St. Augustine Catholic Church, Kelso, Missouri
Pastor: Fr. Joe Weidenbenner
The mission of St. Augustine Parish is to provide the people of this community of believers an opportunity to meet regularly for worship; and through learning and living together in peace and love, provide for the needs of all members of our parish, sharing our time, talent and treasures. By living our faith as Jesus teaches us in the Gospels and through witness and evangelization, extend the Kingdom of God to our children, our youth and those in need of healing, here and in other parts of the world and church.
Father Sosthenes Kleiser of St. Mary’s Parish in Cape Girardeau, MO encouraged and worked with the 40 families in Kelso to establish a parish. Families of Kelso were making a long trip to either St. Lawrence in New Hamburg, MO, St. Mary’s or St. Vincent’s in Cape Girardeau in order to worship. Upon the advice of Father Kleiser a school was built first which opened in the fall of 1877. In the spring of 1878, on a three acre donated tract of land, construction of the first parish church began. The first sevice in the new St. Augustine Church was held November 3, 1878. Father Kleiser became the parish family’s first pastor, serving from 1878 to 1882. Upon completion of the church, a parsonage was also constructed that year.
In 1882, approximately 120 families called themselves members of St. Augustine Church with 75 children of school age. Father Frederick Kleinschnittger, who changed his name to Father Klein, was now the new pastor. By 1896, the school-age children increased to 140.
In 1890, ground-breaking was held for the new church, which was necessary due to the growth of the worshipping community. Rather than tearing down the old church, it was moved about 75 feet south. Thus, on the old site, a new 120-foot long x 45-foot wide x 30-foot high brick church was built. It was a Gothic style with a 135 foot steeple and a seating capacity of 500. Dedication was held on August 28, 1890, the feast day of St. Augustine. This is the same structure we still worship in today.
The old church building then served as a parish school. In 1896, there were 140 students from Kelso and some 30 children from Illmo in attendance. By 1902, there were 190 families in the parish with 15 children in the school. The Franciscan nuns moved into the first school building. As time passed, at the turn of the century, a new four floor brick structure was constructed for the Sisters of the Adorers of the Most Precious Blood to reside in. It had eight rooms, a chapel in the basement plus four large classrooms. Dedication was held on August 28, 1902. The old church/parish hall and the brick school were demolished in 1973 to make room for our current school, which was dedicated in March, 1974.
For a brief period of March to October, after the death of Father Klein, the parish was under the guidance of Father Joseph Fitzkam. In 1910, a new pastor was appointed, Father John Muhlsiepen. Father Muhlsiepen’s nephew, Joseph Keusenkothen, also migrated from Germany to Kelso and was ordained a priest. In 1940 he succeeded his uncle as pastor and became known as “Father Joe”, who later became Monsignor Keusenkothen and served our parish family faithfully until his death in 1976. During Father Joe’s leadership, Reverend Michael McDevitt assisted from 1972-1975 and Reverend Normand Varone from 1975-1976. It was 1964 when the parish built a convent for our dedicated religious teachers on the site of the first school.
Father Raymond Orf became pastor in August 1976. The new pipe organ was installed under the guidance of Father Orf. St. Augustine Parish celebrated thier 100th year anniversary in 1978. The church was refurbished inside and out during 1979. Seven months after the renovation had begun, on February 1, 1980, the key to the front door was passed from Bishop Bernard Law to Father Orf. With the assistance of approximately 30 priests, a beautiful formal rededication followed. The new rectory was also built in 1979. Father Orf will always be remembered for his 1948 Chevrolet Pick-Up called Old Hoopie.
Msgr. John H. Westhues was pastor from September, 1990 to September, 1994. Plans were finalized to build a Grotto, which is a Marian Shrine, behind the Ruma Center visible from Highway 61. Msgr. Westhues, together with the Parish Council and Sister Dorothy Reinhold, prepared our Parish Mission Statement. In August, 1994, eighteen Sisters of the Adorers of the Most Precious Blood of Christ gathered together with our parishioners in a tribute to their 101st Anniversary.
Father Oliver Clavin joined our parish family in October, 1994. Through his faithful leadership, much necessary renovation had occurred to maintain our beautiful church and parish facilities. Such projects included replacing the slate steeple roof with copper and repairing the 135-foot steeple. The convent was completely renovated and named The Ruma Center in 1996 in honor of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of Christ from Ruma, IL. The Ruma Center houses the parish office, meeting facilities, religious goods store, computer lab and music/art classroom.
The rectory was renovated in the year 2000. A new carillon providing music and bell sounds was installed in 2002.
In September, 2007, Bishop John J. Leibrecht made some necessary Pastor changes due to the shortage of Priests in the area. Father Oliver was to remain Pastor of St. Augustine Church but was also appointed Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Scott City, MO.
In August, 2009, our Church underwent some major renovation. The floor of the church had suffered termite damage and was replaced with concrete. This was no small undertaking. All the pews, Altars, statues, etc. had to be removed during the floor replacement. New carpet was installed and the paint was refreshed and the interior was given a “face-lift”. The bathroom was remodeled to be handicap accessible. Ramps were also added for access to the Altar. The stained glass window above the entrance of Church was restored and given added protection from the weather. The renovation was complete in February, 2010.
In July, 2015, we bid a farewell to Father Oliver Clavin who was Pastor at St. Augustine for 21 years. We welcome Fr. Joe Weidenbenner as our current Pastor.
St. Augustine Parish, 137 years strong in faith, dedication and leadership, has grown from the 40 families in 1878 to over 500 families.
St. Augustine Parish Office