Saint John the Evangelist


Saint John the Evangelist exterior

Founding Pastor: The first resident Pastor was Rev. James Doherty in 1872.
Parish Founded: July 16, 1860
Church Dedication: The church was dedicated on October 20, 1861 by Rev. John McGill, Bishop of Richmond.
School:  Saint John the Evangelist Catholic School, founded in 1960 by Pastor Rev. Robert E. O'Kane.

About Saint John the Evangelist Catholic School

The school opened its doors on the campus of the famed and storied grounds of the old Stuyvesant School in 1960 under the guidance of Rev. Robert E. O'Kane, Pastor. The Sister Antoinette of the Benedictine Sisters served as the first principal of the school, with 63 students grades 1-4.

In 1962-1963, the school expanded to include both 5th and 6th grades. Kindergarten and 7th grade were added later. In 1968, the Sisters of Notre Dame began to work in the school as teachers and administrators, taking over for the Benedictine Sisters. In 1978 the decision to add an 8th grade was made.

In the early 1980s it became apparent that the school building was inadequate for school needs. A group of parents led the campaign to develop a building plan. In 1987 a new building was completed and dedicated on the lower campus. The old school building became home to the parish offices. Additionally, space was dedicated to opening a preschool. This was realized in 1989. In 1997, after 29 years of service, the Sisters of Notre Dame withdrew from the school. Lay personnel now staff the school. The convent was converted to the new preschool in 2018, bringing the youngest children closer to the playground and main campus. Currently combined enrollment is about 270 students. The school operates in conjunction with the Diocese of Arlington Office of Catholic Schools. The school works in conjunction with the parish religious education department for sacramental preparation and reception of the sacraments. The school has a very successful and active PTO which supports many family events throughout the year.

What Makes This Parish Unique?

Saint John the Evangelist is unique in that it is currently the only Catholic parish in Fauquier County, serving an area of 651 square miles. John the Evangelist is nestled in Warrenton's historic district in the heart of Fauquier County. The beautiful stone church sits on a rolling hill near the entrance to the campus. The grounds are adorned with many mature trees illuminating the beauty of creation in every season. As visitors and parishioners approach the church, they are welcomed by a statue of Saint John the Evangelist.

Once inside the church, the eye is drawn up to the large crucifix above the tabernacle. Christ's loving and forgiving eyes are open, depicting him prior to his death. The Mary Garden beside the rectory includes both the Stations of the Cross and a Rosary Walk, and a statue of St. Therese which serves to remind visitors to pray for vocations. The parish offices are housed across from the church, originally built as dormitory for the Stuyvesant School and the elementary school from 1960-1987.

The parish is noted for the family atmosphere. Families are encouraged to participate in both community and liturgical events. Daily masses are offered at 6:30-8:30 a.m. Adoration is offered for the parish each Wednesday and non-stop from Thursday at 9:00 a.m. through 8:30 Saturday morning. This parish is home to about 7,000 parishioners. Several ministries operating on campus serve the needs of parishioners and the community. Currently the parish is served by the Pastor Rev. Charles Smith, Parochial Vicar Rev. Nicholas Blank. The parish is also blessed with three permanent deacons.

Parish History

The first Mass recorded for the parish was celebrated in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Rice Payne by Bishop John McGill on December 20, 1855. Mrs. America Payne worked tirelessly to found a Catholic church in Fauquier County. Her work was rewarded when the original church was dedicated in October of 1861. Local Catholics received pastoral visits approximately monthly in Warrenton. Rev. Francis Janssens was one of the early attending priests. He served 1869-1871.

The church received full parish status in 1874 and Rev. John Doherty served as the first resident pastor. He was replaced by Father Donohoe, who was also given the responsibilities of the newly formed All Saints Catholic Church.

For several years, regular coverage of liturgical celebrations for Saint John the Evangelist Parish was sporadic. In 1911, at the request of M.J. O'Connell, Bishop Dennis J. O'Connell (no relation) appointed a Rev. Louis Smet as the resident pastor in 1913. The parish was served by 6 more pastors.

In 1958-1959, Rev. Robert E. O'Kane secured the current property for the school and made plans to build a new, larger church for the growing parish. The school opened in 1960. The church was built by Bruce Noland under the direction of the pastor. Both the Church and Rectory were completed in 1964. Father Campi replaced Father O'Kane in 1961 and expanded the school. He remained pastor until 1970 when Father Joseph Swartz took the position. Father Swartz oversaw the building of the convent for the Sisters of Notre Dame on the campus. He was present as Saint John the Evangelist Parish became part of the newly formed Diocese of Arlington in 1974. He was replaced by Rev. Vincent Heald who served from 1976-1980. In 1980, Father Salvator Cuillo came to the parish. He served as administrator and pastor. He renovated the church and rectory. Father Majka, 1984-1996, worked tirelessly to support the efforts of the parish to build the current school building. Father Mike Bazan, 1996-2004, served the parish for eight years, followed by Father Steve Leva, who served for year in 2004-2005 before transferring to Pennsylvania. Father Melmer took over pastoral duties in 2004. He oversaw the building of the church expansion. He was pastor form 2004-2010. Father James Gould came on board in 2010. He helped oversee the building of the new preschool and generated a plan to expand the parish office.

In the fall of 2019, our current pastor, Rev. Charles Smith, was installed. He has participated in a number of improvement projects including the updating/replacing the roof and HVAC system. He has also spearheaded the campaign to raise funds to update parish offices. While the parish and the buildings have a long history of change, the practice of the faith remains constant.

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