The original OLPH Church opened its doors in January 1915 at the northwest corner of Walnut and present-day Lyons Avenue. Click for more.
The churches of a town are often keepers of the area's rich history. For the Catholics in Santa Clarita, the church with the longest tale to tell would be Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
The history of OLPH begins in the late 1800s, about the same time a man named Henry Mayo Newhall launched his dream of building up a town that would eventually carry his name.
In the early years, Catholic residents in the Newhall area would gather in parishioners' homes for Sunday Mass. That changed in 1914-1915, when a small framed building was constructed on the corner Walnut and 10th Street (now called Lyons Avenue) in Newhall.
In 1944, as the Catholic population grew, Our Lady of Perpetual Help went from mission status to a full-fledged parish. A pastor was appointed, a building fund was established and a few years later, a 10-acre site was purchased farther west on Lyons Avenue for the church campus.
Fr. Henry Banks officiates at the first mass at OLPH, 8-13-1961. Cardinal McIntyre attends. Click for more.
In the summer of 1961, the doors of the present-day OLPH Catholic Church opened for the first time. Built of concrete block, the new church would hold up to 800 parishioners, and the grounds around the church would eventually include a rectory, a community hall, and classrooms for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Over the next 50 years, the valley and the parish grew. Annual barbeques, once held at Saxonia Park in Placerita Canyon, were moved to the new site for the enjoyment of the entire community. Along the way, two new Catholic churches were built in Santa Clarita — St. Clare's in Canyon Country and St. Kateri in Saugus (known as Blessed Kateri until Kateri Tekakwitha's canonization on Oct. 21, 2012).
Today, with more than 7,000 parishioners, OLPH and its facilities are literally bursting at the seams. In April 2013, the church launched the current phase of its capital campaign, with plans for a new church building.
This house at 24713 Arcadia Street, seen here in January 2002, was demolished to make way for the OLPH expansion. Click for details.
Msgr. Richard Martini is leading the campaign with plenty of help from a committee of parishioners. The process has been multi-faceted, beginning with the purchase of homes along Arcadia Street, and continuing with the demolition of the structures to allow for the expansion of the original site. When completed, the project will include additional parking and a new Pastoral Center with offices and conference rooms.
The new church will have a Spanish mission flair, complete with a bell tower. There will be twice as much seating for Sunday Mass, and a Fellowship Plaza will allow families to visit without the risk of spilling into the parking lot — or onto busy Lyons Avenue.
Martini said designs for the inside of the church include curved pews where every person will feel like an active participant in the Mass; large picture windows; and state-of the art audiovisual equipment.
Msgr. Richard Martini at the groundbreaking for the new parking lot, October 2012. Click for more.
The monsignor sees the campaign as a remarkable opportunity and often reminds parishioners: "Ninety percent of us will never have the chance to build a church from the ground up. The new church is not only for us, but also for our future generations who will marry in this church, baptize their children in this church, and memorialize loved ones."
The estimated price tag to begin construction for the new church is $7.8 million, with $4.3 million already committed as of the summer of 2013. Campaign Director Margaret Shapiro said donations have been generous.
See the future church.
"Our parishioners are praying, participating and believing in the dream of a new church for OLPH, as evidenced by the early success of this campaign," she said. "We also feel it an important enhancement to the Lyons corridor of the city's Master Plan, and we are proud to be a part of that."
Our Lady of Perpetual Help has served the community for decades. The new church will be as much a part of Santa Clarita history as the first one built so many years ago.
To donate to the building fund, call Margaret Shapiro at 661- 259-2276 or visit the parish website at www.olphscv.org.
1. Saxonia Park was located at 24912 Quigley Canyon Road, corner Cleardale.