History of St John the Evangelist Parish

St John the Evangelist Parish, Waynesville, NC

Holy Mass was offered for the first time in the territory of the parish (all western North Carolina) by a priest in the company of Hernando DeSoto at or near the present site of Franklin, NC - in 1540!!!

Before 1900, Mass was offered in Waynesville (a popular resort area) in private homes. There being no Catholic church west of Asheville -- priests came from Asheville on horseback. By 1920, Mass was offered in the Ballroom of the Gordon Hotel (which stood where Main Street Square is today). Outside of the tourist season early parishioners travelled to Asheville by train to attend Mass.

In 1925, it was given the status of a parish. Fr. Bernard McDevitt was the first resident priest. A home, on what is now the parking lot, was purchased and remodeled. It served as a rectory, a meeting place, and chapel. The first Mass was offered in May, 1926 (27 were present). Mass was said in surrounding communities. Remember - the parish embraced 8 counties (Cherokee, Graham, Clay, Macon, Swain, Jackson, Haywood, and Transylvania).

In 1938, Father Ambrose Rohrbacher became the 7th pastor. he served until 1950. In the 1930's there were 50 Catholics scattered throughout the 8 counties. Among the different towns where Mass was said was Canton, whenever a 5th Sunday occurred.

In June 1939, the first Nuns came to Waynesville - The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi (From St. Francis, WI, outside Milwaukee). In July 1939 the Thomas home on Church Street was purchased (the present Church Office / Rectory) to serve as St. John's School. Mr. Thomas was the son of Colonel William Thomas, the famous "White Chief" of the Cherokees. Mrs. Thomas was the granddaughter of Colonel Robert Love, the founder of the town of Waynesville. Mr. Thomas started the house in 1896. It has a granite foundation and cherry lumber was used extensively in the house.

(An aside: From January 1940 till summer - while Fr. Rohrbacher was away raising funds - Redemptonists from New Smyrna Beach, FL administered to the parish.)

In 1941, construction began on the 1st St John's Church (our present Youth Hall & Knight's Hall) on the site of a former Baptist cemetery - on property adjoining at that time the the school (present Office / Rectory) and across the street from the original rectory and chapel (no longer there). The old Baptist Church stood next door to the church. The Baptist Church was moved to its present location on Main Street. The cemetery was moved also.

On Sept. 10, 1941, Bishop Eugene J. McGuiness, Bishop of Raleigh, dedicated St John's Church. 

In 1945, the C.M. Discuss home, below the original school (present Office / Rectory) was purchased for a convent. It was built at the turn of the century by Rev. and Mrs. George Sutherland. Rev. Sutherland was the rector of Grace Episcopal Church. The original building was enlarged to accommodate the Community of 12 Sisters who taught in the school.

In 1948, 20 families from eastern European countries were resettled in the area through the Auspices of the Church.

In 1950, Father Lawrence Newman (later Monsignor) became pastor. He built churches in Fontana, Franklin, Murphy, Sylva, and in 1954, Immaculate Conception, in Canton.

As of 1955, St. John's embraced only Haywood County with Immaculate Conception as its lone remaining mission church.

In 1956 the new school building was erected.

In 1957, Fr. Vincent Erb became pastor. He moved the Rectory into the original school building below the church. The old rectory was razed.

In 1963, after 23 years of teaching, the Sisters of St. Francis left and the school closed for a year. It reopened the following year when the Franciscan Sisters from Tiffen, OH took over. The number of grades, however, had to be reduced.

Fr. Joseph Bumann served from 1965 - 1970, and had the task of implementing the many changes of Vatican II. During these years, Cherokee and Maggie Valley were assigned as missions to St. Johns. 

On January 12, 1972, the Diocese of Charlotte was established.

In 1979, the Franciscan Sisters withdrew - the Daughters of Charity came for a year. In June, 1980, the school had to close permanently. 

In October 1981 the Redemptonists accepted the administration of St. John's and Immaculate Conception - also, from June 1982 until April 1990 the administration of St. Margaret's in Maggie Valley. When Fr. Murphy died, the diocese resumed charge of St. Margaret's. During these years, the convent and school were sold.

In February 1992, the Redemptonists announced that they could no longer continue to minister to St. John's and Immaculate Conception. In June, the Diocese assumed charge, and Fr. Thomas Storr became pastor.

40 Priests served the Parish from 1925 to 1992 as Pastors and Associate Pastors.

57 Sisters served in the parish from 1939 to 1992.

The preceding history was copied (nearly intact) from "St. John Catholic Church, Waynesville, NC. History through May 1992" in the parish office.  Two events of note have occurred in the subsequent years, and are included here until such time as a more complete history of the intervening years becomes available.

On September 30th, 2007, the Most Reverend Peter J Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte, dedicated our beautiful new St. John the Evangelist Church.

On May 23rd, 2012, the Most Reverend Peter J Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte, consecrated the St. John's and the Immaculate Conception Columbariums and Graveyards.



Old St John Church & Columbarium

New St John Church

Columbarium & Graveyard Consecration

St  John Pastors since 1925

Rev. Christopher M. Riehl, 2014- Present

ev. Lawrence L. LoMonaco, 2007- 2014

Rev. Dennis McGowan, 1988-2007

Rev. Raymond B. Hourihan, 1996-1998

Rev. Thomas Stott, 1992-1996

Rev Edward Gray CSSR, 1987-1992

Rev. James R. O’Malley CSSR, 1981-1987

Rev. Michael Hoban, 1980-1981

Rev. Msgr. John J. McSweeny, 1979-1980

Rev. Msgr. Thomas P. Burke, Pastor 1979

Rev. Gabriel Meehan, 1974-1976

Rev. Joseph Kelleher, 1973-1974

Rev. Ronald McLaughlin, 1970-1973

Rev. Thomas Walsh, 1970-1971

Rev. Joseph Bumann, 1965-1970

Rev. Vincent Erb, 1957-1965

Rev. Msgr. Lawrence Newman, 1950-1957

Rev. Ambrose F. Rohrbacher, 1938-1950

Rev. Richard Barrett, 1938

Rev. Cletus Halfrich, 1938

Rev. Howard Lane, 1935-1938

Rev. Msgr. Michael Carey, 1933-1935

Rev. Arthur Racette, 1931-1933

Rev. Bernard McDevitt, 1925-1931



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