The first Mass offered in Central City was in the home of Tom and Ellen May shortly after the Civil War. At that time the Diocese was located in Bardstown and priests had to travel on horseback throughout the state. With such an area to cover, a priest would come to Muhlenberg County only once or twice a year. The first recorded Baptism in Muhlenberg County was Martin Richardson in 1892.
In November of 1885, Mr. DuPont Edwards, President of Central Coal & Iron Company, donated for the building of a Catholic Church property which was located on West Second and Walnut Streets (behind the old Coca-Cola plant). Local railroad men built the original church on this land in 1886. The church was named St. Martin’s Catholic Church. Father M. F. Medley from Leitchfield, came to offer Mass and also helped in the building of the church. After a short time at that location, the church was moved up the street to West Second and Main Streets due to construction of the Illinois Central Railroad yards. The church burned not long after it was re-located.
In 1909, Edward B. and Mary Miller donated to the Diocese of Louisville, a parcel of land located on the corner of South Third and Broad Streets. Our present church was built on this property in 1912, at which time the name was changed to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Dedication services were held for the new church on August 12, 1912. The Most Rev. D. D. O’Donaghue, Bishop of Louisville, dedicated the structure to the worship of God. Father P H. Monaghan was Celebrant at the Mass. Mr. Victor Canares of New York sang Ave Maria at the Offertory. The stained glass windows that are in the church were donated by parishioners after the new church was built. The windows were crafted by a German firm in St. Louis, Missouri. The lot next to the church was purchased at a later date.
Property was acquired in 1919 for a Catholic school. In 1923, St. Joseph School was opened under the expertise of the Ursuline Sisters. The school was a two-story frame house with two classrooms and the cafeteria on the first floor, living quarters and a Chapel on the second floor. Grades first through tenth were taught until 1930, when grades nine and ten were discontinued. During the pastorship of Father Lucian Hayden, funds were obtained for the building of a new school. During the construction of the new school, the present rectory was used for the school. It housed the first through eighth grades until the new school was completed. Under the direction of Father James Wathen, the new school building was constructed behind the church in 1969. The Ursuline Sisters returned to Mount St. Joseph in 1975 and the school was maintained by an all lay faculty until its closing at the end of the 1984-85 school year.
In February of 1928, St. Charles of Livermore became a mission of St. Joseph. The priest at St. Joseph would travel to Livermore on weekends and holy days in order to offer Mass to the people at St. Charles. St. Charles remained a mission until 1970.
Records indicate that Father Rudolph Ruff was the first resident priest. Father Ruff was assigned to Central City in 1899. He was transferred to Leitchfield in 1901. Our church again became a mission until Father Charles J. Marshall was assigned as resident priest in February of 1928. At that time, there were 230 parishioners on record.
Prior to 1940, the priests who ministered in Central City often stayed in the Gish Apartments on Broad Street. In the mid 1940’s, a house on the corner of Third and Reynolds Streets was donated to the church to be used as a rectory. The present rectory on South Third Street was purchased in 1956.
In recent years the church has undergone quite a few structural changes. During the pastorship of Father John Bartolomucci, the church entrance was re-modeled, improvements on the inside included a new altar, four stained glass windows, light fixtures and kneelers. Under the direction of Father Carl Wise, the entrance and inside of the church basement was re-modeled. This work was completed in January of 1985.
Under the direction of Father Francis Mastrovito, A wheelchair lift was installed to assist parishioners in wheelchairs. In October 2000, St. Joseph church was placed on the Internet and started a web page – www.st-joseph-church.org. In February 2001, a new Ford 15 passenger van was purchased to be used by the church for youth trips, and for transportation to misc church functions. On May06, 2001 Father Francis passed away during the 9:00 AM Sunday Mass.
On June 23, 2001, Father Benjamin Luther was assigned to St. Joseph Church and St. Charles Church in Livermore was placed under the St. Joseph parish.
In November and December 2001, the front steps of St Joseph Church was reconstructed, making the steps to the church wider and making access to our church easier for the elderly and disabled to walk up and down the steps.
Our history continues…