Saint Mary’s Catholic Church 2022


The Redlands Area Historical Society, Inc.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church

1205 Columbia Street


Saint Mary’s Catholic Church was founded in 1937 as a mission of Sacred Heart Parish at 1005 Columbia Street and Union. The church faced Union Street. Our Lady of Mercy School began with Victory Noll Catechist sisters operating a school at 1020 Calhoun in 1932. The sisters were new residents of the Burrage Mansion. They taught school at the Our Lady of Mercy School at 1020 Calhoun. The first church building was shown March 4, 1939 in the Redlands Daily Facts with the churches of Redlands. The Hispanic Catholics used the Lugonia School house on the property just after Sacred Heart School began on Eureka Street in 1898. Mass was held in the old school beginning in 1917. Father Fitzgerald supported the endeavor from the Redlands parish and learned Spanish to make the transition seamless. A Mexican American Catholic Boy and Girl School is shown in the City Directory at 929 Calhoun in 1941.

On October 17, 1941 a new church was completed for $20,000 designed by Frank Hone, Jr., a San Diego architect. The California Mission Style building planned to serve 3,000 Mexicans with Sunday masses and an additional mass for non-Catholics. The San Diego Diocese bishop granted Rev. James Gray (1939-1943) full parish status. Statues adorned the entrance grounds of the church with a beautiful fountain following Hispanic tradition. Our Lady of Victory women’s club scrubbed the church weekly and decorated the altar for Sunday mass.

Father James Gray began the fund raising to build the church on the corner of Union and Columbia in 1939. Men for the new congregation promised to provide labor. The limits of the congregation included Redlands, Mentone, Bryn Mawr, and Loma Linda. The contract was let to Louis P. Scherer, a Redlands resident builder, who would use men of the congregation for plastering, painting and carpenter work. The design came with two tall bell towers, oval entrance window, solid oak doors, an open beam ceiling, numerous stain-glass windows, and a tile roof. The sanctuary provided seating in pews for 400 adults with two rows closer to the altar for handicapped worshipers. To keep costs down the pulpit consisted of a simple lectern. The altar, however was Carrara marble from Italy. Thinking of the sizzling summer days in Redlands the new church was one of the first to have forced air and heating installed.   

Formal dedication took place on Sunday October 19,1941 with three masses. The first was a high mass sung by Father James Gray and a children’s choir in Spanish. The second featured Bishop Charles Buddy provided the mass and sermon. A third mass was presented for non-Catholics of the community, who wished to see a Catholic mass. This mass was fully attended. Capping the dedication ceremony, a Mexican fiesta with a mariachi band played into the evening celebrating the new church.

 Former pastors of the church included Rev. Theodore Sanchez January 1938, Michael O’Day (1943-1948), Richard Lynch (1948-1949), Efren Neri (1949-1951), Maximiliano Gomez (1951-1957), Richardo Meza (1957-1971), Edward J. Connally (1971-1975), Patrick Mimnaugh (1975-1978), Ivan Fitzwilliams (1978-1981), and Philip Behan (1981-1988). 

One mass provided Spanish each Sunday at 8:00 a.m. plus weekdays on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday mass was held at 6:00 p.m. Sacred Heart Church and Saint Mary cooperated with every other Sunday offering Sunday evening services to accommodate activities that occurred in the morning. Religious education was provided on Monday and Tuesday nights for adults and students. The church quickly outgrew the Union and Columbia location and needed a new location. In 1967, school facilities, a kitchen, stage, shower facilities, an outdoor covered patio eating area, and fellowship hall were built at 1215 Columbia on the corner with Western. 

Dramatically, the entire church building was cut in half and moved to the corner of Columbia and Western January 30, 1985. Younger Brothers and Haden Architects began the move at 6:00 a.m. completing the last slow flatbed crawl at 5:00 p.m. The tower proceeded the main structure by four days setting the moving route.  

Ray Martinez & Associates, Yucaipa architects, renovated the entire church. Restrooms, office, sacristy, choir loft, and a 4,435 square foot sanctuary were added while keeping the original Mission Style architecture features. The ceiling height of the church rose to 23 feet keeping the exposed rafters. The double raised panel oak doors lead to a foyer before entering the sanctuary. A chapel was built extending the church footprint west. Pop-outs on the side of the church allowed for religious displays. The altar and stained-glass windows became more predominant. The Stations of the Cross remained from 1941 along with the stained-glass windows. Entering the church feels like the Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside. Off street parking allowed for 92 spaces in an asphalt paved lot adjacent to the church and multipurpose facility. 

The San Bernardino Diocese was created leaving the San Diego Diocese in 1978 with a celebration mass at the University of Redlands attended by 75 priests from the 92 parishes in the newly created San Bernardino Diocese. Bishop Phillip F. Straling held a 10th anniversary mass again at the University of Redlands. Bishop Straling used the occasion to promote Father Philip Behan to monsignor and diocesan vicar general in 1988.

In July 2006, Bishop Barnes directed Sacred Heart and Saint Mary to merge into a new parish called Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Community, Inc. The national shortage of vocations to the priesthood necessitated the decision. The united churches goal was to bring the two Catholic communities together. In 2016, a pastoral coordinator was appointed with renewal weekends in both languages with adult retreats. The official name now is Holy Name of Jesus, Columbia Campus.

The Redlands Area Historical Society recognizes the cultural and religious achievements of the 1941 Saint Mary’s Church with this 2022 Heritage Award. We wish the best for a new church and school to rise on the corner of Lugonia and Dearborn in the near future.

Researched & written: Tom Atchley

Presented 13 June 2022