The History of St. John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church was chartered in October of 1854 as the 13th Catholic congregation in the Diocese of St. Paul. The first Mass was celebrated by Fr. Augustine Ravoux, a missionary priest, in 1853 in the home of William Byrne.
That year, a log structure was built and a cemetery consecrated on land donated by the Byrne family. This parcel of land was in Burnsville, located near Judicial Road. In 1866, a frame structure was built and a new bell that is still used today weighing 1,800 pounds was installed in the tower. Bishop Grace dedicated the church in October 1866. On April 13, 1883, the frame structure burned to the ground.
Another frame structure was built and was dedicated by Archbishop John Ireland in 1885. On Candlemas, 1902, a wood burning stove caused a fire and this church, too, burned to the ground. The Archbishop decreed another church would be built for the congregation of St. John the Baptist, but this time, the building would be located in the neighboring town of Hamilton (now called Savage) which among other amenities boasted an organized fire department.
The brick church was built at the cost of $11,497 and its cornerstone was laid on Oct. 5, 1902. The bell from the previous frame structures was recast and installed in the steeple of the new church. Fr. John A. Kane served as pastor until 1931.
On July 5, 1955, parishioners celebrated the church's 100th anniversary. Fr. Albert Ziskovsky, the pastor at the anniversary, had a special dream to build a parish school. By the time he left St. John's, he had raised $32,000. A new pastor made the dream a reality and on June 24, 1959, St. John the Baptist Catholic School and Convent were dedicated.
In the following decades, the congregation continued to grow and plans were made to replace the 1902 church. In 1984, the 1902 church was torn down and the structure in which St. John's parishioners worship today was built in its place. The cornerstone from the 1902 church, now installed near the church 125th Street entrance, is a reminder of the parish's tradition.
Additions to the school and church in 1965, 1994 and 2000 created the present St. John campus which serves more than 2,100 families, representing more than 6,600 individuals. In 2009, the parish celebrated the 25th anniversary of the new church, the 50th anniversary of the school and the 20th anniversary of the preschool. In 2019 the school will celebrate its 60th anniversary.