Friday marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of Newhall’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) Catholic Church, and the parish plans a three-day celebration to commemorate the occasion.
“I have seen old photographs of when the OLPH community began that have people in prairie dresses and bonnets having barbecues where the Placerita Canyon Nature Center is now,” said Margaret Shapiro, special events coordinator for the church. “The parishioners were a strong community back then and we’re still very strong now. I’ve been part of this parish for over 45 years and my kids grew up here and this is really special for me and people like me.”
The festivities will begin on Friday night with a special mass with Archbishop of Los Angeles José Horacio Gomez and 12 former pastors and associates of the church. A St. Patrick’s Day party will be held after a 4:30 mass on Saturday and on Sunday will feature celebratory food, drinks, a historical slideshow, prizes and music after all masses. Each family who attends the celebrations will receive a commemorative gift.
“Archbishop Gomez has never been to Newhall before so we’re looking forward to showcasing our parish to him over the weekend,” Shapiro said.
The parish was officially founded by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on March 15, 1944, but records from 1883 show that prior to a parish being established in Santa Clarita priests would come from San Fernando Valley to hold mass for the Catholic residents. The original church was located on Walnut Street and eventually the current church on Lyons Avenue was built in 1963 when the parish outgrew its old location. The OLPH school was founded in 1964 and originally only taught students up to grade four.
Father Craig Cox, who has been pastor of OLPH for the last four years, said that though the parish will hold other celebratory events throughout the year, this weekend is the high point of them all.
“It’s the people who make the parish and to be able to bring back some of the people from this church’s history is really important,” Cox said. “The parish has been a part of this community for so long and so many people in Santa Clarita are members of our family, so it just goes to show that we are not an isolated group that happens to be here, but an integral part of the community.”
Shapiro added that the church welcomes all to the celebration.
“It’s a thing of pride to think that the church has been here for 75 years, is still going strong and is part of the revitalization of Newhall,” she said. “It’s very comfortable and very exciting to be part of the parish right now. It’s also a great time for people who maybe haven’t been to church in a while to come back home.”