Saint John Vianney
A warm and welcoming spiritual Catholic community
located is South Saint Paul, Minnesota
About
Saint John Vianney is a vibrant, giving, and forward-looking parish. Parishioners come forward and work together to achieve a common goal, as evidenced by so many parishioners being involved in various spiritual and temporal ministries.
Staff
Father Antony Skaria
Scott Wright
Deacon
Patti Beaudoin
Business Administrator
Pat Dold
Accountant
Jill Laabs
Director of Religious Education
Staff contact information - click here »
History
Our Parish and School
Following World War II, South St. Paul’s north end was developed. The population increased dramatically, and another Catholic parish was needed in the area.

Archbishop John G. Murray established Saint John Vianney Church on July 5th, 1946, under the direction of Father Harold Whittet as the third Catholic parish in South St. Paul. The pavilion at Kaposia Park was rented for the first mass which was held there on July 28, 1946.

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the original church, constructed from two Army barracks, took place on August 6th, 1946. The church opened for its first mass on the Easter Vigil, April 5, 1947.

John O’Donnell, city recorder, leads roller skating fund raiser on St. John Vianney basement floor in early 1950’s. (click image for bigger view)
In 1950 a roller skating rink was built and run by parishioners to raise money to build a new church. When the new church was built, the tile floor of the roller skating rink served as the tile floor for the church and the activity hall. It continued to serve as the floor of the church when the new addition was added in 2000.

The church, with the school above it, was completed in 1955. The original church was converted into a convent for the Sisters of St. Casmir, a Chicago based order, who formed the school’s first teaching staff. In 1955 the school, named Providence School, opened its doors with 109 students in grades one through four. By 1959 the school contained grades one through eight. At times there were as many as 75 students in one grade and 50 in a classroom. There were 9 classrooms on the upper floor and two behind the worship space. Later, these two classrooms were remodeled to become the Karn’s Room and an office. In the 2000 construction, the whole area was renovated to create The Mary Kane Commons.

Father Whittet finished the final phase of the parish building plan when construction was completed on the current rectory and church offices in 1960. When he was named pastor of St. Rose in Roseville in 1968, Fr. Raymond Zweber became pastor. Father Zweber was instrumental in having the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) staff the school when the Sisters of St. Casmir left. Four Sisters of St. Casmir and two SSND formed a transition staff during the 1969/1970 school year.

Father Francis Roach was the pastor from 1971 to 1984 and was instrumental in refinishing the inside of the church, including special wood paneling and matching furnishings in the sanctuary. A Montessori kindergarten and pre-school staffed by teachers from India was added to the school in 1974. By 1979 the Indian Montessori School was discontinued in favor of an American Montessori preschool/kindergarten program.

During Father Paul LaFontaine’s pastorate from 1984 to 1992, Providence School’s name was changed to Saint John Vianney School. The Notre Dame Sisters moved out of the large convent and into a small condo around 1987. The former church and convent was dismantled at great expense because of the asbestos it contained. The junior high program which had become a shared time program in the 1971/1972 school year closed in 1989, making room for a computer lab and a pre-school that was separate from the kindergarten. At this time the School Sisters of Notre Dame discontinued their time with the school.

In 1992 Father Martin Beckmann became pastor. An all day kindergarten became an option, and an extended day program was also begun. During the 1996/1997 school year the Saint John Vianney Little Learners Preschool became fully accredited.

In 1999/2000 Saint John Vianney expanded its facilities with the addition of the parish life center which included a new kitchen and cafeteria, a gymnasium, meeting rooms, and an extended gathering space. This was completed in March 2001 and dedicated on May 19, 2001. During this time Father Beckman retired.

After many months of having no pastor, Father Thadeus Aravindathu, a priest from India, became pastor in 2001. He enjoyed sharing his Indian culture and was instrumental in modernizing the rectory. When he resigned in 2009, Fr. Terry Beeson was appointed pastor. He is noted for advocating receiving the sacrament of reconciliation in the spirit of Saint John Vianney, who spent from 16 to 20 hours a day hearing confessions of people from all over the area.
Spirit
Saint John Vianney parish is a parish where everyone is accepted as they are. Parishioners don’t think of themselves as conservative or liberal, but rather as followers of Jesus Christ in South St. Paul. In the early days there was a men’s club and a women’s club. The men had all night adoration. There were missions and all day retreats, one for men and one for women. Later there were ecumenical Bible study groups, Cana suppers, Seder meals during Holy Week, and many Bible study groups. More recently our spirituality has been enhanced with Renew groups, a monthly day of adoration, a Sunday forum, a prayer group, a bible study group, and anointing services with mass.

Members of Saint John Vianney parish have always worked together to keep our parish viable. St. John’s was one of the six original churches in South St Paul that started the program called Neighbors in 1972. With little space at the time, there still was a room for food collection and distribution. Members sponsored Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. They held Mother/daughter breakfasts, Father/son breakfasts, Silver Plate Dinners, soup suppers during Lent, and St. John Vianney Feast Day beef dinners (later pig roasts). When it became apparent that more money was needed to operate the school in the early 90’s parents began a two day festival that brought many families working together to earn around $20,000 the first year. Father LaFontaine began the ‘Volunteer Thank You’ dinners, where the parish staff cooked and served a dinner for all the volunteers. This enhanced the feeling that everyone was working together as a church community.

After the expansion in 2000, parishioners began other special activities, such as Mother/Daughter teas, pancake breakfasts, sweet roll breakfasts, Halloween parties, Valentine’s dances, the Taste of Saint John Vianney, and Booyas. The rummage sale and the Unique Boutique began as fund raisers to help pay down the principal of the debt. Soon after that, the Lenten fish fries began as another fundraiser with even more people volunteering to make it a resounding success.

When the rectory needed an update, parishioners did most of the work. When Father Thadeus took an extended vacation and we had no administrator, members took over the administrative duties. At various times, when our huge lawn and fields needed mowing or our snow needed blowing, members came with their own mowers and snow blowers. They also donated time, mulch, and plants to make and upkeep a peace garden by the church. Parishioners volunteered to paint classrooms, make bookcases, fix the heating system, and make many other repairs and improvements around the church and school, keeping the expenses down over the years. When there was a problem with the roof, someone stepped forward to do something about it. Parishioners have always been ready to meet the church’s needs in the best way with the least cost.

Saint John Vianney School is highly regarded for having dedicated teachers, most of whom have been at St John’s for over twenty years and many with Masters or other advanced degrees. They’ve secured grants for science, environmental preservation, and other programs that ensure students receive a top-notch education. The school has been involved in the Public Achievement program where students pick an area in which they would like to make a difference in the world and work on ways to do this. The school has always been involved in sports; winning a diocesan championship in baseball and in basketball, even when they used the public school’s gym to practice and St. Matthew’s gym to play. With the 2000 addition, the school is able to host various sports activities in the Connolly Gym and use the stage area for Christmas programs and musicals. Each year the school celebrates Catholic School’s Week with a Book Fair and other various activities, and the parish community is invited to visit and note what is being accomplished. Saint John Vianney School began under the name Providence, and Divine Providence has helped it along the way.

Saint John Vianney also has a religious education program for children not attending St. John Vianney School.