About SFDS

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History of St. Francis de Sales Parish

Archbishop John J. Cantwell created St. Francis de Sales Parish in 1938 and appointed Father William McGinley its first pastor.

On November 27, 1938 the first parish Mass was celebrated in Live Oaks Cafe on Van Nuys Blvd at Sherman Way. On September 29, 1940 the first St. Francis de Sales Church at 4916 Fulton was dedicated by Archbishop John J. Cantwell.

Father James O’Mahony was appointed pastor in July, 1945. The population of the Valley exploded after the war. The need for a much larger church was evident. Property along the Los Angeles River was purchased for a new church and a school. St. Francis de Sales School was built in 1949 and dedicated on April 30, 1950.

The present church was built in 1959 with Daniel Elliott as architect and T-S Construction as builder. The first Sunday Mass in the new church was September 13, 1959. Sadly, Father O’Mahony, who planned and saved and oversaw the church project died in his sleep on January 17, 1960. Monsignor Patrick Dignan was pastor from February-November 1960. Msgr. Dignan made the arrangements for the red brick school building to be built and then left the parish. Msgr. James Nevin was appointed pastor by Cardinal James F. McIntyre in November 1960. The red brick school building was built in 1961.

In January 1965 the convent was built for the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary who staffed St. Francis de Sales School and who had been living and commuting from Corvallis High School Convent in Studio City on Laurel Canyon. Msgr. Nevin proudly installed a Walcker pipe organ in 1969.

Soon after Monsignor Nevin died in 1980, Cardinal Timothy Manning appointed Father Kevin Larkin pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish in 1981. In 1982 St. Francis de Sales School opened its kindergarten. The convent was converted to a parish center in 1992. The January 17, 1994 earthquake caused considerable damage to the church. The Walcker organ was almost completely destroyed and was replaced by a Roger’s organ.

A cooperative Pre-School opened in 1992 and proudly became a licensed pre-school in 2009. The last RSHM principal left in 2005 and the last RSHM left in 2009. Father Larkin marked the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination and retired in 2009. Father Michael Wakefield was appointed pastor July 1, 2009.

Life of St. Francis de Sales
August 21, 1567 – December 28, 1622
Feast Day is January 24

St. Francis de Sales was born into a noble family of Savoy which today is Thorens-Glieres, Haute-Savoie. The oldest of 6 children, it was his responsibility to maintain the family name and fortune. He studied theology and law and received a Doctorate in both Theology and Law from the University of Padua. While in Padua St. Francis discovers he wishes to become a priest. Meanwhile, back home, his father had obtained several positions for his son and has selected for him a wife. With his doctorates and resolute after a pilgrimage to Loreto, St. Francis returns home, announces his desire to become a priest and refuses to marry. His father refused to have his expectations for his eldest son thwarted. The bishop of Geneva intervened and obtained an appointment as provost of the cathedral chapter of Geneva, the highest post in the diocese. The father at last relented and St. Francis de Sales was ordained a priest in 1593.

Geneva is the home of Calvinism and one of the great centers of Protestantism. In August 1527 the bishop of Geneva fled and the Grand Council of Geneva decided in 1528 to adhere to Lutheranism. In 1536 Geneva declares itself a Protestant city and elects John Calvin as leader. Calvin serves from 1536 until his death in 1564. Since 1536 the seat of the Bishop of Geneva has been Annecy, Savoy.

The bishop of Geneva died in 1602 and St. Francis de Sales was appointed and consecrated the next bishop of Geneva. He quickly developed a reputation as a spellbinding preacher, friend of the poor, a person of great affability and understanding. As bishop, St. Francis de Sales instituted catechetical instructions for the faithful, made regulations and guidelines for his clergy, carefully visited the parishes scattered throughout the mountains of his diocese and reformed religious communities. He is the author of “Introduction to the Devout Life” and “Treatise on the Love of God”.

With St. Jane Frances de Chantal, St. Francis de Sales founded the Congregation of the Visitation in 1610. St. Francis died in Lyon in 1622. He was beatified by Pope Alexander VII in 1661 and canonized in 1664 by the same pope. Pope Pius IX declared him to be a Doctor of the Church in 1877. Pope Pius XI declared St. Francis de Sales patron of writers and journalists because he made extensive use of flyers tracts and books in both spiritual direction and to convert Protestants back to the Church. St. Francis de Sales developed a sign language to assist deaf man – he is patron saint of the deaf.