View Screen-Reader Accessible Site

A Brief History of St. Dominic Church & School

On February 19, 1921, Fr. McMahon, provincial of the Dominican Fathers of the Province of the Holy Name met with the bishop of Monterey and Los Angeles, John H. Cantwell. Negotiations thus began that allowed the Dominican Fathers and Brothers to assume responsibility for the new parish to be designated for Eagle Rock.

The Bishop stated that Eagle Rock was fast growing into something of a city. In 1920 the U.S. census showed a population of 2250 in Eagle Rock. In 1921, when the Dominicans took over the parish, this figure had leaped to 3800. Fr. Francis Pius Driscoll, O.P., who was pastor of the Dominican Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Seattle was appointed the first Pastor. One of his first acts was to take a census of the parish and found that it held 214 Catholic individuals, 66 Catholic families.

The parish was already functioning when the Dominicans arrived, but barely so. In the summer of 1920 a vacant store had been secured for use as the "parish Cchapel", serving as such for several months. Subsequently, for some three months, Mr. and Mrs. Angelo Bessolo offered their more spacious home for Sunday mass. But as more and more Catholics came to Eagle Rock Valley, two lots were purchased early in 1921 on Merton Avenue in the very heart of the Valley. A tent was erected on the property and it was there, on October 16, 1921, that Fr. Driscoll offered the first Mass with the people. But the new pastor moved swiftly. Only a few weeks later, by the end of October, a temporary wooden chapel, subsequently known as the "Old Hall" and later "DePorres Hall," was under construction. More lots were acquired and plans were made for a permanent rectory on the corner of Maywood and Merton, the site of the present rectory.

 
Fr. Driscoll was pastor at Eagle Rock for less than two years. In 1923 he was called to pioneer yet another new foundation, what was to become St. Mary Magdalen's in Berkeley. The second pastor at Eagle Rock was Fr. McMullen, O.P. His pastorate was too brief - less than a year - for much to be accomplished in a material way. Still, it was during his time that preparations were made for the building of a combination church and school - one building with two functions. It was also at this time that the need was felt for an added priest, and so Fr. E.B. Kenny, O.P. was assigned as Fr. McMullen's assistant. Within the year, however, Fr. Kenny died. Fr. McMullen was moved to St. Peter Martyr parish in Pittsburg, California and Fr. James A. Hunt, O.P. became the third pastor. It was Fr. Hunt who built the church/school complex as well as a convent for sisters. Both were completed in 1925. Fr. Hunt invited the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael to staff the school.

Friday, August 25th,1925, Sisters Miriam Flood, Hyacinth Bolton, Zita Callaghan, Anthony Manuell, and Ruth Calhoun left their motherhouse in San Rafael to establish the first foundation of their community in southern California. After a lengthy and eventful trip, they were met at the Los Angeles train station by Fr. Hunt, Mr. Gus Kleine and Mrs. Earl Dutton.

Tuesday, September 8, the school opened with an enrollment of 110 children. The first graduates the following June were:

Carl Basile
Florence Basile
Marjorie Enright
Howard Hurley
Zelda Lamer
Aaron May
Everett Mulconery
George Neff
Vera O'Connor
Margaret Porter
Henry Schepens
Mary Schwanbeck
Olivia Tully
Wilhelmena Wiedinfeller

On January 13, 1929, at 53 years of age, Fr. Hunt died while still ministering in Eagle Rock. Fr. J.D. Mueller who had been serving as assistant pastor, took over the administration of the parish until May of that year, when Fr. William Lewis arrived as the new pastor. In the Fall of 1931, his blood brother, Fr. Raymond Leo Lewis, joined him as assistant, and together with the rest of the parish celebrated the tenth anniversary of the founding of the parish. By this time the parish had many active group in existence: The Calaroga Club for the youth, Holy Name Society, Blessed Sacrament Sodality, the Altar Society, St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Rosarians, the Usher Society, and the Third Order Laity. The latter group, now known as the Dominican Laity, began on April 28, 1926 with 17 members, Loretta Stolz being elected the first Prioress.

Through the terms of Fr. Stanislaus Olsen and Fr. William "Bill" Lewis efforts were made to construct a new church that would allow on one hand for more attendance at Mass as well as the enlargement of the school. The new church was begun in 1940 under Fr. Olsen and opened for public worship on Rosary Sunday, 1941 under the care of Fr. Lewis. The following year two new school rooms were opened thus relieving the pressing problem of space at school.

During the pastorate of Fr. McElhatton the church building was further developed, a new rectory built for the Fathers and Brothers, a new convent for the Sisters, and the construction of a parish hall realized. This took care of the needed construction for now, and later pastors were able to focus more fully on the building of the community and the various social and religious activities and ministries that this implies. One of those new ministries was assuming responsibility for the Catholic students at Occidental College, at that time a Presbyterian owned academy. Fr. McElhatton in1946 became director of the "Newman Club", but it was only in 1960 that Catholics were given space for offices and worship on campus.

Fr. Gregory Anderson, who succeeded "Fr. Mac" as pastor, purchased four cottages on Chickasaw Ave. adjacent to the parish hall. His successor, Fr. Larry Banfield, was loved for his homilies and stories. During the pastorate of Fr. McPfee the Charismatic Renewal became very active. Under Fr. Hayes and Fr. Cavalli both spiritual and social activities flourished, including lively musical performances and plays put on by the Mothers' Club. Fr. George Matanic had the challenging task of introducing the many liturgical changes promulgated by the Vatican II Council. Fr. Vincent Serpa rearranged the sanctuary area and installed an excellent sound system.

In 1993, under the supervision of Sr. Abby Newton, the house on the corner of Chickasaw and Maywood was converted into a kindergarten classroom. In 995 a parish master plan was laid out for further expansion of parish facilities. The first stage included the purchase of the last private house on Chickasaw Ave., and then the acquisition of the Masonic Lodge, built in 1924 on the corner of Casper and Chickasaw. This was converted into a very active community center offering space to a multitude of parish groups and activities. Meanwhile the city of Los Angeles deeded to the parish Merton Ave. between Casper and Maywood. In future years this will be beautified and the cottages and private residence on Chickasaw removed to create a larger parking/garden area. The purchase of the old Masonic Lodge and its use as a parish activity center allowed for the tearing down of the old DePorres Hall, wearied and weathered by age. It was recently replaced, in this highly technical age, with a computer/library and science/art center for the school children.

The years after Vatican II brought a flourishing of the ministry of the laity to the point that there exist over 40 different groups and some 800 persons involved in a myriad of religious activities in the parish. Over the years, the complexion of the parish membership has changed greatly. St. Dominic's has been blessed with a rich cultural and religious heritage, and is indeed very 'catholic' in its membership. The reputation of the parish is very high due in great part to a visible spirituality among its members, the beauty of the church adorned so beautifully by its liturgical team, numerous well-trained and spirited choirs, many activities and outreach programs to enrich the spiritual and social life of the parish community.

Many sisters, priests, and brothers have faithfully served at St. Dominic's over the years, such as the saintly Fr. Ray Lewis, and the gentle Fr. Ray Gore. In addition to these, the parish has been blessed with the dedicated ministry of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael. In the past , Sr. Benilda and Sr. Angelica of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose have been involved in pastoral ministry. Currently, there the Sisters of Notre Dame live in residence, with some fulfilling their ministry in the parish (as DRE and teachers in our parochial school).

The history of St. Dominic's is the history of a family united in Christ. It is the story of the People of God journeying together with Jesus to build a community transformed and enriched by its faith-sharing and sacramental life. We pay tribute to those religious and lay persons whose joyful dedication and loving service have made this such a Christ-like community, and we pray that we in our turn hand on the faith and love we have received from Christ through the hands of those who have gone before us.

PASTORS OF ST. DOMINIC'S PARISH

1921-23 Fr. Francis Pius Driscoll, O.P.
1923-24 Fr. Edward McMullen, O.P.
1924-29 Fr. James Andrew Hunt, O.P.
1929-35 Fr. William Lewis, O.P.
1935-40 Fr. Stanislaus Olsen, O.P.
1941-45 Fr. William Lewis, O.P.
1945-51 Fr. Thomas McElhatton, O.P.
1951-57 Fr. Edward Sanguinetti, O.P.
1957-64 Fr. Thomas McElhatton, O.P.
1964-66 Fr. Gregory Anderson, O.P.
1966-69 Fr. Lawrence Banfield, O.P.
1969-71 Fr. Mark McPhee, O.P.
1961-75 Fr. Vincent Cavalli, O.P.
1975-79 Fr. Finbarr Hayes, O.P.
1979-85 Fr. George Matanic, O.P.
1985-92 Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.
1992-97 Fr. Paul Scanlon, O.P.
1997-03 Fr. Anthony Patalano, O.P.
2003-10 Fr. Raymond Finerty, O.P.
2010- __Fr. Peter Rogers, O.P.

Province Directory of living friars

Province Directory of deceased friars
PRINCIPALS OF ST. DOMINIC'S SCHOOL

1925-29 Sr. Miriam Flood, O.P.
1929-32 Sr. Kathleen Dawson, O.P.
1932-35 Sr. Teresa Winsor, O.P.
1935-37 Sr. Agnes McLean, O.P.
1937-38 Sr. Dorothea Molloy, O.P.
1938-43 Sr. Bertrand Maher, O.P.
1943-46 Sr. Teresa Winsor, O.P.
1946-50 Sr. Stella Reilley, O.P.
1950-56 Sr. Edith Mueller, O.P.
1956-59 Sr. Theophane Lewis, O.P.
1959-65 Sr. Agnes McLean, O.P.
1965-72 Sr. Norah Geddis, O.P.
1972-78 Sr. Nathaniel Amodeo, O.P.
1978-84 Sr. Ramona Krisha, O.P.
1984-85 Sr. Bernice Bittick, O.P.
1985-89 Sr. Carla Kovack, O.P.
1989-98 Sr. Abby Newton, O.P.
1998-01 Mrs. Mary Meading
2002-05 Br. Fredrick Narberes, O.P.
2005-     Ms. Elida Lujan