St. John the Evangelist Parish begins new century of ministry and outreach

  • Written by Mary Louise Van Dyke
  • Published in Local
In this undated photo, parishioners gather to worship at St. John the Evangelist Church. Photo: Courtesy St. John the Evangelist Parish In this undated photo, parishioners gather to worship at St. John the Evangelist Church. Photo: Courtesy St. John the Evangelist Parish

SEATTLE – The roots of St. John the Evangelist Parish can be traced to its 1917 working-class neighborhood, where the parish’s first Masses were held in an amusement hall.

The following year, Irish-born Father William Quigley and his congregation moved into a frame building at 121 N. 80th St.; in 1931, the wood structure was replaced by the Romanesque-style brick church that still stands today, according to parish historian Patricia Davis. The parish’s school had opened on the site in 1923.

“St. John the Evangelist has always been a place that welcomed new people,” said Frank Feeman, chair of the parish’s executive committee, whose family joined the St. John’s in the mid-1970s.

Today, the 100-year-old parish has 1,044 households, including the Donohue family, longtime parishioners. “Having married there [in 1952] and been here all these years, it’s home,” said Joan (Boulanger) Donohue. She and her husband, Daniel, raised their family at St. John’s, and five of their eight children were married at the parish church. Daniel has served as lector, parish council president and a CYO coach for parish teams.

St. John the EvangelistSt. John the Evangelist Parish’s original wood-frame church was replaced by this Romanesque-style building, dedicated in 1931. Photo: Courtesy St. John the Evangelist Parish

Loretta (McGrath) Fletcher joined St. John’s in 1942 when her family moved to Seattle from Montana because of World War II. She attended St. John School, taught by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fletcher remembers her mother and others from the school’s Mothers’ Club holding “food showers” for the sisters, who received only small stipends to live on. As an adult, Fletcher worked with 40 volunteers in the 1960s to launch the parish’s Sunday preschool program. “It was quite a big deal,” she recalled.

After more than 30 years as pastor, Father Quigley died in 1951 and Msgr. John Egan was appointed the new pastor. He expedited construction of a parish hall (now called Egan Hall) that included a kitchen and gymnasium and opened in 1963.

Father Crispin Okoth

Improvements to parish facilities over the years include extensive church renovations in 2008 that were overseen by then-pastor Father William McKee, and the recently concluded $3.2 million capital campaign aimed at maintaining the facilities for future generations.

The current pastor, Father Crispin Okoth, arrived in 2008 with a desire to “build a faith-filled community — a community that prays,” he said in an email. Often, he said, it’s “very easy to focus on the facilities and social aspects of the body of Christ and forget that we need to be temples of the Holy Spirit.”

Father Okoth is a native of Kenya, and St. John has ties to parishes in Kenya and Malawi (also in Africa), as well as in Peru.

Its outreach includes visiting parishioners who are homebound or in nursing homes and offering overnight shelter to for homeless women. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul “has been here forever,” Fletcher said, and “is still very active and very needed.”

As St. John’s begins its second century, Feeman expressed the hope that the parish continues to be a welcoming place, and “a church that people would want to come to.”