History of St John the Evangelist Church
The early Catholic Church of East Bridgewater was started in 1863, in a building purchased from the Methodists who had abandoned it to move to their new location on Central St. Our church was located where the East Bridgewater Library now stands. This was a well built structure, ample for the needs of the small Catholic community of those days. Masses were held there on Sundays and Holy Days for thirty years. The name of the church was St Bridget's. For the first three years the church was a mission church of St Patrick's parish in North Bridgewater, now Brockton. Then in 1869 it became a mission church of St Thomas Aquinas in Bridgewater-and thus remained for the next thirty years.
On Sunday, March 5, 1893 at 2:00a.m. A fire originated in a barn next door to the church and spread quickly engulfing the church in flames. The church burned to the ground within minutes. This was a terrible loss for the parishioners; changing their parochial life as they had known it for 30 years. Their church was gone but not their spirit. For a period of approximately 14 months Sunday masses were held in the Town Hall pending the building of a new church. At that time the Town Hall was located in the area of our current church parking lot.
On June 20, 1893, the Bliss family donated a piece of property across from the Town Common and adjacent to the Town Hall for the purpose of building a new church. The donation was made in honor of Mrs. Bliss' father, Dr. Samuel A Orr, a prominent, friendly doctor in town who had cared for many of the townspeople. Many people contributed their time and talent as the building of the new church began. The plans called for a structure that would hold 500 people. The foundation was brick, which rose 5 ft. above ground with a superstructure of wood gracefully relieved by an artistic Gothic style frame. On April 29, 1894 a very impressive High Mass of Dedication was held with Rev. William E. Kelly as the new pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church. The church was named after the beloved disciple and author of the fourth gospel.
In May 1903 St. John's became an independent parish with a resident pastor, the Rev. Edward J. Curtin. After a few months of residing at the Bridgewater rectory, he purchased from Mrs. Benjamin Bliss, the present parochial residence. Its colonial design and New England style provided an attractive and very comfortable home for the new pastor, next door to the new church. In the early 1920's the roof tower of the church was removed due to structural problems and steel rods were installed in the interior of the church to prevent further damage.
In 1944, St. John's celebrated its 50 year golden jubilee. By this time St. John's Church was growing steadily. What used to be a mostly Irish Catholic church had become a diverse community with Italian, French, Polish, Portuguese and families of other ethnic backgrounds all sharing and serving one another. The church continued to grow and flourish. St. John’s stood out as the most beautiful building in East Bridgewater. The interior of the church was equally beautiful, in details carved from oak. Stained glass windows and an altar also in the Gothic style and described as gold and white with statues of many saints adorning it.
Sadly, in June of 1954, the parishioners of our church once again underwent the pain of loosing a beloved church building, their place of worship and community. One Sunday afternoon a fire started in the rear of the church building from a cause of unknown origin. The church burned to the level of the brick foundation. A few items were saved as people ran in and out of the burning building, familiar with where things were kept. Many parishioners who remember seeing their church burn say "it still is the most heart-breaking memory" of their lives.
In the absence of a church building, masses were held in the cafeteria of the new Central School. Again the determination and dedication of parishioners made it possible for St John's to be rebuilt. The new St. John the Evangelist Church was dedicated in 1955 by Reverend Daniel Sculley. It was built in a more modern style with a basement that is now used for a teaching area for Christian Doctrine classes, banquets and meetings as needed. It serves a growing number of parishioners, new families and a large number of children enrolled in the CCD program. In the I980's the interior of the church and windows were redesigned.
There have been 16 pastors since St. John began as a parish with Father Curtin, all of whom were well chosen. Each has led our parish very well, contributing their own unique spiritual gifts of service. Rev. John Corcoran was one of the longest serving pastors, serving for 25 years. He retired in 2004 and passed away soon after. At his request, he is laid to rest in the reflection garden behind St. John's Church.
Our current pastor, Rev. Walter Keymont, quickly felt at home in East Bridgewater. He has revived St. John's Church and brought us together as a community. We are commissioned to minister to one another, and we are responding to His call of service. We, as parishioners, look forward to the future of St John's Church, building on the faith and courage of our ancestors and founding parishioners.