A Brief History of St. John’s
Update: March 4, 2011
The first Church of Saint John of Saint
Paul was built in 1886. It was called
St. John's Irish Church and had 1,400 members. The first pastor was Rev. Louis Cornelis.
Cornelis was forced to resign for health reasons shortly after the
opened and was succeeded by Rev. James Fleming of Albert Lea in June 1887. In October
1887, $1,600 was borrowed for the purpose of erecting a pastoral
modest frame structure flanking the church. The school, a two-story 60 x 70 foot
structure, was started in
1889. The first classes were held in
February 1890. The Sisters of
Immaculate Heart ran it until 1892 when the Sisters of St. Joseph took
The second and current Church was started
in 1922 under the leadership of St. John’s third pastor, Rev. Thomas F. Gleeson. The first
Mass was celebrated in it on Easter Sunday, March 25, 1923. A twenty-one room brick parish house was
completed in September of 1927. Father
Gleeson lived for only two years in his new home, and died after a
illness on March 3, 1929.
The fourth pastor of St. John’s, Rev.
E. Doyle, came to the church from St. Cecilia’s in Midway. During his
years as pastor, three additional lots were acquired and a new school
built. The new school was opened on
January 31, 1932, but the formal dedication of the building did not
until April 17, 1932.
Rev. Edward S. deCourcy became the fifth
St. John’s in 1945. He celebrated his golden jubilee in the priesthood
10, 1963 and retired shortly afterward.
Rev. Charles M. Eggert became the sixth
pastor in 1963. The school, still being
run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, was closed in the 1970s when it was
consolidated with Sacred Heart, only two blocks away.
Father Eggert retired in 1986 and was
Rev. Leo Dolan
who served as our seventh pastor until his retirement in 1993. Rev. Joseph Fink then became the eighth
pastor in 1993 until being reassigned to St.
Mary’s in Shakopee in June
Rev. Thomas Pingatore, at the age of 80,
became St. John’s ninth pastor on August 15, 2000, the Feast of the
Assumption. This wasn't his first assignment at St.
John's. After he was ordained as
a priest on October 7, 1944, his first assignment in 1945 was at St.
assistant to the pastor, Father Doyle.
Father Pingatore retired in October 2003.
Robert Grabner was appointed parochial administrator of St. John’s on
April 19, 2004. He served until January 2005. Rev. Thomas
Wilson then became St. John's next parochial administrator while also
serving as director of the archdiocesan Vocation Office.
The Church of St. John celebrated it's
120th anniversary in 2006, having been founded in 1886. A triple
celebration was held on October 28, 2006 to mark this major
anniversary, to bid farewell to Father Wilson, and to install Father
George Welzbacher as St. John's tenth pastor.
Father Welzbacher was very familiar with
St. John's, having helped out at our parish during the time his friend
Father Dolan was pastor. Father Welzbacher remains pastor at St.
John's as the parish enters its 125th year in 2011.
Thanks to diligent upkeep and careful
restoration, the church, school and rectory look much as they did when
constructed in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
The church still possesses its classic
and side altars, Communion rail, statues, confessionals, Stations of
stained glass windows and choir loft. Although the pipes are still
old pipe organ gave way to a new electronic organ and speakers in 2000. Other improvements include a handicap
entrance, improved lighting and a refurbished parish hall in the
featuring a large gathering space, library, several side rooms and a
The rectory, connected to the church by
what may be one of the first, and possibly shortest, skyways in Saint
home to the pastor and is the center of business operations for the
The school building has been home to a
number of nonprofit agencies and schools since it closed in the
It currently houses St. Michael’s Academy -
a small Catholic elementary school.