The Early Years
In March 1951, James Francis Cardinal McIntyre filed a zoning exemption request to build a new Catholic church on the 2.5 acre property located at 215 Foothill Boulevard in unincorporated La Canada. The property, previously occupied by Gouldmont Riding Stables, was perfect with a view of the foothills and the Angeles National Forest. It was to become a new parish complex that would include a church, school, auditorium, rectory, convent, and parking lot. Until construction was completed, parishioners would attend Mass across the street in St. Francis High School chapel and the parish school children would be bussed up the hill to Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy where the Dominican Sisters made room for the Sisters of St. Louis to temporarily hold classes.
By June, plans were well underway and the church was to be dedicated under the patronage of St. Bede the Venerable. Father J. Paul Early was appointed pastor of the new parish. A formal ground breaking ceremony took place on Palm Sunday, 1952, with Father Early and Father Alphonsus OFM Cap from St. Francis officiating. On Christmas day, 1952 the Spanish Mission style church opened its doors for the first time and became the spiritual center for 73 families. A new school, under the guidance of the Sisters of Saint Louis, quickly followed opening its doors on Monday, January 5, 1953. Six years later, to address increasing demand, a second two-story seven classroom building was completed.
Continued Growth and Prosperity
The new parish grew over the years, and by the late 1960's the parishioner base had outgrown the old Spanish style church. After Fr. Early's death in 1963, Fr. Thomas Lahart continued building the St. Bede campus. He acquired an additional 1.5 acres that would allow for addition construction. Noted Polish American Architect, Jerzy George Szeptycki (architect for the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestocchowa) was placed under contract and charged with designing the exterior and interior of a new modern church that would meet the needs of the parish community well into the future. The doors to the new mid century modern church opened in 1968. With the new chapel, the new church building could seat 900 people for any one liturgy. Upon completion of the church, the risen Christ figure, by artist Enrique de la Vega, was hung behind the main altar. Father Lahart then converted the original church into a parish hall and school auditorium. About this time David Greene was commissioned to sculpt the altars, the baptismal font, and all the holy water fonts out of blue granite from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. His designs were to enhance the modern look of the new church. Mr. Greene prayed for two years before determining the appropriate design of the main altar and in the end he felt driven to sculpt the altar in the form of a chalice. To this day, the new and current church and its interior is a classic mid-century modern example of church architecture and has been documented in books as such.
The new church was built during a time when altars still contained relics of saints. Our main altar contains a small sliver of the fingernail of St. Bede the Venerable. The chapel altar contains a piece of clothing of St. Anthony and a relic of St. John Neumann. The St. John Nuemann relic reminds us of our founding parishioners respect for education while the St. Anthony relic reflects the respect we have for our relationship with the Franciscans. The shrine of the Madonna della Pace in the rear of the Chapel contains a relic of St. Candidas. Many churches today do not even have relics so it is quite amazing that we are blessed to have a church with relics of 4 saints.
Renewal and Beautification
Following Fr. Lahart's retirement in 1972, Fr. Joseph Eyraud was appointed pastor. He continued work on the facilities, adding a kitchen to the parish hall and remodeling the side chapel in the new church. Fr. Eyraud's untimely death in 1975 led to the appointment of Msgr. Leland J. Boyer as pastor. During his 19 year tenure, Msgr. Boyer oversaw more beautification of the church with stained glass windows imported from France and a Philippine mahogany reredos that was added to the main sanctuary. In addition, the side chapel was enclosed with a glass partition and shrines to both Saint Anthony and Our Lady of Guadalupe were completed in the vestibule. The mosaic of St. Anthony was orignally planned for the Vatican but did not fit the space so Msgr. Boyer had it shipped from Italy to La Canada where has remained. He also "rescued" the mosiac of Our Lady of Guadalupe from a bakery in downtown Los Angeles that was to be destroyed. Including the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, St. Bede Church now seats approximatedly 1000. In April 1978 Msgr. Boyer oversaw the installation of a magnificent August Laukhuff pipe organ from West Germany. By 1980, Msgr. Boyer had grown the parish to over 1000 families with 14 active ministries.
In 1994, Msgr. Boyer assumed the title of pastor emeritus. Msgr. Francis T. Wallace became the fifth pastor of St. Bede. Because of the parish's growth and the need to upgrade aging buildings, Msgr. Wallace was charged with addressing the parish's capital building needs. A two phase plan was proposed with phase I being a new parish center, sacristy, and school and phase II encompasing a hall, kitchen, and meeting space. In 2001, phase I was completed giving an arts and craft style look to the campus. Phase II was placed on hold due to economic considerations.
By 2004, Msgr. Wallace's tenure was drawing to a close and Msgr. Jim Gehl became St. Bede's sixth pastor. Under Father Jim's guidance, the outreach ministries grew in numbers and ethnic celebrations and liturgies became ingrained as a way of life in the parish. To this day, the parish celebrates Korean Martyrs Day, Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day, and the Phillipine Simbang Gabi. A new mission statement was adopted reflecting that growth in ministries and cultural liturgies from 14 in 1980 to approximately 40: "Here to Worship, Called to Serve". During this time, Father Jim was instrumental in securing the purchase of the 200 year old Thomas Edinton masterpiece stained glass art of St. Bede the Venerable. The glasswork was purchased and stored for a later time.
In July 2010, Msgr. Antonio Cacciapuoti was installed as the seventh and current pastor at St. Bede the Venerable. Father Antonio continues to address the needs of the church. One of his first accomplishments was to hang the glass artwork of St. Bede the Venerable in the Chapel. From there the beautification includes a new tabernacle from Spain, the mosaic of Christ Blessing the People which hangs over the main entry doors from Italy, and our beloved Crucifix, our first and only crucifix in the church, which hangs behind the main altar. Our crucifix is a replica of the original that hangs above the altar of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in Rome, Italy. It was made by renowned Italian artist, Otello Scatalini, and remains today one of only three created with full Vatican approval. With 1000 photographs taken of the orginal by Scatalini, the crucifix seen at St. Bede the Venerable is an exact replica of the original in every dimension and every detail. The aging church has seen the the Virgin Mary Shrine remodeled; a Shrine to Mary built into the back of the Chapel; the confessionals remodeled; repairs made to the original bell tower and other external enhancements. Under Father Antonio's leadership, the parish has grown spiritually and in its sense of Church community. We now see ourselves as not only "Here to Worship, Called to Serve", but also as a Catholic community who is "Here to Create an Environment Where People Feel Welcomed, Comfortable, Understood, Esteemed and Loved".
Embracing Our Future
The parish has always had close ties with the local religious orders. The Franciscian Cappuchin friars at St. Francis High School are a true blessing. Besides educating many of the parish's young men, they preside at and concelebrate or participate in many weekly and seasonal liturgies as well as provide support for other sacramental needs. The Mission San Jose Dominican Sisters at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy not only teach the young women of the parish, they also participate in parish liturgies and are a continual presence in our ministries and educational activities. We cannot forget the devotion of our parish sisters, the Sisters of St. Louis, who were the first educators at the parish school. These relationships are highly valued and continue to define St. Bede the Venerable as a parish community today.
Without the dedication and leadership of the six previous pastors and their associates St. Bede would not be the parish community it is today. We are very proud of the history they helped create and thankful for their spiritual guidance. We look forward to and are excited for what the coming years will bring. While there will be challenges to meet, we place our trust in our Lord, Jesus Christ and our confidence in our current pastor, Msgr. Antonio Cacciapuoti.