holy Family School, replacing Sister Grace, and Sr. Rosalie, now retired from teaching, was ap­pointed Vice-Principal.

It was a busy but pleasant year for them, with new desks added to the fourth grade and, for the first time, air-conditioning in all classrooms. The school's first Honors Day was held in May and, in the tradition of the parish's involvement with the community, Regina Shelton was awarded the Fletcher E. Seldon Award for "exemplary service to the community". That summer, the kitchen in the convent was renovated by the school board. The Greeters Ministry was begun in the fall, during the second phase of the Renew Program. Claire Williams chaired the Christmas Basket project which distributed eighty baskets to the needy.

At the parish dinner and elections in February 1987, Joe Mercier was voted in as new president of the Parish Council and Hanson Howard was elected to head the Office of Black Catholic Concerns. February also found parishioners attending the second Annual Revival, given by Fr. Giles Conwill. In April, the Knights and Ladies of St. Peter Claver were formed, with Leslie Jackson and Brenda Brown as leaders. Doug and Kathy Limbach co-chaired Funday in May and in June, parishioners had their first look at the Reconciliation Room built in the church. Father Gerald, along with Bro. David celebrated their 25th anniversary in the religious life and was honored with Fr. Robert Wagner, who was noting his 45th anniversary, with a Mass and reception. July was a busy month of comings and goings. Father Gerald left and Father Michael Shay arrived to assume his du­ties as pastor.In September Sr. Rosalie celebrated her Golden Jubilee as a Sister of the Divine Savior. Shortly after, Fr. Fred Peters was wel­comed as Associate Pastor. Fr. Fred was quickly rushed into service, for when he pulled up to the rectory, he was whisked over to the church to celebrate the 5 PM Mass, barely an hour after his arrival in his new parish,

Brother Reimar Noerz, a retired Brother, came to live at the rectory in September and as he was welcomed, 

Claire Williams again chaired the Christmas Basket program in December and oversaw the packing and delivering of eighty-three baskets,

Father Mike soon became known as the Pastor who marches to the beat of a different drummer when, in January 1988, he organized and taught a Square Dance Club at St. Joseph's, who call themselves the Sashays,

In February, Ollie Jones was elected president of the Office of Black Catholic Concerns and the new Stations of the Cross were dedicated, a project which had been initiated and funded by the Thursday Club, No one could be found who knew what happened to the original stations,

Father Bruce Greening, returned in March to lead the third Annual Revival and in April, the ratification of the new National Black Congress Pastoral Plan was announced.  The plan resulted from proposals created in 1987 in response to yearnings, hopes and dreams of Black Catholics,

Ollie Jones chaired the May Funday which netted $16,850 and in June it was announced that Holy Family School had won the Diocesan Holy Childhood Association Award, with much of the credit going to Sr, Rosalie, In September, Sr. Anthony celebrated her Golden Jubilee, The school's Christmas Program, having grown to such proportions, was moved to the Visitation Parish Center where, under the direction of Jo Ann Blackwood, Holy Family students stunned a standing-room only audience with a Christmas play of profes­sional quality, One of the leading roles was performed by Camille Smith, granddaughter of Rose Brandon, original Mission parishioner, and daughter of Claudia Brandon Smith, St. Joseph's first Catholic student, circa 1956,

In church, St, Joseph's now offered three different choirs - gospel, led by Gus Smith; folk, originally organized by Mary Riehm and now conducted by Gary Mahon; and adult, under the direction of Helen Taylor - for the musical choice of parishioners in their Liturgy,

1989 found Tony Wingenter, Sr, elected once again as President of the Parish Council.  In February the late Father Bede Abram led parishioners to the fourth Annual Revival and was asked to return in October to lead a sensitivity workshop, Ollie Jones repeated as president of the Office of Black Catholic Concerns, A parish recital was given as a memorial to Solomon Greene, longtime music minister who had died in January.

Liturgical and architectural action in church continued when, in April, ten young peo­ple were confirmed by Bishop Raymond Boland and construction started on the new Eucharistic Chapel in the area directly opposite the Reconciliation Room. A census and talent survey was taken in the parish in May of that year and Sr. Anthony retired from teaching.

When school opened in September, students were outfitted in the new school uniform of blue and gray plaid. Sr. Jean Marie, who had taught at St. Joseph's in 1967, became the school's first full-time art teacher. Coffee and doughnut Sundays were still being held after Mass on the first Sunday of each month, marking the twenty-fifth consecutive year of parish conviviality. The fourth Pictorial Directory was published, with many new faces joining the community for the beginning a new decade.


1990 opened with the parish dinner and elections. Tony Wingenter, Sr. remained for his second year in the presidency and in February, Arthur Henderson, Jr. was elected to head the OBCC. Father Michael Weishaar led the Parish Mission/Renewal, which by now had become a much-anticipated event.

In June, Connie Thomas, longtime DRE, left St. Joseph's and was replaced by Peggy Harnisch, who assumed her duties July 1. Also on that date, Danny Elegante, a Holy Family school graduate, was hired as Youth Ministry coordinator. In September, Arthur Henderson, Jr., son of the man who laid the church cornerstone in 1963, received the Black Pyramid Award from the Chicago Urban Professional Group, a prestigious national honor for a member of the parish.

By now, the school's Christmas program had grown so popular that the Visitation Hall could not hold the crowd, so the 1990 concert was held at UAH, again to standing room only. Later that month, a record number of Christmas baskets, one hundred twenty-one, were distributed in the programs 33rd year. Dick Baker capably served as chairman of the project.

Gene Perry was elected president of the Parish council in January 1991 and Redemptorist Father Carlyle Blake gave the Parish Mission in February. In May eleven young people were confirmed by Bishop Boland, while on the social side, John and Cathy Filippo served as Funday chairpersons.

Holy Family's athletic dominance continued as the students won the Diocesan Toy Bowl Track Meet in Birmingham for the eighth time in the past nine years. Sr. Anthony, beloved former principal and teacher, was given a farewell reception in May as she was assigned to be a companion to the elderly Sisters in the SDS Retirement Home.

October found sixty parishioners taking part in Huntsville's first Life Chain on Respect Life Sunday. Led by Milt Mantler, the group joined 3000 others to promote the right-to-life movement. For the second year in a row a new record was set for Christmas Baskets. Chairperson Claire Williams saw to the distribution of 152 baskets to the needy in Huntsville and Madison County.

On December 19, 1991, the original church steeple was replaced by a new fiberglass struc­ture and the bell, cast for St. Joseph's, was removed and stored.


Today, forty years after its' founding, St. Joseph's Parish has changed in a multitude of ways; but the spirit of Christianity, social justice and work ethic remain, a direct line through the years.

Two of the original adult members of the parish, Rose Brandon and the late James Jackson, now have grandchildren attending the school.

In 1952 there were 18 parishioners. St. Joseph's is now spiritual home to 1227.

In 1954, $15 was pledged to Catholic Charities. Thirty-nine years later, $31,615 was donated to the organization.

In 1956, Huntsville's population was 30,000. It is now 160,000.

The first school enrollment was 61 students versus 230 today.

In 1957, our nuns and parishioners, all black, were unable to share public accommodations with white associates. Today's African-American parishioners are involved in a crusade to be missionaries.

In 1962 the average Sunday collection was $60. Thirty years later it is $3500.

St. Joseph's Mission, with so few members they could all fit into one small room, is now divided into seven geographical areas and called a Community; and the line continues: through the confessional to the Reconciliation Room, CCD to RE, no slacks on the playground to P.E. uniforms of shorts and T-shirts; Pastors to Team Leaders and back to Pastors; through a PT A and Altar Society to ten groups and organizations for all from cradle to grave; through Social Action to St. Vincent de Paul, Black Power to Black Ministry, and from Latin to English.

Through social change, economic upheaval, catechetical reverses and liturgical experi­ments, through birth and death, the line will go on.

On December 19, 1991, the original church steeple was replaced by a new fiberglass struc­ture and the bell, cast for St. Joseph's, was removed and stored.

Today, forty years after its' founding, St.  Joseph's Parish has changed in a multitude of ways; but the spirit of Christianity, social justice and work ethic remain, a direct line through the years.

In 1952 there were 18 parishioners. St. Joseph's is now spiritual home to 1227.

In 1954, $15 was pledged to Catholic Charities. Thirty-nine years later, $31,615 was donated to the organization.

In 1956, Huntsville's population was 30,000. It is now 160,000.

The first school enrollment was 61 students versus 230 today.

In 1957, our nuns and parishioners, all black, were unable to share public accommodations with white associates. Today's African-American parishioners are involved in a crusade to be missionaries.

In 1962 the average Sunday collection was $60. Thirty years later it is $3500.

St. Joseph's Mission, with so few members they could all fit into one small room, is now divided into seven geographical areas and called a Community; and the line continues: through the confessional to the Reconciliation Room, CCD to RE, no slacks on the playground to P.E. uniforms of shorts and T-shirts; Pastors to Team Leaders and back to Pastors; through a PTA and Altar Society to ten groups and organizations for all from cradle to grave; through Social Action to St. Vincent de Paul, Black Power to Black Ministry, and from Latin to English.

Through social change, economic upheaval, catechetical reverses and liturgical experi­ments, through birth and death, the line will go on.