This was the first Catholic church in Rochester, founded in 1863 by Father James Morris on the very block where the co-cathedral stands today. The first church was dedicated on December 1, 1872, and, after almost 30 years of growth, an expansion called for a new cornerstone to be laid on October 12, 1900.
With an awareness of the need for Catholic education, three new schools opened for classes on this same block in 1913, including a grade school, Saint John High School for girls and Heffron High School for boys.
Plans were formulated during the 1950s to replace the old church. The new building, built in 1956, became one of Rochester’s most distinctive architectural structures of the times. The church, built of Mankato stone, was very simple with straight lines, but was impressive and dignified in its contemporary style.
Reverend Monsignor Gerald Mahon, pastor since 1995, oversaw a major renovation of the church, which culminated in the dedication of the new space on May 19, 2002, the Feast of Pentecost. The interior of the church was turned 180 degrees, and a new chapel, gathering space, fellowship area, and peace garden were all added during the project. The parish received permission to connect with the downtown pedestrian subway, allowing patients and caregivers access to the church from the neighboring buildings of the Mayo Medical Center.
The parish is committed to upholding the Church’s rich tradition of the arts, as seen in the sculptures and stained glass throughout the space.
The final event of the Sesquicentennial took place on November 9, 2013, when Saint John Parish presented a concert premiering the piece, “What I Have Seen and Heard,” an original composition by Saint John Parish’s Director of Liturgy and Music, Sebastian Modarelli.
The work followed the journey of the church’s patron saint, Saint John the Evangelist, through some of the most moving stories of the Gospel.
Most Reverend John Quinn, bishop of Winona, was present and offered a message of gratitude and thanksgiving for all who have had a role in the history of this parish, and he recognized its vital presence as a gift to the Rochester community and the Diocese of Winona.