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Our Parish History

150 Years of History

History of St. John's Parish
Folsom, California
1857 - 2005

With the discovery of gold and the arrival of the 49'ers, Folsom, on the banks of the American River, became a very active area in the early 1850's.On May 29, 1851, a young Catholic priest, Fr. John Ingoldsby started off on mule back to visit the gold mining areas. His route took him from Sacramento to Folsom and as far north as Shasta County and back to Sacramento. On this trip he offered the first mass ever celebrated in Folsom.

Following completion of the railroad in 1856, Folsom became a transportation hub, being the terminus for stage lines crossing the mountains and a magnet for those people dependent upon the mines for their livelihood. Priests from Sacramento regularly visited Folsom and other active mining communities bringing the Sacraments to all the faithful.

In 1856, Fr. Quinn, pastor of St. Rose's in Sacramento, started a mission church in Folsom. This was thirty years before the Diocese of Sacramento came into being. The next year (1857), Joseph Alemany, archbishop of San Francisco, donated $115 to purchase land for a church in Folsom, just a few hundred yards from the American River. That same year, Fr. Quinn built the first house of worship in Folsom. The church was dedicated to St. John the Baptist and still stands on the grounds of the historic cemetery at the corner of Sibley and Natoma Streets. It is one of the oldest surviving building in Folsom and oldest church still in use in the diocese. It is now used for special occasions such as Masses on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and weddings.

Fr. Joseph Gallagher was appointed the first pastor in 1859 by Bishop Alemany. During subsequent years he was succeeded by a long line of Irish priests: Fathers Neil Gallagher, William Slattery, Francis Kelly, John Leahy, Timothy Crowley, and Michael Gaulco. All of whom were non-resident pastors.

The Diocese of Sacramento, which included Folsom, was established in 1886 with Bishop Manoqnue as the spiritual leader. In 1889 Bishop Manoque assigned Fr. James Hunt as the first resident pastor. Fr. James was succeeded by Fr. Thomas Nugent, who in 1902 transferred to Red Bluff, at which time St. John's became a mission of St. Patrick's in Placerville. Finally in 1917, St. John's was restored to full parish status with Fr. Michael Cahir as pastor. Fr. Michael built the first rectory in 1920. He was followed by Frs. John Ellis, Michael Hogan, Patrick Cronin, William O'Toole, and James Healy. During Fr. Healy's pastorate a new church was erected across Sibley street from the original church. This second church was home to the parish from 1959 to January 1990. Following Fr. Healy came Frs. Walter Albrecht and James O'Dea. Fr. William Kinane took office in 1973 and left in 1995 when Fr. Ignatius Haran arrived. Our current pastor, Fr. Rey Bersabal joined us in August 2008 after Fr. Haran retired. Fr. Haran continues to be involved in our parish as Pastor Emeritus.

St. John Notre Dame School, originally staffed by Notre Dame Sisters, was started in 1962. It is located on Montrose Dr., 1 mile from the original churches on Natoma and Sibley. A parish hall next to the school was completed in 1978. After the Notre Dame Sisters departed in 1984, the old convent was converted into a combination rectory and parish office. On January 14, 1990 the present 21,000 Sq. Ft. church was dedicated. With this new church, all the parish activities were now located at the same location. The 'middle church', across the street from the historic church was sold at that time. In 1992 a new rectory was purchased on property next to the church grounds.

In the Spring of 2000, a new 10,000 Sq. Ft. Parish Center was opened to house parish offices and activities. The latest addition to the parish is the new Betty Dolan Education Center, finished the Summer of 2005. This 9,000 Sq. Ft. building contains the school library, kindergarten, technology room, faculty lounge, multi-purpose room and a Religious Education Office.

Through all these years, St. John's has been a growing and viable parish. There are currently over 3,000 registered families in the parish. We are proud of our past and pray that the Lord will always bless us with grace and allow us continued growth and prosperity in the future.