The formation of St. John the Evangelist Parish and the establishment of Delphos are due to the shared dream of the Rev. John Otto Bredeick and his brother, Ferdinand. Ferdinand came to America from Germany in 1834 with a group of pioneers and settled in the area now known as Glandorf. After hearing plans to extend the Miami Erie Canal, Ferdinand purchased 92 acres of land in the ter- ritory known as “Ten Mile Woods.”
In 1842, the first group of emigrants was organized to build the settlement in America. Another group traveled the next year. In1844, Father Bredeick was released from his duties in Germany and came to America to fulfill his dream. He said the first Mass Oct. 18, 1844, one day after arriving at the colony.
The first church was an 18-foot by 24-foot cabin located along Main Street. It also served as the pastor’s living quarters. A second church was built beginning in 1847 at the site of the present church. The new structure was 107-feet by 60-feet, big enough for the 89 families in the parish.
In 1851, four settlements near the canal united and, at the suggestion of Fr. Bredeick, adopted the name Delphos, from the Greek word adelphos meaning “brother.”
The first Mass at the new church took place Nov. 1, 1853, even though it was unfinished. At that time, the average number of days of labor contributed by members was 123 per year and monetary donations averaged $54.54 annually.
Work on the church continued slowly because of an economic downtown and the cholera epidemic in Delphos, which claimed half the population. On Aug. 19, 1858, John Otto Bredeick, the priest, founder, leader and friend of the people of St. John’s, died. In his will he gave 18 acres of land to the parish, including the grounds where the church, schools, rectory and convent are now located.
The Bishop of Cleveland appointed the Rev. Francis Westerholt as the second pastor of St. John’s. Under his leadership, the church was completed in 1863 and included a 150-foot-high steeple. Fr. Westerholt helped establish parishes in Landeck and Van Wert during his tenure in Delphos. He left St. John’s in early 1868 to become Vicar-General of the diocese of Cleveland.
The Rev. Aloysius Hoeffel became the third pastor of St. John’s on Jan. 28, 1868. He soon began work on a new school building on the southeast corner of Franklin and First streets and a new home for the sisters on the northeast corner of Pierce and First streets. In September 1874, the Sisters of Notre Dame arrived at St. John’s and replaced the Sisters of St. Francis.
By 1877, Fr. Hoeffel suggested the parish build a new church. The parish had a $10,000 surplus at the time and pledges totaling $30,000 were soon attained. In the autumn of 1878 ground preparations were underway. A temporary church was erected on the south side of First Street near the present cemetery. On March 31,
1879, the church built by Fr. Bredeick was demolished. The corner- stone of the new church was laid just three months later and the church was completed by late 1880.
On Sept. 5, 1909, Fr. Hoeffel died and Fr. Frederick Rupert was assigned to St. John’s in January 1910. He was the first American- born pastor for the parish and had already built 11 schools and churches during his 31 years in the priesthood. In 1910, there were 2,673 members in the parish, which became part of the new Diocese of Toledo in May.
Fr. Rupert soon began work on building a new school. He assem- bled a committee to oversee the project and excavation began in September 1911. A building of 12 classrooms and a huge auditorium was completed in October 1913. To celebrate the new building a school festival was planned, a tradition that continues today.
Bishop Stritch invested Fr. Rupert with the purple robes of a Domestic Prelate in 1925. Four years later, Monsignor Rupert cel- ebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination. On Oct. 13, 1936 he died. In December of that same year, Bishop Alter announced Dr. John L. Sassen as the fifth pastor. Fr. Sassen was challenged with the tasks of enlarging the school to meet increasing enrollment, improving living quarters for the sisters and renovating the church. He served four years before dying Oct. 25, 1940.
Fr. Carl F. Reineck became the sixth pastor of St. John’s Nov. 15,1940. Fr. Reineck led the parish through an extraordinary amount of construction. During his pastorate he built the Fatima wing on the St. Joseph’s building in 1947, St. John’s High School in 1951, the Holy Angels wing in 1957 and another addition, named the St. Charles building in his honor, in 1962. The inside of the church also was completely renovated and improvements were made to the outside. Fr. Reineck died of a heart attack in 1962.
The Rev. Joseph Ignatius Schill was appointed as the seventh pastor of Delphos St. John’s and he took on his first building project two years after he arrived. The St. John’s Annex was built to accommodate the increasing number of students seeking a Catholic education.
Fr. Schill worked to incorporate changes made as an outcome from Vatican II. On Nov. 29, 1964, the first Sunday Mass was cel- ebrated in English rather than Latin. A portable altar was moved closer to the communion rail and the priest said Mass facing the congregation for the first time. New liturgical practices and the elimination of announcements and prayers during and after Mass were other changes brought by Vatican II.
Fr. Schill also announced an extensive renovation plan for the church. The work was meticulous and several areas of the church were highlighted with pure 23-karat gold. Fr. Schill resigned due to failing health sixth months after the restoration was completed.
The Rev. Albert Ottenweller became the eighth pastor of St. John’s on June 20, 1968. Delphos had been his first assignment after he became a priest and he had spent 16 years in the commu- nity. Fr. Ottenweller had the challenge of implementing the changes stipulated by Vatican II and the responsibility of bringing new life into the Church through more lay participation of the 1,900 parish families. He organized the development of many out- reach programs and ministries.
Fr. Ottenweller was appointed the as first auxiliary bishop of Toledo in 1974. He was transferred to St. Michael Parish in Findlay in 1976 and was named Bishop of Steubenville in 1977.
Fr. Arthur Badger took the role as the next pastor of St. John’s. During the next five years he continued to develop programs in accor- dance with Vatican II. The Rev. Robert Sidner was appointed pastor in 1981. In addition to refining the initiatives started by his predeces- sors, he also oversaw improvements to the exterior of the church.
The parish came under the leadership of Fr. James Peiffer in 1986. He served as pastor for 10 years. Fr. Thomas Gorman took over the parish in 1996 and directed a $2.4 million church renova- tion, which was completed in 1998. An extensive landscaping project was also finished and a new multi-purpose building was erected for the school.
Fr. Mel Verhoff became the 13th pastor in July 2006. He is leading the development of ministry programs designed to build a stronger faith community at St. John the Evangelist parish.