The History of St. Clare of Assisi Parish
In 1769 the Portolá Expedition made their way north from San Diego to Monterey. They were scouting sites to build missions and military encampments. The chief diarist was Father Juan Crespi. On August 10th Father Crespi recorded in his journal that the group came across a river that flowed north. He noted this river would be a good place to plant crops and build communities. Fr Crespi named the river Santa Clara in reverence to the August 11th feast day of St. Clare of Assisi.
Santa Clarita Valley was officially named in 1972. The only parish in the valley was Our Lady of Perpetual Help. SCV was growing and so was the parish. There was a need for more space; it was time that the parishioners from the Canyon Country area branched off to make a new mission of their own. Father Henry J. Banks, Pastor of OLPH started the mission of St. Clare of Assisi. Masses began in February at the Canyon High Library. By April, the library could no longer accommodate the growing mission, so Mass was moved to the gymnasium. Remember being a bleacher climber? Ahh, those were the days! You were not only spiritually enlightened but physically fit due to all that climbing. CCD classes began that same year. Weekly classes were held at the Elks Lodge on Sierra Highway, Sierra Vista Jr. High School, and at the homes of several parishioners. Religious Education would be a mainstay of the parish.
There was an extensive search for property to build the new church. One of the sites being considered was the current location of Denny's at Soledad and Crossglade in Canyon Country. There was also a plot of land nestled in the Canyon off Camp Plenty Road. Originally, the land had a house and a barn on it. The story goes that settlers would camp near the site because it had plenty of water from the Santa Clara River. This seemed a perfect place to put a church, a place to find a community of God. The property was purchased for $35,000 dollars. In 1976, Cardinal Manning approved the name of the mission as St. Clare of Assisi.
Construction began in January of 1976 and was completed in July of that year. The architectural drawings of St Francis of Assisi church in Fillmore were used, not only to save money, but it kept the connection between St. Francis and St. Clare who were spiritual partners in Christ. The total cost was $285,000 and was completely paid for by the time the first Mass was held in the new church. This was due to the generosity and dedication of the parishioners of both St. Clare and OLPH!
Father Ed Renehan was appointed to the position of Mission Administrator in 1977. In February of 1978, St. Clare was officially made a parish, with 1,500 registered families. At that time Father Ed was appointed Pastor.
Seeing the strength of the parish community it was time to come together and put that strength to work. During the Lenten season of 1979, St Clare held its first annual Fish Fry and inaugural Barbecue later that year. The International Food Fair and the Christmas Basket Program were also started to put the strength of the community to work. This was an exciting time to be a parishioner.
In 1985 the construction of the classrooms began. This was a landmark for the church. Since the beginning, Religious Education has been and will always be the cornerstone of St. Clare's of Assisi. Today, classes are now held five days a week. In a few short years, the Santa Clarita Valley grew and so did the parish. There was a need for more space. The strength of the parish community had a new challenge before them, to build a new church. The property adjacent to the first church and classrooms was purchased for $280,000. Construction was completed within a year at a cost of $1.8 million dollars. In two short years, the entire building and property were paid for, but the most amazing thing was that the parishioners raised $415,000 in one weekend! The first Mass in the new church was celebrated on Christmas Eve, 1988. At that time, the total number of families registered was 3,800.
The Santa Clarita Valley has grown from small individual communities into a large city. In 1991, Mass began to be celebrated at Arroyo Seco Jr. High and guess what? It was time to build a new Building! The multi-purpose building at Blessed Kateri was started. Construction began in 1996 and was completed in 1997. Blessed Kateri officially became the third parish in the valley. The International Food Faire was enhanced by the creation of the Ministry Faire. This gave the parish a renewed spirit and strengthened the bond of Community.
In January of 1994, Santa Clarita felt the shock waves of the 6.8 Northridge Earthquake. This left the church damaged. In 1999 the parish of St. Clare of Assisi, having built Blessed Kateri, started the job of refurbishing the church. The cost to refurbish the church would be $435,000, $150,000 more than the cost of the original church, which is now the Fr. Henry J. Banks Community Center.
The Dominican Sisters came to begin our program of Spanish Religious Education and Ministry to the Hispanic Community in 2006 followed by the completion and opening of our new classrooms, library, and Renehan Hall in 2007. Our Community continues to grow. The total number of families registered is now over 5,000.
July 1, 2008 brought Fr. Olin Mayfield to us as our new Administrator. He served this position until June 30, 2010 when he officially became Pastor. He was installed by Bishop Wilkerson on August 15th, The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
St. Clare's parishioners have shown their amazing ability and strength of character to keep up with the tremendous growth and expansion in the Santa Clarita Valley. God is still calling us to serve Him and spread the Good News! We are one in Christ. We are one in community. We are one in family. We are St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Community.
When you help the poor you are lending to the Lord-and he pays wonderful interest on your loan! Proverbs 19:17