The mission church was built at the request of a traveling preacher named Mr. Cora Dilly, who was preaching at several schools in the area each Sunday. The original church building was of wood construction and burned to the ground in the spring of 1904. The church was rebuilt and completed in the spring of 1905. In 1926, it was decided to move the church building into Johnstown and the brick veneer was added to the building at that time. Saint John the Baptist Parish was officially established by Bishop Urban Vehr in 1938.
The first church home originated in the Spanish colony of Johnstown. In 1926 when people began to settle in the colony a church to serve the people was only a dream. Juan Baca and Juan Trujilo were instrumental in obtaining a former dance/pool hall building owned by Andres Maes that was to be torn down.
They also encouraged the Great Western Sugar Company to donate the lot. Funds for the building were raised by these factory workers and farm laborers by donations. For less than $400, the church was completed. On June 24, 1938, Bishop Vehr dedicated the small mission church as Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church, thus honoring the two men who spearheaded the drive for a church home. Mass was said by various pastors from Fort Collins and Greeley including Fr. Trudel and Fr. Dominic Morera as well as Spanish mission priests.
When Our Lady of Peace Church was completed in Greeley (1948), the Johnstown church become one of its missions. The Priests who served the parish were from the order of Sons of the Holy Family. Beginning in 1950, Mass was said every Sunday and catechism classes held. Additions to the church were made through the efforts of Joe Derrera and Juan Troncoso.
As the Catholic community began to grown, the need for a larger house of worship became vital. In 1974 steps were taken to acquire the United Methodist Church and rectory, located at 801 Charlotte Street in Johnstown. The first Mass was celebrated on December 6, 1974, by the Reverend Fr. Casimir Roca S.F., the first pastor of the new church. He has also served as priest in the colony church.
The Concelebrated Mass of Dedication was held on January 26, 1975 with Bishop George R. Evans as principal celebrant, with Fr. Casimir Roca S.F. and Fr. Augustine Cortes S.F. assisting members of the Protestant clergy also participated or were among guests which included several Sisters, former C.C.C.D. instructors.
Several priests have been appointed by the Archdiocese to serve the Catholic community of the area which now includes not only St. John the Baptist Parish, but also the Windsor parish of Our Lady of the Valley.
There have been the Reverend and F.R.S.. Casimer Rocay (Chimayo, New Mexico), Thomas Stone (deceased), Jude Geilenkirchen, Frank Deml, Thomas Kelly, David Sobieszczyk and Stephen Adams. Before he was ordained in 1997, Fr. Dan Norick spent a year of his seminarian training with our parishes. In addition, two members of the Juan and Luisa Baca family joined religious orders. A daughter, Miriam, became Sister Cecilia of the Carmelite Monastery on March 11, 1953 (deceased) and a grandson, Stan Soria was ordained a priest on August 8, 1993.
The new church was brought and new faces. Some of the old traditions have remained. IN the old church bilingual Masses were at first in Latin and Spanish. After Vatican II, Masses were said in Spanish and English. The readings and music were bilingual. Even now the Sunday Masses are both bilingual to carry on this tradition and enable the cultures to meld.
Another tradition has been the presence of the Holy Family Group or the Sagrada Familia going from house to house offering families the opportunities to pray together. That group has donated much of their funds to the parish community. Another continued activity has been to have a food booth at Johnstown’s Barbecue Day and Milliken’s Beef and Bean Day. An annual picnic at a local park brings the parish members together for Mass and fellowship.
As the church membership continued to grow, the house next to the rectory was purchased in 1990 and Fr. Stephen Adams was the first to occupy it as the priest’s residence. Church members rallied to renovate not only this house but the rectory and the church to best fit the need of the parish. Upkeep on these properties are ongoing, but the debt is free.
Now that the area is growing rapidly, the need for a new church is imminent. The church family will face this future challenge by working together just as the founders did 60 years ago so that the celebration of their faith in Jesus Christ will continue to flourish and deepen.
Who was Saint John the Baptist?
Born in 5 B.C., John the Baptist is a key figure in the Biblical stories of Jesus of Nazareth. According to the Gospels, John’s role was to announce the coming of Jesus: in John 1:23 he tells interrogators, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.'” According to Matthew 3:4, he wore clothing made of camel’s hair and ate locusts and wild honey, and baptized people in the river Jordan. (It was after being baptized by John that Jesus was led to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.) John later was executed by the ruler Herod; as told in Matthew chapter 14, Herod granted the demand of Salome to “give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.”
In the Catholic Church, his feast day is June 24th… John the Baptist is a different person from the apostle John, for whom the Gospel of John is named… In speaking of Jesus, John said: “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the holy spirit”… According to Luke, John was the son of Zechariah (or Zachary) and his wife Elizabeth, a relative of Jesus’ mother Mary, and was born roughly six months before Jesus.