Parish History

The Beginning till 1976

The Catholic population in Metro Atlanta was blessed when the most Reverend Gerald P. O’Hara, Bishop of the combined diocese of Atlanta-Savannah, in a letter dated Sept. 17, 1952, appointed the Rev. Fr. George T. Daly as first pastor for the Catholic community in Hapeville, Georgia. This was made possible in the spring of 1952 with the encouraging results from the census survey requested by the Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah – Atlanta, the most Reverend Francis E. Hyland. That survey revealed that South Metro Atlanta has more than 800 Catholic families with 101 Catholic families in Hapeville alone.  The city of Hapeville assisted the Catholic congregation by giving permission to use their recreation center for celebration of Sunday and Holyday Liturgies.

The creation of St. John the Evangelist’s church began with the contribution of a valuable piece of property for the Church by Mrs. John K. Kuhn.  On May 28, 1952, the 8.5 acre property between Sunset Avenue and I-75 along Arnold Street was purchased as a gift by the Rev. Joseph R. Smith, pastor of St. Anthony’s. With hard work and several fund raisers by the determined initial Catholic congregation, building of a Catholic church progressed, encouraged on Sept. 7, 1953 with the announcement by Bishop Hyland that the Sisters of Mercy has agreed to send four sisters for the parish school.

The first Mass at the newly built church was celebrated on August 8, 1954 with Rev. Fr. George T. Daly, the first pastor.  The church was consecrated by Bishop Hyland on October 10, 1954.  St. John’s school opened on September 1, 1954 with Sr. Mary Alberta, principal and Sr. Mary Jude, Sr. Mary Assumpta and Sr. Dolores Marie.  By this time, the church population had grown to about 523 families.

On January 5, 1960, St. John’s was saddened by the sudden death of their first pastor, Fr. Daly.  Fr. John O’Shea was soon assigned as the second pastor of St. John’s Church. During his twelve years of service, the rectory on Sunset Avenue and the convent on Arnold Street were built and were dedicated in 1965.  In 1972, St. John’s welcomed its third pastor, Rev. Richard B. Morrow.  During his time, the parish became the center for growing Vietnamese community in Atlanta, further encouraged in 1976 when Rev. Francis Phuoung joined St. John’s.

1976 to the Present…

Rev. Michael Woods became the fourth pastor of St. John’s in April 1978. A significant increase in the Nigerian, Afro-American as well as Hispanic households in Atlanta lead to further growth in the church population. During this time, the church suffered a fire in the parish rectory, completely destroying the kitchen and adjoining areas.

On May 28, 1987, St. John’s witnessed the ordination of its first permanent Deacon, Rev. Mr. Richard F. Beckman.  St. Johns was blessed in January 1988 when it received a $ 500,000 gift from the estate of parishioner, Catherine Fitzgerald, which helped to build a gymnasium, dedicated in 1990. When the Sisters of Mercy left the school in 1989, the first lay principal, Ms. Sallie McQuaid, was appointed.  The departure of the sisters led to a decision to convert the convent into needed Parish office space and meeting rooms.  In 1989, St. John’s welcomed its 5th pastor, Rev. Ray Horan.  In 1991, Rev. Mr. Hank Akers was ordained and joined St. Johns staff as the 2nd permanent Deacon.  Sr. Maria Carmel Rondinelli of the Sisters of Mercy was appointed full time director of the parish social ministry.

In 1993, Fr. Henry Gracz became the sixth pastor of Saint John’s. Ms. Christine Foley was appointed as the second lay principal in 1994. The school received a great honor when it was recognized as a “School of Excellence” by the Dept. of Education in 1994, one of only seven to receive the award. Rev. Mr. Michael Mobley became the third permanent Deacon at St. John’s ordained by Archbishop Donohue on June 10, 1995.

In February of 1996, St Johns received a team of Redemptorist priests for its pastoral care, Rev. Fr. Vincent J. Douglass, the seventh pastor.  With the growth of the Spanish speaking community at St. John’s, the need for Mass in Spanish was recognized and in April 1996, Mass in Spanish began to be offered every third Saturday, later moved to Sunday.  Ms. Karen Vogtner, alumna of St. John’s School and a staff member, was appointed principal in 1999.

Rev. Glenn Parker became the eighth pastor of St. John’s in the year 2000.  In May 2001, the school received a grant of $ 1.5 million from the Goizueta Foundation for educational facilities (completed in dedicated in 2002) and to provide Hispanic scholarship funds.  In the spring of 2005, the Redemptorist community retired from staffing parishes in Georgia.  Rev. Edward Thein, an Archdiocesan priest appointed by the most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory, became our ninth pastor.  He served until the summer of 2012 and Father Michael Onyekuru, J.C.D. then became our tenth pastor. As a culturally diverse church and school, Saint John’s, now with over seven hundred registered households, continues the traditions of our faith and community history.