Established: 1972

Location: 3495 Rucker Road, Lompoc

Santa Barbara Region: Deanery 1

The Chumash Indians, the largest tribe in California, lived in “the land of many lakes, where the water breaks through,” for some 10,000 years prior to any European contact until 1787 when La Purísima Concepción de Maria Santísima Mission was founded by Father Fermin Lasuén. That was the earliest settlement in the Lompoc area, known today as the “Valley of Flowers.” (The correct pronunciation: Lom-POKE, never Lom-pock!)

The 1812 earthquake in the area (magnitude 7.5) destroyed the original mission and a new site was chosen two miles away in the dale called Los Berros. Farm land and new inhabitants flourished in the area and in 1888 the city of Lompoc was incorporated. In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps authentically restored the original mission that is today a historic State Park. (Just to the northwest is Vandenberg Air Force Base; the first missile base of the U.S. Air Force was originally Camp Cooke, an Army training camp during World War II.)

La Purísima Concepción parish, established in 1910, opened La Purísima Annex School in 1964 (in neighboring Mission Hills) which served as a center for Mass until Queen of Angels Church (in its early years sometimes called Our Lady Queen of Angels) was built in 1968 (and in 1972 named a parish). 

Its first past was Msgr. Michael Ryan of County Galway, Ireland, who had been the founding pastor of St. Genevieve in Panorama City, serving there for 21 years. For five years he headed Queen of Angels, retiring in 1977; he died at age 73 in 1981.

His successor, Msgr. James Augustine O’Gorman of County Leitrim, served only three years at Queen of Angels, but his career of 56 years in the archdiocese included parish work in L.A. and San Diego, and service with the Catholic Youth Federation before he volunteered as a chaplain in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942. He received the Soldier’s Medal for helping to rescue the crew from a burning B-29 Super-fortress, and later served in the Korean War, attaining the rank of colonel. 

His personal motto as a priest was “Be Available,” as proven by his wide ministerial experience. In 1980 he celebrated 50 years of priesthood at Queen of Angels, then retired and died in 1986 at age 80.

The parish’s third Irish pastor from County Mayo, Father Paschal Hardy, arrived in 1980. Ordained in 1956, Father Hardy served at various parishes before Lompoc and was very active in social justice issues --- Amnesty International, United Farm Workers and opposition to the Vietnam War. 

In 1988, Tidings editor Al Antczak interviewed Father Hardy, terminally ill with cancer. What, Antczak asked, will your people say about you at the end? “Ah, I know what they will say,” the priest replied, his Celtic humor very much alive. “There’s Paschal the rascal, the old radical. Ah sure, I know that.” 

Parishioners cared for their ailing priest, driving him to chemotherapy and volunteering as caregivers at night. He died in April of 1989 at age 56. 

Queen of Angels’ Irish tradition continued with the appointment of Msgr. John Fitzgerald as administrator in 1988 and then pastor in 1989. A native of County Kerry who celebrates his golden jubilee of ordination this year, Msgr. Fitzgerald is no stranger to the area or its historic churches, twice serving as an associate at La Purísima Concepción (1967-72 and 1983-88), as well at St. Joseph, Carpinteria (four years), and St. Mary of the Assumption, Santa Maria (seven years). In 1995 he was named Prelate to His Holiness. 

When appointed at Queen of Angels, he said, “I’m happy to be here. Father Hardy did much to nurture the community and taught people to reach out to one and all.” Lompoc, he added, “is called the ‘Valley of the Flowers’ and is also noted for its loving community.” Thus the Blessed Mother, as Queen of the Angels, has a singular home in this favored missionary area.

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