“I desire that a church be built on this site,” she told the native Mexican farmer, “so that I can be present to give my love, compassion, help and defense … to hear your laments and to remedy all your miseries, pains and sufferings.”Before Europeans arrived in what became west central Ventura County, the Chumash Indians lived peacefully on the land and their village of Mupu became the site of Santa Paula. The area became Rancho Santa Paula y Saticoy, eventually a Mexican land grant in 1843, and finally a town in 1872, probably named for St. Paula, a noble Roman matron of the fourth century and a friend and supporter of St. Jerome (feast day: Jan. 26). In 1927 the pastor at St. Sebastian Church (founded in 1896 on West Ninth Street) sent Franciscan Father Buenaventura Nava to give a mission to the Spanish-speaking community who lived a few miles away and who did not have a permanent building for worship. Father Nava inspired the small community to foster a church-building fund that resulted six months later in the first church, built mainly with stones from the Santa Paula Creek. In 1942 Archbishop John Cantwell named Our Lady of Guadalupe a parish with Father Juan Padilla the first pastor. The 15 priests who have administered or headed the parish since then represent four religious orders besides archdiocesan clergy — several of whom have headed other Guadalupe churches in different cities.Following Father Padilla was Father Anthony Cambra who administered in Santa Paula from 1943 to 1947, later served at Our Lady of Guadalupe parishes in Hermosa Beach and El Monte, and was pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Guadalupe from 1954 to 1976. He died in 1977.Before serving as administrator for 11 years, Father Jose Veloz, from Mexico, also administered at Guadalupe parishes in Santa Ana and the parish on Hammel Street in East L.A. During his term in Santa Paula, the parish hall was completed in 1950 with most of the work performed by parishioners.From 1958 to 1973 four pastors were members of the Burgos Foreign Mission Society (I.E.M.E.) that was founded in Spain and sent missionaries to different countries. They were Father Jenaro Artaz (1958-63) from Spain, who had also served at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Santa Barbara and in 1969 was named Superior General of the Mission Society; Father Antonio Gonzalez (1963-67); Father George Duran (1967-69), who later was incardinated in the archdiocese and named a monsignor; and Father Jesus Gomez (1969-73).Three Franciscan priests from the Santa Barbara Province were pastors from 1974 to 1998: Father Duncan MacDonell, for six years; Father Joseph Zermeno, a native of Texas, for 10 years; and Father Rene Juarez, from Mexico, for eight years. He now serves as pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Church in L.A. Father Nelson Trinidad, administrator from 1998 to 2000, was incardinated from the Diocese of Santa Ana in El Salvador. He now administers Our Lady of Guadalupe (Rosehill) in East L.A. Since 2000, three of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s four leaders have been members of the Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception and one was a Claretian Missionary (Father Arturo Gomez from Arizona). Brooklyn-born Father Pasquale Vuoso, local superior for the Canons Regular, served as administrator and pastor and is now pastor at neighboring St. Sebastian. Father James Garceau, pastor for two years, is now with the Norbertine Fathers in Orange.The current administrator, appointed in 2006, is Father Charles Lueras, a native Angeleno, ordained in 1981 and well-known for his work with the Southern California Renewal Communities. He inherits the famous “stone church” and the long tradition of devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0603/guadaside/{/gallery}