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Jackie S.
Democrat CA 14

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  • In Recognition of the 150Th Anniversary of St. Matthew Catholic Church

    by Representative Jackie Speier

    Posted on 2013-02-26

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    SPEIER of california in the house of representatives Tuesday, February 26, 2013 Ms. SPEIER. Mr. Speaker, I rise to honor the 150th anniversary of St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Mateo, California. Since its founding in 1863 the buildings, parishioners and pastors have changed, but the church has always been a place for comfort, solace, community and friendship for everyone.

    A century and a half ago, Archbishop Alemany sent Father Denis Dempsey to San Mateo to establish the first parish in the county. A small wooden-steeple church was built on the corner of Third Avenue and A Street--today Ellsworth Avenue--on a piece of land donated by Charles B. Polhemus, an investor in the San Francisco-San Jose Railroad. Father Dempsey was the pastor for 18 years and [[Page E188]] earned the admiration and love of his parishioners. It is said that his funeral mass was attended by local officials and dignitaries from throughout the state.

    Sadly, the next pastor, Father William Bowman, only had a tenure of seven months before he passed away. He was followed by Father Peter Birmingham who presided for three years until he was transferred to San Francisco. Longevity was the signature of the fourth pastor, Father Timothy Callaghan. He served St. Matthew Church for 53 years. During his tenure, a parish cemetery was established and a new church was built. The congregation was growing and the threat of a fire destroying the old wooden church led to a fire resistant brick church on Ellsworth between Second and Third Avenues. The dedicating mass was held in September of 1900. Father Callaghan was elevated to Right Reverend and witnessed continual growth of the parish.

    Father Henry J. Lyne became the fifth pastor and established a parish school in 1931. Seven Sisters of the Holy Cross taught 140 students in the first year. He is credited with starting Catholic formal education in the Archdiocese of San Francisco on the peninsula. In 1947, Pope Pius XII appointed him a Domestic Prelate with the title Monsignor.

    Father Edward J. Meagher, the sixth pastor, saw unprecedented growth of the Catholic population after World War II. In 1952, total enrollment from Kindergarten to the 8th grade had grown to 861. Father Meagher raised funds to build an independent parish in Shoreview which was named St. Timothy as a tribute to Monsignor Timothy Callaghan. Soon after that, the Western portion of St. Matthew parish was detached, with the establishment of Bartholomew parish. Father Meagher's successor, Father Bernard C. Cronin, oversaw the building of a new St. Matthew Church and Rectory at Ninth Avenue and El Camino Real which opened in May 1966. The downtown church also remained open. Father Cronin was elevated to Right Reverend Monsignor in 1972.

    In 1979, Father James Ward, a graduate of St. Matthew School, class of 1937, became its eighth pastor. Father James Ward was devoted to the school and the students. During his tenure, the downtown church was demolished after suffering seismic damage. He and the archdiocese fought hard, yet unsuccessfully, for the vacated property that was eventually leased to Walgreen Drug. Father Ward died from a leg infection in 1995. Monsignor James McKay succeeded him and oversaw fundamental renovations of the newer church at El Camino Real and Ninth Avenue that are still in place today.

    In 2004, the tenth and current pastor replaced Monsignor McKay. Father Anthony McGuire now oversees the St. Matthew parish of 2,500 and is credited with growing the diverse parish and attracting an ever increasing number of Hispanic and Asian families.

    Mr. Speaker, I ask the House of Representatives to rise with me to honor the rich history of St. Matthew Church in San Mateo which has been a place of spiritual and social growth for thousands of families for 150 years.


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