About Our Parish
In 1946, Fr. Joseph Gamm, C.M.F. began celebrating Mass in the auditorium of Avondale School No. 1 (presently Michael Anderson Elementary School on Western Avenue). Fr. Gamm was succeeded several years later by Fr. Francis J. Murphy. Regarded as the founding pastor of St. John Vianney Parish, Fr. Murphy began serving the Catholic population of this area in 1954, also celebrating Mass at the Avondale school auditorium. On April 28, 1956, Bishop Daniel J. Gercke of the Diocese of Tucson, formally established St. John Vianney Parish. Construction on what is currently known as the “Grand Hall” was begun in 1958, and completed the following year. It served as the first church building on this property. The building immediately west of the Grand Hall, which now serves as the parish office, was constructed in 1962, and originally intended as a convent. Indeed, it was here that the Franciscan Sisters of Rock Island, Illinois, resided, serving the parish from 1962 – 1974.
Growing Through Change
The Catholic community of St. John Vianney Parish was originally served by priests of the Diocese of Tucson, and later by priests of the Diocese of Phoenix (established by Pope Paul VI in 1969). In 1981, pastoral responsibility for St. John Vianney Parish was entrusted to the Indiana Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross – a religious community of priests and brothers from the University of Notre Dame. The first Holy Cross pastor to serve St. John Vianney Parish was Fr. Thomas K. Zurcher, C.S.C. Under his leadership, the parish completed construction on the current church building, which was dedicated on November 4, 1990; exactly one year after construction began. Our next Leader was Fr. Joe Copora, C. S.C. Fr. Joe had the vision to bring a Catholic Education to all those seeking it, regardless of their ability to pay. Through various fundraising events, such as a “Night with the Stars” and of course, his infamous Boxing matches, he was able to build what is now St. John Vianney Catholic School. The pre-K through 8th-grade school opened in 1992. In 1995, the Salesian Sisters came to teach in the educational pedagogy of St. John Bosco: Reason, Religion and loving-kindness. 2012 marks the 20th Anniversary of St. John Vianney Catholic School.
Our next Pastor was Fr. Tom Eckert, C.S.C from July 1, 2011, through June 31, 2020. He was also a Deacon for the Parish in 2002. Fr. Tom was determined to continue in the footsteps of those that came before and was integral in revitalizing both our Parish and school. He made a commitment to grow the school enrollment and brought in new school administration that shared the same commitment. Through constant and consistent messaging, Padre’s Pies fundraising (to help with registration fees), joyful invitation, and increased scholarship funding, the commitment to increase enrollment became a reality. His energy and enthusiasm for St. John Vianney were contagious and are something that we will always remember.
As of July 1st, 2020, Fr. Paul Ybarra, CSC is our new Pastor. Fr. Paul is a California native and is a Triple-Domer (has earned three degrees from the University of Notre Dame). After completing his undergraduate studies in 2002, Fr. Paul (then, Mr. Ybarra) served for two years as the St. John Vianney Middle School English and Social Studies teacher through the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program. In 2011, upon priestly ordination, Fr. Paul returned to St. John Vianney for three years as Associate Pastor and 8th-grade Religion teacher. Fr. Paul brings with him a breadth of experience of ministry in parishes with schools, as well as a great love for our St. John Vianney Parish and School.
Looking to the Future
In sum, the history of St. John Vianney Parish has been marked by loving devotion and self-sacrifice for the greater glory of God and for the spiritual welfare of the faithful. All that is here is a monument of the faith of our parishioners and their love of God. May this spirit continue to mark our story into the future!