2150 W. 135th St. Office: 310-323-0030
Gardena, CA. 90249 Fax: 310-323-8081
History of Maria Regina Parish 50 years ago there was no Maria Regina Parish. Where it would be ultimately located, in the next couple of years, was a five acre property situated in the center of a residential area that was known as the Johnson Ranch. Gardena Valley Airport was nearby.
In September 2006, Maria Regina Parish is celebrating a Golden Jubilee, 50 years of strong spiritual presence by a people of faith in this area. Maria Regina Parish includes the faithful from North Gardena, Hawthorne and Los Angeles County. This Parish was established by Cardinal James Francis McIntyre, who gave it the name ‘Maria Regina’, “Mary Queen of Heaven.” The name was chosen because, in 1954, Pope Pius XII had added to the many titles of Mary, the Mother of God, the honor of “Mary, Queen of Heaven.”
Cardinal McIntyre exercised great leadership in Southern California and is still recognized for his courage in establishing and building so many parishes and schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Cardinal McIntyre, a New Yorker and Wall Street genius, appointed Fr. Michael Casey and the first Pastor of Maria Regina. Fr. Casey was given 5 acres of land, vacant property right next to a large area of wetlands that extended to Western Avenue to the East. When they had heavy rains many frogs appeared.
The Parish was formed in 1956 in the Northwest area of the City of Gardena, at a time when the community was growing rapidly. There was a need for another Catholic Church to be built to accommodate the increasing number of families who were coming to live in Gardena and a Catholic School for their children. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Maria Regina Church and School took place in August 1957. Fr, Casey blessed the site and turned the first spade of earth in the presence of approximately 300 parishioners. For the first two years, while the church was being built in 1957 and 1958, masses were being celebrated, in Latin at 7:30a.m., 9:00a.m., 10:30a.m., and noon, at Serra High School on Van Ness Avenue, a few blocks south of the proposed church site. Masses were held in the hall and the Parishioners sat on folding chairs. Fr. Michael Casey came to Maria Regina as its first and founding Pastor in 1956. He was born in July 1, 1910, in Ballyorgan, County Limerick, Ireland. He made his studies for the priesthood at Mungret College, in County Limerick, St. Patrick’s Seminary, in Menlo Park, California and St. Thomas Seminary in Denver. Fr. Casey was ordained June 3, 1939 and served at St. Emydius in Lynwood, St. Athanasius, in Long Beach, St. Boniface, in Anaheim and Holy Cross and Ascension, in Los Angeles. His brother Fr. Patrick Casey, also a Los Angeles Diocesan Priest, died in 1976. Fr. Casey and the founding Parishioners (some of whom are still around) built the Church, School, Convent and Rectory. Fr. Casey envisioned a Church to hold 800 to 1000 people and a School, eventually to cover Kindergarten through 8th grade. The church used the same schedule of masses as they did at Serra High School. This church building, however, was planned for eventual conversion to a parish auditorium.
The School building adjoining the Church, which, to start with, would cover the first four grades, opened September 15, 1958. “Desiring a convent on the West Coast, which would also serve as a ‘stop over’ between Europe, New England and Hawaii, the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of Perpetual Adoration, [SS.CC] responded to repeated requests from the Hierarchy of Los Angeles. Reverend Mother Mary, our Mother, selected Maria Regina Parish as their new field of apostolate. The Sisters perform two primary functions, Adoration and Education. The Sisters staffed the School and began to serve the needs of the growing school population. (Taken from “A Century in Hawaii “ 1859-1959. Published by the SS.CC.) Maria Regina was the first Foundation of the Congregation in California and their first School in the Western United States. The Sisters also taught at Bishop Amat Memorial High School in La Puente. They are also represented in Fall River, Massachusetts. Their Congregation was founded in France by Mother Henriette Aymer de la Chevalerie. The Novitiate, Provincialate and House of Studies are located in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Genera late of the Congregation is in Rome. The Sisters were housed in an apartment building across the street from the Church, until their convent was completed. Their faith and dedication (many of whom have gone to the Lord) contributed immensely to the faith and character formation of thousands of young people, from families of the Gardena area. Their reward was not in the form of pay checks and retirement policies and huge benefits, but the love of God and the promise of spiritual treasures.
Before Maria Regina came into existence, St. Anthony of Padua was the local Church. When Maria Regina Church and School were finished, people moved from St. Anthony’s because there were boundaries for each Parish at the time. Children attending St. Anthony’s School were automatically transferred to Maria Regina. The new Parish takes in an area bounded by El Segundo Blvd., Compton Blvd., (now known as Marine Ave), Prairie Avenue and Normandie Ave. Altar Servers were well trained by the Sisters, those were the days of the altar rail, Communion in the mouth, distributed only by the Priest, with the altar boy alongside, holding the Paten under each person’s chin to catch fragments that might fall.
The Parish Hall was built by volunteer labor of the parishioners of Gardena. Modern day Parish Community is deeply indebted to the faith, sacrifice and generosity of those early parishioners. Construction of the new Parish Hall and adjoining lunch shelter took place in July 1968. The Hall will accommodate 550 people and include a stage, storage areas and a kitchen. The lunch shelter will serve the pupils of Maria Regina School.
Obviously, this large undertaking of Church, School, Hall, Lunch Area and Convent raised a large debt, so there were many fund raising activities. Several groups were formed, including the Holy Name Society, Ladies Altar Society, Mission Circle, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Youth Groups, etc. The 7:30a.m. Mass was changed to 8:00a.m. And on the first Sunday of each month, the men of the Holy Name Society gathered outside the front of the Church and processed in ahead of the Priest. After Mass, a breakfast and business meeting was held to formulate activities to benefit the Parish. In 1966 Mr. and Mrs. Frank Weidenbener were very active and among many others, Don O’Neill was recruited as an Usher, Holy Name Officer, Committee Chairman and Assistant in organizing staff fiestas and other fund raising activates. Fr. Casey was a very frugal manager and prudent with church funds, so a lot of work was done by parishioners, including a new water main, a concrete driveway between the Convent and the School and repairs to the paved grounds. He believed in turning off lights unless they were absolutely necessary so it was always dark around the property at night. You would often see Fr. Casey walking around the grounds wearing his cassock and biretta.
The first Mass was held in the new Church in May 1958, honoring Mother’s Day. The official dedication was postponed until His Eminence; James Francis Cardinal McIntyre could officiate. At that time, the Cardinal was one of only four Americans holding Catholic Church’s second highest position. In December 1958 the Cardinal made a rare visit to Gardena for the dedication. The Gardena Knights of Columbus greeted His Eminence at 10:15 a.m. with their Honor Guard. With some 1200 in attendance, the Cardinal assisted at the dedicatory High Mass at 10:30 a.m., with Fr. Casey as Celebrant, Fr. Patrick Casey, Sub Deacon, Fr. Patrick Cleary, Deacon, Fr. Donald Kulleck, Master of Ceremonies, Monsignor Edward V. Wade preached the sermon, Fr. William Duggan and Fr. Patrick Redahan were Chaplains to His Eminence, Edward McManus directed the Parish Choir, with James Corcoran at the Allen organ.
Starting in 1957, Maria Regina had a Council of Catholic Women, who put on an Annual Fashion Show, sponsored by many local businesses and social patrons, who were no doubt parishioners. Sr. Marie Elizabeth was the first School Principal. In 1962, tuition for the entire school year was $162. In the late 60’s, school enrollment increased so rapidly that they began to have 2 classes for each grade. (Grade one-one ‘S’ and one ‘M’. ‘S’ stood for Sister and ‘M’ for a lay teacher.) They alternated each year. If you had a Sister one year, you had a lay teacher the next.
Fr. Casey died on Good Friday, March 25, 1978, at the age of 67. He had requested retirement the previous year, but generously continued to serve as Pastor in obedience to the will of the Ordinary at the time, namely Cardinal Timothy Manning. Monsignor Gary Bauler, the Archdiocesan Director of Vocations (at that time) was Administrator until July 1, 1978, when Fr. Thomas Acton was appointed as the second Pastor by Cardinal Manning, to succeed Fr. Casey.
Fr. Acton came from Northern Ireland in 1953. He attended St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo for his four years of Theology, 1953 to 1957. He was ordained May 3, 1957. He was ordained May 3, 1957. His first assignment was at St. Bridget of Sweden in Van Nuys, a fairly new Parish. He also served at St. Pius 10th in Santa Fe Springs; St. Anthony’s in El Segundo and was at Mother of Sorrows in Los Angeles for eleven years before coming to Maria Regina July 1, 1978. He was inspired by the faith of the ethnically diverse Maria Regina Community and was responsible for introducing the Spanish Mass, which is extremely well attended. He admired most, the friendly, loyal and supportive attitude of the members of the Parish.
During Fr. Acton’s 25 years as our Pastor, we celebrated Maria Regina’s twenty-fifth anniversary in 1981. We were then a vital community of some 1200 families and a School of 300 students, serving as an important religious, social and educational institution in the Gardena area. At the Silver Jubilee Mass of Thanksgiving, with Fr. Acton as Celebrant, His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Manning as the Principal Concelebrant assisted by Fr. Allan Roberts, Associate, Fr. Luis Ayo, in residence, were other invited concelebrating clergy. The Parish Choirs (adult and children) were directed by Sr. Marie Dominic, who along with St. Marie Therese, were the organists, Mr. Patrick Sheaffer and Mr. Miguel Hong played guitars, Mr. John Wyper and Mr. Geoffrey Waring played the trumpets and Mr. Lewis Clapp was the Cantor. The Parish Silver Jubilee Committee, with Ms. Patricia Galloway as the Chairperson, handled all the preparations for the Mass and reception that followed.
In 1981 Harold Umbarger, who had not played the piano for thirty years, was encouraged by Fr. Allan Roberts our Associate Pastor to play the organ. He had never played the organ before so he had to practice a lot, but what a blessing Harold has been to Maria Regina. He was playing for Weddings, Funerals, Quinceañeras, and of course our Liturgies until his death one Saturday afternoon in 2008. He has an admiring and appreciative audience who stays and listens when he plays a selection of hymns after Mass.
In 1986 the Korean Community of 600 families came to share Maria Regina’s facilities and joined our multi-ethnic family. In 2004 they moved to their new Church on Artesia Blvd. between Van Ness Avenue and Western Avenue.
Ramon Nuñez served as Parish Administrator from 1995 to 2004 and continues to serve as DRE for the Parish.
Mrs. Maria Nuñez has been the director of the Saturday Religious Education classes for the Spanish Community.
Fr. Acton served as Pastor for twenty-five years until 2003. In that year, Cardinal Roger Mahony granted his request for retirement at the age of 69. Fr. Acton is now Pastor Emeritus, and continues to live in the rectory and assists at various parish events and Liturgies. The Parish retirement committee, with Kim Nguyen (the Deacon’s wife) as chair person prepared a beautiful mass, followed by a reception for Fr. Acton in June 2003.
The late Bruce Cannon and his wife Pat came to Maria Regina in 1973. Bruce was an Usher, a Lector and a member of the Parish Choir. He led two Bible classes and then led an R.C.I.A group. Pat has worked at the School for 33 years.
The first Principal was Sister Mary Elizabeth SS.CC from 1958 to 1966.
She was followed by Sister Mary Paul SS.CC from 1966 to 1968,
Sister Jane Francis SS.CC. From 1968 to 1976,
Sister Julie Louise SS.CC. From 1976 to 1982,
Sister Regina Mary SS.CC. from 1982 to 1987,
Mrs. Penelope Mirkovich from 1987 to 1988,
the late Sister Barbara Courtney, SND from 1988 to 2001,
Mr. Raymond Saborio from 2001 to 2005 and
the current Principal is Mrs. Lynette Lino.
The other Sisters of The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary were:
Sister Mary Lucy
Sister Mary Josephine
Sister Marie Therese
Mother Mary Regis
Sister Mary Pascale
Sister Mary Leobin
Sister Mary Charlotte
Sister Joyce Marie
Mother Mary Gertrude
Sister Mary Patrick
Sister Rose Virginia
Sister Mary Christine
Sister Mary Constance
Sister Mary Dominic
There were many Associate Pastors and Resident Priests at Maria Regina over the years.
Fr. Michael Casey 1956-1978 Pastor
Fr. D. Kulleck 1958-1959
Fr. Warren Tierney 1959-1961
Fr. John. O’Connor 1961-1965
Fr. Peter Moran 1965-1969
Fr. Rodolfo Napial 1969-1970
Fr. Havel 1970
Fr. Joseph Donaghue 1970
Fr. L. Kolberg 1970-1972
Fr. John Ratigan 1972-1974
Fr. H. DeJonghe 1973-1976
Fr. C. Mauricio 1976-1978
Fr. Peter Ly 1976-1980
Fr. Ted Ley 1977-1982
Fr. Gary Bauler 1978 Administrator
Fr. Thomas Acton 1978-2003 Pastor
Fr. Luis Ayo 1978- 1982
Fr. Allan Roberts 1980-1985
Fr. David Lysik 1982
Fr. Anthony Mortell 1983-1984
Fr. Francis Holecek 1984
Fr. Joseph P. Lee 1985-1986
Fr. Modesto Perez 1985-1987
Fr. Myles Roban 1991
Fr. Michael Carcerano 1987-1996
Fr. Francis Ty Bui 1989
Fr. Chau Bau Cssr 1990
Fr. Richard. Albarano 1992
Fr. Alex Chung 1992-1993
Fr. Paul Seo 1993-1999
Fr. Daniel Perez 1997
Fr. David Gallardo 1997
Fr. Francisco Nahoe 1999
Fr. Mark Jeong 1999
Fr. Manuel Magallanes 2001-2003
Fr. Peter Mau CSSR
Fr. Frank Kelly
Fr. Jesse Galaz
Fr. Bertrand Clemens
Fr. Michael Nocita
Fr. Mike Java 2003
Fr. Leo Alberg 2004– Pastor
Parishioners who had vocations to the Priesthood, Brotherhood, or Religious Life.
Fr. Loren Riebe
Fr. Gary Riebe
Sr. Christine of Mary, OCD A young Vietnamese lady who came from a small town called DALAT, on top of a mountain in Vietnam, joined Maria Regina Parish and developed her vocation initially supported by Fr. Acton and Fr. Michael Carcerano. When she was about 11 years old, her family was in danger from the advancing Viet Cong Army. After a short stay with relative in Saigon, which fell right after they left, they flew to San Francisco. All of the family were baptized into the Catholic Faith by their Redemptorist uncle, thereby becoming first generation Catholics. At first she spoke only Vietnamese and French. She attributes her unaccented English to English lessons and watching “Star Trek” everyday. After graduating from college, her vocation came to her while reading the Scriptures. She was very happy but at first her mother was very upset (she was the youngest of eight children) After a long search, she visited the Alhambra Monastery and found that it was just the place she had been visualizing for years. Sister Christine was the youngest nun in 2002. she was the cook for five years and now is the “Altar Bread” Sister, responsible for packing shipping the bread to parishes and keeping the books as a cloistered nun at the Sacred Heart Retreat House in Alhambra, where you can be sure she includes all of us in her prayers.
Brother Greg Giannoni OFM Greg, son of Raymond and Evelyn Giannoni, long time parishioners of Maria Regina, takes care of the Shrines in the Holy Land.
Deacon Van Nguyen
Deacon Ignatius Suh
First person baptized was Christopher Allan Bradley 1956.
First Marriage in 1954 was Edward C. Scanlin and Florence U. Shoffner
Some founding parishioners were…
Arlene and Don O’Neill
Elaine and John “Ken” Jost
Pat and Phyllis Meagher
Art and Donna Franson
Jim and Peggy Scottini
Albert “Johnny” and Barbara Jonhson
Robert and Catalina Kirst
Nancy and John Ryan
Mary and Henry Zbojniewicz
Manuel and Gabina Fajardo
Rose and Anthony Barone
Donald and Amelia Guyse
Robert and Ann Plourde
Helen and Emelie Brisson
Clarence and Mary Murphy
Art and Bonnie Ritter
Dan and Louise Sullivan
Vince and Betty Bennet
Ted and Bea Turi
Bob and Barbara Langford
Sam and Ann Aspaas
‘Chuck’ and Peggy Nader
Max and Bonnie Batchelder
Al and Dorothy Kipec
Van and Lous Caputo
Joe and Mary Daro
Charles and Virginia Colvin
Lionel and Helen Rideaux
John and BeareiceHeil
Edward and Mary McManus
Joseph ‘Bruce’ and Eleanor Dobson
After Fr. Acton retired in 2003, Fr. Mike Java served as Parish Administrator for about a year, and then Fr. Leo Alberg, after two years as Administrator, was appointed third Pastor of Maria Regina by Cardinal Roger Mahony.
Fr. Leo Alberg was born in Montebello California. He is one of 6 children in the Alberg Family. When he was 7, the family moved to Independence MO. There Fr. Leo attended St. Mary’s Elementary School and St. Mary’s High School until 1979, when the family returned to the Los Angeles area. Fr. Leo graduated from Arcadia High School and then attended Cal Poly Pomona and Mount San Jacinto College, where he received an AA in Theater Arts. Fr. Leo studied at St. John’s Seminary College in Camarillo where he was granted a BA in Philosophy. Then he attended St. John’s Seminary from which he graduated in 1990. For a year he did a specialization in Hospital Ministry and was ordained for Los Angeles in 1991. Fr. Leo has had a variety of assignments since his ordination. His first assignment was to St. Robert Bellarmine in Burbank followed by St. John Fisher in Palos Verdes. Next he was named Administrator of Ascension Church. Then for a few months he was assigned to Sacred Heart in Lancaster, returning to the Los Angeles area at Nativity El Monte and St Raphael’s in Santa Barbara. After having seen all the regions of the Archdiocese, Fr. Leo was assigned to Maria Regina in Gardena, as the Administrator Pro Tem and named Pastor on July 1, 2006. Fr. Leo has already made some building improvements in the gathering area, for the safety of the school children and to encourage the parishioners to stay and fellowship after mass. In the warm tradition of Maria Regina Parish, the people have welcomed and supported Fr. Leo in his genuine efforts to continue the growth of this wonderful faith community, in a small corner of this vast archdiocese.
In July 2012 we will be receiving Fr. Tran Sang as our 4th Pastor in Maria Regina Church
The feast of the Queenship of Mary is observed August 22th.
We, the People of God, under the patronage of Maria Regina, Queen of Heaven and Earth, are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ in this time and in this place. As members of the Body of Christ gathering for worship at the Altar of the Lord in Ward and Eucharist, in which we are nourished. From here we go forth as disciples, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to make the Good News of Jesus Christ alive in our world.
Copyright 2012 Maria Regina Catholic Church .
All rights reserved.