History

Mid 19th Century Photograph of St. John the Evangelist Parish
Mid 19th Century Photograph of St. John the Evangelist

The church of Saint John the Evangelist, founded in 1846, is the sixth oldest parish in the Brooklyn Diocese. Archbishop John Hughes, the fourth Bishop of New York and first Archbishop of New York, named and dedicated the church. He held a special and fervent devotion to Saint John the Evangelist.

In 1853, just seven years after its founding, the parish of St. John the Evangelist became part of the newly founded Diocese of Brooklyn. In its earliest beginnings, the parish was a tremendous aid to the many Irish Catholic laborers working on the Gowanus Canal, which began at the end of 1849. To provide a permanent place of worship, a wooden church was built and dedicated on August 15, 1851. The wooden church was located behind the present church, closer to 22nd Street. It was enlarged in 1852, 1856, and 1872, until it seated 1,300 members.

The 3rd Church of St. John the Evangelist, ca 1944
The 3rd Church of St. John the Evangelist, ca 1944

The first church was becoming old and in need of repairs. In 1905, the seventh pastor, Father Thomas Duhigg (1900-1925) began the construction of a new church. His idea for this construction was a church in the center surrounded by a school. It became a reality in 1905, when a building was completed on 21st Street across from the present church. It was considered at that time to be the largest building in Brooklyn. The building served as a church until the present church on 21st Street was built in 1927 by the eighth pastor, Father John J. Smith (1925-1937).

An historical note, the first New York Cavalry was established in the parish during the Civil War by the third pastor, Father Patrick McGovern (1855-1862), who encouraged the parish men to serve their country.

School and Church of St. John the Evangelist
School and Church of St. John the Evangelist

On May 20, 2011, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio issued a decree uniting the parishes of Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Rocco. The parishes merged on June 30, 2011.

The parish of Saint Rocco was founded in 1902 to serve the needs of the Italian Catholics moving into the area. The union of the two parishes was not uncommon to their history. Msgr. Thomas Sala (1937-1966) was the pastor of Saint Rocco Parish, and during his time became the ninth pastor of Saint John the Evangelist Parish.

The Church of St. Rocco
The Church of St. Rocco

As pastor of both parishes, he was able to provide a school. After Msgr. Thomas Sala, the two parishes were directed by two separate pastors.

The present union of the two parishes helps us to continue the work of two long Catholic traditions of service to all those living in our area. We hope that we can be of service to you.