St. John the Baptist Parish has its humble origins in the 1840's with the arrival of Father Hugh O'Reilly from Pictou. To provide for New Glasgow's Catholics, he celebrated mass in the blacksmith's house in New Glasgow. Rev John Shaw arrived in 1885, and with the purchase of land, he oversaw the building of the church, glebe and convent for the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame. The dedication of the church took place in 1887. In years that followed, additional land was acquired for the cemetery and for farming, the proceeds of which would help support the clergy, sisters and parish. In 1898, Rev John MacLeod arrived, and during his stay, St. John's School was built.
In 1927, Rev John J MacKinnon was pastor until his death in 1941. During this period, the church hall was renovated and known to be "one of the best assembly halls in town". Also, the school acquired a dining hall for students who couldn't go home for lunch and additional school expansions accommodated the increasing enrollment. Further land purchases allowed for cemetery expansion and recreation space for baseball, football and an ice rink. To celebrate St. John's Golden Jubilee in 1937, a beautiful stained glass window was donated by Hon. Michael Dwyer and installed.
From 1931 to his death in 1964, Rev Daniel "Dempsey" Chisolm served at St. John's, first as curate, then, in 1941, as pastor. An accomplished athlete (in running and hammer throw), Father Chisolm promoted sports at St. John's, providing for boxing, track and field, a playground and rink in the parking lot. Additionally, he desired to make use of developing technology and a movie projector was purchased to provide Christian entertainment and education. During Father Chisolm's time at St. John's, additions at the front and back of the church took place, in 1951 and 1954, for confessionals, a vesting room, meeting room and library. With renovations to the parish in the 50s and 60s, farming continued to supplement the needs of St. John's.
St. Gregory's Church was built in 1951, and Christ the King Church in 1952. These were accomplished under the direction of Father Chisolm and with the support of the parishioners of St. John's providing energy, financial resources and free labour.
During a period when the world underwent great political, technological and social changes. Father Dempsey was know for his Christian love and leadership, warm smile and service to the community of New Glasgow.
Father Francis Dolhany, at St. John's in 1965, oversaw the building of the new Glebe house, completed in 1966. With Father Norman MacPherson and the influence of Vatican II, renovations continued from 1968-1970. These included a mosaic mural of Christ (which covered the stained glass window for a time but has since been removed), and the organizing of religious education. Lay lectors were introduced in 1980.
Under Father Alexander MacNeil, Eucharistic Ministers were commissioned in 1984, and St. John's first elected parish council was phased in from 1984-87 in time for the Centennial celebrations, marking one hundred years of the parish's presence in New Glasgow.
Over thirty years later, St. John the Baptist continues to be a thriving, active presence in the community. Parishioners strive to give glory and praise to God through the liturgy, celebration of the sacraments and service to our community.
- source: Dear Old St. John's - A History of the Parish of St. John the Baptist
by Keith Boudreau and Michael MacMillan
Rev. John Shaw 1885 - 1894
Rev. Ronald MacDonald 1894 - 1898
Rev. John D. MacLeod 1898 -1927
Rev. John J. MacKinnion 1928 - 1941
Rev. Daniel R. Chisholm 1941 - 1964
Rev. Francis Dolhanty 1965 - 1968
Rev. Norman MacPherson 1968 - 1983
Rev. Alexander (Sandy) MacNeil 1983
Rev. Angus Mac Dougall 1987 - 1996
Rev. Regus Halloran 1995 - 2004
Rev. Duaine Devereaux 2004 - 2006
Rev. Danny MacLennan 2006 - 2007
Rev. Gary MacPherson 2007 - 2015
Rev. Tom MacNeil 2015 - Current