A History of Saints Felicitas and Perpetua Parish
The parish of Saints Felicitas & Perpetua began on October 18, 1938. Father William Fox (a native of Ireland) arrived from Newport Beach, California to begin this new parish. The first Mass was celebrated in the mission church of St. John the Baptist, located at 3104 Foothill Boulevard in Pasadena, even though the permanent site of the parish was to be in San Marino, CA. Since the mission was not centrally located, the Pasadena Women’s Club on Sierra Madre Boulevard near Colorado Boulevard was rented for Mass and other religious services. Father Fox rented a house at 195 S. Sunnyslope which was nearby the Women’s Club.
In 1939, the Archbishop of Los Angeles purchased three acres near the northwest corner of San Gabriel Boulevard and Huntington Drive in San Marino at 1190 Palomar Road. The three acres consisted of many giant oak trees and the one hundred year-old adobe known as Casa Blanca. The adobe was renovated and alterations made to provide for both chapel (church) on the ground floor and rectory on the top floor. Although the church was small, it fulfilled the needs of the parish until 1947. At the end of Word War II, the parish had grown in numbers and the need for a larger church was apparent. Permission to erect a new church was granted and a groundbreaking ceremony took place on October 19, 1947.
Construction took less than one year with completion and dedication on July 18 of 1948. The church was built in the early Italian style of reinforced concrete with a tile roof. A beautiful bell tower that could be seen for a mile was constructed along the south side of the church. Inside the main body of the church are placed thirty-two beautiful, stained glass windows of various saints that glow in many colors and were donated by many families of the parish. A circular stained glass window in the back of the church, depicting Christ’s resurrection, shines brilliantly in the afternoon sun. Casa Blanca remained as a rectory but the vacated chapel (first church) became the social hall. Besides parish luncheons and dinners, school events also took place there as well as Boy and Girl Scout meetings. A new rectory was completed in 1962, and the adobe was demolished to conform to San Marino zoning rules. The original tiles of the adobe were used to tile the new rectory.
Saints Felicitas & Perpetua School was completed and dedicated in 1950. The two-story structure of reinforced concrete consists of rooms for eight grades and a kindergarten. The convent was completed in 1963, and the Social Center shortly thereafter. Both buildings were constructed in the same style as the church, rectory and school.
The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary came from Ramona Convent to staff the school in 1950 and remained until 1981. At that time, the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus took residence in the convent and staffed the school. The Carmelite Sisters served our school community through June 2008.
In March of 1974, Father Lawrence J. Gibson became pastor. He brought to the parish a new impetus for organization and instituted or revitalized many groups to make possible involvement for every parishioner. In place of the Holy Name Society and Altar Society, which had their beginnings with the establishment of the parish, a parish council (which served as a coordinating council) was inaugurated in July of 1974. The church itself was completely renovated inside and out; the grounds were largely replanted except for the camellia borders of the church. Father Gibson added offices for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine to the rectory offices in 1986. In 1987, new school offices, a computer lab and new library facilities were completed. Monsignor Gibson retired at the end of June 2003 after serving the community for 29 and one half years. A large, bronze statue of Saints Felicitas and Perpetua, sculpted by Chris Slatoff, was dedicated to Monsignor Gibson on March 7, 2004.
In July of 2003 Monsignor Richard Loomis became the third pastor of Saints Felicitas and Perpetua Parish. In February of 2004 Monsignor Loomis began a leave of absence which continued through the end of his six year term. Bishop Joseph Sartoris was appointed administrator for six months. Father Albert DiUlio, SJ succeeded the Bishop for six months.On January 17, 2005, Father Paul Fitzpatrick was appointed as Administrator to complete Monsignor Loomis’ term. During his four and one-half years as Administrator, Father Paul and the staff and community brought about new life and growth. The parish enrollment increased and the entire plant was refurbished. Contemporary landscape was completed which gave a new look to the plant. New colored glass that complemented the existing upper stained glass windows replaced the temporary glass on the lower windows of the church. The social center (renamed the “Msgr. Lawrence Gibson Parish Center”) was renovated and updated. The unused library and video library were completely redone and turned into a needed meeting room for sacramental classes and adult faith formation. The parish offices were reconfigured and updated to provide more services for the people.During the summer of 2008, the restrooms in the parish center and school building were completely remodeled, all new computers were purchased for the computer lab and significant repairs and improvements were made to our electrical and water systems. During the summer of 2009, a new sound system was installed in the church, the exteriors of the church and school were repainted, the parking lot and driveways were repaired, and technology improvements were made to all the classrooms in the school.On July 1, 2009 Fr. Paul Fitzpatrick was named Pastor of the Parish. Now that so much has been accomplished in the parish plant, our attention is now focused on developing the lay leadership of our school and parish with a Consultative School Board and a Parish Council.
From the Dedication Souvenir Booklet, July 18, 1948
A DESCRIPTION OF SAINTS FELICITAS AND PERPETUA CHURCH
When Father Fox commenced his discussions with your Architects for the new church the first question which arose was as to the type of structure to be erected. Because our religion is so completely intertwined with the traditions of history, it naturally followed that one of the earlier architectural styles could serve as an inspiration for the design. This did not mean that we must live and suffer with the inconveniences of the historical past, but it was entirely compatible to incorporate our modern way of living into the devotional atmosphere and design of those great buildings which were erected during the early ages of the church.
We therefore used the early Italian type of architecture and expressed it in the modern medium of reinforced concrete with a permanent tile roof. Accentuating the design is a tower which is hoped will later be used for a carillon. The interior has a devotional atmosphere with its length accentuated by carrying the nave through the sanctuary to the rear of the altar; thus bringing the altar into close relationship with the communicants of the church. The upper part of the walls is treated with acoustic plaster and is pierced by twin windows the entire length of the church. Under each pair of windows the Stations of the Cross are incorporated in cast stone plaques. It is hoped that elaborate stain glass will soon be available for these windows.
The sanctuary is of generous proportions, has terrazzo floors; the altars, altar rail and pulpit being of marble. The sanctuary is flanked by ample priests’ and altar boys’ sacristies, work room, and storage space. The nave has a seating capacity of 700 and has liberal aisles. The choir loft affords additional seating facilities, and spaces are provided on each side for installing a pipe organ at some future date. The baptistry opens into the nave on the Gospel side. Three confessionals have been provided, two in the nave of the church and the third in the base of the tower.
The comfort of the congregation has been a primary consideration. The pews are of the double curve type with upholstered kneelers and spaced to afford liberal convenience. A complete heating and ventilating system has been installed which will afford cool ventilation in the summer and moderate heat in the cooler months.
The main entrance from Palomar Road has been developed with a double flight of steps as an approach to the three pairs of doors which form the main entrance to the building. Side entrances from Huntington Drive and from the parking space to the north serve as extra conveniences. The areas around the new building will be landscaped to harmonize with the beautiful setting and background of the historic old oak trees which now adorn the grounds.
It has been our intention to present to SS. Felicitas and Perpetua Parish a building which combines economy of plan and construction, utility and efficiency of operation. If this has been accomplished in the eyes of the parishioners, the greatest measure of success is due, to the untiring co-operation and effort given to us by your Father Fox and his loyal assistant. Our thanks also go to the Steed Brothers, contractors for the work, who have given faithful service without regard to time and effort, to the San Marino City Council, and to Mr. G.H. Cronshey, San Marino’s Superintendent of Buildings, with whom it has been a pleasure to cooperate.
G. Lawrence Ott, M. L. Barker, Architects