During the years 1847 to 1850, Father John Neopomucene Neumann and other pioneer priests from the Redemptorist Order stationed at St. Mary's Church in Buffalo occasionally visited the Alden area. They administered to the spiritual needs of the people and celebrated Mass in local farm houses. Other than these uncertain visits, Alden Catholics were obliged to journey to Lancaster or Bennington to attend Mass.
In the spring of 1850 under the guidance of Father Serge de Schoulepnikoff, pastor at Lancaster, land was purchased from George Suttel in Alden Center along present day Sandridge Road. A small frame church was soon under construction. The cornerstone was laid by Bishop Timon on November 9. Lancaster priests served the new parish during the next few years until a pastor arrived in 1854. This marks the official founding of the parish. A school was also constructed about this time at the rear of the church with a schoolmaster by the name of Smith in charge.
Venerable L. Nicodemus Neumann was the first resident priest and pastor. The first baptism was recorded March 5, 1854. From Fr. Neumann's arrival until the pastorate of Father Robert Mockel beginning in 1912, twenty-three priests served St. John's as pastor, most for no more than two years. Rev. Peter Theis (1884-1894) and Rev. A Bornefeld (1896-1908) were exceptions. The first parochial residence was built by Rev. M. Schinabeck in 1860.
The Alden area was largely settles by people of German ancestry at this time and German, rather than English, was the dominant language used socially and in Sunday sermons.
The first church served the parish until 1872 when an addition was made to the original building under Rev. F. X. Koefler to accommodate a growing congregation. A larger school was built in 1882 just north of the church by Father Gysen and Sisters of St. Joseph were teachers. A convent was also built on the west side of the street. The year 1889 saw construction of the present rectory with Fr. Peter Theis as pastor.
Soon the growing membership needed an even larger church. In 1893, Fr. Theis began construction of the present brick structure. The cornerstone was laid on May 13, 1894 and dedicated by Bishop Ryan on October 29th of that year.
Shortly after the arrival of Rev. Robert Mockel, ground was broken for a new school across the street. Completed in 1914, the large brick structure included classrooms, chapel, lunch room, auditorium, kitchen, bowling alleys and club rooms. Around this time, a great number of landscape projects were undertaken including a stone border extending around the church, rectory and cemetery. The first Pieta shrine was built in the cemetery. Additional land was also purchased by Father Alfred Hagemaier in 1942 for expansion of the cemetery. The Sandman property just south of the church was acquired to provide room for the parking lot.
After World War II, as the population of the parish grew, changes were made in the school. Under Rev. Bertram Trautman, the second floor auditorium was converted to classrooms. In 1953 construction began on a large addition for a new auditorium, classroom and lavatories.
In the early fifties, the rectory and the interior of the church were remodeled. The first assistant pastor, Father Norbert Selzer, was assigned to help with the increased services for the large congregation. Crowding in the school necessitated another addition. Eight new classrooms, lavatories and a new heating plant were completed in 1958.
Rev. Irwin Spahn arrived in 1959 to oversee a large parish with vast properties and responsibilities. A garage was built behind the rectory to house the cars driven by the priests and nuns. Large sections of the stone wall were removed and more pavement added in front of the church to improve access.
Vatican II initiated many changes during the tenure of Fr. Spahn: Saturday Masses, afternoon and evening Masses, lay lectors, and lay helpers to distribute Holy Communion. Mass was now said in English rather than the traditional Latin and the celebrant moved to a new alter facing the people. The Parish Council was formed, the role of the Home-School Association increased and liturgical teams were named to plan music, readings and other matters for special services. The CCD (religious Education) program came into full being. Reductions in school enrollment and increased regulation prompted several changes in the school including dedicated rooms for science, computer study and offices.
In 1979, Rev. Joseph Hassler came to St. John's. The Parish Council was expanded to include direct representation from all areas of the parish. The cemetery, with property acquired by Fr. Spahn, was enlarged again. Following Fr. Hassler's death in 1986, Rev. David Griffin assumed responsibility for the parish community. In recent years, the church interior has been renovated, the church parking lot expanded and paved and numerous facility improvements implemented. The parish offices are now located on the first floor of the rectory. The Sisters left the parish in 1990, and the convent was then used as a place for Peer Teen Retreat Ministry. In 2002, it became known as "The Rock" and as a center for both youth and adult ministry. The building was destroyed by fire on April 23, 2007.
St. John's Parish has also grown significantly and now serves almost fifteen hundred families under the direction of our Pastoral Administrator, Deborah Brown and Sacramental Minister, Rev. James Walter. Prayer, worship, education and fellowship in God's name are the focus as always. We will continue to grow and change throughout the years, but hopefully, we will remain as the parish mission statement proclaims, "a faith filled Catholic Christian community which believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, in His Church and its teachings, under the direction of our spiritual leaders."