A Brief History of St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Community
Most of the grape vineyards and citrus groves that once blanketed the San Gabriel Mountains and the Mount Baldy region have disappeared, but life at St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church – nestled near the same foothills – has been abundant and fruitful.
In the last 44 years, the parish community has flourished. One parishioner, Robbie Robertson, a 42-year member of St. Peter and St. Paul, has seen his spiritual community grow first-hand. He vividly recalls the years just before this Catholic congregation took root in Alta Loma, in the northwest corner of Rancho Cucamonga.
“There were only 6,000 people in the whole area. All that was here was grapes, lemons and oranges. There were no traffic lights – only two stop signs and one grocery store in town.” Robertson, one of the parish’s first ushers, said recently.
Historical archives detail the making of St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church. The parish was formed from St. Joseph’s Church in neighboring Upland, with approximately 400 families comprising its original congregation. Archives also recount how, on September 20, 1970, the faithful gathered at Sweeten Hall in Rancho Cucamonga to celebrate their first Sunday Mass as a newly formed parish.
As time passed and the Catholic congregation grew, the liturgical celebrations were relocated to the cafeteria of Carnelian Elementary School in Alta Loma, and later moved again to Alta Loma Elementary School. By the 1970s, the parish began making its permanent home at Banyan Street and Beryl Avenue, where it is currently located.
The first Sunday Mass was held at the Parish Center on May 27, 1973, as the present church building was erected, according to archives.
Memories of that groundbreaking are still fresh in Robertson’s mind. “The ground was so hard,” he said. “It took me two days to break apart a small patch so Fr. (Patrick) O’Keefe could dig in to it when they broke ground.”
On November 27, 1980, Robertson and his fellow Catholics gathered in the new church for Thanksgiving Day Mass, the first celebration in the new church.
“It was beautiful, that first Mass,” he recounted. “Some of us got together and paid for Fr. O’Keefe’s brother and sister-in-law to come from Ireland for the first Mass. It was quite a thing. We were a small parish; we never expected to be where we are today,” added Robertson.
Today, membership at St. Peter and St. Paul has grown significantly, with opportunities for ministry and outreach also multiplying. The church currently lists more than 7,000 families in its parish registry, in addition to about 800 students in its faith formation programs and another 138 students in its parochial preschool.
Guiding the community spiritually in the last 44 years have been several parish pastors, including Fr. Eamonn Lyng (1970-1976); Fr. Patrick O’Keefe (1976-1983); Fr. Charles O’Connor (1983-1985); Fr. Thomas Burdick (parish administrator, 1985-1986); Fr. Edward McGuinness (1986-1992); Fr. Peter Covas (1992-2002); Fr. Patrick Kirsch, (2002-2012); Michael Donaldson, as Pastoral Coordinator (2012-2015); and Very Reverend Romeo Seleccion, M.S., E.V. as our current Pastor.
About 10 parishioners have gone through deaconate ordination since St. Peter and St. Paul’s inception, and other parishioners have entered vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the last several years.
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