Established: 1946Location: 3848 Stewart Avenue, Baldwin ParkSan Gabriel Region: Deanery 11Among the multitude of saints reverenced in the Catholic Church, St. John the Baptist is significantly unique. His life is chronicled in Scripture by an angel foretelling his birth, his remarkable name, desert life, preaching, baptizing Christ and his own violent death. And, unlike all the other saints, his feast day of June 24 marks his nativity, not his death. Even during his lifetime, he was known as John the Baptizer. As documented by St. Luke and St. Matthew, his life inspired some of the most prominent canticles and verses in all of Scripture. Mary’s Magnificat (upon greeting her cousin Elizabeth whose child John leaps with joy in the womb) and John’s own declaration, “Behold the Lamb of God,” are true literary treasures. The only parish in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles named for St. John the Baptist was established in Baldwin Park in 1946, the same year as nearby St. Luke’s in Temple City, an interesting scriptural as well as geographic link. The year before witnessed the end of World War II, with many returning veterans and immigrants flocking to Los Angeles. Archbishop John Cantwell was nearing the end of his 30-year tenure, and St. John the Baptist would be among the last parishes he established before his death in October 1947. The Baldwin Park area is named for the extraordinary landowner Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin, who at one time owned 63,000 acres in the San Gabriel Valley, which comprises the bulk of the San Gabriel Pastoral Region. There are today 68 parishes in the region, including St. John the Baptist. Its founding pastor was Father Hugh Regan, born in County Galway, Ireland, in 1905, ordained in 1930, and an associate at six parishes before St. John’s became his first pastorate. Early parish records are sparse, other than the account of a chapel built by men in the community (it was enlarged as a parish hall in 1955). After three years in Baldwin Park, Father Regan was assigned as pastor at St. Lucy, Long Beach in 1949, where he served for 23 years before his death in 1984 at age 79. Father George Pausch, a former chaplain for the hearing impaired, also served at St. John the Baptist for three years. He later joined the Paracletes in New Mexico, and died in 1971 at age 65. For the next 30 years the Baldwin Park parish grew under the pastorate of Msgr. John Flack, a native of San Bernardino who in 1934 was one of six priests (including the future Cardinal Timothy Manning) ordained by Bishop Cantwell in St. Vibiana Cathedral. Father Flack ministered at parishes in Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Long Beach before his appointment in 1951 at St. John the Baptist.During his 30 years as pastor, he directed construction of the new Spanish modern church that seated 900 (and was dedicated by Auxiliary Bishop Manning in 1957), as well as the school, auditorium and catechetical center. Named a prelate of honor in 1978 by Pope Paul VI, Msgr. Flack retired in 1982 and died in 1990 at age 82. His successor was Msgr. Peter Nugent, a native of New Brunswick, Canada, who attended St. Alphonsus School in East L.A. In 1962 he was ordained from St. John’s Seminary where for 14 years he taught music and liturgy and directed music education in the archdiocese. Serving from 1981 to 1990 as pastor at St. John the Baptist, Msgr. Nugent co-founded the East Valleys Organization, started Filipino and Spanish Masses and was involved in ecumenical ministry. Later pastor at Santa Clara in Oxnard and St. John Eudes in Chatsworth, Msgr. Nugent is now retired.From 1990 to 2002, Msgr. James Forsen, a native of Mission Hills, headed the parish, one of the largest in the archdiocese. A member of St. John’s class of 1979, he has headed the office of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles since 2002. “I see my job,” he said, “as inviting people to become true disciples of Jesus and to follow as he calls us to mission.” Father John Montejano, a native Angeleno, was ordained in 1994 and served four years as an associate at St. John the Baptist. In 2002 he was named pastor, serving until 2009 and now is studying at the Angelicum in Rome. In the archdiocese, he was also a judge in the matrimonial tribunal. The current pastor is Father Michael Gutierrez, a native Angeleno ordained in 1993 from St. John’s Seminary. Before his appointment in 2009 at St. John, he was the pastor at St. Anne in Santa Monica, and he has been active in promoting social justice causes in the archdiocese.Thus, seven pastors have served St. John the Baptist parish, a number perhaps appropriate in an area named for “Lucky” Baldwin. More significant, though, is the parish’s link to its patron — if not as “a voice in the desert,” certainly as a voice in a metropolis determined to “prepare a way for the Lord.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0913/sjbaptistside/{/gallery}