California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
REV. JOHN M. HEGARTY. — St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church at Riverside has been the central fact in the history of Catholicism in Riverside County, and it has been an institution with a steady growth of power and prosperity for upwards of a third of a century.
An article in the Riverside Enterprise, published in 1921, gave the main outline of the history of this parish. Thirty-five years ago the few Catholic families in Riverside regarded San Bernardino as their parish. The distance was too great for regular attendance, and consequently the pastor of the church at San Bernardino came over to the Riverside end of his parish and occasionally said mass for the convenience of the little flock. This missionary pastor was Father Stockman, now Monsignor Stockman. With the increase of the Catholic population at Riverside it was decided to erect a chapel for their convenience. This chapel was dedicated in 1888 to St. Francis de Sales by the Rt. Rev. Francis Mora, a Spanish bishop of the diocese. The plans for this chapel were obtained from Belgium, the country of Father Stockman's birth. This church is still standing and served the Catholic congregation until 1919.
October 15, 1893, Rev. John McCarthy, now Monsignor McCarthy of Pasadena, was appointed first resident pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church. During his administration a small parochial residence was built at the corner of Lima and Twelfth streets. It has been moved once and enlarged twice and is now standing at the corner of Thirteenth and Lime. After five years of labors Father McCarthy removed to Fresno and was succeeded at Riverside by Rev. M. Conneally, who took charge on October 13, 1898. The next pastor was Rev. S. F. Cain, who took up his duties January 13, 1905. His successor was Rev. Peter H. McNellis, who came February 11, 1911. Father McNellis was succeeded by the late Rev. Florian B. Hahn in 1913. Father Hahn died in the fall of 1915, and the parish then had as its acting rector Rev. Joseph Cox until August 25, 1917. At that date Rt. Rev. Monsignor P. Hartnett appointed Rev. J. M. Hegarty as pastor.
The foundation for a new Francis de Sales Church was laid in 1914, and on the foundation the walls were raised about three feet, but from the death of Father Hahn in 1915 until September, 1918, no further work was done. The church as now used is only one-half the height intended in the original plan, and the total cost of the building and equipment has been about thirty thousand dollars. Under the present administration of the parish plans have been made for a two-story Mission style brick school building at Thirteenth and Mulberry, to cost forty thousand dollars. The present school facilities take care of the educational needs of the parish with an enrollment of 135. The school is under the charge of the Dominican Sisters of Galveston, Texas.
Rev. John M. Hegarty, pastor of the church at Riverside, was born in County Kilkenny, Ireland, in January, 1883. He acquired his early education in the National schools, graduated A. B. in June, 1905, from St. Michael's College, and took his theological work in St. Patrick's College of County Carlow. He was ordained to the priesthood June 12, 1910, and was at once assigned to the American Mission and arrived in Los Angeles August 20, 1910. He was asistant at the Cathedral in Los Angeles for seven years, after which he took up his duties at Riverside. The parish has enjoyed great growth in every direction under its vigorous pastor. The church is thoroughly organized, including Altar Society, Holy Name Society for men and boys, Pastor's Aid Society, Young People's Social Club, St. Aloysius Society for boys and the Children of Mary.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011