Co-Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist
History (updated from The History of the Diocese of Winona, 2014, Editions du Signe)
Church of St. John the Evangelist - 1863
The (then) Church of Saint John the Evangelist celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2013. This was the first Catholic church in Rochester, founded in 1863 by Father James Morris on the very block where the co-cathedral stands today. The first church was dedicated on December 1, 1872, and, after almost 30 years of growth, an expansion called for a new cornerstone to be laid on October 12, 1900.
With an awareness of the need for Catholic education, three new schools opened for classes on this same block in 1913, including a grade school, Saint John High School for girls and Heffron High School for boys. Plans were formulated during the 1950s to replace the old church. The new building, built in 1956, became one of Rochester's most distinctive architectural structures of the times. The church, built of Mankato stone, was very simple with straight lines, but was impressive and dignified in its contemporary style.
Reverend Monsignor Gerald Mahon, pastor since 1995, oversaw a major renovation of the church, which culminated in the dedication of the new space on May 19, 2002, the Feast of Pentecost. The interior of the church was turned 180 degrees, and a new chapel, gathering space, fellowship area, and peace garden were all added during the project. The parish received permission to connect with the downtown pedestrian subway, allowing patients and caregivers access to the church from the neighboring buildings of the Mayo Medical Center.
The parish is committed to upholding the Church's rich tradition of the arts, as seen in the sculptures and stained glass throughout the space. The final event of the Sesquicentennial took place on November 9, 2013, when Saint John Parish presented a concert premiering the piece, "What I Have Seen and Heard," an original composition by Saint John Parish's Director of Liturgy and Music, Sebastian Modarelli. The work followed the journey of the church's patron saint, Saint John the Evangelist, through some of the most moving stories of the Gospel. Most Reverend John Quinn, bishop of Winona, was present and offered a message of gratitude and thanksgiving for all who have had a role in the history of this parish, and he recognized its vital presence as a gift to the Rochester community and the Diocese of Winona.
Co-Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist - 2018
128 years after the founding of the Diocese of Winona, Rochester had grown to become the diocese's most populous city, and the third largest city in Minnesota, with three quarters of the diocesan population living in the area between Rochester and Mankato. To build a greater presence in Rochester, it became apparent that the diocese would be well-served by a co-cathedral.
In 2015, an initial inquiry was sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, asking for the designation of a co-cathedral in Rochester. The Congregation for Bishops subsequently sent the diocese requirements for the process and directed the establishment of a diocesan planning committee. This committee determined that St. John the Evangelist Church should be elevated to the status of a co-cathedral. The co-cathedral committee, and other groups involved, considered the size of the church building, location, architecture and overall ability to function as a co-cathedral. Other factors included its proximity to the Mayo Clinic, the arts, culture, media, and industry, which provided an opportunity for further evangelization by the local Church. Also considerable was St. John the Evangelist's status as the “mother church” of Rochester, being the oldest parish in the city.
As soon as it was determined that St. John the Evangelist would be elevated to a co-cathedral, the diocese underwent a change in name from the Diocese of Winona to the Diocese of Winona-Rochester.
On June 24, 2018, the Church of St. John the Evangelist was elevated to the dignity of a co-cathedral. Bishop of Winona-Rochester Most Rev. John M. Quinn celebrated the Mass of Elevation, with Apostolic Nuncio Most Rev. Christophe Pierre and Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis Most Rev. Bernard A. Hebda as concelebrants. Bishop Quinn blessed his new cathedra, or bishop's chair, bearing witness to the apostolic ministry of sanctifying, teaching, and shepherding.