History of the Assumption Parish
During World War II, Pasadena experienced an influx of industrial growth. With the completion of the Arroyo Seco Parkway in 1940, the first freeway in the west, Pasadena became an attractive place to live for people working in industrial areas in Los Angeles. In the postwar boom, newcomers flocked to Pasadena.
The gradual increase in census in northeast Pasadena prompted a group of Roman Catholics to urge the diocese to establish a Catholic church serving the residents in the area. In November,1950 Archbishop James Francis McIntyre named Fr. Timothy Crean first pastor of a new parish serving the 300 Catholic families of northeast Pasadena. The first Mass at the mission chapel for Saints Felicitas & Perpetua, fondly called “the little green church”, was at Foothill and Titley Avenue. The November 26, 1950 Mass had a total Sunday collection of $38.43!
As a youth, Timothy Crean had been sickly and even his entry into All Hallows Seminary in Ireland was delayed because of ill health. Fr. Crean often told how he prayed to our Blessed Mother that if he could become a priest he would endeavor to name a church in her honor. The first choice of a name for the new Pasadena parish was other than for the Blessed Virgin, but Fr. Crean prevailed and thus our parish has the name Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Establishment of the parish, at its present location, brought about the founding of an elementary school with the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, who commuted from Mayfield School in Pasadena, staffing the Assumption Parish School. Work on the buildings was finished in August, 1951 and classes began with four classrooms and 163 children in grades 1 – 4 in September. Word got around and the enrollment number rapidly increased so by November there were 175 students in the school.
In April 1953 permission was secured to build an addition to the school. This made it possible to add grades five and six in the fall of 1953. The seventh grade was added in September 1954, and the eighth grade was added in September 1955. The Cafetorium, (current day Msgr. Crean Hall), was built in 1960 and served as an auditorium and dining room for parish and school events.
A permanent rectory was occupied in 1961 and the Sisters moved into the convent in 1962, where the original rectory once stood.
By 1966 the parish had grown to 1100 families. It was time to realize the dream of a permanent church. Parishioners rallied to bring their expertise to the building. Beautiful symbols – the work of parishioner/designer Paul Phillips were incorporated into the building itself. The design of the new church, begun in November, 1967, combined the latest trends in modern architecture with the newest developments in ecclesiastical art and the most recent innovation in the sacred liturgy. The large crucifix placed over the main altar dominates the sanctuary. The hand carved wooden corpus was formerly in the temporary church. The cross was enhanced by having the Assumption School children of 1967 create a mosaic background of red tiles giving each child a chance to participate in the actual part of decorating the new church.
The first Mass in the new church was celebrated on the first Sunday of Advent, December 3, 1967 before the church was completely finished. The dedication came nearly two and a half years later on April 12, 1970 with Cardinal Timothy Manning celebrating. At this time the old church was transformed into the school gymnasium.
In 1976 administration of the school transferred to lay teachers/administrator. It continues to flourish with full enrollment and outstanding academic achievements. After 34 years as pastor, the retirement of Msgr. Timothy Crean in 1984 brought the appointment of Msgr. August Moretti as the new pastor. Msgr. Moretti was the former head of the Archdiocesan Marriage Tribunal, holder of a Licentiate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and the recipient of a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of St. John Lateran. As pastor for the next twenty years, Msgr. Moretti brought his love of classical design into the parish by adding statues and mosaic around the church and school.
Having returned to his native Tralee, Ireland, Msgr. Crean passed away on February 1, 1999. In his will he made a bequest of $20,000 to Assumption “for technology and the library”.
On December 5, 1999 the parish opened a Jubilee Year of celebration with a Mass on the school grounds. It was a day of beautiful sunshine with nearly 1000 people in attendance. The year of celebration ended on November 19, 2000 with a Jubilee Mass at which Cardinal Roger Mahony was the main celebrant.
On May 5, 2004, Msgr. Moretti celebrated his 50th anniversary of his ordination and twenty years as Pastor of Assumption. June 30, 2004 brought on his official retirement, though he chose to stay and live in residence as Pastor Emeritus. In July, 2004, Fr. Gerard O’Brien assumed the position of Parish Administrator of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish. Fr. Gerard was also from Tralee, Ireland, the same hometown as Msgr. Crean. He was ordained in Ireland on June 4, 1995, then an associate in St. James the Less Church in La Crescenta and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Church in Lomita before his arrival at Assumption. At that time, Fr. Gerard had to pass his tenure for two years before he was officially named pastor of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church. On July 1, 2006, Fr. Gerard became the 3rd Pastor in the history of Assumption.
In these few years, Fr. Gerard brought a lot of positive changes to the parish. He works closely with parishioners to proclaim Unity in Community. Within his first term, the number of registered parishioners again grew to 2,000 families. The school, under the direction of Principal Ms. Carol Ward, has enrollment of around 200 families as of September, 2017.
The former convent has been recycled to become the Community Center for the parish – where meetings for parishioners – young and seasoned – provide resurgence in education, outreach and ministry.
May God continue to bestow His blessings on our pastor, priests, deacon couple, and the entire parish community. With the intercession of Our Lady, may the community of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary continue to flourish and may our faith grow stronger every day.
Assumption Parish History Feast Day ~ August 15
In November,1950, Archbishop James Francis McIntyre named Fr. Timothy Crean first pastor of a new parish serving the 300 Catholic families in northeast Pasadena. The first Mass at the mission chapel for Saints Felicitas & Perpetua, fondly called “the little green church,” was at Foothill and Titley Avenue (across from the PCC extension). The November 26, 1950 Mass had a total Sunday collection of $38.43! (worth about $418.45 today) Our parish was given the name “Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary” because on November 1 of that year, Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary as a dogma of faith. Soon the congregation outgrew the small building.
A search was conducted for a property for a church, school, and rectory. The Beaham Nursery property was purchased in April of 1951, and by October, Msgr. Crean had moved into a small, four room cottage, located where the Community Center is today.
Msgr. Crean hired George J. Adams, A.I.A. to design a new church and school on the property. Construction began in September, 1951. The first regular parish Mass was held in what is now Msgr. Moretti Auditorium on Easter Sunday (April 13) 1952. The building was designed as a temporary church, to be converted into the Parish Hall and gym that it is today. Archbishop McIntyre dedicated the new church and school on November 23, 1952.
By 1966, the parish had grown to nearly 1,100 families, so a new church building was needed. The church was designed to incorporate the liturgical changes of Vatican II.
Parishioner, Paul L. Phillips, created the mosaic of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary over the entrance and the stained glass windows. His concept was to make the building, “A Hymn of Praise to Almighty God.” The themes of the windows depicting the Blessed Virgin on the north side of the church were taken from the Divine Praises: “Blessed be the Great Mother of God, Blessed be her Holy and Immaculate Conception, Blessed be her Glorious Assumption, Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.”
To call more attention to our church’s connection with Our Blessed Mother, Msgr. Moretti replaced the brown asphalt tile at the entrance and replaced it with a terrazzo floor in which was imbedded “Ave Maria” (Hail Mary). He also placed a Carrara marble statue of Our Lady of the Assumption in order to alert passersby on Orange Grove Boulevard of the Patroness of our church. This statue was dedicated on December 8, 1988, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
In 2015 Fr. Gerard O’Brien began major renovations in the church. A new mural of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was painted above the north door and continues along the choir loft. Painted by Evan Wilson, a noted local artist, it brings our Patroness into our church building for the first time.