History of St. Matthias – 1961-2011

St. Matthias celebrated its 50th Anniversary in May, 2011.

In the 1950s, the Archdiocese of San Francisco, under Archbishop John J. Mitty, launched a daring program of buying property in strategically located positions. It was assumed that future communities might soon be growing in those areas. The property for St. Matthias was purchased at this time. Later, the area to be served by St. Matthias was carved from the areas of Redwood City and San Carlos Catholic Churches- Our Lady of Mt.Carmel, St. Pius, and St. Charles.

The parish was established on June 24, 1961. Fr. Thomas Lacey and Fr. Don Casella, a newly ordained priest, were assigned to be pastor and associate pastor respectively.

Within the first six months, the ranch house on the property was made habitable; an empty hardware store was rented as a temporary church; the community gathered together and fixed up the building as a worship space; altar servers were organized; neighborhood meetings in parishioners homes were established; a ministry to the hospitals and several care facilities was established; a teen club was set up and the first social was organized. According to one of our “pioneer parishioners”, “The goodness of our new pastor and his assistant radiated from them like a welcoming beacon. We wanted to get involved. The smallness of the “Store Church” made our getting involved and knowing each other much easier.

Groundbreaking for the church was in July 1962. The first mass in the new church was celebrated in March 1963 and a year later it was dedicated by Archbishop McGucken who stated, “Lord it is good for us to be here.” Fr. Thomas Lacey, pastor, con-celebrated the Mass with his brother, the Fr. George Lacey.

By January 1964, another groundbreaking was held for the parochial school; the first class was held in September 1965. The school was staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Mt. Alverno convent in Redwood City.

Throughout our history St. Matthias and Fr. Lacey had a strong connection to the Franciscan convent of Mt. Alverno which was started in 1960. The sisters helped start many of the religious education programs in the early days of the parish, worked on pastoral programs in addition to staffing our parochial school. A close relationship continued until the convent was sold and closed in 2003.

In 1964, we had our first parishioner enter the priesthood: Larry Goode, son of parishioners Peter and Margaret Goode. Today he is pastor at St.Francis of Assisi Parish in East Palo Alto.

The 1970’s was a period of transition for the larger church and for society in general. Vatican II changes were being implemented, the roles of the lay person, including women, were enlarging inside of the church. Society was also going throughmajor changes at all levels – women’s and men’s roles were being challenged, students and educational institutions were fighting for control, and the roles of churches were being explored.

Within St. Matthias, change was also common. We had three pastors in the 70’s: Fr. John Kavanuagh (1969 – 1972), Fr. Alfred Kelly (1972 – 1974) and Msgr. Eugene A. Gallagher (1974 – 1983).

One of the biggest changes was the announcement that the elementary school was closing in 1971 due to a low number of students, withdrawal of the sisters from teaching at St. Matthias and inadequate funding. The building was then used for the Religious Education program and was leased to several educational organizations until 1977 when Msgr. Gallagher and the parish community decided to sponsor a parish operated Day Care School.

The Holy Family Sisters started our Day Care operation in 1977 led by Sr. Teresa. In 1980, they turned the directorship over to Sr. Ann Stubbe, S.N.D. Other sisters who have served in the Day Care Center over the years were Sr. Claire Marie, Sr. Linda Gonzales and Sr. Sandra Ann. The decision to support a day care operation in our school building proved to be an excellent decision, it was a service that was in demand, and in the 1990’s would save St. Matthias as a parish.

The 1970’s was also a time of fund-raising to help the parish get on a stronger financial footing. Fall festivals, social events and eventually Bingo not only brought the community together but also raised funds to keep the parish in good financial standing.

In 1971, Tim Kidney who served as a deacon at St. Matthias was ordained and said his first Mass here at St. Matthias. He returned in 1977, when he was a professor at St. Patrick’s Seminary, to assist with weekend Masses. In 1972, our second parishioner to become a priest was ordained as a Maryknoll. Fr. Steven Scherrer, the son of Joe and Marianna Scherrer, two very active parishioners, chose to say his first Mass here at St. Matthias. He is the author of several inspirational books and is presently living a contemplative, monastic life in Ossining, New York.

Fr. Leo McCaffrey joined the St. Matthias staff in 1976 when he was assigned as Chaplin of Sequoia Hospital. He would be the last assistant to arrive at St. Matthias.

Sr. Felicia, OSF joined St. Matthias in 1972 as Director of Religious Education. In 1979, Fr. Lacey returned to St. Matthias as co-pastor with Msgr. Gallagher. He would remain part of the parish until he passed away in August 2000.

The 1980’s was a time of celebrations and more staff changes. In 1982, a Mass was celebrated followed by a reception to honor Sr. Felicia for her ten years of service to St. Matthias. The following year, the parish celebrated Fr. Lacey’s 40th Ordination anniversary with a Mass and reception in March and in June the parish helped Fr. Leo McCaffrey celebrate his 25th ordination anniversary. November was Msgr. Gallagher’s turn. A special celebration was held to honor his 40th Ordination anniversary as well as saying “good-bye”. Msgr. Gallagher resigned in May of 1983 due to poor health. The parish welcomed Fr. George Meyer as the fifth pastor in June of that year. Three years later, Fr. Meyer celebrated his 40th Ordination anniversary in June. In September 1986, the parish celebrated twenty-five years of the founding of St. Matthias with a two day celebration.

More changes: Sr. Felicia, who had moved on to become a Pastoral Associate, left St. Matthias after 14 years of service. Sr. Patricia Hunter took over her position as Pastoral Associate. Sr. Ann Stubbe, after serving as Director of the St. Matthias Day Care Center, moved to parish ministry work in San Jose and was replaced by Gloria Ricciardi.

There were also physical changes to the plant as well. Msgr. Gallagher upgraded the church building with new and more cost- efficient heating system, the curtain at the back of the church was changed to a solid wall, and the color window panels were replaced with clear glass.

It was good that we celebrated so much in the 80’s because the 1990’s were a time of challenge and renewal for St. Matthias. The parish participated in the Renew program sponsored by the Archdiocese. We had nine small faith-sharing groups coming together in faith and fellowship. We liked the Renew program so much that we also participated in the early 2000’s when Renew was once again sponsored by the Archdiocese. We still have four groups that still meet on a regular basis and are a core of strength not only for the participants but also for the larger parish.

In 1992, Msgr. James Flynn, who had wonderful organizational skills as well as being very spirit-filled became pastor. These skills were very important during the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Process started in the early 1990’s. Msgr. Flynn helped revitalize St. Matthias through the process of having to prove why we should remain open. Together with Msgr. Flynn, the parish looked at its strengths and weaknesses and focused on improving its financial stability, on our openness to new parishioners, especially young families, and on supporting our elders, many of whom were part of the parish from its beginning.

A committee consisting of Msgr. Flynn, Sr. Dee Myers, Jack Grandsaert, Pastoral Council Vice-President and Liz Vugrinecz, Pastoral Council President, represented St. Matthias in the Pastoral Planning Committee for our regional group. The committee helped the parish pull together. Town Hall Meetings were held and as a community we decided what the presentation should look like and what items we should emphasis in our Parish Report. A tentative decision was made to keep St. Matthias open. However, the Archdiocesan committee decided to investigate whether St. Matthias should reopen its school. The parish could not financially support an elementary school and we totally believed that the Day Care School was our mission. Fortunately, the commission agreed that a school was not feasible for us and that the Day Care School was a valuable service to the church.

We did indeed remain open and became a stronger community after our self-evaluation.

With the coming of Fr. John Glogowski in 1999, the renovation of the plant started under Msgr. Flynn continued in full force. The Hall and the Church were updated and renovated.

During the church renovation, we celebrated Liturgy in the church hall and the community experienced what the first parishioners had experienced when going to Mass in the “temporary church” in the Hardware Store, a closeness in spirit as well as in space.

Not only the church interior was redone but a new altar, ambo, candle holders, and stained glass windows (a first for St. Matthias) were added along with a new statue of St. Matthias that was carved in Santa Fe, NM and donated by a parishioner. The church shines with a renewed beauty to match the sense of our parish moving into a renewed future. As we move into the future, we bring our past with us just as we brought some of the “old” church with us. Our “Triumphant Jesus” carved by parishioner Ludwig Marent is still part of the beauty and strength of our altar space. The parishioner Mrs. Thelma Hentschell and they have been a part of the church since May 1963.

As we raised money for the renovations, Fr. John made sure that we also worked down our former debt and just about erased it before we added any more to it for new work. This has put the parish in a good position as we move into the future.

By the early 2000’s, the Day Care School was upgraded to a Pre-School operation. The PreSchool is still going strong and is an important part of our parish. Throughout its history, the Day Care/ PreSchool has only had four directors: Sr. Teresa, Sr. Ann Stubbe, Gloria Ricciardi and Mary Ornellas.

Fr. John is great with children of all ages, from the very young on up to the teens, and has promoted a strong program for not only religious education but also for their participation in liturgies, social events and as full members of the community.

Chilldren are a vibrant part of our church now and in the future.

Fr. John’s legacy is that he helped us as a community to take responsibility for our parish and for our future. He has encouraged us to become involved in our parish community and empowered us to help make decisions about our parish.

As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we want to honor all the pastoral staff that helped keep St. Matthias strong and vibrant and growing over the years while helping us to continue to be a warm welcoming small community. And thank you to all of our parishioners who have made St. Matthias such a very special community.

And last but never least, we would be remiss if we did not mention all the wonderful ministries that we have at St. Matthias that are part of our core being. While it is important to remember the past, we should not forget the present and those who serve us. Our Coordinator of Adult Faith Formation, Laurie Coulter leads the RCIA program and brings her warmth and deep spiritual life to those who seek to explore and join our catholic faith. For many years Laurie was on the Confirmation team with both Sr. Pat Hunter and Sr. Dee Myers. More recently, Laurie the Prayer Shawl ministry which creates crocheted and knitted shawls for those experiencing an illness or surgery, loss or other type of suffering, or a joyful experience or in gratitude for their service to the community.

Sabrina Harper (formerly Spence), Children’s Faith Formation Coordinator, does an amazing job with the children’s programs. Sabrina and her team of catechists lead the preschool through 8th grade faith formation programs, guide parents to prepare their children for their first Eucharist and with a team of older teens and adults prepares teenagers for Confirmation. A few years ago, Sabrina added a new dimension to faith formation by introducing the Generations of Faith program which brings together all the generations to share and pass on our faith to each other. As part of the Confirmation program, she brings the teens into the larger life of the parish, continuing and adding to the inspired work that Sr. Dee Myers started with our young people.

Deacon George Salinger and Deacon Rich Foley are a blessing to our parish and to Fr. John. They help with funerals and weddings, direct the Eucharist Ministers home bound program (formerly the Ave Maria Guild) of visiting the sick and are available when someone needs to discuss a problem . We are fortunate to have two such devoted, energetic and spirit-filled disciples as part of our community.

Now it is time to thank all the parishioners who have participated in the various ministries over the 50 years of our history. The ministries have changed over time but the basic work of caring for the needs of the church and for the spiritual and physical needs of each other has always been a part of our St. Matthias Catholic Community. We have indeed been blessed throughout the years with many willing and caring workers.

It would be impossible to list all of the ministries but to name a few: Lectors, Ushers, and Hospitality ministers; the Altar Society; the Liturgy Committee; Renew Faith Sharing Groups

THANK YOU to all our parishioners who are part of the various ministries. Thank you to all the parishioners who support the parish with their donations and presence. You are what make St. Matthias the warm, caring and very special community that it was and always will be.

We look forward to beginning another 50 years as we welcome Fr. Craig Forner to our parish community the weekend of July 2-3, 2011!