St. John Parish

St. John Parish, Covington, the first congregation organized from Mother of God Parish, is the third oldest parish in the city of Covington. In 1848, a number of Catholics in the Louisburg section of the Mother of God Parish organized a “St. Aloysius School Society of Louisburg,” the objective being to collect funds for the erection of a school is that community. The distance to Mother of God School together with conditions of the roads at that time necessitated such a project. At a meeting held by the Society, May 2, 1848, it was decided to buy from Messrs. Casey and Kennedy the three lots, Nos. 85, 86, and 87, on the corner of Worth and Leonard Streets in order to erect as soon as possible a school and a church. Another lot was donated on condition that a church be built on it. It was accordingly decided that the proposed church and school be dedicated in honor of SS. Peter and Paul. The following year, 1849, work was begun on a school, and in a few months a neat little frame structure was ready for occupancy.

 In the spring of 1854, the people of Louisburg obtained permission from Bishop Carrell to build a church. Work was begun immediately on a brick structure, 95 x 55 feet. On Palm Sunday, April 7, 1854, Bishop Carrell laid the cornerstone of the new church. In the meantime, the Bishop appointed Reverend Joseph Gezowsky, who at that time was serving as assistant pastor at Mother of God Parish, to organize the new congregation. The church was under roof before the end of the year, and although the floor had not yet been laid, the new edifice was solemnly dedicated under the patronage of St. John the Evangelist, on the feast day of St. John, December 27, 1854. Father Kuhr had insisted that since the new parish was the first daughter-parish of Mother of God Parish, it should be dedicated in honor of St. John rather than the first proposed name of SS. Peter and Paulo. Father Gezowsky’s pastorate at St. John Parish continued during the next five years. In 1859, he was succeeded by Reverend Andrew Michel.

 In 1861, Father Michel erected a new parish school, the old one having become inadequate to accommodate the number of children of school age in the parish. In 1866, the services of the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg were obtained for the parish girls’ school. The same year, forty-two acres of land were purchased about two miles from the church on the Lexington Pike to serve as a parish cemetery. Three years later, in 1869, Father Michel built a new rectory. His successor, Reverend John Stephany, centered his efforts mainly on the improvement of the boys’ school of the parish, and likewise built a much needed Sisters’ residence. During the pastorate of Reverend William Tappert (1873-1879), improvements on a large scale were made in the parish cemetery. It was at this time, also, that Reverend A. M. Meyer of Ludlow, erected at St. John Cemetery the beautiful chapel dedicated to the Mother of God, under the title “Comforter of the Afflicted,” which he donated to the parish, reserving for himself the right of being buried in it.

 In 1875, the Sisters of Notre Dame replaced the Sisters of St. Francis in the parish school. During the twenty-three year pastorate of Reverend William Robbers, extensive repairs and remodeling were made on the church. In 1882, the church was enlarged with a fifty-one foot addition; in 1899, stained-glass windows and new altars were installed. The autumn of 1904 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the parish.

 By 1908, the old St. John Church, having served the parish for over fifty years, was fast coming to a state in which it might be unsafe for public use. One of the side walls was eleven inches out of line, and the other nine inches. In the opinion of Bishop Maes, to make any further repairs on the old church would be useless. The school likewise was in need of repairs. Accordingly, in 1908, the present church site, originally the old Colonel Morgan’s home and property, was purchased. At the same time, the pastor, Reverend Joseph Schaefer, started a building association, that the building of a new church might go forward, but, on February 6, 1909, Father Schaefer’s labor in behalf of the parish was cut short by death.

 The building of the new parish plant was to be the work of the present pastor of St. John’s, Rt. Rev. Msgr. G. Anthony Goebel, who was transferred to the pastorate of St. John Parish, by Bishop Maes, in February, 1909. Having first liquidated the debt incurred by the purchase of the new property, Father Goebel set to work to build up the new St. John plant—church, school and rectory. On Labor Day, 1913, ground was broken for a new combination church and school. December 27, 1914, the Feast of St. John, and the sixtieth anniversary of the dedication of the old St. John Church on the hillside in Louisburg, was set for the dedication of the new edifice. On that date, Bishop Maes dedicated the new building on Pike Street, which for some time was to serve the parish as church, school, Sisters’ residence and parish rectory. During the first ten years of his pastorate, Father Goebel bore the burden of the work in the parish alone, but in 1919, the steady growth of the parish required assistance, and on June 25, Reverend Henry Hanses, a nephew of the pastor and a newly ordained priest, was appointed the first assistant pastor of St. John Parish.

 Two years later, on the first Friday in June, 1922, ground was broken for the present St. John Church. The early German Gothic style, modified with modern lines, was chosen as the architectural design for the new place of worship. The plans called for proportions demanded by the old masters of medieval architecture, the height of the steeple corresponding to the length of the church, in this case, both measuring one hundred and sixty-three feet, the width being sixty-four feet, producing a structure with a seating capacity of eight hundred. On Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1924, the new St. John Church was solemnly dedicated by Bishop Howard. On June 1, 1946, a Parish Credit Union, the first parish credit union in the Diocese, was begun at St. John Parish. The parish today consists of five hundred and forty families.


excerpted from History of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, on the Occasion of the Centenary of the Diocese, 1853-1953, by Rev. Paul E. Ryan