Historical Stories - 1923

SSJ_Church_1923Sts. Simon & Jude Parish Gets a New Church:

The rapid growth of the community created the need for a larger church.  In 1923, the first Church building was sold and moved off the property, and the new Sts. Simon & Jude Church (seating about 300) and rectory were constructed at the site on Tenth and Orange Streets, at a total cost of $16,575.96.  On October 15, 1925, John J. Cantwell, the Archbishop of Los Angeles – San Diego agreed to perform the church dedication.

The Parish of Sts. Simon & Jude, Huntington Beach, was erected by Rev. Maurice Harnett, to whose charge the spiritual welfare of the Catholic residents in this district were consigned by the Reverend Bishop.  Previous to the erection of the parish and appointment of Father Harnett as Pastor, the mission church, called St. Mary’s, was attended by visiting clergy.  In the beginning, priests from the Cathedral would attend, and more recently, with the establishment of St. Anthony’s parish, Long Beach, it was attended by the priests of that parish, although from September 24, 1917, to April 28, 1918, a Franciscan father took charge of St. Mary’s.

Among the priests who labored in this field was Father Francis Woodcutter of Long Beach, now rector of St. Elizabeth’s Church, Pasadena; Father C. Breitkopf, who attended from September 28, 1918, to July 29, 1919; Father Feeney, from December 20, 1919, to January 1920, and Father L. P. Genest from February, 1920, to August 1921.  Father Harnett, the Pastor, arrived in Huntington Beach, on November 6, 1921, when the first Mass in the new parish was celebrated.  He immediately set about in the organization of several parochial societies, which since their institution in Huntington Beach have indeed justified the pastor’s confidence in them and proven themselves to be of great comfort and assistance to the pastor in performance of his parochial duties.

Among the societies are the Holy Name Society, a part of the Diocesan Holy Name Union, with a strong membership proportionate to the size of the parish.  The Altar Society also flourishes in the parish, and 40 ladies take active part in its spiritual and social functions.  As is the case with such societies in other parishes, the Holy Name Society of Sts. Simon & Jude Parish receive the Sacraments once a month in a body as an organization, besides promoting many deeds of piety and charity.  The Sodality of the Blessed Virgin, for the girls and young ladies of the parish, also has a proportionately large membership.

After the building of the church there was lots of work for Father to do to make the monthly payments.  Father Hartnett said the Altar Society would have to be his right arm, and a good way to make money was to have a monthly card party.  In those days we didn’t have TV, and radios were at a premium, so people were glad to come to our parties.  In fact we gave such nice prizes we had no competition; the hall was always full.  Our parties were held in Memorial Hall, which was built in memory of World War I Vets.  The Mayor, a Catholic, (and the City Council) let us use the hall free of charge.  The men of the Holy Name Society and the other parishioners had a barbecue once a year that netted Father a nice sum.  While the early years seem to have been plagued by trials, all was not austerity with the tiny Parish.

The stock market crash in late October of 1929 signaled the beginning of the Great Depression and undoubtedly affected the parish community.  During the 1930s a huge barbecue and carnival were held each August at Moila’s Ranch & Dairy, at Bushard Street and Talbert Avenue.  The festivities later moved to Murphy’s barn in the meadowlark area.  One amusing incident occurred the year a steer couldn’t be found to pose for the barbecue publicity picture, and the co-chairman used a cow instead.  It took him about ten years to live that down.  It took 20 years to pay the debt, and Father Jerry O’Neil had the satisfaction of making the last payment and burning the mortgage papers.  It was lots of work, but lots of fun.

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