Originally part of the Country Mission based at Shand’s Track, the first church was built in Leeston by Fr Chervier SM and opened on 5 December 1869. Attributed to Benjamin Mountfort, the church was dedicated to St John the Evangelist.
The parish of Leeston was formally established in 1892, as a result of the growing congregation in the rural Selwyn area.
The original wooden church was replaced by a larger brick church which opened 1 April 1894. This gothic church was designed by Maurice de Harven Duval, a Belgian architect based in Timaru.
The church was dedicated to St Mary of the Holy Rosary, and consecrated by Bishop Grimes SM. The earlier church became a school and hall and was demolished in 1980.
These are the parish priests who served in the early years of St John the Evangelist Parish in Leeston:
Fr Chervier SM 1869 (PP in 1880) – 1906
Fr Goggin SM 1900-1906
Fr Maloney SM 1906-08
Fr Hills SM 1908-1911
Fr Taylor SM 1911-1912
Fr Bowden SM 1912-1918
Fr Hoare 1918-
Fr Timothy Creed 1918-1959
Fr J Sarsfield O’Brien 1959-1967
Fr William John Mahoney 1967-76
Fr Bill Costigan 1977-1982
Mons Matt Duggan 1982-1983
Fr D K O’Sullivan 1983-2000
Pentecost 2020 saw the amalgamation of Leeston, Lincoln and Darfield to become the new Selwyn Parish.