of Saint Mary's Parish.


Many of the 185 plus households who make up the present St. Mary’s congregation trace their ancestry to the English Catholics of Maryland who migrated westward to settle claims in Monroe and Shelby Counties. One pioneer mother whose descendants account for nearly one-third of the present membership of the church is Maryland-born Mrs. Susan Beaven Gough McAtee.
Irish Catholics arrived later, including the Riley, Dempsey, Hurley, Kelly, Lillis, Ford and Power families. Most Catholics lived in the country around Shelbina, and they had been used to attending Mass at Old Clinton (North Fork) and Indian Creek in Monroe County.
The first priest to visit the new town of Shelbina was Rev. Fr. John J. Hogan, the famed Irish pioneer missionary priest of western Missouri, who would stop here on his way to Macon and Chillicothe.
During the Civil War, Rev. Fr. Phelan and Rev. J. M. Cummings tended the flock. Mass was sometimes said in a room of Mrs. James Combs’ hotel, in Concert Hall on West Chestnut, in Liberty Hall on the east side of Center Street, and Miller’s Hall.
In 1878, Fr. James O’Reilly, a young priest, was made pastor and plans were made for a church building. Parishioners who helped finance the building of the first church, completed in 1879, were J. William Towson, John Thomas, William Ridge, John McAtee, James H. Gough, George B. Gough, Clement Hamilton, James Worland, Edwin Worland, John Worland, James Hardy, Joseph Jarboe, Jack Melton, Al Bowling, George W. Greenwell, Robert t Bell, Ben Gough, Louis Hale, Mrs. Lewis Saunders, Mrs. Sydney Taylor, and Mrs. Gabie Combs. The church was named St. Mary’s in honor of the Mother of Christ.
When Fr. Edmund Casey was pastor, (1884-1889), a rectory was purchased and five acres of land in the southeast part of the city was acquired for a cemetery.
By 1923, the congregation had outgrown its first home and a new church was planned. Building and finance committee members included George Hardy, Alfred Buckman, Will Gough, Martin Buckman, James Allgaier, Frank Broughton, Omer Buckman, Guy Gough, and Julius Buckman. The present church building was dedicated October 13, 1924.
In 1969, a large church hall was built on property east of the church and named the Father Buhman Center, in honor of the pastor, Fr. Leo T Buhman, who worked to see it completed. The hall was enlarged during the pastorate of Fr. Chris Cordes.

Diocesan Shepherds

Bishop Joseph M. Marling, CPPS

St. Joseph Parish began September 6, 1958, when the first bishop of the Jefferson City Diocese, Bishop Joseph M. Marling announced the formation of a new parish in Jefferson City. 

Because of overcrowding at St. Peter’s Cathedral located next to the state capitol and to better serve the growing Catholic community it was decided to construct a new parish on a 19-acre site located on the west side of the city.

The first building constructed housed a cafeteria, church and six classrooms for the parish of 250 families. Fr. Kenneth McDonnell served as the first pastor.

Two additional buildings were constructed for the rectory and a convent. The convent housed the Sisters of Mercy who had been recruited from Ireland by the second pastor, the Rev. Msgr. Francis O’Duignan.

Monsignor Gerard Poelker was installed September 10, 1964 as the third pastor of St. Joseph’s. It was during this tenure in 1966 that plans were made to build a modern, circular Cathedral.

On August 20, 1967, Bishop Marling and Msgr. Poelker presided over the groundbreaking ceremony. When the first Mass was celebrated by Bishop Marling at Midnight Mass on Christmas 1968, the parish had grown to 650 families.

Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe

On August 18, 1969, Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe was ordained and installed as the second bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City following the retirement of Bishop Joseph Marling. The following year, St. Joseph Parish was elevated to title of The Cathedral of Saint Joseph and Fr. Richard Cronin was installed as administrator.In 1973, Fr. Francis Gillgannon succeeded Fr. Cronin as administrator and served until 1982.  Because of the change of bishops, the formal dedication of the Cathedral was delayed until May 5, 1974, when John Joseph Cardinal Carberry presided over the blessing.  During this period of time, the school grew rapidly. The original school on the upper floor had only six rooms for the first through sixth grades. With the completion of the Cathedral church, the original church/school facility was remodeled into classrooms. In 1977 the gymnasium and stage was constructed. Shortly after Fr. Patrick Shortt was assigned as the sixth rector, planning began on an addition to the school.  Fr. Michael Wilbers was named rector in 1989, followed by Fr. Fred Elskamp in 1999.

Bishop John Raymond Gaydos


On August 27, 1997, Bishop John Raymond Gaydos was ordained and installed as the third bishop of Jefferson City. The Most Rev. Justin Rigali, Archbishop of St. Louis, was principal consecrator with the Most Rev. Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile, Alabama and the Most Rev. Michael F. McAuliffe, Bishop Emeritus of Jefferson City as co-consecrators.In 2004, Fr. Robert Kurwicki was named pastor of the Cathedral parish.  On January 6, 2006, after 28 years of shepherding the Diocese of Jefferson City, Bishop Michael McAuliffe passed to his eternal reward and his funeral Mass was celebrated on January 14 at the Cathedral.  2006 was also the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Jefferson City, and during the Diocesan Jubilee Year, Fr. Kurwicki was honored with the title of Monsignor. In 2005, the Alphonse J. Schwartz Memorial Catholic Center was constructed on the lower Cathedral campus, replacing the former Chancery building on the east side of the city.

Currently, the Cathedral parish serves about 7000 parishioners in 1500 households. The Cathedral school has an enrollment of about 480 students.  Our parish community and school continue to grow as we look forward to spreading the Gospel and sharing our Roman Catholic faith into the 21st century.  Through the labor of many, along with inspiring leadership, we have grown from a simple farm field into a modern, beautiful Roman Catholic parish, ever increasing in our love of Almighty God.

Bishop W. Shawn McKnight

Bishop W. Shawn McKnight was born on June 26, 1968 and grew up in a large Catholic family and attended Catholic schools.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Wichita on May 28, 1994. He earned a Master of Arts degree and a Master of Divinity degree from the Pontifical College Josephinum (1993-1994) and earned a Licentiate of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome in 1999.

Bishop McKnight served as chaplain at Newman University in Wichita from 2000 to 2001, where at the same time he was an adjunct professor of theology and visiting scholar at the university’s Bishop Gerber Institute of Catholic Studies. In 2001, he earned a Doctor of Sacred Theology, also from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm, and wrote a dissertation on the permanent diaconate. He later taught liturgy and homiletics at the Pontifical College Josephinum seminary from 2003 to 2008, where he also served as director of liturgy, dean of students, director of formation in the school of theology, and vice-president for development and alumni relations.

From 2010 to 2016, he served in Washington, D.C., as executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

Bishop McKnight also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from the University of Dallas.

He was pastor at the Church of the Magdalen in Wichita, Kansas from July 2016 to January 2018.

He was ordained the fourth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri on February 6, 2018.

Pastoral Care

  • 1959: Fr. Kenneth J, McDonnel, First Pastor
  • 1960: Monsignor Francis O'Duignan, Second Pastor
  • 1964: Monsignor Gerard L. Poelker, Third Pastor and First Rector
  • 1970: Reverend Richard Cronin, Administrator
  • 1973: Fr. Francis G. Gillgannon, Administrator
  • 1980: Reverend Patrick J. Shortt, Rector
  • 1989: Fr. Michael J. Wilbers, Rector
  • 1999: Fr. Fred Elskamp, Rector
  • 2004: Monsignor Robert Kurwicki, Pastor
  • 2018: Reverend Fr. Louis M. Nelen, Pastor and Rector