Established: 1920

Location: 6635 Tobias Avenue, Van Nuys

San Fernando Region: Deanery 7

In 1920, with the city of Los Angeles’ population at 576,000, Bishop John Cantwell established nine new parishes in the diocese, one of them in a young San Fernando Valley community named for rancher Isaac Van Nuys and dubbed “the town that started right.” 

The parish of St. Elizabeth was originally a mission attended from Holy Trinity Church (now St. Robert Bellarmine) in Burbank. From 1913 to the end of World War I, Father Morris Harnett ministered at the mission as his special assignment, overseeing the construction of the church and rectory. On December 6, 1920 Father C.A. Kimmons was appointed the first resident pastor of the new parish named for the 13th century saint of Hungary. 

Early records and articles, including scholarly books on saints, all ascribe Z in the spelling of Elizabeth (despite variations through the years). The daughter of King Andrew II, she married Ludwig IV of Thuringia at age 14 and in marriage continued her many charitable activities, even selling her jewels to build a hospital. 

Elizabeth’s husband died on crusade and his brother expelled her and her children. She eventually entered the Third Order of Franciscans, caring for the sick, aged and poor. The saint was renowned for her prayer, works of charity and great gentleness. Canonized four years after her death, her feast day is November 17.

Succeeding Father Kimmons as pastor in February 1924 was Father Edmond Keohan of County Waterford, Ireland, who had originally come to the diocese because of failing health in 1921 but served St. Elizabeth for 23 years. In 1928 he completed plans for a two-story school and 500-seat auditorium, with a Spanish renaissance design and built for $40,000. Father Keohan died at age 66 in 1947; more than 140 priests assisted at his requiem Mass.

His successor, Msgr. Patrick O’Dwyer from County Tipperary, had pastored three local churches before his appointment in Van Nuys in 1947. He oversaw construction of the new church that was dedicated in 1950 and was then the largest in the Valley, seating over a thousand people. Named a domestic prelate in 1961, Msgr. O’Dwyer also built the parish hall and school addition before he died at age 71 in 1971. 

Msgr. William Duggan, from County Leitrim, Ireland, actively served the parish for 17 years (and the archdiocese for 51) until he retired from ill health and died at age 75 in 1990. His many pastoral innovations included a host of organizations such as the ServCenter that provided food and shelter to the needy and the Eucharistic agency that ministered to hospitals and convalescent homes in the area. The founding pastor of St. Didacus in Sylmar before his assignment at St. Elizabeth, he also was responsible for beginning Masses in Spanish at the parish.

A native Angeleno, Father Timothy Dyer, was first an associate at St. Elizabeth for three years, then administrator for two and in 1990 was named pastor. Ordained in 1974, he had served for ten years in East Los Angeles where he learned Spanish (he also studied in Mexico). At his predecessor’s funeral, Father Dyer said, “Our people will long remember the monsignor for his priestly dedication and commitment.” Named a monsignor himself in 1992, he served as archdiocesan vicar for clergy, then in team ministry at St. Columbkille and Nativity for 14 years, and is now pastor at St. Stephen and St. Patrick.

Following Msgr. Dyer was another native Angeleno, Father Paul Hruby, named pastor in 1991 and who had also been an associate and administrator at St. Elizabeth. A graduate of Holy Family School, Glendale, he was ordained from St. John’s Seminary in 1982. For five years he headed the Van Nuys parish, then led Incarnation in Glendale, and is currently pastor of St. Julie Billiart in Newbury Park. 

Father Kevin Nolan, another Angeleno, followed as pastor for four years. He was ordained in 1990 and served as an Army Reserve Chaplain and counseled patients at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco.

The current pastor, Father John Bruno, is a member of the Rogationist Congregation, a community founded in Italy by St. Hannibal Mary di Francia in 1900 to promote vocations. Father Bruno, ordained in Italy in 1974, was the Provincial of the Order in North Hills for several years as well as editor of the magazine “Vocations and Prayer.” This is his first pastorate in the archdiocese and the first time a Rogationist has headed the parish dedicated to St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

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