History of the Church
The Parish of St. John was established by Archbishop Antoine Blanc on June 23, 1851. The first pastor, Father Moynihan, was responsible for the building of the church, with construction beginning in 1867. The first Mass was offered on Christmas Day, 1871. Formal dedication was held on January 7, 1872, with Archbishop Napoleon Perche' officiating. The sermon was delivered by the Rev. Abram Ryan, the poet-priest of the Confederacy. Another notable event at St. John was its first mission which was preached by the Rev. Isaac Hecker, the founder of the Paulist Fathers.
The structure that is standing today is the original building. The tower clock and bells were the gift of Gen. Behan of the Confederate Army. The windows, given by many donors, were fashioned in Munich, Germany; the first in 1874, and the last in 1962. These windows are considered among the finest in America. The beautiful statue of The Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Church's adjacent courtyard, erected in 1914, is the first public Catholic monument erected in the city of New Orleans. The first renovation and restoration of St. John was completed in April, 1963. The old massive wooden altars, a victim of termite invasion, were replaced by the present altars. Designed by Milo Piuz, the altars were executed in Italy, with the crucifix, tabernacle, and candelabra executed in Germany. The stations of the cross and the church paintings are the work of Dom Gregory Dewit, O.S.B. The most recent repair and restoration completed in the year 2002 consisted of repainting the church's interior structure, gold leafing, the details of the sanctuary, and the church's enormous pillars.
For many years, St. John housed schools conducted by the Christian Brothers and the Dominican Sisters. The first American foundation of the Irish Dominicans has its roots here at St. John, with its school and convent serving for many years as its Motherhouse. The school, which was demolished in 1956 to make way for the expressway, had served the St. John Community for over 97 years.
St. John the Baptist is a very special and unique Church Community. We come from the Westbank, Kenner, Metairie, New Orleans East, Chalmette, Slidell, and even from the Baton Rouge area to attend Mass. St. John the Baptist school closed in 1956, but its former students and graduates continue to have reunions at local restaurants twice a year. We, who have grown up in the Parish, may have physically moved away, but our hearts and concern have never wandered. Our newer parishioners that have adopted St. John's as their own have developed the same love and care for St. John, attested by the distance traveled to share as a community the privilege of worshiping God with like minds, hearts, and spirit. THIS IS ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST!
St. John's is an historic, city landmark of great beauty. The interior is in perfect condition, having been restored in recent years.
The former parish area of St. John's is presently on the verge of a renaissance. Condominiums are being built, period homes are being restored, extensive planning for housing and business development is in progress, people are moving back into the city. The possibilities for parish development within the next five to ten years is optimal.
St. John the Baptist is not only a treasured part of the patrimony of the Archdiocese, but is an important and moving architectural and artistic symbol of the Catholic Faith and Culture in an increasingly challenging secular urban environment.
St. John the Baptist remains in excellent condition to host the increasing number of events held in the Church - the Purgatorial Society Solemn High Requiem, the Cenacle of our Loving Mother, Graduations sponsored by Catholic Charities (El Nino, St. John the Baptist Pre-School, Louise Day Care, Incarnate Word Head Start School), special occasions celebrated by the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary and Dominican High School, the Saint Lucy Society, many weddings, baptisms, funerals and Good Friday Devotions.