St. Matthias History
So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:23-26)
The Early Days
In the 1950s, the Archdiocese of San Francisco, under Archbishop John J. Mitty, launched a daring program, buying property in strategically located positions. It was assumed that future communities might soon be growing in those areas. The property for St. Matthias, which had been part of “motorcycle hill” in the Emerald Hills area of Redwood City was purchased. The geographic area to be served by St. Matthias was carved from the boundaries of the neighboring Catholic parishes – 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 as pastor and associate pastor respectively.
Within the first six months, the long vacant ranch house on the property was made habitable; an empty hardware store was rented as a temporary church; the community gathered and fixed up the building as a worship space; altar servers were organized; neighborhood meetings in parishioner homes were established; a ministry to the hospitals and several care facilities was organized; a teen club was set up and the first social was hosted. 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, 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 in Redwood City.
Throughout our history St. Matthias and Fr. Lacey had a strong connection to the Franciscan sisters of Mt. Alverno. The sisters instituted the religious education programs in the early days of the parish, worked on pastoral programs and staffed our parochial school. A close relationship continued until the convent was sold and closed in 2003.
In 1964, Larry Goode, son of parishioners Peter and Margaret Goode entered the seminary. Today, he is pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in East Palo Alto.
The 1970’s were a period of transition for the larger church and for society in general. Vatican II was being implemented, the roles of the lay person, including women, were expanded in the church. Society went through major changes at all levels – traditional gender roles were being challenged, students and educational institutions fought for control, and the role that churches were to play in society was being tested. St. Matthias experienced several pastor transitions during that time as well: Fr. John Kavanaugh (1969 – 1972), Fr. Alfred Kelly (1972 – 1974) and Msgr. Eugene A. Gallagher (1974 – 1983).
In 1971, it was determined that the St. Matthias parochial school would be closed. This was due to low enrollment, 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 Center.
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, SND. Other sisters who have served in the Day Care Center over the years were Sr. Claire Marie, Sr. Linda Gonzales, OSF 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 help save St. Matthias as a parish.
The 1970’s were also a time of fundraising 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 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 to the Maryknoll order. When Fr. Steven Scherrer, the son of parishioners Joe and Marianna Scherrer, was ordained in 1972, chose to say his first Mass 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.
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 in residence at the parish until he passed away in August 2000.
A Time of Renewal
The 1980’s were a time of celebrations and additional 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, in March the parish celebrated Fr. Lacey’s 40th ordination anniversary with a Mass and reception. Then, in June, the parish helped Fr. Leo McCaffrey celebrate his 25th ordination anniversary. In November it 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 as pastor 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 it’s twenty-fifth anniversary with a two day celebration.
Sr. Felicia, who had become Pastoral Associate, left St. Matthias after 14 years of service. Sr. Patricia Hunter was hired to follow in her footsteps. Sr. Ann Stubbe, after serving as Director of the St. Matthias Day Care Center, moved to parish ministry work in San Jose. Mrs. Gloria Ricciardi became the new Director.
Physical changes and improvements were made to the Church building as well. A new and more cost-efficient heating system was installed, a solid wall was built to replace the curtain which separated the hall from the church, and the color window panels were replaced with clear glass.
If the 1980’s are characterized by the numerous celebrations we had, the 1990’s can be viewed as a time of renewal and challenge. 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.
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. When it was proposed that St. Matthias be closed as a parish, Msgr. Flynn helped lead the parish through a process justifying why the parish should remain in existence. The parish began examining its strengths and weaknesses and focused on improving its financial stability, reaching out to new parishioners, especially young families, and providing support to our elders, many of whom were part of the parish from its beginning.
A committee which consisted 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 the parish believed that the Day Care Center was our mission. Fortunately, the commission agreed that a school was not feasible for us and that the Day Care Center was a valuable service to the church. Eventually, the Archdiocesan committee agreed that St. Matthias was a viable parish and would remain open.
Fr. John Glogowski was assigned as Pastor in 1999 following listening sessions and consultation with the Priest Personnel Board. The renovation plans that Msgr. Flynn had laid the ground work for commenced. Fundraising campaigns were held for the renovations and our former debt was eliminated. This has put the parish in a good position for the future.
The hall renovation was completed first and renamed the “Fr. Lacey Memorial Hall.” During the church renovation, we celebrated liturgies in the Fr. Lacey 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.
New furniture for the new Church including 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 and stations of the cross mosaics crafted by Mrs. Thelma Hentschell are still part of the beauty and strength of our sanctuary.
In the early 2000’s, the Day Care Center was upgraded to a Preschool under the direction of Mary Ornellas who had been promoted from teacher to Director following the Mrs. Gloria Riccardi’s retirement.
One of Fr. John’s many gifts was his gregarious nature. His easy going manner and warm friendly ways brought many new families, especially those with young children, into the parish community. He promoted a strong program for not only religious education but also for family participation in liturgies, and social events.
During the twelve years of Fr. John’s pastorate wonderful ministries were enhanced or established that helped to promote St. Matthias’ already well established reputation as a welcoming parish. Our Coordinator of Adult Faith Formation, Laurie Coulter led the RCIA program and brought her warmth and deep spiritual life to those who were seeking to explore and join our Catholic faith. She also founded the the Prayer Shawl ministry which still crafts crocheted and knitted shawls for those experiencing an illness or surgery, loss, or joyful experience or in gratitude for their service to the community.
Sabrina Harper and Laurie Coulter began laying the groundwork to transition the parish faith formation program from a traditional child-focused model to a family-based intergenerational model.
Deacon George Salinger and Deacon Rich Foley are a blessing parish community. 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.
Our music ministry was enhanced to include youth and adult singers and instrumentalists. With the completion of the Church renovation, lyrics and prayers were projected on the wall to promote and encourage greater participation during liturgies.
Our 50th Anniversary
In May 2011, St. Matthias celebrated its 50th Anniversary. In the year leading up to the anniversary celebration, we hosted a “Called and Gifted” workshop designed to help parishioners discern the gifts God has bestowed upon them. An evening of bingo was hosted by the Bugos family to commemorate the “old days.” Many celebrations were held to commemorate the blessings enjoyed by the parish community. To cap off the year, after 12 years of serving the parish community, Fr. John Glogowski retired. Laurie Coulter also retired as Adult Faith Formation Coordinator after having helped lay the ground work to shift the parish faith formation programs from a child-only program to an inter-generational program.
Fr. Craig Forner was assigned as pastor of St. Matthias in July 2011. Liz Vugrinecz, who had worked as a volunteer with the parish archives, was hired at Adult Faith Formation Coordinator. Recognizing the need for increased opportunities for adult faith formation, Fr. Craig began conducting series’ about Vatican II, scripture and morality. He fully supported the shift in programatic thinking to inter-generational catechesis and was the featured speaker at each month’s gathering.
In 2014, Fr. Craig began a pastoral planning process based on Best Practices for Parishes from Paulist Evangelization Ministries to provide a mission for our parish community. Monthly meetings were held which brought parishioners together to discuss seven themes of parish effectiveness. A writing team was formed to synthesis the results of the meetings and draft a pastoral plan called Shaping our Future <link>. The plan was presented to the parish and finalized in June 2015 right before Fr. Craig retired.
In July 2015, Fr. Bill Thornton was assigned as Pastor of St. Matthias Church. Fr. Bill revitalized our ministries to local care facilities and homebound parishioners. He was deeply concerned with those who are often forgotten and reached out to parishioners and loved ones providing pastoral care services including the sacraments of anointing of the sick and Reconciliation. Due to his great concern for the ill, he was reassigned as hospital chaplain in June 2016.
In July 2016, Fr. Paul Rossi, Pastor of St. Pius Church was assigned as St. Matthias’ Parish Administrator. Under a unique, collaborative model, Deacon Rich Foley was hired as Parish Life Coordinator, and along with Sabrina Harper worked to provide administrative support to Fr. Paul. A Town Hall Meeting was held in June of 2016 in preparation for the transition. About 100 parishioners attended and were reassured that pastoral needs would be met. For the first time since the early days of the parish, St. Matthias would be served by several priests, including Fr. Paul, Fr. Tom Martin and Fr. Ted Magpayo. Fr. Paul fully embraced our Pastoral Plan, Shaping our Future and helped to implement the goals set forth in the document.
In April 2017, the 40th anniversary of St. Matthias Preschool was celebrated. Several current and alumni families, as well as parishioners, were present for the celebration. Mary Ornellas, the Preschool Director for the previous seventeen years decided to retire in June of that year. Kim Nave, who came with a wealth of experience and new philosophical approach to Early Childhood Education based on Reggio Emilia principles, was hired in August 2017 as the fifth St. Matthias Preschool Director in our history.
After guiding the parish and preschool through the transition of having a resident pastor to being served by a parish administrator and the major philosophical change for our preschool community, Fr. Paul retired in June 2018.
Starting on July 1, 2018, Fr. Tom Martin was assigned as St. Matthias’ latest Parish Administrator. Fr. Tom comes to us already familiar with the parish community having served as parochial vicar for the previous two years. We look forward to supporting his vision for our parish community as we continue to work to implement our pastoral plan, Shaping our Future.
We 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 look forward to the future as we continue to strive to respond to the call of Jesus through worship and sacraments, faith formation, service, and social opportunities.