Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome to St. John Chrysostom School! We consider our Parish School to be the “jewel in the crown” of our parish. Since its founding in 1927, our school has been blessed with the presence of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet who continue their mission of educating the children of our community.
The philosophy of our school is well summed up in our shield:
The cross represents Christianity. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the center of our lives and the center of everything we do at St. John Chrysostom’s. Each student receives a solid Catholic education from the beginning of our Developmental Kindergarten to the end of 8th grade. Each day includes communal prayer and religious instruction. Our children attend Mass weekly with their class and participate throughout the year in a variety of devotions and spiritual exercises. They are taught to live lives of virtue and goodness striving always toward sanctity.
The lamp represents Wisdom. We want each child in our school to receive the highest quality education possible with rigorous academic standards. Each child is prepared to advance to high school and our graduates are accepted to the best high schools in the area. We strive to assist each child in developing the talents God has given each one.
The flag represents Patriotism. Our school forms each child to be a fruitful member of society and a patriotic citizen of the United States. Through participation in a variety of community service programs, celebration of patriotic holidays, visits to museums and galleries, as well as drama and the arts, our children learn to be well-rounded individuals who care for all of God’s children.
The crown represents Leadership as well as our Patron Saint. Each child in our school is seen as an individual who is capable of exercising leadership in our society and in the Church. We want to form each one to live out a life of virtue and integrity, always realizing that true leadership means service to God and neighbor.
The fleur de lis in the center represents both the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as the heritage of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. The motto “Humilitas et Caritas” is the motto of the Sisters and beautifully testifies to our goal of assisting each child to be a solid Christian who serves humbly and charitably.
I hope all of the above gives you a good understanding of our philosophy at St. John’s. Remember that “A Catholic Education is an Advantage for Life.”
In Christ and St. John Chrysostom,
Rev. Marcos J. Gonzalez
Inglewood’s first Catholic family, that of Antonio Yanacio Avila, moved to this area in 1826 and built a ranch home near the springs in what is now Centinela Park. However, organized Catholic life in the community did not begin nearly a century later.
Our parish begins its history in 1911 with the dedication of a Mission Church on January 28, 1911, by Bishop Conaty. Father Emil Gerardi, rector of St. Michael’s Church in Los Angeles, believed that there was a need to build a place of worship for the Catholics who lived in the “Inglewood to the ocean” area. He purchased a one-half block area in Inglewood at the corner of Locust St. and Manchester Blvd. in 1909 at a reported outlay of only $2,500. Local citizens, catholic and non-Catholic alike, raised $800 for the construction of a small wooden chapel. This chapel was dedicated to St. John Chrysostom and the first Mass was said in the almost finished chapel on Sept. 13, 1910, feast day of our patron Saint. Father Gregory Ashe and Father Jeremiah Burke cared for the spiritual welfare of the people in the area in subsequent years.
In 1923 the Mission was designated a parish church and a rectory was constructed on the property next to the church facing Manchester Blvd. This rectory was a wooden two-story building. The Location was considered ideal for a church, just around the corner from the main thoroughfare, Market Street, in the heart of a one-street town. At that time Manchester was a little more than a side street. It was called a “jay-walk” street, and you could walk across the street from the Church any time of the day without worrying about traffic since only two or three cars an hour passed by. The parish boundary extended westward to the ocean at Playa del Rey and there was little between Inglewood and the Ocean except a few homes and farms.
Father Garsse, our first pastor, worked hard during the next years successfully building membership and establishing a smoothly run parish. The results were seen by Father James P. Buckley in 1926 when he was appointed to succeed Father Garsse. He immediately recognized the need for a larger church and a parish school which the growing number of Catholic children in the area might attend. He formulated plans to erect a combination school and temporary building on Locust St. The building permit was issued by the City Council only after some persuasion by Father and parish members. In those days, quite a number of local citizens objected to having a Catholic school in town and demonstrated their feelings before the Council. The Council was, therefore, reluctant to issue the permit, and only after much discussion did they finally agree to allow Father to proceed.
Henry Newton and Robert Murray were the architects for the new buildings, and construction was begun in early 1927 on the corner of Manchester and Locust at a cost of about $70,000. The building was of simple Italian Renaissance Architecture, with the church’s main entrance facing Locust. The entire building was built of reinforced concrete with a tile roof and stone entrances and trim. Exterior walls had a wash coat of stucco and the interior was plastered.
The Church had seating room for 400 people in the nave with additional 50 seats in the balcony. The Sanctuary was designed so that it could be converted into a future stage and dressing room as it was planned that at some future date a permanent church would be constructed on the south-east corner of the block facing Hillcrest Avenue. Before these new buildings were erected, the old wooden church was moved to a location east of the rectory, facing Manchester, where it was used as a parish and school hall. Construction was completed and the late Archbishop (then Bishop) Cantwell blessed the complex on Sunday, March 11, 1928, a joyful day for the Catholics in the Inglewood area.
For the next few years the parish prospered under the leadership of pastors Father Thomas Murphy and Father Richard Hennessey. With a parish hall available, church organizations were formed and worked to promote social functions and comradeship among the members.
Ladies from our parish held religious education classes for the young people in the area, going as far away as Culver City and Watts. An active Holy Name Society worked to raise funds to help church upkeep, and our Women’s Council had its beginning in 1938. Large Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups were also initiated during these years.
Father Anthony Reidy became pastor in 1938, just before World War II started. During the war, the Catholic people of Inglewood did much to help the war effort. Not only did many of our young sons and fathers answer the call to service, but a large number of the men, and some women too, took up jobs in the defense plants that had located nearby. The women worked diligently with the Red Cross, assisted in the U.S.O., and raised bonds for the War Chest drive.
In the meantime, the Inglewood area grew by leaps and bounds. Although Father Buckley sized the church and school with an eye to the future, he could not possibly have foreseen the concentration of aircraft and other industries locating in this part of southern California. The city of Inglewood had grown from “nearly 3000” when our first church was dedicated to more than 60,000 at this time. The business area of Inglewood was expanding rapidly and surrounded our church property. St. John’s, too, was becoming cramped in its half block. Father Reidy had tried for several years to purchase the remaining half block owned by a mortuary and a hotel, but he was unable to do so and had to begin to look elsewhere for another location for expansion.
In the meantime, he had wisely begun a program to raise funds for a new facility. The parish women started serving a monthly home-cooked luncheon in the parish hall. This quickly became a very popular affair with the local business people and townspeople as well as the parish members.
A yearly Fall Festival was held through the joint effort of all the various organizations and became a city-attended affair. A raffle, games of skill, booths of handcrafted items, food and dinner were offered during this three day event. A large tent was erected on the school grounds to house the booths and a dinner was prepared by the parish folks. Prices not being what they are today, turkey, ham or beef dinners were offered for $1.50 for adults and 65 cents for children. It was not unusual for these Festivals to gross from $20,000 to $25,000.
Father’s hunt for a new site on which to build ended in 1947 when it was announced that the church had purchased 12 acres of land, a part of the Howland Estate, on Florence Ave. across from Centinela Park.
There is an interesting story about how friendship developed between Mrs. Grace Freeman Howland and Father Reidy. Both enjoyed walking, and father Reidy did much walking during his free hours. He would often go down around the Centinel Springs area and visit with the Mexican farm workers there. His former parish had been in a Mexican area and he was one of the first diocesan priests to learn to speak Spanish. On one of these visits he noticed a very well-dressed lady also out walking and visiting with the workers. They became acquainted on the walk back home, and Father learned that she was Mrs. Howland. Father invited her to tea in the rectory and found they both shared a great interest in California history. Her ancestors had come to Inglewood in 1873. This chance meeting developed into a warm and respected friendship.
When Mrs. Howland learned that Father needed a larger plot of land, she graciously offered to make a gift to the church of the 12 acre plot. Father refused her offer saying he would not be interested unless she accepted some payment. So, our parish obtained our present property for $5,000 an acre. Quite a bargain!
Other important events were also taking place. The 25th Anniversary celebration of the Locust St. church was held in April 1948. The crowning event of this celebration was the ordination of John E. Cooley, the first young man from our parish to become a priest.
Another milestone for Catholics in Inglewood was the announcement that Mrs. Howland had given the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet a nine acre parcel of land, part of her estate, on the corner of Prairie and Grace Avenues.
Mrs. Howland had been wondering for some time what she could do as a lasting tribute to her father, Daniel Freeman. Father Reidy suggested that she consider a hospital. She enthusiastically adopted the idea. The Sisters of St. Joseph were chosen as the group to fulfill this dream as they already were successfully running hospitals in other areas. The gift of this property was made only on the condition that the Order build and administer a Memorial Hospital bearing her father’s name.
Much had to be done in the succeeding years to prepare for the construction of these projects. It’s interesting to note how the real estate values in Inglewood were mushrooming. The Country assessor had increased the value of our downtown property in one year from $21,680 to $118,000. It was becoming too expensive to keep and made it more important to hurry along the move to the new property.
Father Reidy was transferred from our church in February, 1952, so he was not here during the final planning of the new buildings. Father Moran, upon his arrival, found that he had to go forward immediately with this ambitious project. He engaged Anthony A. Kauzor as architect and C. W. Driver, Inc. of Los Angeles was awarded the contract to do the building at a cost of $300,000. Actual construction started in February 1953.
Fund raising dinners and Fall Festivals continued; these events were so successful that by the time the move to Florence Ave. was made, the dedicated parishioners had raised all but $80,000. That amount was paid off the following year.
During the construction, there were still things to be done back on Locust St. to get ready for the eventual sale of the property. The old hall had to be disposed of. While Father Reidy was pastor we were sent a new associate priest, just out of the Seminary. His name was Father Edward Maddox and he was given the job of getting rid of the old wooden hall building. He laughingly tells what a shrewd deal he made. It was going to cost $200 to hire someone just to demolish the hall. He checked around and found a man who would take it down for the lumber and haul it away and also pay him $100. This lumber was taken to Mexico to be used to build homes there. The rectory building was also eventually demolished.
A new rectory had been constructed on the east end of Florence Ave. property; it and the completed school and auditorium (the temporary church) were blessed in early 1954 by his Eminence James Francis Cardinal McIntyre. The very first mass was said by Father Maddox.
The school, a one story concrete and steel structure, contained twelve classrooms. The church area could seat 850 people. The crucifix and statues from the old church were also used in this new church. The altar area was designed so it could eventually be used as a stage. At the left of the altar were Sacristy rooms. A storage room and a meeting room were to the right. The meeting room was used primarily by parish Scout troops and became known as the “Scout Room.” A large kitchen adjoined the church, and it was not unusual to attend Mass and enjoy the aroma of food cooking at the same time.
In spite of not having a parish hall, the Fall Festivals continued for some years. Food was prepared in the kitchen and carried outside to be served. Larger parish group meetings, such as the Women’s Council, were held in the Knights of Columbus hall.
The new property included the area now occupied by St. Mary’s Academy. Part of this was used for a school playground and part for a baseball field for a boys’ baseball league.
The final decision was to lease the property on Manchester Blvd. rather than sell it out-right. A long term lease was signed with a development company. This arrangement would make it possible for the parish to receive income from this property for many years to come. The area is now a mini shopping center. The old school and church were made into offices. One of the first occupants of the old school building was the Western Development Division of the U.S. Air Force Air Research and Development Command. Here a team of military engineers and scientists developed our country’s first Inter-continental Ballistic Missile, the Atlas. The site is now marked by a special stone monument placed near the entrance of the building.
As the new school’s enrollment increased, two two-room bungalows were built in the yard near the hall. These additions made a total of sixteen classrooms. With the growing enrollment, the number of nun teachers also increased. There no longer was room for all of them in the car that transported them back and forth from St. Mary’s where they lived. Monsignor knew it was now time for the Sisters to have their own convent on the church property. In 1954 the new rectory was built on its present site next to the (yet to be built) church. The old rectory was renovated and a chapel room added for the Sisters.
Monsignor soon began to concentrate on completing the plans for a permanent St. John Chrysostom Church. Architect for this structure was also Anthony A. Kauzor. Building was contracted to Fryer Construction Co. for $800,000. Ground was finally broken in early 1959 and by Christmas Day, 1960, the construction was completed and enough interior furnishings were in place to have the first Mass celebrated by Monsignor. Inglewood Catholics saw the fulfillment of a fifty-year dream. His Eminence James Francis Cardinal McIntyre dedicated the church on October 8, 1961.
The permanent church, which seats 1000 people, is a contemporary Gothic design constructed entirely of reinforced concrete, including the ceiling. Its carillion bell tower is topped with a ceramic tile covered concrete spire and an aluminum cross. It measures 182 feet from the ground to the top of the cross. The nave, flanked by the transcepts, has simple 42 feet high plastered walls with tall intricately designed stained glass windows. The apse design of the sanctuary area also features beautifully designed stained glass windows. Accentuating the Gothic design is a huge Celtic cross of stained glass, high above the 14-foot solid-oak front doors. All the antique stained glass in the windows was imported from Germany, England, France and Italy. The Celtic designs of the windows were taken from pictures in the book of Kells located in the Huntington Library in Pasadena. Situated in the most prominent location to the right of the main altar is the statue of St. John Chrysostom. Monsignor Moran related he believed the hand work on this statue was probably the most difficult of all to do because of the minute detail that was necessary to complete the likeness of the garments worn by St. John Chrysostom. The altar is made of imported Italian marble and when changes were made in the Mass presentation and the celebrant began facing the congregation, the altar had to be redesigned. The present altar was consecrated by Bishop Bell on August 5, 1961.
In the early 1960’s, the sisters of St. Joseph were looking for a site on which to build a new St. Mary’s Academy High School. The Order felt a location near its Daniel Freeman Hospital would be ideal. They discussed this location with Monsignor and he offered the area used for the baseball field and playground in exchange for a lot of equal size just south of the hospital, fronting Prairie Ave. Building was begun and the school was dedicated in February, 1967. A development company was given a long term lease on the new lot and a large medical building was erected on the property.
The years following were times for the parishioners to enjoy their new church. With the use of the parish hall (the old church), they gave social and fund raising projects. A happy day on June 9, 1974, was the celebration of Monsignor Moran’s fiftieth anniversary as a priest. The whole Inglewood community was saddened by his death just a few weeks later on July thirtieth.
The new pastor was Monsignor Edward Maddox, the same Father Maddox who began his priestly life in our parish as an associate some twenty four years before.
The changes effected by the second Vatican Council found their way to all parishes including St. John’s. The altar of the Church is now free-standing and the language of the Mass is the vernacular. In the seventies another freedom permitted by the Council affected us greatly. We have many convalescent homes and elderly residents who rely on the Church for spiritual comfort. The privilege of lay ministers to bring Communion came to mean that residents of these homes could receive Our Lord weekly. Our volunteers in this sacred calling, more than 35, were among the largest number in the Archdiocese at the time. A praiseworthy tradition has arisen of giving gifts to all patients (over 800) at Christmas time. Surely this fulfills Our Lord’s admonition to care for the sick.
January 1982 brought the deaconate back to St. John’s. Paul Weber and John Picard were the first married Deacons ordained for St. John’s to help carry on the work of the Church.
More mundane events during these years involved the first painting of the Church and the re-surfacing of the school yard. Because of the decreasing enrollment, the parish school was reduced to eight rooms. As rooms became available, long desired centers both for youth and seniors of the parish became realities. The changing complexion of the parish led, in 1975, to the first permanent Mass offered in Spanish. This has led to our present day schedule of three Spanish Masses and an increased vitality in our parish. Our future as a Pilgrim People on the way to salvation lies in the hands of God, but we are confident that past vitality promises future hope.