In the leafy suburbs of Milimani in Kisumu sits St Joseph Church, one of the oldest Catholic institutions in Kenya, dating back more than a century.
By 1901, the Kenya-Uganda railway had reached Kisumu, and trains would make stopovers at Kibos Railway Station.
The Mill Hill Missionaries arrived in Kisumu by train in 1903. Led by Fr Nicholas Stam, they walked to Bandani village, then mostly inhabited by construction workers, where they settled down and held their first Mass on February 2, 1903.
On December 18, 1903, Fr Leonard Van den Bergh opened the first parish church in Kisumu. For years, the church served as the mother parish for western Kenya.
But the missionaries quickly spread to Mumias (1904), Ojolla (mother of Luo parishes) and Kakamega (1906). Within three years, they had established four stations in the region.
In 1908, Fr Luke Plunkett opened another station in Nakuru to cater for Catholics working at the railway station there. For 20 years Nakuru was a branch of the St Milimani parish. St Joseph priests would make monthly visits to Nakuru, as well as other towns along the railway line. This went on until 1928, when Nakuru became an independent parish.
Kisii Town station was opened by Fr Gorgonius Brandsman in 1910, and in 1911 a new station was opened in Nyabururu. That same year, John Bierman was named titular bishop. From Bandani, the church moved to a place opposite the Aga Khan Hall, where the current Jamia Mosque stands, but the missionaries later moved it to its present site, and finally completed its construction on May 2, 1908.
Years later, the first African, Fr Emmanuel Amollo, took over as the parish priest. Currently, Fr Oliver Thambo is the priest.