St. Bernadette Parish



The community of Saint Bernadette Roman Catholic Church has the mission of adhering to the teaching message of Christ; we are called to sustain the unity in faith and Christian living of the entire people of God.  The focus is on a powerful experience in community which includes addressing the personal and social concerns, thereby ministering to the whole person.  The acceptance of diversity and the vision of dignity of every human being is a part of the Christian concept.  These principles and family values will reinforce our life in the Christian faith.


Mission Statement

History of our Parish


St. Bernadette Parish was officially established by His Excellency, John Joseph Cantwell, Archbishop of Los Angeles, April 28, 1947.  The temporary church was a converted part of La Cienega O’Paso De Boca La Tijera.  This old rancho dated back to the year 1790.  In 1875, the ownership of the rancho passed to “Lucky” Baldwin. Subsequently, the Sunset Fields Golf Course was established on part of the property.  Reverend William J. Duggan, the newly appointed pastor of St. Bernadette, decided that the former Sunset Fields Golf Course, which was closing, would be an appropriate location for the church site.  Negotiations were made, and three and one half acres of the golf course became the property of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The original adobe buildings, erected by Sunset Fields, were repaired and extended as a temporary church and rectory.  Hence, the structures that became St. Bernadette’s first rectory consisted of two of Los  Angeles’ oldest buildings.  This unusual parish structure also included the former Sunset Fields clubhouse.  Sections of the old golf club served as a church, meeting hall, dining room, and living quarters.  This was St. Bernadette’s first church.

The new parish included portions of St. John the Evangelist and Transfiguration parishes. Naturally, it wasn’t easy for Fr. Duggan to win over the loyalty of the people who were attached to their mother parishes. 

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was first celebrated on August 24, 1947 in the Sunset Fields clubhouse.  Church furnishings and vestments had been donated by St. John the Evangelist parish.  The new parish originally consisted of 147 families.  The congregation sat on folding chairs and knelt on the floor.  The auditorium of the clubhouse would later be converted into a permanent church with more suitable accommodations.   The remodeled auditorium, now the permanent church, had a seating capacity of 350.  St. Bernadette Church, located at 3701 Stocker Street, became the first church in the Archdiocese to be dedicated by Archbishop Francis A. McIntyre. 

On April 4, 1948, Archbishop McIntyre presided at the solemn dedication Mass and Father Duggan was the celebrant.  Assistants at the Mass were Rev. Maurice J. Ryan, Rev. Patrick J. Redahan, Msgr. Edward V. Wade, and Mr. Thomas Peacha, a seminarian of the parish.  In his sermon, Msgr. Martin McNicholas, pastor of St. John the Evangelist, noted that the new parish was typical of the progress of the Church throughout the ages, throughout the world, and particularly of the growth of the Los Angeles area.

It was a proud and happy congregation that attended the inspiring and colorful ceremony of dedication during which the new parish church was blessed. 

On May 2, 1948, nine girls and seven boys received their First Holy Communion from Fr. Duggan.  Lawrence Werner was the first child to receive his First Holy Communion in St. Bernadette Church.  His brother, Patrick, was the first child to be baptized in the church.  The Sacrament of Confirmation was first administered at St. Bernadette on February 28, 1954.  The parishioners attending the ceremony witnessed the confirming of 102 Christians by Bishop Timothy Manning.


As the parish grew, it soon became apparent that a school, convent, and new church were needed.  Plans for a school and convent were soon put on the drawing board.  The architectural firm of Baker and Ott drew up the plans for the school and convent.  It was hoped that the school would be completed by September of 1955.  The school opened its doors on schedule at 9 am on September 12, 1955.  Although painters and plumbers were still underfoot, and there were not enough desks for everyone, the children were delighted to be there.  The school opened with approximately 300 children in the first six grades and kindergarten. 

On October 3, 1955, all of the children appeared in uniform for the first time.   The school was built on the northern corner of the property, and cost approximately $100,000.  It is a modern, single-storey brick structure.  The school consists of two classroom wings, and and administration section at the front, and a covered lunch area at the rear.  These come together to form an enclosed patio area.  The classrooms open onto the patio and there are no halls or stairs.  The buildings, covering 13,500 square feet of floor area, included eight regular classrooms and a kindergarten room.   Provisions had been made for the addition of a third classroom wing when needed.

The school was staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.  They had first come to St. Bernadette in August of 1947, the same year the parish was created.  Two sisters from St. Mary’s Academy taught catechism each Sunday until the school opened in 1955.  When the school opened, the convent had not been finished and Sisters lived at St. Mary’s Academy.  Tom Peacha, a seminarian, drove the Sisters to St. Bernadette’s each day until the convent was completed. 

Sr. Eva Francis was the first principal, and the faculty consisted of three other Sisters:  Sr. Robert Francis, Sr. Jeanne Anne, and Sr. Kathleen Francis.  The original lay faculty consisted of Miss Elizabeth Jennett, Miss Frances McGivern, and Miss Ruth Dorack. 

Two weeks after the school opened, the Sisters moved into their new convent, located at 4210 Marlton Avenue.  It was an elegant edifice, containing accommodations for the Sisters and a housekeeper. 

On Sunday, October 9, 1955, the laypeople of the parish had the opportunity to view Marlton Avenue from behind convent walls.  The grand tour around the convent gave parishioners first-hand knowledge of how their hard-earned and generous donations to the parish had been spent.  Visitors were impressed with the way simplicity and conventional taste had been preserved in spite of the modern furnishings. 

As the school continued to progress during the first two years, enrollment increased and activities were plentiful.  The first group of St. Bernadette students, together with students from local public schools, were confirmed by the Cardinal on February 17, 1956. 

Since 1958 was the centenary year of the Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Bernadette’s feast was celebrated in a memorable way:  Fr. Duggan celebrated a High Mass in which the entire school sang.  At the end of the Mass, the children presented Fr. Duggan with a gold and glass cruet set for the church. 

The school continued to thrive for the next 19 years under the direction of the Sisters of St. Joseph of

Carondelet.  The spring of 1974 brought sad news to the parish -- the Sisters were leaving St. Bernadette School.  From 1974-78 therefore, the school faculty consisted of solely lay personnel.  In the meantime, Fr. Aiden Day, pastor, was searching for a religious order for the school and convent.  The summer of 1978 brought another transition from lay to religious leadership.  The school would now be staffed by the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Sr. M. Carmel O’Reilly and Sr. Mairiad Galvin were the first to arrive.  They were followed a few days later by Sr. Marie Manning, who would be the new principal.  In the following year, other Sisters included Sr. Maria Haw, Sr. Josephine Ryan, Sr. Loyola O’Neill, Sr. Marie Dunlea, Sr. Magdalen Hughes, and Sr. Maureen Skelly.

In the fall of 1991, Sister John Mary O’Dwyer, C.S.J. became the new principal, and once again, the school was blessed with a partial staff of Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.  The remaining Presentation Sisters left the school during the summer of 1995.  During the Presentation Sisters’ 17 years of ministry at St. Bernadette School, parents and students were grateful for the opportunity to enjoy the spiritual and educational influence of the Order.  In 1995, St. Bernadette convent was occupied by the Sisters of the Holy Cross.  These Sisters are involved in various ministries for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.


Father Duggan had to use his creative ingenuity to operate as a fully functioning parish without the buildings that were to follow.  Construction for the new rectory began in 1955.  Fr. Duggan, Fr. Kelly, and their housekeeper, Mrs. Elizabeth Ventura, moved into their residence in February 1960.  Open house for the parishioners had been held before the building was totally complete;  many visitors toured the building on January 17, 1960. 


Construction for the new church began in 1959.  St. Bernadette Church, situated on the eastern slope of the Baldwin Hills in southwest Los Angeles, is named after the saint to whom Our Lady appeared at the grotto near Lourdes, France.  Our Lady told St. Bernadette that she wanted a chapel built at Lourdes.  This was done, and then, almost 100 years later, the little saint through whom Our Lady spoke is commemorated in our country by a church in her name.  From its exceptional site, it commands a magnificent vista of the city.  With its tall, latticed tower and red-tiled roof, it has become an outstanding landmark in southwest section of the city.  Atop the graceful bell tower, rises an anodized aluminum cross.

The contemporary architecture of the church blends with and adds effectively to the fast-growing, modern community in which it is located.  Set on an angle at Marlton Avenue and Don Felipe Drive, the facade of the edifice features a magnificent Italian mosaic mural of our Lade of Lourdes and St. Bernadette, bearing the inscription Ad Jesum Per Mariam.

From the vestibule, the rooms of the Holy Childhood and Holy Innocents can be entered, where the parents and their young children may hear Mass and attend devotions.  Also adjacent is a bride’s room with complete facilities.  Stairways to the right and left lead to the massive choir loft seating 95 members, and for many years featured a fine, hardwood-enclosed pipe organ.

Upon entering the nave of the church through glass-edged doors, one is immediately overwhelmed with the beauty and vastness of the interior with its soft, indirect lighting.  Two-thirds of its 1050 seating capacity is located in the transept supported by four, Italian marble-faced columns, over terrazzo-covered floors. 

The beautiful sanctuary and altar, with its complementary colored reredos, is crowned by a semi-circular apse, containing multicolored stained-glass windows of the seven sacraments. All of the fine marbles of the main altar, side altars, and altar railings came from Italy, and were constructed their by famous stone-cutters specifically for our church.  The tabernacle, sanctuary light, and hexagonal candlesticks are of bronze, and the simplicity of design of the altar and sanctuary furnishings blend in harmony with the colors and architecture of the edifice.  On the north and south ends of the transepts are the stained glass windows of the Assumption, and of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette, all designed by Franz Meyer of Munich, Germany.  The transept has two entrances on either side, affording exceptionally easy entrance and exit.