Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Verne
Prior to 1920, When St. Josephs first church was completed, the Catholic community of La Verne/San Dimas traveled to Pomona for the celebration of Mass. On Sunday mornings, Catholics families climbed aboard horse-drawn wagons for the bumpy, dusty trip to St. Joseph’s, the historic parent parish of the entire Pomona Valley (ranging from Azusa to Cucamonga), which prior to early 1900s had been a mission territory with Mass being celebrated in various homes by a visiting priest from Mission San Gabriel.
Fr. Gregorio Farias and men who constructed this 2nd church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Men shown include Nicholas Escandon, Manuel Escoto, Paulin Garcia, Hermengildo Fernandez and son, Augustine Banuelos, Juan Aguilera, Cruz Fernando and his father, and Manuel Romo.
The interior of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, in La Verne. with the statue of Our Lady above the main altar and the two side altars—to the Sacred Heart and to the Blessed Mother.
The 3rd church and rectory of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Verne
Later missionary priests from Pomona and Los Angeles celebrated Masses in the homes of Mexican families in the La Verne (Lordsburg) area like those of Nicolas Escandon and Manuel Romo. Isadoro Romo recalls his parents telling him of an appeal by members of the local community to officials of the Catholic Church to send a priest to come to La Verne (then known as Lordsburg) to celebrate Mass for them in their own community. St. Joseph’s church in Pomona and its pastor Fr. John J. Sheehy did respond favorably to the request, thus establishing what eventually becamethree new centers of missionary activity, the first in La Verne followed shortly thereafter by one in San Dimas, and later on again one in Claremont—they would become known, respectively, as Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Verne, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in San Dimas, and Sacred Heart in Claremont.
In 1920, the first Masses of Our Lady of Guadalupe were held in a hall above Oral’s Cuff & Collar Men’s Store, a building adjacent to what is now Mona’s Fashions on D Street. Catechism classes were held in volunteers’ homes. The Nicholas Escandon home was filled to capacity with children’s religious instruction. To plan for a future church building, a board of Directors was formed composed of Nicolas Escandon, Hermeregildo Fernandez, Alonzo Macias, Rosita Macias, Manuel Escoto and Manuel Romo, which board made contact with Bishop John J. Cantwell, through his secretary Father Ramirez.
The first services held at the Arrow Highway site—then called Palomares Avenue—were conducted in a tent by the first pastor, Father Leopoldo Fernandez. The property for the church site was donated by the Carrion sisters—Rose, Josephina, and Louisa. This site later became 1820 Arrow Highway and the permanent address of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The tent stayed until, under the direction of Fr. Fernandez, the men of the congregation, greatly enthused by the prospect of having their own church, working during off-hours after their labors in area citrus fields and packing houses, built their own church in 1921—an adobe structure in the midst of the Mexican community.
In 1923 Fr. Gregorio Farias replaced Fr. Fernandez as pastor. The adobe church by now, however, was crumbling under the hot summer sun and the winter rains. Men and boys went to work on a new church structure. This time it was made of corrugated tin, believed to be sufficiently tough to withstand the elements. However, during the rainy weather, the priest during his sermons, experienced much competition with and distraction from the pattering rain on the tin. And so, under the direction of Fr. Farias and the continued help of the men-folk of the community, the original, noisy tin-sheeting feature of the church was changed to a quieter, more modern stucco building. A rectory was also added to the south end of the church as well as a hall at the corner of Walnut Street. It is believed that the renovations were completed about 1933.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church was elevated from a mission church to the status of a parish church in 1953, and Mass was still celebrated there for ten years after the founding of the new church, Holy Name of Mary in San Dimas. The church was eventually torn down in 1967 to make way for the widening of Arrow Highway. The last Mass was celebrated at 6:30 am on December 12, 1967—the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe was removed and placed in a shrine in the vestibule of the new church of Holy Name of Mary. The windows, pews, and doors, plus the bell were removed and donated to a church in Mexicali, bearing the same name—Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The priests who served as pastors and lived in the rectory, after Fr. Farias, were Fathers Trinidad Gutierrez, José Cabrera, Augustin Sandoval, Joseph Guembe, José Jesús Lúa, and José Segarra from 1926—1932, and Juan Padilla (also purportedly involved in overseeing the construction of Sacred Heart, Claremont in 1941), José Gargallo (before coming to La Verne was pastor at Sacred Heart, Claremont), and Anthony Cambra from 1932—1954. Others priests known to have helped out at different times along the way were Fathers Francis Llimona, Miguel Goria, Casimir de Giustina, O.P., Antonio Garcia Goicoechea, F. Ciuracca, C.M.F. and José Lopez.
"Celebrating our History" 2010, Compiled by Father Peadar Cronin, SS.CC.