Established: September 1, 1958Location: 18405 Superior Street, NorthridgeSan Fernando Region: Deanery 5Although two other parishes in the archdiocese (East L.A. and Tujunga) are named for the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Lourdes, this one in Northridge bears the distinction of being founded exactly 100 years after the miraculous event in France in 1858. It was in the muddy grotto of Massabielle in Lourdes, on Thursday, Feb. 11, that 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous experienced the first of 18 visions of the Blessed Mother and described her as a woman dressed in white with a blue belt around her waist. When Bernadette asked her name, the Lady said: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” (Pope Pius IX had promulgated the dogma just four years earlier, but the term was unknown to the peasant girl.) In another apparition, the Blessed Mother told Bernadette to “pray and do penance for the conversion of the world.” The visions continued until July 16 of that year until church authorities verified their authenticity and devotions to the site increased. Since then, some 57 miracles have been medically verified and Lourdes water continues to flow. The shrine is now one of the most visited sites in the world. The feast day for Our Lady of Lourdes is Feb. 11.The Northridge parish — located just east of Reseda Boulevard — began Sept. 1, 1958, a few blocks from the campus of newly-opened San Fernando Valley State College (known today as Cal State University, Northridge). It was one of six parishes founded that year under Cardinal James Francis McIntyre, four of them with titles for the Blessed Mother. The parish’s first Mass was celebrated Oct. 12 in the gymnasium of Rancho San Antonio in Chatsworth for 725 families. The following year the Immaculate Heart Sisters opened the new school, and in 1960 Cardinal McIntyre blessed the new church for 1,500 families. In the next ten years the rectory was completed, a new convent built and multiple parish groups formed.At the helm was the founding pastor, Father Paul Stroup from Fort Wayne, Ind., who had just finished two years as founding pastor of Guardian Angel Church in Pacoima. Ordained in 1942 (where the subdeacon at his first Mass was a young Father Timothy Manning), Father Stroup served at St. Vibiana Cathedral as master of ceremonies and was also the first director of Our Lady Chapel-Catholic Information Center. During his 25 years in Northridge, he completed the entire parish plant, saw to it that the debt was paid off by 1974, and inaugurated its outstanding liturgical music program. He also steered the parish through the first of two major earthquakes, the 6.6 Sylmar quake of Feb. 9, 1971, from which the parish sustained no major damage.Honored by Pope Paul VI as a domestic prelate (monsignor) in 1967, Msgr. Stroup died in June 1983 at age 66; the principal celebrant was Cardinal Manning. The parish hall opened in 1986 is named for Msgr. Stroup.By the time Our Lady of Lourdes celebrated its silver jubilee in October 1983, a new pastor was in place: Father Peter Moran, a native of County Galway, Ireland, the youngest of 14 children (two of whom were also priests, Msgr. Michael Moran, pastor of St. Mary, Palmdale, and Father Francis Moran, who served in Santa Ana). Father Peter, ordained in 1965, served at five parishes before beginning his pastorate at Our Lady of Lourdes, whose faith community continued to grow. In 1992 the pastor was named a prelate of his holiness (monsignor) as plans to remodel the church were in progress. Those plans took on new shape, and urgency, after Jan. 17, 1994, when the 6.7 Northridge quake struck, resulting in 57 deaths and 1,500 injured. Msgr. Moran and the parish community were among the first to offer help and spiritual comfort. Eventually, the renovation efforts resumed and in July 1995 Our Lady of Lourdes’ community celebrated the finished product. “It has been a team effort,” Msgr. Moran noted, “and with God’s help we will continue to work as a team, and strengthen our spiritual bonds.” After 28 years, Msgr. Moran retired in 2011 as pastor emeritus. The current administrator of the 2,500-family parish, Father David Loftus, is a native of County Mayo, Ireland, ordained in 1994. He has a master’s degree in theology from Boston College and for ten years was the adult education coordinator for the archdiocesan Office of Religious Education. At the upcoming Religious Education Congress in February, his workshop, “Walk the Way: Enter the Mystery,” will center on the unfolding of God’s providence on the pilgrim way of our own lives — a topic that St. Bernadette Soubirous would certainly understand. —January 11, 2013{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0111/lourdesside/{/gallery}