My dear sisters, staff, students and parents,
The word “pastor” is usually defined as a leader of a Christian community. However, Jesus’ definition is much more important for us here at St. Mary’s Church and School. Christ told us that a pastor is to be the servant of the community.
But Jesus does not stop here. We are all called to serve each other. What a great school this is or would be if we followed his command. St. Mary’s has always been an excellent place to learn, to experience, to enjoy, to experiment, to achieve goals and to grow into good citizens and loving Christians. It is a place where we honor the mother of Jesus, Mary. It is a place to be supportive of each other in what we say and do. And, what is all of this for? To be successful in this world and reach a personal relationship with Jesus that will last into his kingdom.
Yet, what I like most about our school is that it is permeated with Salesian spirit of Don Bosco. It is this spirit of joy and happiness and peace that makes our school unique.
I do pray for you all. I know you pray for me.
Fr. Jesse Montes, S.D.B.
The Salesians of St. John Bosco accepted St. Mary’s Church from Cardinal McIntyre, and he placed the parish under their care. The first Salesian pastor of St. Mary’s was Fr. Albert Negri. He immediately recognized that the constant immigrant turnover required a different approach for the parish to be effective in its services. He formed a new parish council, fostered youth activities, especially summer programs and reached out through sermons, and personal contact to the many poor families, residing in the parish.
In 1968, Fr. Charles Farina took charge of St. Mary’s as pastor. Fr. Charles had a deep, heartfelt devotion to the Patroness of the parish. In 1971, the parish celebrated its 75 the jubilee. When Fr. Rafael Sanchez succeeded Fr. Farina in 1974 the parish entered a new phase of community involvement. He brought his rich pastoral experience of many years in parishes and schools to St. Mary’s. With firm guidance, he reorganized the Guadalupana Association, re-cultivated popular devotions and sought to revitalize the Mexican community through an active outreach, principally by regularizing their marriage.
On March 18, 1984, a very pleasant anniversary recalled the founding of the parish school. The diamond anniversary turned out to be a homecoming for its alumni, including some of the Sisters who, as young girls, remembered the opening day of the school. The Holy Names sisters celebrated their accomplishments of many years, ad their influence in the lives of countless pupils passing through the doors of the parish school.
In 1986, Fr. Joseph Farias took charge of the St. Mary’s School together with Fr. Jesse Montes. In early 1987, a very ambitious undertaking at St. Mary’s on behalf of illegal immigrants achieved city wide attention.
Fr. Lorenzo Avelino has worked for 9 years ministering to the Spanish speaking, and had accomplished a strong youth program. He inherited the Amnesty program for the undocumented. This outreach alone received much media attention.
As St. Mary’s parish officially approached one hundred years of service to the community in 1997, the old church building which welcomed so many generations to Los Angeles beckons the community to reflect and learn from each past, and move toward the future. As a landmark and the mother church of Boyle Heights, it reminds the community human and spiritual values, so necessary for growth and development in a fast-paced society.
Throughout its history, the noteworthy strength of the parish has been the rich cultural diversity of its people. As seen in this overview, St. Mary’s parish responded effectively to their needs in the measure that it was faithful and true to its Catholic heritage.