Saint John the Baptist Church

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by Jack Kennelly (Burnsville History, 1976)

The 1885 Church
St. John the Baptist of Burnsville, the 13th Catholic church in Minnesota, had its first mass said in 1853 by Fr. Augustine Ravoux in the home of William Byrne. That year the first log church was started and was completed in 1855 for a congregation of 10 families. The land for the church and Mt. Calvary cemetery on Judicial Road was donated by the Byrne family.

The first resident pastor to the parish was Fr. D. J. Fischer, who served the church from December 1859 to June 1861. He was followed by Fr. Claude Robert who built the first rectory in 1865.

During 1866 Fr. J. Thaddeus Stephens designed and began a frame church to be built on land donated by Martin and Ellen Burns on County Road 34. The church had a tower and steeple 100 feet high and a large bell weighing 1,800 pounds. Bishop Grace dedicated the church in October 1866 with the first mass offered on December 16. On April 13, 1883 this church was burned to the ground by an arsonist.

The Rectory was occupied in 1889, also later moved to Hamilton/Savage
The church was replaced and blessed by Bishop Ireland on April 26, 1885. (See photo). A new rectory was occupied in September 1889 when the old one was sold. On February 2, 1902, fire again destroyed the church of St. John the Baptist. The fire was the result of a faulty furnace.
Early Interior
The Archbishop decreed that the church should be rebuilt in Hamilton (Savage). A brick church was begun July 1902 at a cost of $11,497 with the cornerstone laid October 5, 1902. The rectory was also moved to the new site, (see photo). The bell salvaged from the 1902 fire was sent to Troy, New York to be recast and toned, which took two years. The bell is still used in the church to this day. Electric lights were installed in the church in 1920.
St John the Baptist in 1976
Fr. J. A. Keane came to the parish in 1903 and remained until 1931, the longest tenure of any pastor in the parish history. The following year Fr. T. J. Keane became pastor and built the church hall in 1935 for a total cost of $7,000.

In 1945 the church was modernized by the purchase and installation of a new organ.

On July 4, 1955, the parish celebrated its 100th anniversary. Fr. Albert Ziskovsky, pastor at that time, had one special desire... to build a school. When he left in 1958 there were $32,000 in bonds. Fr. Clarence Zlotkowski became pastor in 1958, and that December construction began on St. John's School and Convent. The cornerstone was laid March 8, 1959 with dedication held June 24, 1959 on the feast day of St. John the Baptist. The school opened September 8, 1959 and during the 1975-76 school year there is an enrollment of 405 students.

June 17, 1964 ground was broken for an addition to the school, which provided 7 additional class rooms, a combination lunch room and gymnasium, a library, nurses' room, principal's office and reception area. A Board of Education for St. John School began in 1968.

As of January, 1976, the parish had 1300 registered families with 8 services offered during the weekend. Future plans call for the building of a Parish Administration Center and Rectory to begin in March 1976. The present pastors are Fr. Leonard Jenniges and Fr. William Hennen.