ST. MARTHA’S CATHOLIC COMMUNITY
HISTORY 1958 – 2018
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles officially established St. Martha’s Parish on September 1, 1958 and appointed Father John McNamara as its first Pastor. The first masses for St. Martha were celebrated at St. Joseph’s Church in La Puente. On October 24, 1958 the Archdiocese authorized the construction of the church and an eight-room school. On Easter Sunday 1959, mass was celebrated at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente.
It was on Christmas of 1959 when we celebrated the first mass on the new Parish held in the parish hall. Later, the new church was completed and we began celebrating masses on March 20, 1960. However, the official church opening was on Palm Sunday, April 10, 1960 Fr. Niall O’Leary, was the first Associate Pastor followed by Fr. Michael Killeen in the 70’s. It was in 1960 when the first sisters arrived at St. Martha from the order called “Sisters of the Love of God” or “Religiosas del Amor de Dios”. They acted as the main administrators and served as the teachers and principal of the school.
The Hispanic community started their celebrations of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12th and “Posadas” on the 16th of December.
Then Fr. Juan Romero came in 1981 as the 2nd pastor. With great dedication and passion, he made liturgical reforms and artistic improvements in this parish. A fountain was installed in the patio as
a refreshing place to gather and fellowship with other parishioners. It is during his term that we celebrated the parish’s Silver Jubilee on Sept. 1, 1983.
A beautiful tapestry of St. Martha was hung at Azusa entrance of the church. It symbolizes St. Martha’s hope and love for Jesus. The greeting and hand clasping over the tree trunk makes Jesus touchable to us. He personally reached out to the Filipino community and revived the Filipino Choir. He encouraged them to celebrate our First Filipino Saint -St. Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila (still Blessed Lorenzo at the time). The Spanish ministry also grew under him. He worked hard to promote unity among Hispanic, Filipino, Anglo, etc.
Our third pastor was Father William (Bill) Leser. He served St. Martha for eleven years, from 1984 to 1995. He was an active member of the Canon Law Ministry. During this time he was named a Monsignor in November 19, 1991. He was a big advocate for vocations motivating young men to enter the seminary. He worked closely with St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. He was assigned two seminary interns – both of whom are priests today: Fr. John Provenza and Father Rodel Balagtas.
Father Bill formed the Pastoral Council, Finance Council, Liturgy committee, Filipino & Hispanic Leaderships represented by different leaders from each groups & ministries. During this time, the Filipino community flourished and started celebrating Simbang-Gabi (Dawn Masses), Easter Salubong (Christ Encounter with BVM), and continued the Feast of St. Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila.
In 1992 the planning and fund-raising for the “new” church began. The groundwork and major renovations started under the approval and direction of the Archdiocese. The altar has been moved to the center along with the Ambo, Lectern and the baptismal font to create a more centralized worshiping space and bring people closer to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The old and rather plain windows were replaced by magnificent stained glass windows. A new vestibule on the center of the south side of the church became the main entrance. The vestibule has a tall and handsome bell tower with actual bells ringing every hour.
Father Bill, however, was not able to finish the project. He moved to his new assignment as pastor of St. Jude’s on July 1, 1995. In August 1995, Father Michael Rocha who previously served as Associate Pastor here at St. Martha returned to assist in the completion of the “new church”. He stayed for five months until the new pastor has been assigned.
In January of 1996, another Father William arrived (known as Bill Easterling) as the fourth pastor. He was installed on June 19, 1996 by most reverend Gabino Zavala, our San Gabriel Regional Bishop. His Eminence, Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, blessed and re-dedicated our “new” church.
Father Bill established a permanent Pastoral Council with four standing committees: Liturgy, Finance, Filipino and Hispanic Ministries in 1997. Later, he also established a full-time Youth Ministry, RCIA became under the Liturgy and became part of the LITURGY AND ADULT FORMATION. CCD became RELIGIOUS EDUCATION AND FAMILY LIFE.
He also installed a big shrine of St. Martha by the east entrance of the vestibule and a beautiful canopy over the patio where people could gather. He added some enhancements inside the church like tapestries, pipe organ, etc.
On October 25, 1998, the parish celebrated its 40th anniversary under a huge tent in the smaller parking lot. It was presided by Bishop Gabino Zavala of the East San Gabriel Valley Region. The celebration continued on October 30th with over 500 guests for a Dinner-Dance at the Sheraton industry Hills Hotel.
He formed the Homeless ministry by joining the East San Gabriel Valley Coalition in 1999. The parish housed approximately 170 – 200 homeless people for 2 weeks serving dinner, breakfast, and packed lunches and a place to stay overnight. He also expanded our Christian Service ministry by buying the property across the street from the church (now called Bethany Center).
The parish celebrated its 50th anniversary in June of 2008. It was celebrated with a Thanksgiving Mass both presided by Archbishop Roger Mahony and Bishop Gavino Zavala. It was followed by a dinner dance at the Pacific Palm Resort in the City of Industry. Everyone just had a wonderful time together. He moved to Sacred Heart Parish in Covina in July 2008.
Our fifth pastor was Fr. Mauricio Goloran III (Aka Fr. Mau) in July of 2008. He was an Associate Pastor in this parish for 8 years and got transferred to St. Catherine Laboure in Torrance, CA in July 2004. He continued the different ministries under Fr. Easterling with some minor changes. Knights of Columbus-Fr. Michael J. McGivney, Council #15034 was instituted on April 27, 2010 here at St. Martha as parish base. Monuments for the unborn and Fallen Servicemen were erected donated by the Knights of Columbus. A new St. Martha’s image in stained glass over the Azusa entrance replaced the St. Martha tapestry.
The Parish School has been updated and a big signage was installed.
A Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe was built in the patio. The Hall kitchen and bathrooms were updated, installed switches to save energy and water usage in the parish. He managed the finances of the parish well that he left funds to build a new bathroom facility and re-surfacing of the parking lot and a lot more. He was assigned as the new pastor at St. Catherine of Sienna in Reseda, CA in July of 2016, He was followed by Fr. Rafael Lara as our sixth pastor in July 2016. He came from an all Hispanic community in Los Angeles. He did the resurfacing of the whole parking lot, installed gate from the Azusa entrance between church and rectory, removed the fence dividing the parking lot and enclosed the school ground for privacy and security. He had flowers planted around the perimeters of the parish grounds enhancing its beauty. However, he did not asked to be officially installed as our pastor for personal reasons and requested to be transferred to another parish.
Fr. Thomas Frederick Asia, our former Associate Pastor got assigned as the Administrator in July 2017 with Fr. Alfonso Abarca-Patricio as his associate pastor. As soon as he took office, he began planning for the restructuring of the worship space in the church and the building of the much awaited new restrooms. Upon approval and endorsement from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, he immediately began the construction in August, 2018 with completion date by the end of September. This is in preparation for the upcoming 60th anniversary celebration on October 6, 2018.
The 60th anniversary Thanksgiving Mass was celebrated at the new worship space where the Altar is now facing the whole congregation with the Tabernacle being part of the Altar. This is a welcomed renovation and much appreciated. Bishop David O’Connell presided the celebration along with former Priests of St. Martha and guests Priests from neighboring parishes. The Sisters of the Love of God were also in attendance with the rest of the parishioners and guests. We have grown to 39 ministries over the years and paraded their banners at the beginning of the mass followed by the Knights of Columbus.
The celebration continued at Royal Vista Golf Club in Walnut with dinner and dance attended by 400 guests. It was a very festive mood enhanced by the fellowship with the Bishop, priests, sisters and former parishioners of St. Martha. It was such a joy-filled occasion reminiscing the past and enjoying the presence of one another as one family of God.