On July 26, Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Wilmington celebrated its sesquicentennial anniversary with a “Mass of Thanksgiving.” Archbishop of Los Angeles José H. Gomez, Bishop of Orange Kevin W. Vann, Auxiliary Bishops Oscar A. Solis, Alexander Salazar and Joseph M. Sartoris and Norbertine Father Eugene Hayes, abbot of St. Michael’s Abbey, presided at the liturgy.
In 1865, then-St. Peter’s Church was founded by Bishop Thaddeus Amat in the Diocese of Monterey-Los Angeles, with the first Mass said on Nov. 29. The first church was a simple wooden structure, built by soldiers of the 1st California Infantry Regiment stationed nearby.
Father Antonio Ubach, the last of the Franciscan padres in the line of Blessed Junipero Serra, was the parish’s first pastor. (Pope Francis will declare Blessed Junípero a saint while visiting the U.S. this fall.)
At the end of the 19th century, as the congregation flourished, the name of the parish was changed to Ss. (Saints) Peter and Paul. Father Bernardino J. Schiaparelli, who became pastor in 1922, oversaw the design and construction of the present church on the corner of Opp Street and Lagoon Avenue. The coming of the Great Depression delayed the interior of the church’s completion. But Father Schiaparelli celebrated a Mass for the first time in the church on Christmas Eve in 1930, and Bishop John J. Cantwell officiated at the formal dedication in March the following year.
In the mid-1940s, a school was established, with staffing provided by women religious from the Congregation of St. Francis of Penance and Charity. Father John Dunne supervised the building of a new school at the present location on Bay View Avenue. He invited the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny to staff it.
Msgr. John Brennan served as pastor from 1960 to 1983, followed by Father Santiago Tamayo and Msgr. Clement Morian. Father G. Peter Irving became pastor in 1993.
In 2000, Cardinal Roger Mahony designated Ss. Peter and Paul Church as one of only 20 “pilgrimage” churches in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Six years later, the cardinal placed the parish under the care of the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey. Father Raymond Perez became its first Norbertine pastor.
And on July 1, Archbishop Gomez appointed Norbertine Father Hildebrand Garceau as the new pastor, with Father Michael Perea remaining as parochial vicar. The new rector of the school is Father Charbel Grbavac.
“Ss. Peter and Paul Parish is greatly blessed with dedicated priests, sisters and lay staff, who are building upon the foundation of the great pioneers who have gone before them,” stated the sesquicentennial anniversary’s Mass of Thanksgiving booklet.