St. Luke Church of Temple City opened its doors more than 50 years ago. The St. Luke family
humbles ourselves on our unique start as a community of faith. The grounds have changed, parishioners have come and
gone, priests and nuns have inspired and guided, but one thing remains the same - a humble beginning blessed with a community
built on strong faith, hospitality, service, and warmth.
We invite you read the story about
our "little church," although we are not so little anymore!
The parish of St. Luke the Evangelist was officially established on July 1, 1946. Until
that day, Temple City, a small San Gabriel Valley town surrounded by farm lands and orchards, did not have a Catholic Church.
‘Chicken Coop’ Days
In fact, when Reverend James Hourihan –
with a map in hand – set out to find a place to hold the first Mass in the summer of 1946, he could not find a building
large enough to house the number of Catholics eager for a local house of worship and parish community.
Leonard Adams offered his front lawn. So on July 14, 1946, 150 people from Holy Angels, Nativity and San Gabriel Mission parishes
sat together on folding chairs and blankets, shaded from the sun by the surrounding walnut, pepper and fruit trees, to celebrate
the parish’s first Mass with Reverend Hourihan and pray that a property for their church would be located.
Soon after, it was decided that the chicken coop at the back of Leonard Adams’ property would become the parish’s
temporary church for the next two years.
Under the leadership of Rex Minten and Claire Wheaton, parishioners gathered
with hammers and saws to convert the old chicken coop. The lattice interior and board-and-batten exterior may have been unorthodox,
but it typified the spirit of sacrifice and commitment which helped define the young parish.
The early years of the parish were filled with stories that are just as pioneering. For several
years, the priests lived in close quarters in an old farm house on Cloverly Avenue, and the Immaculate Heart Sisters lived
in a home-turned-convent on Olive Street. Army barracks were used for the first parish school classrooms.
Sunday in 1949, the ground breaking took place on the property at the corner of Cloverly and Broadway for the church that
would one day replace the chicken coop.
The church was designed by architect Lawrence Viole and built for $75,000.
Its style was reminiscent of the California missions – thick, solid walls, a tile roof, a portico and generous eaves.
Inside, the beam ceiling, the graceful arches above the side aisles and the inset altar gave the building a look
that was both simple and solemn.
On April 16, 1950, Archbishop James F. McIntyre dedicated St. Luke Church, and
the first Mass was celebrated on November 26, the feast of Christ the King, by Bishop Timothy Manning.
than a year, the eight-room school was completed and the barracks were again remodeled for use as a parish hall. A second
school wing was added in 1956.
In nine and half years, the parish had grown from 200 families to 1,400 families. Under
Father Hourihan’s guidance, St. Luke Church had become a well-organized parish, possessing a spirit of friendliness
and unity that continues to this day.
When Father Hourihan was reassigned to a parish in Pasadena, Father John
Birch, the parish’s second pastor, soon realized and continued to guide the dedication of the parish.
Father Birch’s work was made easier due to the parish’s own initiative, he also saw St. Luke Church through one
of the most challenging periods in modern church history.
In 1963, Pope John XXIII set into motion a series of
reforms that changed the way Catholics throughout the world worshipped.
The Second Vatican Council encouraged
laity to become liturgically literate and stressed greater participation of lay people in Church liturgy.
Birch helped interpret these changes for the parish and in 1964, English rather than Latin was used for the first time in
the Christmas Masses.
Commitment to Community
The life of the parish was
never far from the life of the community. Numerous ministries helped extend the mission of St. Luke Church in Temple City.
The annual bazaar that began in 1948 was quickly made famous for the crowds it drew. School spirit was strong
among students and families. By 1971, St. Luke Parish had more than 2,600 families in its register.
Father Thomas King became pastor of St. Luke Church in 1987. When he arrived he found a parish that
still had all the charge and energy as the first chicken coopers.
Father King, who was ordained as a priest just after
Vatican II, sought to take the reforms of Pope John XXIII and encouraged parishioners to take ownership of the parish.
Father King was encouraged by the initiative that soon developed within the parish.
“One of my greatest
blessings here is the capability of the people,” Father King said.
The formation of the first Parish Council in
1988 was encouraged by Father King. The parish’s goals and priorities were identified.
The use of parish
facilities by the various ministries was also addressed.
The parish had over 40 organizations and competition for limited
public space was impacting future growth.
It was a discussion that soon addressed the question of how to modernize
the parish. Clearly, the facilities needed to be updated.
The answers to this and surrounding questions led to
the most ambitious undertaking of the parish since the church had been built almost 50 years prior.
With the help
of architecture firm John Bartlette and Associates, a new blueprint of St. Luke Parish was drawn and a five-year, $3.1 million
plan put into motion. Fund raising took on a new meaning for the entire parish.
The first major improvements focused
on the school facilities. During the summer of 1991, renovations included air conditioning installation and classrooms designed
to offer instruction in science, art and computer skills.
The next step focused on the church itself. Following
a vote to retain the church building as a place of worship, the Parish Council implemented a series of improvements that included
new lighting, a new sound system, painting, and an expanded altar.
The construction of the new parish center brought
St. Luke Parish a year of well-orchestrated chaos. After the ground-breaking in 1992, earthmoving equipment started tearing
up the old playground at the north end of the property. The barracks, after almost 50 years of service to the parish, were
torn down. The parish’s administrative offices, which had been housed in the rectory on Cloverly, were moved to the
convent and slowly, across from what was to become the new plaza, the walls of the portico of the parish center came to life.
In 1993, the Monsignor John J. Birch Memorial Parish Center and the Father Hourihan Plaza were dedicated.
The design of the facility reflected the ongoing needs of the parish, including a stage, kitchen (dedicated to Father
King) and youth center.
Father Donald F. Grasha became pastor in 1999. He, too, was greeted by a dedicated and friendly
Today, St. Luke Parish has nearly 50 ministries and organizations lead by exemplary volunteers.
The parish, with some 2,200 families, continues to be attentive to its mission, promotes Christian values, instills an understanding
of the importance of service to others, and offers a place for spiritual nourishment.
Some of the most notable
projects in recent years include a parish educational endowment campaign, a beautiful Jubilee Chapel in the rectory building
for Eucharistic Adoration, and a parish resource library and expanded meeting space.
are just a glimpse of St. Luke Parish of Temple City. From a chicken coop to a $3 million expansion, the parish has
always sought to blend the spiritual needs of each parishioner with the community itself.
While the grounds have changed, parishioners have come and gone, priests and nuns have inspired and guided, one
thing remains the same - a humble beginning blessed with a community built on strong faith, hospitality, service, and warmth.