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Brief History:

By Hermine Lees, Tidings Online Friday, June 18, 2004 (updated Dec 11, 2010)

Founded: 1931 Location: 187th Street and Clarkdale Avenue, Artesia San Pedro Region: Deanery 18
Four churches in the archdiocese are named for the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (including Glendale, South Pasadena and Wilmington). But the one in Artesia is the only parish where Mass is celebrated weekly in Portuguese, a tradition that is rooted in the community itself (and reflected in the name of the parish school, Our Lady of Fatima).

The city of Artesia today is bordered by Bellflower, Cerritos and Lakewood, but was originally part of the Spanish land grant known as Rancho Los Coyotes. The Rancho title changed many times and attracted settlers who favored the rich soil and abundant supply of water. By 1906 the Artesia Improvement Company developed a town site. The first industry was truck farming and grapes were one of the chief crops.

The name of the city derives, of course, from the many naturally flowing artesian wells that were in the area. The early wells flowed continually and were capped with a bolted-down metal plate. Most of the farms used such wells until the water level receded.

In the early 1920s, many dairymen came from the San Joaquin Valley to work in the farmlands of Artesia. Most of them had emigrated from Portugal and the Azores Islands, and their language and traditions formed an early cultural foundation in the establishment of Holy Family Church. (The feast of the Holy Family developed in the early 17th century; by 1921 Pope Benedict XV extended the observance to the universal church as a model of domestic society accomplished through holiness and virtue.)

Father Manuel Vicente, a native of Portugal, celebrated the first Mass in 1928 upstairs in the Scott and Frampton Building. He resided at the old Parker Hotel on Pioneer Boulevard until the parish was established in 1931 and a small church was built on South Corby Avenue. Bishop John Cantwell dedicated the church to honor the Holy Family and most of the parishioners then were Portuguese-speaking Catholics.

In 1938, Father Vicente died and Msgr. Thomas English, a native of Ireland, followed as pastor for two years, and later serving for 31 years as pastor of St. Joseph church in Pomona. Msgr. English died in 1975 at age 73.

Parish support during the early '40s and '50s came primarily from the local dairymen with cattle feeding a major contribution. There were some 40 dairy farms at one time and one of the enterprising projects was the auction of donated calves and cows to raise funds for the church.


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