Holy Name Church and School HISTORY
In 1925, Archbishop Edward J. Hanna took a young Father Richard Ryan (originally from Bartlemy, County Cork, Ireland) from his struggling Guerneville Parish to the Sunset District in San Francisco. What awaited Father Ryan was a vast expanse of sand dunes and the task of knitting a Parish of 125 families who lived in the neighborhood. He became the first Pastor of Holy Name of Jesus, the name chosen by Father Ryan himself. The first Mass was held on October 26, 1925 in a rented community hall on Kirkham Street and 45th Avenue.
A year later, a church was erected on 38th Avenue between Irving and Judah Streets. The initial Mass was celebrated on Easter Sunday in 1926.
By 1938, the first church was inadequate to accommodate the sharply increasing attendance at Mass. Plans were developed to construct a new church. Construction began on a new church and school on the corner of 40th Avenue & Lawton Street in 1940. On the second Sunday of Easter in 1941, the Most Reverend John J. Mitty dedicated a new Holy Name of Jesus Church.
By September 1941, Father Ryan and eight Sisters of Mercy welcomed 304 children, from Kindergarten through Seventh Grade, to the beautiful new Holy Name of Jesus School. In 1942 the Rectory was built amid the other structures. The Convent was completed and opened on March 17, 1949.
The quiet, steady growth of the Parish was disrupted with the coming of the Second World War. Five hundred sixty men from Holy Name Parish left to serve their country, with nine families of the Parish receiving Gold Stars in their honor.
Fifteen Sisters had the privilege of claiming Holy Name Convent as their very own home. By then, enrollment at Holy Name School was increased to 900 pupils. With the steady increase of homes and families, the church seemed to grow smaller.
With the receding sand dunes, and the increasing number of homes and parishioners, it was obvious that an expansion program would be necessary. In 1954, a fundraising drive was started to liquidate the existing parish debt. This needed to be accomplished first before new plans could be made towards building a new, larger church.
It was in the midst of this drive that Father Ryan became seriously ill and on November 5, 1956, Father Richard Ryan passed on to his eternal reward. During Father Ryan’s illness, Father Bill McGuire (then Assistant Pastor) directed the fate of Holy Name Parish and continued in this role until a new pastor could be designated.
Archbishop Mitty assigned the Right Rev. Msgr. William J. Flanagan to take Father Ryan’s place. Monsignor Flanagan was installed as the second Pastor of Holy Name of Jesus parish on December 2, 1956. His 22 years of experience in Catholic Charities gave him a warmth and understanding of people and their problems. He was efficient in organizing and managing the affairs of a large organization.
Holy Name’s first vocation to the priesthood, Father Brian O’Kane, S.J. was ordained on June 15, 1957 and offered his first solemn Mass at Holy Name of Jesus Church on June 16th. The other Vocations to the Priesthood from Holy Name of Jesus Parish were Rev. Francis King, SJ. (1960), Msgr. John O’Connor (1960), Msgr. Russell Rock (1962), Rev. Donald S. D’Angelo (1968), Rev. Carl Schipper (1968), Rev. Craig W. Forner (1975), Rev. Gerry Robinson, S. J. (1977), Msgr. Steven Otellini (1978), Rev. Peter G. Neeley, SJ. (1981), Rev. Robert Hurd, S.J. (1991), and Rev. Daniel Nascimento (1998).
By February 1960, the Parish was out of debt and plans for the new church were almost complete. A Drive for funds for the new church was organized. A kick-off banquet at Riordan High started things off with a bang and Monsignor Flanagan’s enthusiasm spread throughout the flock. The people generously pledged enough to provide a down payment for the new House of God on the corner of 39th Avenue and Lawton Street.
Back in 1962 the convent, rectory and church occupied all but one corner of the area (U-shaped) and the remaining space was clearly too small to accommodate the proposed building. One alternative was to tear down the church (now Ryan Hall), but after consideration, this plan was rejected, as there was no adequate Church to use during the many months of construction. In addition it was agreed that upon completion of the new Church this building would become an important part of the Parish as a hall and/or an enclosed recreational space for the school children.
It was finally decided that the most efficient and economical plan would be to purchase a small amount of property and move the Rectory, thus providing the necessary space for the present Church on the main property itself. Three homes on 39th Avenue and one on Lawton Street were purchased from the owners.
In January of 1962, the first physical operations began. The Rectory was slowly moved across the street and by March of 1962, the Rectory was finally at the present site.
His Excellency, Archbishop Joseph T. McGucken came to the site of the present church and presided at the groundbreaking ceremonies on a Sunday afternoon, September 30, 1962. After eight years of waiting and sacrifice, the parish came to see the Archbishop turn over the first spadeful of dirt to what was then to become one of the most modern and liturgically contemporary churches in the city.
The Second Vatican Council had just opened and with it came many liturgical reforms. This was the first church in San Francisco where the design was geared towards accommodating these various changes. On his return from Rome in December 1963, His Excellency, Archbishop McGucken, gave permission to install a main altar arranged for Mass to be said facing the congregation with a higher placed second altar for the Blessed Sacrament and Tabernacle. All of the candelabra, the Tabernacle and altar fittings have been designed and made especially for the Church and to suit the special requirements of the placement of the altar.
In a parish letter to the people that week in 1962, Monsignor Flanagan gave thanks to God and to the parishioners “for making it possible to have the House of God in the Sunset a most beautiful gem in architecture; a most beautiful home for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and a most beautiful church for all of us in which to worship.”
Then everybody watched the progress of the construction eagerly. Every day, Monsignor Flanagan himself was “on the job” – an honorary superintendent with his own “hard hat” – capturing each stage of the church’s growth on film. The modern concrete and steel structure Church dubbed in the 60’s as being “as modern as tomorrow” was dedicated on April 5, 1964.
Many sisters lived and worked here at Holy Name Parish and School and in other neighboring parishes. The Sisters of Mercy, who opened and ran the School since 1941 lived in the Convent until the last few (Sr. Edith Hurley, Sr. Edwin Byrne, Sr. Flora Batterton and Sr. Georgina Maher) retired to Mercy Burlingame in 2005. After 20 years of also calling Holy Name Convent their home, the Canossian Sisters (with resident Sisters Cristina, Josie, Lucy, Maria & Rita) purchased their own home on 38th Avenue and moved on April 8, 2005.
When the Sisters moved, our 5th Pastor, Fr. Don D’Angelo and staff were faced with the dilemma of what to do with the Convent and how best to utilize this wonderful space. December 2, 2005 was moving day for the Parish Staff to their new abode – the new Pastoral Center.
Today, Fr. Arnold E. Zamora is the 6th pastor of Holy Name. He was installed as the 6th pastor in October 10, 2010 (10-10-10) in a triple-celebration, the Installation of New Pastor, Unveiling of the Tree of Life and 85th Anniversary of the parish. On June 7, 2011, he celebrated his 25th Ordination Anniversary, attended by two bishops and with 32 priests on the altar, with a full-packed reception in Ryan Hall.
Ongoing additions to the Parish and School continue. The opening of Holy Name Preschool, with Alice Seher as preschool director, started in January 2012.
Fast forward to today, 94 years after that first Mass on Kirkham Street and almost nine decades after the “Open House, Open Church,” we come to this magnificent structure in thankful prayer for all those hearts and hands who have contributed to this great Church.