ST. ROSE OF LIMA CHURCH IN PASO ROBLES
The town site of Paso de Robles was mapped and established in 1886 by the
Blackburns and James, and sites were marked and reserved for churches. The
Blackburn brothers and James donated land to religious organizations, which
resulted in Paso Robles having many denominations and churches.
In 1890, a lot on 15th and Park Streets was donated to Bishop Mora of Monterey .
Within the year, a Catholic church was built. It was a small wooden building,
and its lumber was transported by parishioners using teams of horses from Port
San Luis Obispo over the Cuesta Grade. The Southern Pacific Railroad had not yet
The ecclesiastic status of the Paso Robles church was under the jurisdiction of
San Miguel Mission and was served by priests from the mission. Father Peter
O'Reilly was in charge of the mission from 1899 to 1903, and said Mass in the
Paso Robles church on Saturdays.
The earliest records of the church date from 1892. The first child to receive
Baptism in the new church was Doctor Woehl, formerly of San Luis Obispo . On
cold Sundays church members from such far places as Creston, Union , Shandon,
Adelaida and Atascadero heated rocks to put in their buggies for the pre-dawn
trip to church. Our early pastor referred to late arrivers and early departers
as "road runners." He also asked women wearing lipstick and rouge in church to
"wipe that lipstick and powder off your face."
During this period, Paso Robles was in the midst of a beautiful region, with
vast areas of hills and valleys covered with oaks. These were also rich farming,
grazing, and almond lands. The almond acreage turned the countryside into a
photographer's paradise when the almond trees blossomed in February. Santa Rosa
Road ran west to Cambria and San Simeon, and a highway to the east linked Paso
Robles with the San Joaquin Valley . The El Camino Real was the city's main
thoroughfare and linked Paso Robles with San Francisco and Los Angeles . While
the area was sparsely settled, the town of Paso Robles was steadily growing.
The Tidings for July 10, 1908 stated that Rev. William Power established a
parish residence in Paso Robles. Bishop Conaty of Monterey inspected the
residence and urged parishioners to provide a permanent rectory for the small
church. While the rectory was never built, the church and grounds were
the church's most illustrious parishioners was Ignace J. Paderewski, a Polish
pianist and statesman, who came to Paso Robles for the mineral baths in 1916. He
was so captivated by the area that he bought a ranch on the Adelaida Road west
of Paso Robles, known as Rancho Ignacio. Paderewski attended services at St.
Rose for a year, from 1916 to 1917, again in 1922, and for the last time in
1939. He would often come to services in the little church handsomely dressed in
a white suit and hat, accompanied by his wife, Helena. Some parishioners were
fascinated by the rows of buttons on Madame Paderewski's dresses and by her
fancy hats. Both Ignace and Helena were considered faithful practicing
Catholics. Jan Gnieciak, a native of Poland , came to the area as Paderewski's
ranch foreman. He purchased and operated a ranch on the Adelaida Road called
Saint Helena in memory of Paderewski's wife. He as a faithful St. Rose of Lima
On November 11, 1921 , Paso Robles was separated from San Miguel Mission. Father
Leo Foin was appointed the first pastor of the newly independent St. Rose of
Lima parish, and began his duties in 1922. He rented and furnished a house on
the northwest corner of 18th and Vine Streets.
On April 2, 1922 , Father Foin purchased a fifteen acre parcel, which was to
become the church's new cemetery. The cemetery is located on a hill above the
Paso Robles Cemetery District property, at the junction of Nacimiento Lake Drive
and Mountain Springs Road in northwest Paso Robles.
On May 5, 1922 , Father Foin purchased property at the southeast corner of 13th
and Vine Streets. A two-story wooden building was built on the east side of the
lot in 1925, as a rectory and home for the pastors of St. Rose. Father Foin
occupied the new rectory in June of 1925.
In 1926, Father Foin relocated the existing church to its new site at 13th and
Vine Streets. It was an ambitious task, which took three evenings. Telephone and
electric wires along the rout had to be disconnected and moved to allow the bell
tower to navigate the route. The church was remodeled and additions were built.
The fourth baby to be baptized in the relocated church was Betty Cousins,
daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Cousins, donors of the original organ.
Reverend Leo J. Foin served as the founding parish priest for St. Rose of Lima
from 1922 to 1930. He died in San Jose on July 18, 1930 , while still pastor of
St. Rose parish.
Leo J. Beacon was appointed the new St. Rose pastor by the Diocese of Monterey
in 1930. Fr. Beacon began the Confraternity of Christians Doctrine for the
parish in 1935. During the 1930's, Father Beacon and the parishioners remodeled
and enlarged the church. Upon completion, there was choir loft at the north end
of the sanctuary, and the baptismal font was in the round room in the corner
below the bell tower. The altar graced the south end of the church. Father
Beacon was responsible for the lovely stained glass windows installed in 1938.
Church members donated money for the windows, and dedicated them to loved ones.
The Rev. Patrick Leddy took over the parish on November 18, 1939 .
Rt. Rev. Monsignor Michael Sullivan, vicar general of the diocese, became pastor
on November 21, 1940 . Monsignor Sullivan was a sponsor of the "Army of Prayer"
movement during World War II, whose members recited 122,000 rosaries daily for
men and women in the armed services and for peace. This movement brought great
consolation and blessings to innumerable war-tortured members of the church.
Also, as a result of Msgr. Sullivan's interest, the National Catholic Community
Service was assigned to the Paso Robles U.S.O. in 1942.
In 1940, the Catholic population of Paso Robles numbered 1,750. The church debt
at the time, $6,700, was liquidated within the next three years. During World
War II, the parish, like the entire country, experienced a sudden growth, and a
school fund was begun.
Rev. Timothy Cummings served as pastor from 1954 to 1956.
Rev. Patrick E. Flood was pastor of St. Rose from 1956 to 1960. Under his
administration, the dream of a parish school became a reality. On November 25,
1957 , it was announced by Father Flood that the parish goal of raising $100,000
to build a new school and convent had been surpassed. Ground was broken for the
new school in January 1958. The complex included classrooms and related
facilities for eight grades, and a convent. The new buildings were located on
eleven acres adjacent to Creston Road and Trigo Lane . A contract was signed
between the Roman Catholic Bishop of Monterey-Fresno and Arden Hutchings,
contractor, on March 20, 1959 , to build the St. Rose convent facing Trigo Lane
. The teaching staff for the new school was from the Order of the Sisters of St.
Joseph in Wichita , Kansas .
Rev. Brendan McGuinness became pastor of St. Rose in 1960. By this time, the
congregation had outgrown its quaint little church, and under his administration
a new church and rectory were completed. The new church and rectory were added
to the building complex begun by the parish on Creston Road in 1959 with the
completion of the school and convent. In July 1964, the Paso Robles Planning
Commission approved a use permit for St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church to
immediately construct a church and rectory. Construction started in mid-August
1964. Banta and Parish of Los Angeles were the architects fro the church and
rectory. Low bidder on the project was Mandello Construction Company, who put in
a final bid of $178,000. The bid did not include paving for the parking lot, nor
carpeting or furnishings for the church and rectory.
The new church, with a 6,000 square foot sanctuary, was of contemporary Spanish
style, and seated 500 on the main floor and 80 in the choir loft. It included an
Italian marble altar, which was designed for the new Catholic liturgy with the
priest facing the congregation. An 11 foot tall tile mosaic of St. Rose of Lima
adorned the front of the church. Services were first held in the new church on
Holy Thursday evening, and the official opening took place on Easter Sunday,
April 18, 1965 .
A 3,000 square foot rectory was also built alongside the church. It was of
modern Spanish style, built around an enclosed patio. It included two offices
separated from the living quarters. Self-contained suites of sitting room,
bedroom, and bath were provided for the pastor and an assistant (if one was
later assigned), and for the housekeeper. The rectory also included a priests'
dining room, service room, and a guest room and bath.
A 50-foot bell tower was erected in front of the church and rectory. It was
composed of brown-stained slanted beams topped by a gold cross. When the bell
tower was completed in 1965, it did not include a bell. Three years later, in
January of 1968, Robert Fr. Fryer, aged 20, was the first serviceman from Paso
Robles to be killed in the war in Vietnam . He and his parents, Mr. and Mrs.
Robert H. Fryer, were members of St. Rose of Lima Parish. For many years he
served as an altar boy. Mrs. Fryer was the parish secretary. Shortly after their
son's death, Mr. Martin Heynen proposed that a commemorative memorial be
erected. It was decided that a giant bell should be installed in the tower to
serve as a memorial. The response of the people of Paso Robles, Catholics and
non-Catholics, was immediate and generous. The blessing and dedication of the
bell took place on Thanksgiving weekend, 1968.
On April 7, 1965 , members of St. Rose Women's Council held a meeting at the
school to reminisce and share memories of the early days of the parish. Father
McGuinness attended and paid tribute to the pioneer priests and parishioners who
founded the parish and endured hardship and prejudice. He was happy that the
community climate of anti-Catholic days had evolved into a very positive and
supportive atmosphere with regard to the new St. Rose of Lima Church . His
tribute was appropriate, as it recalled that in the mid-20's the Ku Klux Klan
was in Paso Robles, when Klan members were seen slipping down alleys to get to
their secret Klan meetings, and crosses were burned on hillsides. The group
expressed thanks that today's parishioners do not face such tribulations. They
also expressed thanks for the parish pioneers who built the first church in
1890, and whose fourth generations now attended St. Rose of Lima Church .
With the completion of the new church, the old church at 13th and Vine was no
longer needed. Following desanctification of the old church, it was rented for
several purposes, including some years as a racquetball court. In 1978, the
property was purchased for use as a restaurant. The rectory building was removed
to make room for a newly constructed banquet room and lounge. The original and
beautiful stained glass windows were uncovered. A second floor was added for
dining, but was free-standing, so the huge vertical stained glass windows would
be the primary focus for diners. The California Coastal Restaurant Association
became the owners in 1988, and later the facilities were taken over for Joshua's
Restaurant. Later, a patio and vineyard were added, and a one hundred year old
redwood wine cask from York Mountain Winery was placed near the north door.
While the restaurant has changed ownership throughout the years, the charm of
the old church remains, with light filtering through the stained glass windows
as a reminder of days past with children singing in the choir, the smile of a
bride walking down the aisle, spring flowers on the altar, and the chiming of
the bell on Sunday morning.
Rev. Msgr. James Marron served as St. Rose pastor from 1969 to 1974. The BBQ
celebration that is held each June was created by Msgr. Marron, to benefit the
St. Rose School .
Rev. Douglas F. Keating served as St. Rose pastor from 1974 to 1991. In 1981,
the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce presented Father Douglas Keating with the
Chamber's Beautification award for the month of November. The award was for the
completion in 1981 of the parish's handsome Parish Center building on Creston
Road . The architect was Ralph McCarthy, and the builder was Tom Bordonaro, Sr.
Rev. James P. Henry served as St. Rose pastor from 1991 through 1996. He was
welcomed as the new parish priest on March 1, 1991 , at a time when the parish
numbered 1,300 parishioners.
Rev. Derek Hughes served as pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish from 1996 through
Rev.Michael Volk served as pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish from 2004 through 2007.
.Fr. Wayne Dawson served as
parish priest at St. Rose from Aug 2007- Dec 2010.
Fr. Roberto Vera is currently serving as the Parish Pastor.