HISTORY OF ST. MICHAEL
FIFTY YEARS OF GOLDEN MEMORIES– memories that shaped St. Michael Parish as a faith community dedicated to the mission of the church. St. Michael Parish has come a long way since its humble beginnings fifty years ago.
In the beginning ….In the late fall of 1957, the Most Reverend Charles F. Buddy, the first Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego, announced the formation of a parish in Paradise Hills. At that time, the parish had no church building, rectory or school, or even an official parish name. The parish was simply known as the “Catholic Community of Paradise Hills”. It was not until early 1958 that Bishop Buddy announced that the parish would be under the titular patronage of St. Michael the Archangel and would be called St. Michael Catholic Church.
With no church building, the first mass was celebrated in a rented house at 5942 Alleghany Street on November 4, 1957 by the first pastor, Reverend Donner A. Frederick. Filled with excitement about the formation of their own church community, the limited space did not discourage parishioners from attending Sunday services. People stood in the hall, on the patio and in every available room. It soon became apparent though, that larger facilities were needed. A vacant theater building on the corner of Ridgeway and Granger Streets in Lincoln Acres was subsequently requisitioned for the celebration of the Sunday mass. Unfortunately this “make shift” church building was in poor condition. However, through the efforts of dedicated volunteers, the theater building was slowly transformed into a “House of God”. An altar was constructed, kneelers were installed, plumbing was repaired and electrical wiring was upgraded. On December 1, 1957, Father Frederick celebrated Sunday Mass in the “new” church. The house on Alleghany Street continued to be used as a rectory and a church for daily masses during this period. The Altar, the Holy Name and Rosary Society were formed at that time.
As with many churches, finances were a problem for the parish in its infant years. To alleviate this problem, men and women of the Altar Society and the Holy Name Society began to raise funds enthusiastically. Rummage and bake sales were sponsored. A weekly “Game Night” and “Buck of the Month” Club were instituted. In this manner, not only were funds raised but a spirit of fellowship and camaraderie was fostered.
Through it all, Father Frederick was busy with the planning and design of the permanent church. Finally, on January 22, 1958 he announced that the church building would be constructed at the present location on Homedale Street. On May 25, 1958, on Pentecost Sunday, the ground breaking ceremony took place. Actual construction of the church and rectory began on August 25, 1958. The first Mass and Holy Communion were celebrated in the new church on May 10, 1959, Pentecost Sunday. The official dedication of St. Michael Catholic Church took place on July 10, 1959.
The completion of the church and rectory did not signal the end of construction activities at St. Michael Parish. In April 1959, the Holy Name Society organized work crews for the construction of the Clubhouse; the structure was quickly completed. Fund-raising for additional buildings continued.
In April 1960 Rev. Marcel Matley arrived as the first Associate Pastor. He was succeeded in October 1961 by Rev. George Yahn. Through this period the parish grew and it became apparent that additional facilities were needed. In 1961, Father Frederick announced plans for the construction of a cafeteria-auditorium and appealed for volunteers. Many parishioners responded; a building committee was formed. Under the supervision of a contractor, the construction of the Parish Hall by volunteers started in October 1961 and was completed in January 1962. The same group of volunteers started the construction of the south wing of the parish school in February 1962. The school, named St. Michael Academy was ready in September 1962. The first staff of teachers, the Sisters Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament led by Mother Concepcion, arrived at St. Michael in June 1962 from Madrid, Spain. In November 1962, to provide housing for these teachers, construction of a convent as well as the current west wing of the school was started by work crews from the Holy Name Society. The convent was completed in May 1963; the west wing of the school was completed later that fall.
Throughout this period of feverish building activity, St. Michael reaped the benefits of fundraising events sponsored by various organizations such as: the Altar and Rosary Society, the Holy Name Society, and the Parents’ Council of St. Michael Academy. The parish also enjoyed the benefits of a lending library in the rear of the church.
The Building and Maintenance Committee worked diligently to keep the grounds beautiful. A retaining wall was erected at the rear of the convent in 1964. In August 1965, work parties repaired the school lunch benches. Later, in 1968 sidewalks were constructed at the convent.
The Parents Teachers Group (PTG) succeeded the Parents’ Council. In July 1967 Mother Concepcion returned to Spain; she was succeeded as sister superior of St. Michael Academy by Mother Isabel.
The year 1967 also marked the 10th anniversary of the founding of St. Michael... Celebrations included the publication of a commemorative brochure, presentation of an American flag to the parish and the holding of an anniversary dinner dance. With the dawning of the next ten years, Father Frederick announced that he would leave in the spring of 1968.
In 1968, Father Sean Murray succeeded Fr. Frederick as Pastor. Father Murray, who hailed from St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Sun City, was soon joined by Father William Gold, the new Associate pastor. Work went on to upgrade the church facilities. A sidewalk sale raised money used to purchase school playground equipment and materials to cover the school lunch area. A parking facility for school personnel was completed in the fall of 1968. The old newspaper room adjacent to the Clubhouse was converted into a library.
Several personnel changes occurred in the years 1970 to 1972. In July 1970, Deacon Donald Zielins came to minister at St. Michael. Father Murray was elevated to the position of Monsignor in October, 1970. Ordained to the priesthood in May 1971, Father Zielins became the Associate Pastor in June 1971. Father Gold left the parish in September 1971 in order to undertake studies at Fordham University. Deacon Anton Sommer succeeded him in September. In April 1972 Msgr. Murray was transferred to St. Therese parish in San Diego. Msgr. John Dickie, former Superintendent of Schools assumed his position as successor of Msgr. Murray in the spring of 1972. Deacon Sommer was ordained a priest in May 1972. In. May 1972, following months of planning and preparation, the Parish Council was formed. Early accomplishments of the newly formed Council included the replacement of the sidewalk at the school, construction of the retaining wall in front of the church and rectory, and resurfacing of the parish parking lots.
From 1972 to 1976, the church building underwent major renovations in order to conform to the requirements of the Vatican II Council. The altar area was enlarged, pews were installed on both sides of the altar; the church was painted and carpeted in June 1974. The Clubhouse and the Parish Hall were also remodeled utilizing funds provided by the newly formed St. Michael Social Club. Two major fundraising events started at this time and continued to the present time: the Fall Festival which was first conducted in 1973 and the diocesan-wide Stewardship fundraising drive which started in 1972.
St. Michael Parish benefited from the ministry of many priests and sisters. Fathers Edward Flynn, J. Patrick Foley, Joseph Abela, Rafael Esquivel, Joseph Long, James Ferrigan and Charles Andalikiewicz contributed their own special gifts to the spiritual growth of St. Michael. Father Rafael Esquivel was particularly involved in the formation of the Latin Community. The present day Spanish mass was started while Fr. Esquivel served at St. Michael. In 1974, the Sisters Adorers departed, the Victory Noll Sisters (Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters) arrived. Later in 1975, Sister Rosemary Babbit arrived to begin her work as principal of St. Michael Academy.
In July 1976, Monsignor Anthony Giesing, who had previously served as Pastor of St. Joseph’s Cathedral in downtown San Diego, became the fourth pastor of St. Michael Parish. He was joined by Rev. Anthony May as an associate pastor in September 1976. Fathers Onofre Aurelio and Ricardo Mejia also joined the pastoral staff and they worked closely with the newly formed Filipino Community of St. Michael (FCSM) and the existing Latin Community, respectively. During Msgr. Giesing’s tenure as pastor, Rev. Jose Cayanan, Rev. Elenito Santos, Rev. Joseph Kuan, Rev. Juan R.L. Ruiz, Rev. Charles Bean, Rev. Duncan Monohan, Rev. Gregory Dompor, Rev. Michael Hunn served as Associate Pastors.
Through the 1970’s St. Michael continued to grow and expand; two new reconciliation rooms were constructed in the church building. The Kindergarten and the Youth Room were constructed. The Grotto or shrine to the Virgin Mary was completed in time for the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of St. Michael in 1982. To memorialize its Silver Anniversary, St. Michael published a commemorative pictorial directory. Other organizations were founded at this time, among them the Guamanian Society and the Mission Circle.
In 1987, Rev. Joseph Mel Collier became the fifth pastor of St. Michael Parish. Succeeding Sister Rosemary Babbit, Sister Patricia Weldon, OSF, became the principal of St. Michael Academy in August 1987. Rev. Collier initiated the construction of St. Michael Preschool which was completed in September 1991. Major renovation projects were accomplished: the replacement of the church floor with new tiles, the construction of the new altar and lectern, the Blessed Sacrament and the renovation of the church tower. To fund all these much needed repairs and renovations, Rev. Collier, with the approval of the Finance Council and the Parish Pastoral Council borrowed funds from the Diocese of San Diego and from individual parishioners. With the wholehearted support of the parishioners, all debts were paid off during Rev. Collier’s tenure as pastor of St. Michael. Fr. Collier also initiated the fundraising for the construction for the New Education Building (NEB). Membership in the Cursillo Movement, Filipino and Spanish, flourished and proved to be an effective tool of evangelization.
During the tenure of Rev. Collier (1987-1999), the parishioners of St. Michael benefited greatly from the insights, the dedicated and inspired services of both young and veteran priests: Rev. James A. Jorden, Rev. John Dolan, Rev. Romeo Supnet, Rev. Matthew Spahr, Rev. Edward McNulty, Rev. Andrés Ramos, Rev. Robert Pamula, Rev. Joselito Tiongson and Rev. Michael Albano. The present day Pilipino mass was started during the tenure of Rev. Collier. Rev. John Dolan was ordained to the priesthood on July 1, 1989 and celebrated his first Solemn Holy Mass in St. Michael Church on July 9, 1989. In June1991, St. Michael bade goodbye to Rev. Dolan who was transferred to Santa Sofia. He was succeeded by Rev. Matthew Spahr.
In August 1997, St. Michael joined the youth from all over the world to the 12th World Youth Day in Paris, France. In an effort to recognize the growing youth of the church, Pope John Paul II in 1984, invited the youth from all over the world to travel to Rome for Palm Sunday. He declared that day to be the first World Youth Day, and that the youth should go back to their home towns and communities and celebrate their new-found fellowship and continue the tradition for each year to follow. Every two to three years, an international celebration occurred in a selected city somewhere in the world. Since 1997, St. Michael has sent pilgrim youths to the World Youth Day.
In July 1999, Msgr. Fernando Gutierrez succeeded Fr. Collier and became the sixth pastor of St. Michael Parish. Rev. Michael Albano continued to serve as Associate Pastor. Rev. Paul Mayor SVD joined them in 2001. Intent on and committed to providing guidance and continuing education to the ministers and parishioners, Monsignor Gutierrez held quarterly Church Ministers’ Conference, offering topics of importance to ministers and parishioners. During the tenure of Msgr. Gutierrez, the Children’s Liturgy started at the 12:30 p.m. mass. It has since then expanded to the 9:30 and 11:00 morning masses. In 2001 the church bathrooms were renovated with funds donated by generous parishioners.
A St. Michael pictorial directory was published. In partnership with a non-profit organization, St. Michael held a “Community Fair” whereby parishioners were provided free blood pressure check and given information and assistance on immigration laws, community health and public assistance resources. In August 2000, accompanied by Rev. Michael Albano, the youth of St. Michael joined pilgrimages from all over the world to the 17th World Youth Day in Rome, Italy. On June 30, 2001 parishioners bade farewell to Msgr. Gutierrez and Rev. Michael Albano as did Sr. Pat Weldon, who after 14 years as principal of the Academy was succeeded by Mr. Mike Humphrey.
On July 1, 2001, Rev. John Dolan the former pastor of St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish in Oceanside and former Associate Pastor of St. Michael became the seventh pastor of St. Michael. Rev. Paul Mayor continued to serve as Associate Pastor. Also in July 2001 St. Michael welcomed Michael Humphrey who succeeded Sister Patricia Weldon as Principal of St. Michael Academy. In early 2002, Rev. Paul Mayor left St. Michael. In May 2002, Rev. Gerardo Fernandez succeeded him as Associate Pastor. Encouraged by the success of the first Community Fair, St. Michael repeated the public service event in June 2002. In the same month Rev. Dolan launched the “Christ in My Neighborhood” project, the purpose of which was to break open the Scripture in the designated twelve regions of St. Michael’s boundaries. The architectural plans for the New Education Building (NEB) neared completion. In July 2002, Rev. Dolan joined the young adults of St. Michael to the 17th World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada. The gigantic and historical acacia tree on the south side of the church was cut down and gave way to the construction of the “plaza” where parishioners gathered and socialized before and after masses. The statue of St. Michael surrounded with flowering plants was erected at the center of the plaza. In October, Rev. Dolan announced his leaving St. Michael to become pastor of Saint Rose of Lima Parish in Chula Vista effective November 1, 2002.
On November 23, 2002, Rev. Ronald Cochran, the Associate Pastor of Saint Patrick Church in Carlsbad became the 8th pastor of St. Michael Parish. Rev. Gerardo Fernandez continued to serve as Associate Pastor. In July 2002, Rev. Bernard Rañoa succeeded Rev. Fernandez. Rev. Romeo Ramos joined the parish staff succeeding Rev. Rañoa as Associate Pastor in early 2005. He left after a few months and was later succeeded by Rev. Arnulfo Tadena. The preschool and the kindergarten playgrounds were renovated to comply with safety regulations. To cater to the needs of seniors, the Yoga class for seniors started on March 7, 2005. In May 2005, all permits were granted for the construction of the much delayed Library/Resource Center. Bidding on the project started in May. In July 2005, young representatives from St. Michael went on a pilgrimage to the 20th World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. In August 21, 2005, the parish bulletin was expanded to better advertise parish activities and keep parishioners better informed. Firmly believing in the effectiveness of small ecclesial communities, Fr. Cochran and the Parish Pastoral Council established the Listening Project as a means to better understand the spiritual needs of parishioners and parish families. In October, the Diocese signed the contract for the construction of the Parish Library and Resource Center.
The Clubhouse was torn down, construction started. In January 2006, the parish office was renovated. What was previously the entrance for the School of Religion became the entrance and reception area for all the parish offices. Rev. Cochran launched the campaign for Disciples in Mission, a three-year Lenten program that entailed participation in small groups and other communal experiences in which the Good News is shared, experienced and applied to daily life. In March 5, the faith sharing groups started to meet. The Anniversary Committee was formed to plan the jubilee celebration. On June 18, 2006, the Parish Pastoral Council led the parishioners in bidding goodbye to Rev. Cochran.
Rev. Roque Vaño succeeded Rev. Cochran in July 2006 and became the 9th pastor. Rev. Vaño was installed as the new pastor on August 27, 2006 by Bishop Robert Brom. Rev. Nemesio Sungcad succeeded Rev. Arnulfo Tadena as Associate Pastor. In partnership with the SDSU Research Foundation, another program for seniors started on July 31, 2006, the Arthritis/Joint Pain exercise class.
The construction of the Parish Library and Resource Center (PLRC), formerly known as the New Education Building (NEB) was completed. Its inception and final construction spanned four pastors. Rev. Joseph Mel Collier conceived the project and started the fundraising. Under Monsignor Gutierrez, contributions to the fund continued to flow from committed parishioners. Rev. John Dolan hired the architect and contractor. Rev. Ronald Cochran broke ground and started construction in October 2005 and supervised most of the phase of the construction until its final stage. On November 15, 2006 the building was completed. In gratitude and appreciation for their undaunted resolve to have a multi-purpose building for the use of both the Academy and parishioners, the building and all its sections were named after the four priests: Collier Center, Cochran Conference Hall, Gutierrez Library and Dolan Computer Lab. The Collier Center was inaugurated in January 5, 2007.
In early April 2007 Rev. Roque Vaño left St. Michael for personal health reasons. In the absence of a permanent pastor, in mid April 2007, Bishop Robert Brom appointed Rev. Dionisio Macalintal of St. Mary’s Church in National City as interim administrator while he remained pastor of St. Mary’s Church. In celebration of its Jubilee, St. Michael underwent a facelift under the guidance of Rev. Macalintal: the church was repainted in May and the pews were refurbished in June of this year.
On June 30, 2007, the current pastor, Rev. Manuel Ediza, the former Pastor of St. Mary’s Church in El Centro, became the 10th pastor of St. Michael parish. Rev. Ediza brought with him a list of achievements and certifications and a demeanor of calmness in handling difficult situations. Rev. Nemesio Sungcad continued to serve as the Associate Pastor. Evelyn Urbiztondo succeeded Michael Humphrey as Principal of St. Michael Academy. July 14 and 15 were designated as Day of Dedication.
The seventh year of the new millennium trumpeted the arrival of the golden jubilee of St. Michael Parish. From a small number of families who attended Sunday Masses in a rented house at 5942 Alleghany Street during its founding years, St. Michael Parish had grown to 3,544 registered families, a diverse cultural community of believers with various faith groups and associations. In the School of Religion, 402 students were enrolled in the last school year (2006-2007). There were 34 volunteer catechists and aides. The Academy’s enrolment for the year 2006-2007 was 263, from preschool to eighth grade.
Abundantly gifted with dedicated volunteer catechists, The School of Religion, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), the Rite of Christian Initiation for Children (RCIC) and the confirmation programs have continued to be vibrant and robust tools of evangelization at St. Michael. Religious and charismatic groups and movements such as the El Shaddai, the Couples for Christ, the Divine Mercy, the Knights of Columbus, the Legion of Mary, the Little Flower Guild, Our Lady of Fatima, the Cursillo Movement, the Filipino Community of St. Michael and the Latino Community and other organizations have continued to enrich the spiritual and social life at St. Michael.
Ever grateful to and strengthened and enriched by the legacy of its founders, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and under the spiritual direction and guidance of its new pastor, Rev. Manuel Ediza, St. Michael Parish looks to the future with renewed vitality, inspiration and commitment, UNITED IN VISION AND MISSION.
Throughout the 50 years of its existence, St. Michael Church has heard and witnessed the countless prayers that have been said, sang and offered inside the church, the thousands of masses celebrated and the thousands of consecrated hosts distributed to the faithful, the hundreds of babies that were reborn with “water and the Spirit” during baptism, the hundreds of teenagers and adults who were conferred the gifts of the Holy Spirit during confirmation, the hundreds of young couples united in matrimony, and the countless penitents who have been reconciled to God and restored to the state of sanctifying grace. St. Michael has carried through stormy times, through rough and uncharted waters. God’s wondrous deeds prevailed for His people, through the constant intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Michael, the patron saint of the parish. With joyful hearts, the people of St. Michael community lift their hearts in celebration, rejoicing and thanksgiving!