On June 17, 1905, Henry Klaas, John Kehle, Valentine Fitsch, Peter Schmidt and Joseph Weilandt, Catholics of German-descent from Klaasville, Indiana, purchased farmland from the Highland Colony Company at Calhoun, Mississippi. Total cost was $22,000. Optimistically they changed the name of the community to Gluckstadt (Lucky Village). In the fall, nine families moved their household furnishings, farm implements and livestock to the South in Illinois Central Railroad “immigrant cars.” Over the winter they worked to build new homes and clear land in preparation for the spring planting.
In the first few years, the community gathered in the Klaas home for Mass when either of two German-speaking priests could come; usually once a month. Other Sundays, they rode in wagons or walked along the railroad tracks to Canton, a 10 mile round-trip.
Father A.P. Heick of Holy Ghost Church in Jackson encouraged the settlers to build a school which could serve as a church as well. In 1911, on 4 acres of land acquired from Joseph Weilandt, the men built a battan-board, one-room, one-teacher school. The building also served as a church.
In 1914, Father Heick reported 47 Catholics at the mission. New families came: the Aulenbrocks, Minningers and the Weisenbergers. Finally with help from the Extension Society, the settlers contracted to build a church for $1,750. On November 25, 1917, it was dedicated in honor of St. Joseph. Unfortunately, the church building was destroyed in a fire but a second church was built and dedicated in June of 1929. Father Heick died in 1929, but SVD priests from Holy Ghost continued to care for the mission: Rev. Fathers Reichelt, Baltes and DeBoer served until 1946; Rev. M.J. McCarthy of Canton then took over; followed by Rev. Patrick Moran, Rev. Paul Canonici,Rev. Tony Pudenz, Rev. Robert Olivier and presently Fr. Kevin Slattery. In 1985, the parish leadership deemed it necessary to add a full-time pastoral minister. Sr. Jackie Merz, S.S.N.D. served in this capacity from 1992 until 1997, followed by Sr. Jane Desaulniers, S.S.N.D., who served until 2004. In February, 2005, Pam Minninger was hired as the first lay Resident Pastoral Minister. After St. Joseph was named a Parish in 2006, Bishop Joseph Latino officially appointed her as Lay Ecclessial Minister. In January 2009, Fr. Onwu Akpa joined St. Joseph as Associate Sacramental Minister.
On Good Friday, April 12, 1968, misfortune struck the community again. The second St. Joseph Church burned to the ground. The following seven years, the community gathered for Mass in the Parish Hall. The old school house had been enlarged in 1952 to serve as a community hall. The original one-room school became a kitchen. In the crisis, the building was returned to its original useful purpose.
Annual harvest festivals were started for fund raising and proved very popular. Chicken barbecues, game booths, raffles and bingo are all part of past memories. Gradually, these barbecues evolved to chicken spaghetti dinners and then to the popular “Red Beans and Rice Festival”. When funds were finally available, the present St. Joseph Church was dedicated on April 6, 1975.
St. Joseph Catholic Church 1929
The annual “Gluckstadt German Festival” is now the major fund-raiser. It is a popular festival and an attempt to retain the legacy of the forefathers. Many people throughout the state of Mississippi and the United States attend. Throughout the years St. Joseph has continued to be a pioneer congregation exhibiting the virtues of hard work, devotion to family, to the land and to the community and thanksgiving to God. In 2006, St Joseph was named a Parish after having been a mission parish for 101 years.
“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” - Matthew 18:20