St. John the Evangelist, Ishpeming


St. John the Evangelist Parish in Ishpeming survived the separation of its French members, who formed St. Joseph Parish in 1890. St. John then saw its mission church, St. Pius X in North Lake, flourish to become its own parish. For nearly 90 years St. John’s supported an elementary school, the facilities of which are still used as a religious education center.

Founding. When St. John’s first church was built in 1867, it was considered a mission of St. Paul Parish in Negaunee. In 1874, the original building was replaced by a church constructed on Main Street. The parish was dedicated to St. John the Evangelist 13 years later, on Sept. 13, 1887. The French members of the parish left to start St. Joseph Parish in 1890.

Father Henry Kron was assigned to St. John’s in 1924 and he continued the fund-raising efforts already under way for a third church. In the spring of 1927 the wooden structure that had served the parish well for the previous 50 years was torn down. Bishop Paul J. Nussbaum laid the cornerstone for the new church on July 3. Dedication of the current building took place on Feb. 14, 1928.

Parish School. In 1884 the first classes were held at St. John School, staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet, of St. Louis, Mo.

Improvements to the school first came in 1913 with major remodeling. The sisters’ residence was moved and an addition to the school was built.

As Ishpeming grew and new housing sprang up north of U.S. Highway 41, St. John’s purchased land near the Ishpeming Cemetery, potentially for the construction of a new school. But instead, the land was sold to St. Joseph Parish for a new church.

In 1963 construction was completed on a 42,600-square foot addition to the St. John Parish complex. A rectory, office space, a two-story 12-classroom grade school, parish hall and convent were erected. The “K-D” hall, as it came to be known, was named for Father Henry Kron and Monsignor George Dingfelder, whose pastorates spanned from 1924 to 1958.

In June 1971, just eight years after the opening of the new school, it was announced that St. John’s School would close. To fill the gap of the school’s closure, an intense tri-parish religious education program was started for the Ishpeming churches. In 1975, after the public school ended a lease for use of the St. John School building, it became the tri-parish CCD Center.

Parish Life. St. John’s Church expanded its care of the North Lake Mission in 1947. Father Louis Cappo, assistant at St. John’s, was the first to offer regular Sunday Mass at the North Lake School auditorium.

In September 1958, a fire in the sacristy caused extensive damage to St. John’s Church.

Disaster struck again in 1963 when the left bell tower was struck by lightning, causing major damage to the wiring of the church.

Tragedy was averted in 1974 when, at the start of the 7 p.m. Mass June 9, the congregation was terrified when one of the decorative buttresses broke loose and fell into the congregation. Several people were injured in the incident.

For nearly 10 years, St. John’s was fortunate to have a vibrant recreation center. In 1967, on property that the Ford Motor Co. had deeded to the parish in 1961, buildings were erected to make a parish recreation center. The 56-acre parcel on Boston Lake was named Patmos. However, on Aug. 20, 1975, an arsonist set fire to and destroyed the Patmos installation. It was a great loss to the parish.

In 1978 the church was redecorated, floors carpeted and new glass doors installed in preparation for the 50th anniversary of the building. A new altar and pulpit were installed in 1998 and the interior of the church repainted in 2000.

On June 9, 1991, St. John’s held a Parish Day of Commemoration honoring Monsignor David Spelgatti’s 50th anniversary of ordination. Msgr. Spelgatti served the parish from June 1958 until his retirement in July 1991.

Pastors. Fathers John N. Stariha, 1871; Honoratus Bourion, 1871; Sebastian Duroc, 1871; John Burns, 1871; John Vertin, 1872; Theodore A. Trottenburg, 1877; Martin A. Fox, 1878; Edward Jacker, 1879; Charles Langer, 1879; Ignatius Mrak, 1879; John Brown, 1879; Thomas J. Atfield, 1880; Luke Mozina, 1880; Theodore A. Majerus, 1881; Hilary J. Rosseau, 1881; Edward Bordas, 1881; Frederick Eis, 1881; Augustus W. Geers, 1882; Charles Dries, 1883; Francis X. Becker, 1883; Fabian Marceau, 1885; Joseph Barron, 1886; J. O’Keefe 1887; Fitzsimmons, 1887; Peter O’Connell, 1887; Joseph Langan, 1888; Thomas V. Dassylva, 1888; Honoratus Bourion, 1889; C. F. Schelhamer, 1889; C. Murphy, 1890; John Keul, 1890; Joseph Boissonnault, 1891; Joseph Langan, 1894; Henry Buchholtz, 1898; James Corcoran, 1898; Francis R. Doherty, CSP, 1901; Martin Kehoe, 1901; Renatus Becker, 1902; Henry Reis, 1903; Napoleon Raymond, 1904; Joseph Beauchene, 1908; Martin Sommers, 1919; Joseph L. Hollinger, 1922; Henry Kron, 1924; George Dingfelder, 1946; David Spelgatti, 1958-1991; Charles Strelick, 1991-1995; Peter Oberto, 1995-2007; Gregory Heikkala, 2007-2014; and Larry Van Damme, 2014-

END.