History of Our Lady of Fatima Parish San Clemente, California
In the 1940’s, the Los Angeles Archdiocese had about two hundred parishes. Our Lady of Fatima was established and named by the late Archbishop Cantwell in April 1947. A preliminary census indicated 66 known Catholic families, totaling 166 souls. The total population of the city was about 2,000, making it the smallest and southernmost parish in the Archdiocese. It is still the southernmost, but not the smallest. By comparison with other parishes in the Southland, its growth has been more slow and less spectacular. But it now numbers over 900 families, or some 3,600 souls, and the city population has expanded to 16,250.
Father O.B. Cook (now Monsignor and Pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Montecito) was appointed the first Pastor of the new parish. A building known before as the San Clemente Country Club, located at 2501 South Camino Real, was acquired, and it was here that the parish had its humble beginnings. It was constructed in Old Mission Style and included two acres of beautiful landscaped property. It was easily adaptable to its new purpose and included space for a Church with a capacity of 300, a small hall, and apartments for a Rectory, all under one roof.
While this building was being prepared for its new and holy usages, Sunday Mass was offered at first in the local San Clemente Theatre, and afterward at St. Clemente’s Episcopal Church. Father Cook offered the first Mass in the converted building on May 30, 1947, and the new parish was on its way. The city limits of San Clemente, with the ocean and the county line forming the greater part of the boundary line, defined the boundaries.
The then newly appointed Archbishop of Los Angeles, now Cardinal McIntyre, dedicated the temporary buildings on July 12, 1948, and it continued to serve as a Church for the next 14 years. In 1950, St. Edward’s Church was built in Doheny Park to serve the people of Dana Point and Capistrano Beach and was placed under the jurisdiction of Our Lady of Fatima Parish. This arrangement prevailed until September 1966, when the administration of St. Edward’s was transferred to Mission San Juan Capistrano.
In the fall of 1951, Father Cook was transferred to the pastorate of Lompoc, much to the dismay of his loyal parishioners and friends. His zeal, energy, and abilities had endeared him to all, and to this day, nostalgic recollections of his pleasant personality and pastoral achievements endure among the pioneers of his time, of whom there are about a score of families still happily with us.
During the next three months, Father J. Augustine O’Gorman vigorously and effectively shepherded the little parish until his transfer to St. Mary’s, Fullerton. Currently, he is Pastor of St. James’, Redondo Beach.
On November 15, 1951, the present incumbent, Father Michael J. Carlos, was appointed. A census taken then by the Sisters of Social Service revealed 135 Catholic families in San Clemente, or 540 souls. St. Edward’s had about 50 Catholic families, or about less than 200 souls.
Meanwhile, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine was canonically established; the new Council of Stella Maris Knights of Columbus was inaugurated, which in turn injected new life into the Holy Name Society. The Catholic Women’s Society, already flourishing, became increasingly effective. By 1956, two buses were making double trips providing transportation to more than two-thirds of our children to Parochial School at Mission San Juan Capistrano, and extra Sunday Masses were offered in both Churches.
The History of the Irish Sisters of Charity
The congregation of the Religious Sisters of Charity began quite some time ago in 1815 when a young Irish girl, distressed by the appalling sufferings of the poor and with a great love of God in her heart, set out to do something to help them.
Born to a Protestant father and a Catholic mother, Mary Aikenhead was brought up in the Protestant religion. When she was fourteen years old, her father fell seriously ill and became a Catholic on his deathbed. Mary, his daughter, was received into the Church soon afterward.
Up to this time, nuns in Ireland had lived very enclosed lives within the walls of their convents. There was no Congregation that worked among the people, so Mary Aikenhead founded her own under the direction of the Archbishop of Dublin.
Mother Augustine, to give Mary Aikenhead her name in Religion, could not foresee that the tiny seed she had planted was in God’s time destined to become a mighty tree, spreading its branches to England, Scotland, Australia, Africa, and California. On September 24, 1953, the pioneer band of Irish Sisters of Charity arrived in California to establish a school in St. Cornelius Parish, Long Beach. The years that followed were to see four additional schools staffed by the Sisters here, the latest being at Our Lady of Fatima in San Clemente in September 1965.
In June 1962, the Sisters opened a convalescent home for ladies in Marycrest Manor, Culver City. The Californian Novitiate, opened in 1961, was then transferred to Marycrest Manor. Here, young American girls are trained and formed in the spirit of Mary Aikenhead to perpetuate her work as Sisters of Charity in a life of devoted service to Christ in His members.