A Brief History of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church
In January 1947, Bishop Adrian of Nashville decreed that a new parish was to be formed in the Bethel Grove area of Memphis. The parish would eventually become St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.
Potential parishioners had already begun organizing small groups to perform various tasks. Some canvassed homes within the parish boundaries to take a census, while others began fundraising for the new church. By November 1947, a check in the amount of $1,000 was presented to the first pastor, Father Theron J. Walker. These hardworking groups would form the core of the first Parish Council.
In the early days, Masses were held in a civic hall on Lamar Avenue. Meanwhile, land was purchased across the street from the hall, and plans got underway to build a school, which was completed in 1949, just in time for the new school year.
By the early 1960s, a larger worship space was needed. The church was completed in 1962. The Georgian-style façade is imposing. The entrance boasts large brass doors, above which is a mosaic with symbols of the Eucharist. The church interior is impressive. A large vestibule leads to an exquisitely appointed sanctuary. Enhancing the main altar are elements from the original communion rail and a baptismal font, carved by former parishioner Leon Barthol, who also created the elegant plaque depicting the Holy Family. Stained-glass windows, imported from Germany, portray various passages from the Gospel of St. John. The upper walls are of striking red birch.
Today, there are approximately 165 families in the Parish, including the Spanish-speaking Guatemalan Community and English-speaking Community, which is predominantly African-American. The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated every year by the Spanish community which draws a lot of crowds, representing a high sense of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in their native country, which they brought in to the United States. On the feast of Corpus Christi, four altars are set up around the church, each of which is decorated to represent one of the four predominant cultural traditions of the parishioners.
In November, on the Saturday closest to the feast of St. Cecilia, there is an evening concert, which features music from the different cultures of the parish. St. John’s has an active outreach to the poor, with a parish food pantry now serves 400 families each month.
List of Pastors who have Served St. John
1. 1947–1970 Reverend Theron J. Walker
2. 1970–1971 Reverend J.E. Eiselein
3. 1971–1972 Reverend V.J. Hines
4. 1972–1973 Reverend Paul J. Morris
5. 1973–1975 Reverend William F. Davis
6. 1975–1981 Reverend James L. Pugh
7. 1981–1986 Reverend Kirchberg & Reverend Val Handwerker
8. 1986–1988 Reverend Alfred G. Graham
9. 1988–1997 Reverend Robert J. Holko S.G.J.
10. 1997–2004 Reverend Joseph Tagg
11. 2004–2007 Reverend Matthew Joseph
12. 2007–2018 Reverend Abrahamczyk Kazimierz
13. 2018– Reverend Fausta Chibuike Odinwankpa