On February 9, 1838 the city of Port Williams was named Carrollton after Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland. The town was chosen as the seat of the newly founded Carroll County, which had been carved out of Gallatin County. Charles Carroll was a devout Catholic. Through his words and actions, he convinced many that one could be fully Catholic as well as fully American. Carroll’s cousin was the first bishop in what is now the United State: Baltimore’s John Carroll. Prior to 1850 there were few if any Catholics in the Carrollton vicinity. The first recorded Mass in the town of Carrollton was offered in a “small northern room” at 306 Fourth Street. Fr. Streber offered religious instructions to the children. Streber established the Society of Our Holy Redeemer to plan the building of a church. It consisted of a Mr. Logemann (a protestant), Henry Grobmeyer, and Anthony Rudolphy. The committee succeeded in persuading a Dr. Mason to sell them a tract of land on Fifth Street with the agreement that the purchasers would donate part of the land for the erection of a church. Mr. Grobmeyer, who had the deed, bequeathed that part of the land. Anthony Rudolphy and Joseph Thamann then began collecting funds for the new church.
Sunday, July 31, 1853 was a glorious day for Carrollton faithful. Bishop Spalding of Louisville offered Mass at John Roedenback’s granary, which supposedly had been “especially cleaned and decorated for the solemn occasion,” and confirmed six children. The congregation of 33 families then processed to the site of the new church, which is the location of the present church parking lot, for the laying of the cornerstone. Services were conducted in both English and German. After declaring that the church would be named after St. John the Evangelist, Bishop Spalding laid the stone in place. The metal box placed in the cornerstone contained copies of the Kentucky Family Mirror, the Louisville Times, Advocate and Telegraph Wabrbeitsfreund, Volksfreund, a three-cent piece, half-dime, dime, quarter, two metals of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a Latin document listing the names of those occupying civil and ecclesiastical authority at the time. It was while the church was being erected that the Diocese of Covington was formed, encompassing St. John parish. When completed, the church was dedicated under the patronage of St. John the Evangelist in July, 1855, and was a beautiful example of colonial and modified gothic architecture. The total cost of the new church was $2,235.01.
Due to a severe priest shortage, St. John had no resident pastor, and Mass was still being said only once a month. On intervening Sundays, Anthony Rudolphy led services. In a written document dated August 28, 1855, Fr. Charles Schafroth, who was ministering to the congregation, charged him with the responsibility of ringing the church bell three times daily for prayer, reading the Gospel and Goffine’s Gospel explanation in German on Sundays, as well as leading the rosary and the stations of the cross. He also oversaw the religious education of the children in the pastor’s absence.
Fr. Schafroth built a small brick schoolhouse near the church at a cost of $277.00. Evidently, it was a one-room schoolhouse, and was taught by laymen. In the first five years the school went through seven teachers. It was also Fr. Schafroth that blessed the church’s bell, christening it “Mary” on August 26, 1855. He also blessed the present parish cemetery that same day. In October, 1855 Fr. Schafroth was appointed St. John’s first resident pastor. George Meyer, a carpenter, at a cost of $400.00 built the first part of the rectory in 1861. Prior to this, the priest probably lived with some of the parishioners in town.
In 1862, Fr. Weissenberger built a convent for $407.00, and the next year, the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg, Indiana, arrived to staff the parish school. In 1875, the Sisters of Notre Dame took charge of St. John’s School. Fr. Stephany expanded the school building during his pastorate. The two-story brick school with a cupola and bell was completed around 1865 for $2,000.00. St. John’s high school began under the direction of the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1898, and despite a worthy effort, met its demise only a year and a half later.
One of Fr. Ignatius Ahmann’s lasting contributions to the parish was the purchase of the $500.00 crucifixion group (the crucifix and Saints John and Mary) that still adorn our sanctuary, as well as our beloved Stolzenberg crèche imported in 1894 for $400.00. With the approach of St. John’s Golden jubilee, the parish, which now numbered 75 families, turned its attention to building a new church of imposing grandeur under the direction of Fr. Ahmann. Bishop Camillus Paul Maes laid the cornerstone on October 5, 1902. The parish’s Golden jubilee was also celebrated that day.
By 1907 the church was under roof, but the lack of funds soon made further progress impossible. The interior work was postponed, the window openings were boarded up, and work was halted indefinitely. The parish entered a period of strict economy under Fr. Clement Bocklage, so that in 1915, work was able to resume. The interior was then plastered, and heat, light, and a concrete floor were installed. The interior woodwork was completed and pews were added. The completed church was a highly gothic structure designed by Leon Coquared, who had been the architect of the spectacular and locally-famous Covington Cathedral, earning St. John its deserving fond nickname “the cathedral in the cornstalks.”
Bishop Ferdinand Brossart dedicated the new edifice on June 25, 1916. Fr. Otto, pastor during the dedication, purchased the magnificent pipe organ from Pischer Organ Company of Louisville. The organist, Mrs. Katie Grobmeier, and her friends paid half for the organ, while the Carnegie Foundation donated the other half. Fr. Hafen also added the stained glass and had the church painted and decorated.
On Sunday, November 15, 1953 the parish celebrated her Centennial. The church was renovated for the centennial. The entire interior had been repainted and the “sanctuary was done in fresco work of gold and red.” Fr. Joseph Sieg, the pastor at the time still holds the record for the longest pastorate at St. John’s: twenty-four years.
In March, 1957, state inspectors inspected the school/convent built in 1865. They found the buildings to have “served its usefulness.” The pastor, Monsignor John Walsh, informed the parish of a need for a new school/convent, and quickly began a fund drive, canvassing the parish. With the success of the fund drive, the old school was torn down in the spring and quickly replaced by the new one in the fall and the debt was paid off in less than ten years. Ground was broken on Sunday, January 18, 1959. The cornerstone was laid on May 3, 1959. The new school was dedicated Sunday, October 25, 1959. The cost of the new building was about $100,000.00. This building is our present parish center. The old church built in 1853, had been used as a parish hall since the new church was dedicated in 1916. But with the construction of the new school, which included a parish hall, the old church was torn down and a much needed parking lot was poured in its place.
Fr. Henry Haacke was pastor from 1960 – 1970. During Fr. Haacks’s pastorate, the Second Vatican Council occurred. One of the changes implemented by the council was the use of the vernacular in the Mass. The first English Mass at St. John was held on November 29, 1964. Two weeks later, on December 13, the priest faced the congregation for the first time during Mass at St. John’s.
Shortly after the Second Vatican Council, Fr. Haacke “modernized” the church by removing the towering mahogany structures above the main and side altars, as well as the elevated pulpit that wrapped around the front left pillar. There were many hard feelings in the parish over his action, as it changed the look of the church significantly. It was also during Fr. Haacke’s pastorate, in April of 1964 that Nancy Jo Grobmyer donated the beautiful baptismal font. The font is of botticino marble and polished bronze.
The parish elementary school, which served the parish for 117 years, closed in 1972 after the Sisters of Notre Dame withdrew. According to a copy of a document from the Sisters’ archives located at the diocesan archives, the sisters withdrew “ostensibly, because the sisters were needed elsewhere.” The Sisters of Notre Dame returned to Carrollton to run the CCD program from 1978 – 1983, but again withdrew, according to their archives, for the same reasons as before, as well as the “distance to be traveled.”
With the close of the school, Fr. Raymond Mulhern founded the parish CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) to provide religious education to the children. He also implemented many changes that had resulted from the Second Vatican Council, such as replacing the old appointed Parish Committeemen with an elected Parish Council, along with all its subcommittees, like the Worship Committee, Finance Committee, etc. These new committees allowed parishioners to be much more active in their parish’s leadership.
Fr. Leo Frankrone replaced the outdated church furnace with a new heating system, and painted the interior of the church. Fr. Frankrone suffered a heart attack on July 1, 1979 and was sent away to recover. He was replaced by Fathers Louis Dickman, Lou Schmidt, and George Curran S.J. in the interim. Fr. Frankrone was officially reassigned in late 1983.
Fr. John Werner renovated the grand pipe organ in 1988 for $33,000.00. Parishioners supported the endeavor to preserve the instrument, and generously gave so that the organ’s leathers were replaced with an electric valve system and a number of new stops were added. The organ with 665 pipes, is still the magnificent instrument it has always been. Fr. Werner also constructed a handicap-accessible ramp to the church.
Near the beginning of Fr. Neuhaus pastorate, on July 1, 1992, the diocese put Transfiguration of Our Lord Church at Perry Park, Owen County, in the care of St. John’s pastor. (Transfiguration Church was built in 1974-1975 and had the first Mass on Transfiguration Sunday in August of 1975). Fr. Baumann was the pastor and very instrumental in the creation of Transfiguration Church.
Fr. Witzemann followed Fr. Baumann as pastor of Warsaw and Perry Park. Transfiguration mission remained under the care of the pastor of Warsaw until July of 1992, when the pastor of Carrollton was given charge of it. In March of 1997, the Kentucky River flooded severely, filling Transfiguration Church nearly to the top of the pews. Following the flood the church was repaired and decorative stonework was added in the sanctuary. Bishop Robert Muench presided over a special Mass to celebrate the renovation on Sunday, October 26, 1997. At this Mass, the building was officially dedicated for the first time.
Fr. Neuhaus secured the Sisters of Notre Dame to again run St. John’s CCD program in 1993. The Jasper house at the corner of Fifth Street and Polk was purchased for the use as a convent to house the new Director of Religious Education, Sr. Mary Julaine Middendorf, SND. Fr. Neuhaus restored St. John’s ornate altar as the altar of sacrifice, being brought forward from the rear wall in the spring of 1994. A stone shrine of our Blessed Mother was designed and built next to the church. It was dedicated to the unborn children on Sunday, October 16, 1994. A Marian grotto was built at Transfiguration Church. In 1997 a handsome gable was placed over the spot on the church where the original plans called for the bell tower to be. In that same year the sanctuary was enhanced with arched wooden paneling, which helped to alleviate some of the starkness created by Fr. Haacke’s renovations.
Throughout Fr. Neuhaus’ pastorate, he also had the church repainted, restoring some of the decorative stenciling above the archways. He also had new carpet installed and the communion rail was gradually removed. A bathroom was added in the church vestibule. Fr. Neuhaus also prepared the parish for its biggest boom of growth since its founding. He undertook an outreach program to the increasing Hispanic population in the area, many of whom were migrant workers from Central and South America or industrialists from Spain. He began a weekly Spanish Mass and free English lessons, and purchased a 6-foot image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1996.
Fr. Michael Barth became pastor in 1999 and led the parish in living the new mission statement “to love God and neighbor as Christ taught.” In 2001 two sisters of Divine Providence arrived – Sr. Paula Gohs, CDP as bilingual pastoral associate and Sr. Theodore “Teddy” Nolan as minister to the sick and shut-ins.
The parish rectory was in great need of repair, and with the help of parishioners Fr. Barth began renovation to correct structural problems and to the house to its period beauty, In 2002, the convent was also renovated extensively.
Fr. Barth expanded the outreach program to the Hispanic community. He added bilingual liturgies and integrated the catechetical program.
At the 2002 Easter Vigil, St. John’s baptized by immersion for the first time. The lighting system in the church was replaced and the sound system expanded. The former convent space in the parish center was converted into office space.
Fr. Barth expanded the RCIA program and began a chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society to assist the needy. Unity between St. John and Transfiguration Mission was strengthened with the formation of a joint parish Pastoral Council, and a combining of both seasonal liturgies and the RCIA.
On October 5, 2012, the parish began a year-long celebration marking its 150th anniversary with a Mass of thanksgiving for the 100th anniversary of the present church building. Bishop Roger Foys came, as well as Fr. Werner, Fr. Neuhaus, Fr. Jasper and Sr. Carol Baglan, SND, a native of the parish. The English and Spanish choirs sang together, and the youth performed a historical pageant of the parish. The parish community had grown to 272 families.
Fr. Gerald Reinersman was appointed pastor in 2005. During his two-year tenure, he fulfilled the long-hoped-for dream of making the parish center handicap accessible with the addition of a ramp on the north-east side of the building. He also had the parish kitchen renovated.
Fr. Reinersman strengthened leadership in the Hispanic community with a Pastoral Council. He emphasized adult religious education, and initiated the parish high school retreat and Lenten fish fry. His involvement in the community at large was recognized publicly by the Mr. Dwight Louden, then mayor of Carrollton.
Fr. Kavungal Davy, C.M.I., a native of Kerala, India, succeeded Fr. Reinersman in 2007. He was officially installed Pastor in August of 2008. Under Fr. Davy’s guidance the bathrooms were renovated. A ground floor supply room was converted into a handicap accessible bathroom as well. He updated our cemetery by complete clean-up, painting of all fences and gates and was instrumental in having some of the damaged headstones repaired.
Fr. Davy set for himself the ambitious goal of visiting every family of the parish. In 2013 Fr. Davy was granted a one year sabbatical which was spent in Kenya and India.
On July 1, 2013 Fr. Allan Frederick was assigned as the new Parochial Administrator of St. John and Transfiguration Church. Fr. Frederick and was assigned as Pastor on July 2, 2014. Fr. Allan has high expectations and plans for continuing the fine tradition that has been passed onto him.
St. John Church Pastors
1853-1855 Rev. Leander Streber OFM
1855-1855 Rev, Charles Schafroth
1855- 1855 Rev. Andrew Schafroth
1855-1856 Rev. P.F. Koller
1856-1857 Rev. Joseph Hoeflinger
1857-1857 Rev. Joseph Gezowsky
1859-1859 Rev. Andrew Michel
1859-1861 Rev. D. Winands
1861-1863 Rev. I. Weissenberger
1863-1864 Father Gregorius OSB
1864-1865 Rev. Edward Froelich
1865-1870 Rev. John Stephany
1870-1872 Rev. J. Schiff
1872-1886 Rev. Stephan Schmid
1886-1890 Rev. Paul Kolopp
1890-1894 Rev. Carl Richartz
1894-1907 Rev. Ignatius Ahmann
1907-1916 Rev. Clement Blocklage
1916-1919 Rev. Otto Hafen
1919-1927 Rev. Borgias Lehr
1927-1930 Rev. Henry Hagedom
1930-1954 Rev. Joseph Sieg
1954-1960 Msgr. John Walsh
1960-1970 Rev. Henry Haacke
1970-1976 Rev. Raymond Mulhem
1976-1983 Rev. Leo Frankrone
1983-1992 Rev. John Werner
1992-1999 Rev. William Neuhaus
1999-2005 Rev. Michael Barth
2005-2007 Rev. Gerald Reinersman
2007-2013 Rev. Kavungal Davy, C.M.I.
2013-2016 Rev. Allan Frederick
2016-2017 Rev. Jacob Straub
2017- Rev. Johnson Thekkudan C.M.I.
Transfiguration of Our Lord Mission Pastors
1975- ???? Rev. Raymond Baumann
????-1992 Rev. Gerald Witzemann
1992-1999 Rev. William Neuhaus
1999-2005 Rev. Michael Barth
2005-2007 Rev. Gerald Reinersman
2007-2013 Rev. Kavungal Davy, C.M.I.
2013- Rev. Allan Frederick