St. Marcellinus Church: A history
Location: 2349 Strong Avenue,
City of Commerce
San Gabriel Region: Deanery 9
Listen carefully to the Eucharistic Prayer in the Canon of the Mass, and among the names of martyrs you will hear that of St. Marcellinus. He was a priest who suffered martyrdom in 304 at the beginning of the persecution under Emperor Diocletian in Rome.
Parishioners at the church founded near his feast day, June 2, rarely inquire about the saint, says the current pastor, Father Jules Mayer. Rather, he says, they are just grateful that their 50-year-old parish is a haven for third and fourth generations of Hispanic families who struggled to bring a church to the City of Commerce.
Before 1957, the idea of a local Catholic church serving this industry-heavy community southeast of downtown L.A. was only a dream for its residents, and fulfilled only after some 14 years of praying and planning. By then, residents of the communities of Bandini and Rosewood Park were hemmed in by the creation of the Santa Ana Freeway, rail yards and industry that separated them from St. Alphonsus Church.
Father Patrick O'Dowd, St. Alphonsus pastor, attempted to solve the problem by purchasing a parcel of land at the corner of Atlantic and Panocha, planning for a chapel in the area. But the Korean War and freeways intervened.
Only through the efforts of two local residents, Alex Perez and Ben Garcia, was a Catholic committee formed in 1954 to survey the area, raise funds and communicate their plan for a church to Cardinal James Francis McIntyre. By early 1957 their hard work was rewarded when Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Manning sent them this encouraging letter: "I join with you that this year will see the completion of our plans for Bandini. We have purchased the extra property we needed." On June 14, 1957, the parish of St. Marcellinus was established, with Father Thomas G. Hayes named the founding pastor.
The 42-year-old New Orleans native started his first pastorate by searching for a location to celebrate Mass. On Sunday, July 14, in the upstairs dining room of Kelly's Restaurant, he celebrated the first Mass for 120 faithful and claimed that Christ had come to Bandini and gathered his friends around him in another "upper room."
A crew of parishioners "rigged the upper room for church" for 10 weeks until a former Protestant church became "home." Eventually a plot at Strong Avenue and Harbor Street was available and by Holy Saturday, 1959, Father Hayes sang the first High Mass in the new church.
For 14 years the first pastor, later monsignor, ministered to the growing parish wedged between two freeways. In 1971 he headed Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Santa Barbara and then became founding pastor for neighboring Holy Cross Church in 1973. There he remained for 22 years, also serving as a chaplain for the blind. Msgr. Hayes --- an alumnus of Cathedral High School and a classmate of Bishop John Ward in St. John's class of 1946, the last group ordained by Archbishop John Cantwell --- died in 2001 at age 86.
The next pastor, Msgr. Peter Bullum, was born in Croatia and attended the seminary in Sarajevo, where he was ordained in 1941. During World War II he was administrator of a country parish. At the end of the war, after serving as a chaplain of a refugee camp in Salzburg, he escaped to Austria and for three years studied in Rome, leading to the J.C.L. degree in canon law.
He arrived in Los Angeles in 1952 and served at St. Anthony's Croatian Church, taught at St. Agnes High School and was a chaplain at St. Mary's Hospital in Long Beach. In 1971 he was named pastor of St. Marcellinus and retired in 1984. He died in 1994 at age 75.
Father Jules Mayer, pastor since 1985, is a native Angeleno and a member of St. John's class of 1964. Previously pastor at St. Columbkille, Los Angeles, for four years, he celebrated his silver jubilee at St. Marcellinus in 1989. For 22 years he has served the mainly Hispanic parish and says that many former parishioners still return to attend services there from many different directions.
Although several historical sources differ on the name and rank of St. Marcellinus (some claim he was a pope, others a martyred priest), it is recorded that many miracles have occurred in his name. Kind of like the phenomenon of this parish surviving in the midst of freeways and commerce.
Source: http://www.the-tidings.com/2007/062907/marcelside.htmFormatted for CROWN by Marko Puljiæ
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