History of Holy Family Cathedral Parish
On July 28, 1769 a Spanish expeditionary force, under the leadership of Don Gaspar Portola, cut diagonally across the county, probably crossing the Santa Ana River north of what is now Chapman Avenue. Without a doubt, Mass was said on the day before the march was resumed -- the first Mass offered in what is now Holy Family Cathedral Parish.
By 1921 the number of Catholics in and around the City of Orange had increased to such a number that they felt they should have a parish of their own. In October 1921 Father Francis Burelback was appointed the first pastor. The property at the corner of East Chapman and Shaffer was acquired as the site of the first Holy Family Church and on Palm Sunday 1922 the first Mass was celebrated in the new building.
The parish flourished with a number of Pastors until in July 1943 Fr. Bernard Collins took on his first pastorate. By this time the church was much too small for the increasing number of parishioners and there was too much work for one priest and so Fr. Andrew McGrath became the first associate pastor, arriving in November of 1943.
After several disappointments, owing to pressures from City Council, Fr. Collins found a desirable location for a new church site at the corner of La Veta Avenue and South Glassell and without opposition it was approved by the Council and purchased. Plans for a four-room school were developed and two weeks later work was begun. On September 12, 1949, theschool not yet completed, and with the Sisters of St. Joseph in charge, the school was opened. A Parent-Teacher Association was begun as well as formal Religious Education classes together with Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops. Upon completion of the school a large auditorium, fully equipped with ample kitchen was built.
In September of 1952 Fr. Robert McEvoy was appointed Pastor. Under his leadership a new school addition was added as well as remodeling of the auditorium so that it could be used as a temporary Church. In 1953 plans were made for a rectory on the new site.
Under Fr. McEvoy parish life flourished and a parish bulletin was started. In 1956 Fr. McEvoy began to plan the construction of the present church. The building was completed in April 1958. Fr. McEvoy had the happiness of celebrating Mass in the new church for several weeks before he was struck down by a stroke in June of 1958 while instructing a convert class. Unable to continue his pastorate, an administrator was appointed in July of 1958, Fr. Robert Gara.
With the growing number of students awaiting entrance into the school, additional classrooms were built to accommodate the 880 registered students.
The new church was dedicated January 8, 1961. Fr. McEvoy had recovered sufficiently to attend the ceremonies and assist from the North sacristy. Cardinal McIntyre presided and blessed the Church. Fr. McEvoy was called to the Lord on May 13, 1963.
In the last days of June 1963 the Reverend Donald Strange was appointed to succeed Fr. McEvoy as pastor . Fr. Strange oversaw the continued enhancement of the parish properties with the building of a new Rectory and Convent together with a worthy chapel for the Sisters.
In June of 1976 the County of Orange was separated from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and became the Diocese of Orange with its first Bishop, The Most Reverend William Johnson. Holy Family Church was designated the Cathedral Church for the newly created Diocese, with Msgr. Strange as its first Rector and Vicar General for the Diocese. Msgr. retired in 1978 when the second Rector, Fr. Brian Coghlan, was appointed by Bishop Johnson.
Under Fr. Coghlan's direction the development of the parish continued with the institution of ministries such as Sick and Homebound, Adult Religious Education, Ministry to the Youth and Young Adults particularly through the popular CHOICE ministry as well as ongoing support for liturgical ministries. A new Parish Center was constructed to meet increasing parochial and diocesan needs.
Following the death of Bishop Johnson in July of 1986, Bishop Norman McFarland became the second Bishop of Orange in February of 1987. In July of 1988 Bishop McFarland appointed the Reverend Arthur Holquin as the third Rector of the Cathedral.
Fr. Holquin continued the development of the centrality of the Sacred Liturgy within the life of the Cathedral. Fr. Art oversaw the renovation of cathedral properties bringing the Rectory and Convent up to earthquake code.
In 2003 Fr. Art was transferred to the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano and Fr. Donald Romito was named Rector of the Cathedral. Under Fr. Don's leadership a Pastoral Council has been formed as well as a Hospitality Ministry to welcome all those attending Mass.
The day will come when Holy Family Cathedral will no longer be THE cathedral for the Diocese of Orange, but we will continue to have a vibrant and faith filled community.