Holy Spirit was established in 1926 with Father Patrick Concannon as founding pastor. A small congregation of families, building or buying new homes in a brand new real estate district of Los Angeles, first met in an ice cream parlor a few blocks away from the present site of the church. At that time, while the new community planned the building of their church, hall, and rectory, Venice Boulevard was still unpaved. Mass was celebrated for the first time in the new church on Thanksgiving Day, 1927.
The Archdiocesan newspaper, The Tidings, wrote: “Perfect California sunshine making ideal Thanksgiving weather rendered the colorful dedication ceremony of the new Holy Spirit Church last Thursday one long to be remembered and filled the hearts of pastor and people with sentiments of deep gratitude because within the short space of one year so splendid and edifice and so commodious a rectory have been completed. In the presence of a large congregation and a numerous assembly of the clergy, the Right Rev. Bishop John J. Cantwell blessed the new church and preached the dedicatory sermon. He emphasized the fact that the erection of a church to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity in the heart of a great city should serve to stimulate the devotion to Him who is to abide with the Church until the end of time.”
Young families nourished the parish as it continued to grow through the Great Depression, World War II, and a time of peace and prosperity, marred by the Korean War. The parish was known for its great circus tent festivals and fun-filled parties. It was a time of many vocations to the priesthood and religious life among its young parishioners. The parish school and convent were built in 1936. The school was staffed by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who served the parish for thirty years. The pastor during the thirty-year period was Father Michael Mullins. He was helped by many outstanding associate pastors.
Father Myles Faughnan was named pastor in 1968. He modernized the rectory interior during his brief pastorate. In June of 1970, Father Paul Carroll succeeded him as pastor but died after only two years at the parish. The Sisters of the Holy Faith succeeded the Immaculate Heart Sisters in running the school in 1969. It was during this period, 1973, that the upper grades of the school, fifth through eighth, transferred to neighboring St. Mary Magdalen Parish. In 1988, a Kindergarten was added to Holy Spirit School. Sister Loretto O’Leary, C.H.F., served as longtime principal aided by a stable, competent faculty, with faithful parishioner Lynne Hithe in the office, and a corps of parent volunteers.
In March 1973, Father Andrew Han became pastor, serving until 1982. He refurbished the altars and statues in the church. Great demographic changes marked the neighborhood during that time through the present. Archbishop Timothy Manning named Father Jerome Thompson to be the pastor in 1982. He shepherded the parish as it continued to grow as a multi-cultural community. The parish became well known for its dynamic music programs, especially a Sunday Mass Gospel Choir. Among the parishioners there were African American, many Spanish speaking people from Mexico, El Salvador, and other Central American countries, a few Nigerians, people from Belize, the Phillipines, Vietnam, Korea, a few Euro-Americans and representatives from almost every immigrant group and developing nation. The Latino community was organized by parishioners with the help of Father Gilberto Aldaco, Father Alberto Foix, and Father Gilbert Romero, respectively. The first Spanish language Mass was celebrated in July 1973.
Religious Sisters joined the parish apostolate as pastoral associates. Sister Suzanne Steffen, C.S.J., came in 1983. She helped bring S.C.O.C. (South Central Organizing Committee) to the parish. She also helped form the successful Senior Citizens’ Program. In 1985, Sister Nuala Briody, D.M.J., arrived, serving the parish for a few years. Then Sister Thaddeus Cuellar, C.S.J., joined the staff. She was succeeded by Sister Dolores Madden, C.H.F., until July 1994. These religious strengthened the baptismal and catechetical programs, led by Mrs. Rita Flores, and faithfully made home visitations. Msgr. Michael Myers of the Archdiocesan Mission Office was in residence from 1985 to 2000. His many ministries included the celebration of liturgies, ministries to youth, and having put the parish records and finances on computer. The parish hosted many priests from Africa, who taught the community about life and the faith in Africa.
Cardinal Roger Mahoney named Father John Higson pastor in March 1991 and he served for two years. In that period, Nancy Vondrasek took up the parish’s business administration. Father Jose Luis Ochoa was administrator from September 1993 to April 1994. This was a difficult period for the parish while the neighborhood recovered from the civil disturbance of 1992 and the Northridge earthquake. The tower of the church, since repaired, was badly damaged by the earthquake. Msgr. Louis Gutierrez was named pastor in April 1994. He was here for only one week before he was tragically murdered in San Diego. Msgr. Anthony Leuer arrived as pastor in August 1994. He found the laity very active in both the English speaking and Spanish speaking communities and began to build bridges between the various communities. Very impressive were the parish’s affiliation with St. Peter Claver Center and the twice a month food bank held on the premises. Father Olin Mayfield and Father Ikechukwu “Ike” Ikeoche did their seminary internship here and Deacon Armando Garcia assisted Spanish speaking ministries beginning 1996. Transitional Deacon Jim Cummings was on staff for a year, 1996-1997, helping in a cross-section of ministries. Father David Ayotte, head of Together in Mission and head of the Mission Office, served as Administrator from 1998 to 1999.
Father Paul Sustayta served as Pastor from 2000 to 2006. During his tenure, he held an annual fundraising concert called Handel to Hollywood. Proceeds went toward church restoration including repairing the stained glass windows and painting the church in its original colors. He also raised funds for the construction of the St. Martin de Porres Plaza. Father Richard Kayizzi did his seminary internship here during that time.
Father Brian Castaneda arrived in July of 2006. He oversaw the restoration of the Parish Hall and repaving of the parking lot. He revitalized the Youth Group, Noctural Adoration, Evangelization Group, and the Pentecost Festival (Holy Spirit’s Feast day). He also started a monthly Mass during the school day for Holy Spirit students. He was called to serve the new Archbishop, Jose Gomez, in 2010 and now works as his priest-secretary.
Father Victor Ruvalcaba served as Administrator Pro-Tem from 2010 to 2013. Assisted by Associate Pastor, Fr. Benito Armenta, he introduced a monthly dinner for parishioners and a Valentine’s Day dance.
In July 2013, Father Al Ezeonyeka took on leadership of the parish. He served the parish for three years, implementing an increased offertory program.
In July 2016, the Apostles of Jesus, took on administration of the parish. Fr. Joseph Okech Adhunga, A.J., was installed as pastor in December 2016, assisted by Fr. Macdonald Akuti, A.J., Fr. Gabriel Emuria, A.J., and Fr. John Montag, S.J.
In July 2019, Fr. Arturo Valadez will take over as parish administrator.
Our spirited parishioners continue to make this a great Catholic community, giving witness to Jesus Christ in Mid-City Los Angeles.