Established: 1961Location: 5448 Crest Road, Rancho Palos VerdesSan Pedro Region: Deanery 19History and religious fervor can sometimes overlap, even collide, with interesting results. Such is the case with St. John Fisher Parish. Although its original name (as recorded in the 1962 Archdiocesan Directory) was St. Peter Alcántara, a transformation occurred shortly after its founding in May 1961. Why? A brief historical background may be helpful.St. John Fisher, the 16th century English bishop and theologian who challenged King Henry VIII’s claim to be head of the Church in England, was martyred on June 22, 1535. During his 14 months in prison (without trial), Pope Paul III created him a cardinal which further infuriated the king. As a consequence, when John Fisher was beheaded, his head was exhibited on London Bridge for two weeks as an example. His feast day is June 22; his name means “God is gracious.” Seven years after the saint’s death, Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed up the coast of California and landed in the Rancho Palos Verdes-San Pedro area (later part of the vast Dominguez land grant), inhabited by the Tongva-Gabrieleno Indians who called themselves “lords of the ocean” and named the area “Chaaw.” Given that it was Nov. 24, the feast day of St. Peter of Alexandria, Egypt, Cabrillo named the bay San Pedro. Some 400 years later, as Rancho Palos Verdes developed into a thriving community and the need for a parish was clear, Cardinal James Francis McIntyre established St. Peter of Alcántara Church, named for a Spanish Franciscan friar who happened to be a contemporary of Cabrillo. According to Cardinal Timothy Manning’s parish notes, the intent was “to honor the patron of San Pedro as no church was there with that name.” The first Mass of St. Peter Alcántara Parish was celebrated in 1961 in the old Marymount College auditorium. But after additional research made clear which St. Peter was which, the parish name was soon changed, as noted by Cardinal Manning: “Msgr. Thomas McCarthy [founding pastor] overruled the suggestion in favor of St. John Fisher, to whom he was devoted.”Msgr. McCarthy, a native of Worcester, Mass., ordained in 1937, had previously been editor of The Tidings for seven years; one of his successors, Msgr. Patrick Roche, called him “a man of daring vision, sensitive discernment and solid journalistic insight.” The Palos Verdes parish was Msgr. McCarthy’s third pastorate, and within the first two years of his 13 as pastor, both a new church and a school had been opened. A carved wood statue of the patron saint was enshrined in the vestibule of the church at the 1963 dedication Mass.Msgr. McCarthy — also the first director of the Department of Public Information of the National Catholic Welfare Conference; chancellor of the U.S. Military Ordinariate; and a popular local radio speaker — died in 1978 at age 67. Tidings editor Al Antczak, who as a young reporter served under McCarthy, noted that the priest, “through teaching, writing, editing, lecturing and preaching, he had the ability to present and apply the experience of the Church to the human realities that people must face.”Father Vincent Barret, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was ordained from St. John’s Seminary in 1948 and served the archdiocese for 37 years, 11 as pastor of St. John Fisher until he died of cancer in 1985 at age 62. During the last year of his pastorate, the new parish center was planned that would create space for more than 24 parish-related organizations. The center was completed during the pastorate of Msgr. Eugene Gilb, a Los Angeles native ordained in 1957, who was Cardinal McIntyre’s secretary for seven years. He had just completed 11 years as pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Los Nietos, where he built the church. In his 14 years at St. John Fisher, he oversaw an extensive church remodeling, for which architect Daniel Young won a design award and liturgical artist Isabel Piczek contributed stained glass windows of the Seven Sacraments and the Eucharistic Christ. Msgr. Gilb, now retired as pastor emeritus, was succeeded in 1999 as pastor by Msgr. David Sork, also a native Angeleno ordained from St. John’s in 1970, who previously served 10 years in the Religious Education Office and was pastor of St. Louis of France, La Puente, for 12 years. He currently is overseeing construction of a new St. John Fisher Church — a tribute to the dedication of both the parish community and its remarkable patron-martyr. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0621/fisherside/{/gallery}