Although there were Catholics in northwest Alabama before 1818, there was no Catholic church in Lauderdale County until the Benedictines founded St. Florian and established St. Michael’s Church there in 1872. Catholics met for worship in homes in Florence until 1878 when Rev. Benedict Menges OSB, abbot of the St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, stated his intention to found a Catholic church and school in Florence. With the growth of industry in East Florence, many Catholics moved to Florence. Responding to their needs, the city leased them a building on East College Street. A church and school were dedicated by Fr. John Baasen, priest of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Tuscumbia, in July, 1878. In 1889 the city ended the lease and provided St. Joseph its present location, which was known as Catholic Hill. A small frame church and a school were built. Priests from the Tuscumbia parish continued to serve Florence Catholics there until 1898 when Fr. Gammelbert Brunner OSB was appointed the first full-time priest at St. Joseph. In 1898 a larger building was constructed around the original structure. The present brick church was completed in 1974. From ca. 1948 to the mid 1950s, Blessed Martin de Porres Mission on West College Street, formed by businesswoman Bessie Foster, a Catholic convert, served African-American Catholics.