In April, 1850, Archbishop Norbert Blanchet, the first Archbishop in Oregon, granted authority for a Mission in Milwaukie. After fourteen years as a Mission, in 186 Lots 3 and 4 of Block 27 in Milwaukie were purchased for $60 from three local residents, and a framed one-room wooden Mission Church was started on the corner of 21st and Washington. It was dedicated on July 23, 1864, by Archbishop Blanchet. It was blessed for St. John the Baptist and continued for 47 years.
By the end of the first decade of the new century, Milwaukie had outgrown the little church, and Archbishop Alexander Christie (the 4th Archbishop), felt that the time was ready for St. John’s to be a parish. Accordingly, in February, 1911, a $500 grant was secured form the Catholic Extension Society. One acre of land was purchased for $3500 on 25th Street between Monroe and Washington Streets. The new church was 44’x92’. On Christmas Eve, 1912, Midnight Mass was celebrated for the first time.
In the Spring of 1918, Fr. John Bernards secured the services to two Sisters of St. Mary’s to open the grade school. On September 8, 1919, Sister Mary Imelda and Sister Mary Mechtild registered 62 pupils in the rectory. At its peak, 750 students were enrolled.
In 1928 a high school was built and started classes. Sister Mary Crescentia succeeded in making St. John’s an accredited high school in 1932 and was the first accredited co-educational Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese. The high school remained open until 1948.
In 1964, construction of the new church and rectory began and was competed in 1966. Archbishop Edward D. Howard (our 5th Archbishop) dedicated the church on June 18, 1966. Built to accommodate 960 people, it was the first church in the Archdiocese which met the requirements of the liturgy based on the Second Vatican Council.
The “Daily Journal of Commerce” on June 17, 1966: “The form, with the unusual roof structure rising high above the stone walls, is symbolic the walls of rock represent man, rough, massive and real. The ceiling and roof are symbolic of God, white and pure, relating to man but rising upward to greater heights and displaying a hint of the Majesty. A gigantic crane was used to set the tower into place, and a helicopter flew the steeplejack into position to place the lightning rod."
To complement the Church and School, a Parish Center was completed in January, 1975.