A History of St. John the Evangelist Parish
In 2009, St. John the Evangelist celebrated its 150th Anniversary as a parish. As of summer 2011, the parish has 1147 registered households. Fr. Jeff Ernst has served as pastor since July, 2013. Fr. Barnabas Eichor has served as Assistant Pastor since July, 2014.
You can find a quick reference to our history in this 2 page brochure. (Note: Mass times on brochure are not recent.)
Also, you can get an inside look at our church with this self-guided tour. (Note: Mass times in document are not recent.)
More About the Parish History
A few Catholic families settled in Lawrence in about the year 1855. Father J.J. Magee, living in the territorial capital of Lecompton was invited to celebrate the first Mass in Lawrence in October 1857 in the home of Mr. Bernard Donnelly on Rhode Island Street. Some “ruffians” ordered Father Magee out of town by sundown but he was protected by Mr. Donnelly who replied to the ruffians, “Make no mistake about it, the priest is a guest at my home and will remain as long as he wishes; in fact, we intend if possible to build up a congregation here.” (Quote is from: “Lawrence, St. John the Evangelist Parish” written in 1937 by Michael T. Hoffman).
Quantrill’s infamous raid occurred on August 21, 1863, less than three years after the first church dedication. Bishop Miege was in Lawrence the night before the raid. He had come to administer the sacrament of Confirmation on the following day. Father Sebastian Favre, pastor at the time of the raid, was awakened by the pounding of a Quaker minister and his wife at the door. Father Favre wrapped the minister in an old carpet and hid him in the basement. Quantrill had a particular dislike for ministers. Bishop Miege confronted Quantrill and explained his mission. Quantrill scrutinized the occupants of the room and then ordered his followers to leave without molesting anyone. Although the church, the rectory and the people in the rectory were spared the torch, fourteen Catholics were killed in the raid.
The Catholic community in Lawrence continued to grow in the second half of the 19th Century. In 1871 the parishioners found that their church was too small so they dismantled the first church and built a larger one. This second church was brick 45 X 80 feet, and cost $10,000. In 1883, the church membership totaled 150. The Carmelite Fathers served the parish from 1873-1884. A Reuter organ was installed in the second church in 1920. The second church building was destroyed by fire in 1924.
The church building standing between 12th and 13th Streets at 1234 Kentucky Street is the third church. It was constructed in 1924 following the destruction of the second one by fire. Father Henry Fitzgerald was pastor when the new church and rectory [now the offices in Simon Parish Center, facing Vermont Street, 1229 Vermont] were built. The church became more accessible with the installation of an elevator in 1999. The 75th Anniversary of the current building was celebrated with rededication on Sunday, November 26, 2000.
We are a diverse People of God, blessed with a parish family of persons from many world cultures, of many life experiences. We build on our past, always open to future challenges. We sing to the Lord a New Song!