In keeping with the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, the parish named for the founder of the Vincentians (Congregation of the Mission) last week celebrated 125 years of answering God’s call and reaching out to those in need in the Los Angeles area.

Held fittingly on Jan. 25, the 125th anniversary of its founding, the celebration was a fiesta and the latest in a series of events marking the milestone, including a school anniversary earlier celebrated with students and parents.

Last Wednesday’s celebration Mass was led by Archbishop José Gomez, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishops Edward Clark and Alexander Salazar; Father Perry Henry, provincial of the Vincentian Western Province; and Father Ruben Restrepo-Salazar. They were joined by parishioners, members of religious communities and those who have worshipped at St. Vincent Church over the years.

The celebration was clearly about more than two churches, three school buildings, and an ever-expanding and changing parish boundary (that at one time included downtown Los Angeles to the north, Santa Monica to the west and south along the coast to San Pedro). That much was clear at all the liturgies the previous Sunday, with over 1,000 attending each of six Masses, and celebrating with mariachis, food and a type of homecoming. 

“Our parishioners come from everywhere,” said Father Restrepo-Salazar, pointing out their involvement in more than 100 ministries. “And they love their church.” 

Indeed, St. Vincent Church today reflects the history and community of Los Angeles and the architectural style of the Spanish colonial cathedrals of Mexico with their churrigueresque style of gilt decorative elements and reredos (wood panels behind altars) throughout the church. Built to last like the cathedrals of Mexico, St. Vincent Church also mirrors the love and faithful dedication of the people of the parish over the years.  

On the celebration day, Archbishop Gomez thanked the Vincentians for their long service to the archdiocese, for their enthusiasm and zeal for ministry since their beginnings in Los Angeles. “It is so important to commit ourselves to love of God and love of neighbor,” he said. “It is not enough for me to love God if my neighbor does not love God.”

In his thank you to the parish community, Father Restrepo said, “It is an honor to celebrate this magnificent moment. It is 125 years of service, love, and dedication, which have built a parochial community filled with spirit and guided by a mission of service to the poor and to those in need.” 

Father Restrepo also thanked his Vincentian fathers and brothers, the religious communities of women involved in the parish and school, the Pastoral Council, and the Doheny Foundation for their financial assistance through the years.

It was Edward Doheny and his wife Countess Estelle Doheny who inspired and financially supported the building of the present day church located at Adams and Figueroa Streets. Efforts to build a new church were begun in 1914 and completed in 1925. 

World War I intervened and in 1922 Edward and Estelle Doheny made a significant contribution so that the project could be completed. They continued to support the parish until their deaths and the Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation has continued to honor her wishes since. (St. Vincent, of course, is located next to the Doheny Campus of Mount St. Mary’s College, whose facilities include the Doheny Mansion.)

The first services for St. Vincent Parish were celebrated at St. Vincent College in 1887 at the corner of Washington and Grand. In 1889 the founding pastor, Vincentian Father Aloysius Meyer, contacted the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet to help him staff a parish school “where all the girls of the parish can go, even as you so kindly mention, the poor, for we must never neglect them. Otherwise the Lord will not bless us. And besides, we must have room for the little boys.” 

Parish children attended classes at St. Mary’s Academy at a nearby location until the parish turned the former St. Vincent College into a parish school in 1911. St. Joseph of Carondelet Sister Victoria Kelly was the first principal at the new location for St. Vincent School, and in 1923 the school moved again to Figueroa and Flower. With the construction of the Harbor (110) Freeway, the school moved to its present location in 1953. From the beginning of the parish to today the Sisters of St. Joseph have continued to help staff the school.

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