The St. John’s Guardian Angel

As I walked into church to attend school mass with #5 of 5 this morning, it occurred to me that I have neglected a SERIOUSLY past due topic that I wanted to share here on Father of Five

The subject?  St. John the Baptist School’s Guardian Angel.

(optional, but interesting reading – I am intrigued by all things historical)

From what I have been able to piece together from the web, and some historical books on our town, St. John the Baptist was first envisioned in the fall of 1855 when fifteen Catholic families living in “Holmes Mill” (which is now known as the City of Jordan, MN) began gathering in the home of William Nashbar to discuss the establishment of a formal church.  After a few meetings, a location was selected and work began on a log cabin church about five miles outside of town.  That log cabin was never completed and the group split due to geographic challenges.  The original planned location (five miles outside of town) became the future site of St. Benedict (which sadly has now closed it’s doors).  

The second group sought to establish a church closer to what is now downtown Jordan.  In 1858, this second group completed construction on the first St. John the Baptist church.  This was a log cabin built high upon the hill where Calvary Cemetery is now located.  Parishioners had to hand carve log stairs, and dig them into the hillside to aid in accessibility.  By 1866 the St. John the Baptist log cabin Church was too small for the number of parishioners and by 1867 the first brick building was built on the site of the current church.  In 1875 the order of the Bishop, the operation of St. John’s (along with several other neighboring Catholic Churches) were given to the Order of the Franciscan Fathers.  There were 110 families registered with St. John the Baptist by this point and in 1877 the first official parish school was built.  The following year (1878) the parish put together a proposal to have the Order of the School Sisters of Notre Dame operate the parish school, and they arrived in August of 1878 to begin operations.

By 1878, the first stone church had become too small to accommodate the needs of the parish, and on April 22, 1889, the cornerstone for the church that still stands today (and I attend now) was laid.  Much like it was with the church, St. John the Baptist School thrived and quickly outgrew the building they were operating from, and finally in 1908 St. John the Baptist School opened the brick building that still stands across the street from the church.  The brick schoolhouse built in 1908 was in use but very inadequate, inefficient, antiquated, and non-complaint with many modern building codes.  

So, in 2004 St. John the Baptist built the new “Education center” connected to the church.  

Photo – 1911
     St. John’s Church seen upper right corner of photo.
     St. John’s School seen across the street – face to face with the church.

Photo – 2015 – Credit John Chvatal of Gazing Skyward.  (Permission requested / pending)
     St. John the Baptist Church and connected Education center along the top.
     The former St. John the Baptist School used from 1908-2004 (the red brick building) across the street.
     (You can also see in this photo the hill that leads up to Calvary Cemetery.)

NOVEMBER 1999 – MAY 2015
(and beyond)

When we moved to Jordan we enrolled our children at St. John the Baptist School. 

Back then, #1 of 5 was just finishing his sixth grade.  Since St. John’s only goes to sixth grade – we elected to enroll him into the Jordan public school instead of attending 5 months at one school, and have to start over again in the fall in a different school. 

#2 of 5 on the other-hand was just beginning his academic career – and he was enrolled in Wee Angels (their preschool program, which is now called “Littlest Angels).   Back then, the K-6 grades were held in what is now called the “old” school.

Since then #2, #3, and #4 of 5 have attended St. John’s School for two years of pre-school, then K-6th grades.
(That’s nine years per kid)  

This year is #5 of 5’s sixth grade and her final year at St. Johns.  It is the end of an era for our family. 
She will be the last of our children to attend. 

It is proving to be an emotional year for us because of this. 
(More on that in future Father of Five posts…)

IMG_0484[5]SPRING 2015

From all accounts I have been able to find - St. John’s brick schoolhouse was built with was was affectionately referred to as a “Guardian Angel”. 

When the school was constructed, an alcove was build above the door to the school.  It was situated such that once the “Guardian Angel” statue was placed in it, she would be overlooking the parking lot and playground where the children played.  The Guardian angel was put in place when the school was built in 1908 and there she stood guard over the children that attended that school, and even beyond.  The “Guardian Angel’s” alcove also faced the parking lot and playground for the new Education center built across the street.  

The Guardian Angel statute is plainly seen in this photo taken in 2012 for the post I wrote about opening the 1991 Time Capsule.  This photo was taken from the parking lot / playground area of the new Education center built in 2004.  You can see how she still watched over the students of St. John the Baptist from her home in the “old” school. 

In the spring of 2015 (107 years after the school was built) some routine maintenance uncovered the fact that the Guardian Angel’s anchor (the apparatus that held her to the building) was failing – and that she (and anyone below her) could be at risk. 

St. John’s hired a construction crew to carefully remove the Guardian Angel – and bring her safely back to the ground.

I had wanted to generate a post here on the The Life of a Father of Five to document the move, but alas – I was busy, unavailable, and/or both.  Then, life got busy and I never got around to it. 

Thankfully, the removal was documented by our local paper – the Jordan Independent

In the first of two articles, the J.I. (as it is called around town) documents the removal of the Guardian Angel, and then later in a second article about a week later they delve in the history of the school and the Guardian Angel – and discuss options for her new home.

The photos below are from the articles and document the removal of the Guardian Angel.
(Photos used with permission from the Editing Staff at the Jordan Independent – Thank you!

© 2015 - Jordan Independent © 2015 - Jordan Independent

© 2015 - Jordan Independent © 2015 - Jordan Independent
Top Left: Michael Bechner and Dennis Harrison of Diverse Instruction moving towards the Guardian Angel.
Photo by Rachel Wittlock – Kind permission for use from the staff at Jordan Independent

Top Right: Michael Bechner and Dennis Harrison of Diverse Instruction carefully removing the Guardian Angel.
Photo by Rachel Wittlock – Kind permission for use from the staff at Jordan Independent

Bottom Left: Michael Bechner and Dennis Harrison of Diverse Instruction back on the ground with the Guardian Angel.
Photo by Rachel Wittlock – Kind permission for use from the staff at Jordan Independent

Bottom Right: The (broken) anchor necessitating the remove of the Guardian Angel.
Photo by Rachel Wittlock – Kind permission for use from the staff at Jordan Independent

Now, let’s fast forward six months and tie all this “history” all together!


CaptureEach Wednesday, the students of St. John the Baptist school attend mass.  The Mother of Five or myself (sometimes when we are lucky it’s both of us) make a point to attend mass with our kids.  Being a social media user junkie (ahem… Blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc) – I often enjoy “checking in” on these morning masses – I usually do so with a fun photo from somewhere on the school or church grounds. 

This morning, as I made my way from the school to the church entrance through the gathering space – I walked up on what I thought was a fantastic photo opportunity for this morning’s check in. 


You see, here in the gathering space of the church and school, the Guardian Angel has found her new home.  She is in a place where she can welcome students and parishioners alike, and continue her century old vigil of watching over St. John the Baptist.

That is when I was reminded that I had never really taken the time to tell (share, document) her story as I had planned to do earlier this year.  Here are a few more photos of our Guardian Angel in her new home!

In this first photo, you can even see her original home – the (now empty) alcove in the “old school” across the street can be seen (pointed out by yellow arrow).    

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Seeing the old school and the empty alcove still saddens me, but I quickly remember my gratitude for the new school my children have attended (with one still attending), and how absolutely delighted I am that the Guardian Angel who has done so well watching over my children will continue to do so from her new home! 

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Thanks to St. John’s, and the St. John’s Guardian Angel!

Rancid Brownies and Rice Krispy Bars!

The Mother of Five was at work, #2 and #3 of 5 had their girlfriends over, and #4 of 5 was at a volleyball game so that left #5 of 5 and myself for dinner.

I let it be “daughter’s choice” night – allowing her to select where we went for dinner.  She decided upon Subway

#5 of 5 had a 6” toasted Black Forest Ham on Italian Herb and Cheese bread, with shredded cheddar cheese,  lettuce, cucumbers, pickles, ranch and Mayo.  This was washed down with a Dr. Pepper.

I had a 6” toasted oven roasted chicken on Monterrey cheddar bread, with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, heavy green pepper and light southwest chipotle.  This was washed down with a fresh brewed Fuze half and half (iced tea and lemonade)

While enjoying dinner with my daughter, I had a brilliant notion!  Let’s go home and bake cookies!!

We stopped at the grocery store on the way home, and picked up a premixed “Cheesecake Swirl” brownie mix, and the fixins for Rice Krispy Bars. 

Somewhere between dinner, and the grocery store – an “ear worm” made it’s way into my head.  I started singing it on the way home – and once we got set up for baking in the kitchen, I connected my phone to our under cabinet radio and turned it up!

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Once the brownies were in the oven and the Rice Krispy bars were cooling, we really got into the music!

What was the “ear worm”??    Rancid’s Ruby Soho!





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