History of St. John Catholic Church
In the early 1940’s, Fr. Cauley, pastor of St. Columba Church in Dothan, traveled to Ozark to celebrate Sunday Mass in the Community House. Of the 200 Catholics who attended Mass most were military personnel from nearby Fort Rucker. After the war, the military presence diminished and Fr. Cauley purchased a small house in Ozark where he celebrated Mass with seven couples, 5 local and 2 from Enterprise. In 1954 Fort Rucker was reactivated and the number of Catholics in the area increased. Mass was once again moved to the Community House.
Rev. Williams Jones
(April 1958 to November 1963)
April 1958 to November 1963, Fr. William Jones, St. Columba’s pastor at that time, believed the building of a church in Ozark was imperative. Some money had been collected during former years, but the amount was far from adequate to cover the expense of the property and the church. Fr. Jones initiated a fund drive and asked each working member of a family to contribute $1.00 extra per week toward the building fund for one year. Fr. Jones said in a letter, “My task and obligations as Pastor are not easy. One of the most trying is begging for money. It seems to be a necessary part of carrying on God’s work.” Fr. Jones purchased the land on Camilla Avenue for $2,100 in 1956. Through generous donations and an additional $10,000 from the Catholic Extension Society ground was broken in March 1957. The church was completed and dedicated as St. John Catholic Church, Sunday, April 20, 1958 by The Most Reverend Thomas J. Toolen, Archbishop of Mobile. It soon became evident that a parish hall was needed to provide for religious education classes and parish meetings. The parish hall was built in 1960 at a cost of$18,000.
Rev. Patrick Maher
November 1963 to September 1969
On November 14, 1963, Ozark was made a parish and Father Patrick Maher was the first resident pastor. The parish served those in Dale, Coffee and Geneva counties. Fr. Maher lived in the parish hall room for several years until a rectory was built in 1967 when parish secured a loan to build the $40,000 structure. In 1968 a parish formed in Enterprise (Alabama) to serve those in Coffee and Geneva Counties. Fr. Maher became the pastor of the Enterprise with Fr. Peter Cunningham succeeding him at Ozark.
Rev. Peter Cunningham
September 1969 to July 1973
Fr. Cunningham served at St. John for 4 years.
Rev. Barry Desmond
July 1973 to December 1980
Fr. Barry Desmond replace Fr. Cunningham in 1972. During Fr. Desmond’s tenure the rectory debt was paid in full. Due to an illness, Fr. Desmond was succeeded by Fr. Michael Kelly in December 1980.
Rev. Michael Kelly
December 1980 to July 1987
Fr. Kelly began restoration of the sanctuary in March 1982 which was completed by the Easter celebration of that year. The sanctuary was finished in marble and the Risen Christ Statue was displayed on the rear wall. The entire church was then carpeted and the front doors replaced. Plans for a brick education building were begun in September 1984. Construction began in April 1985 and completed in August of that year at a cost of $70,000. A grant of $30,000 was received from the Catholic Extension Society and repaid in full by 1990. The Religious Education Building was dedicated on August 18, 1985. Sunday morning religious education classes began that September, accommodating grades Kindergarten through 12.
Rev. David I. McGuinness
July 1987 to June 1995
Fr. David McGuinness succeeded Fr. Kelly in 1987. Fr. McGuinness implemented the RCIA (Rite to Christian Initiation for Adults) and reorganized the adult education program. During his tenure Fr. McGuinness saw the mortgage obligation completed in full.
Rev. Brendan J. Keller
June 1995 to June 1999 Fr. Brendan Keller became pastor in June 1995 and served for the next 4 years. Fr. Keller oversaw the installation of the church stained glass windows and the remodeling of the parish hall.
Rev. Charles J. McCabe
June 1999 to January 2005
Fr. McCabe served as pastor from 1999 until 2006. He was instrumental in implementing the Generations of Faith program. Fr. McCabe also oversaw refurbishing the rectory, repainting of the church, replacement of the church sign, and the construction of the storage building (under the direction of the Men’s Club).
Rev. Paul O. Egbe
June 2006 to June 2012
Fr. Paul Egbe of Nigeria was appointed pastor of St. John Catholic Church in June 2006. He oversaw the replacement of both carpet and pew cushions, and the recruitment of volunteers to complete the Grotto on the rectory lawn. Fr. Egbe held weekly Divine Mercy devotions as well as Novenas and celebrations of Divine Mercy Sunday.
Rev. Fred Boni
June 2012 to present
Fr. Fred Boni became the current pastor of St. John Catholic Church on June 29, 2012. He has been instrumental in overseeing general repair for the church and grounds, including replacement of the parish hall roof and in establishing a long range parish plan through the assistance of the Pastoral Council and Strategic Planning Committee.
Rev. Mr. John F. Ross, Jr
June 2002 to May 2018
On June 23, 2002, St. John’s first Deacon, Rev. Mr. John F. Ross, Jr, was ordained. Deacon Ross has played a vital and active role in parish life. Deacon Ross was instrumental in leading the prison ministry program culminating in the formation of the St. John Ministry of Hope. The Ministry of Hope visits the local Boys & Girls homes and Diversion Centers on a regular basis. Deacon Ross also served at all daily and Sunday Masses and oversaw Benediction and the Rosary on Wednesday evenings. Deacon John entered the fullness of life on May 23, 2018.
Deacon Joseph "Pat" Pattberg
June 2013 to present
A second deacon, Deacon Mr. Joseph "Pat" Pattberg, was ordained in June 2013. Deacon Pattberg assists at Sunday and Daily Masses.