SAN DIEGO — The 65th anniversary of St. Michael Parish in Paradise Hills means more than just the passage of time.
“It celebrates the faithfulness of God to His people, and it reflects a community of people trying to be faithful to God,” said Buena Algoso, who has been a parishioner since 1974. “That is a beautiful love affair.”
Cardinal Robert W. McElroy will preside at the parish’s anniversary Mass. It will be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 5, with Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano and others concelebrating.
That evening, the parish will also be hosting a dinner/dance that will include an inspirational talk by Father Mel Collier, who served as pastor from 1987 to 1999, and a performance by San Diego Padres Cantantes, a singing group of Filipino priests.
Father Manny Ediza, who is in his 15th year as pastor, said that St. Michael’s is a vibrant and diverse community.
He noted that the church, which has a seating capacity of about 800 people, is almost always full for weekend Masses, of which there are nine, and weekday Masses are also well attended. Like other parishes, St. Michael’s experienced a drop in attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, but it’s gradually picking up.
“Attendance at some of our Masses (has) resumed to almost pre-pandemic” levels, he said. “This is why the theme of our (anniversary) celebration is ‘Faith Sustained, Strengthened and Growing Through the Years.’”
Father Ediza said the parish is about 75% Filipino and 15% Hispanic, with the remainder consisting of Anglos, other Asians, and African Americans, and the faith is expressed there through various multicultural devotions and traditions.
“We are a very active and vibrant, inclusive parish,” echoed Karen Gallion Carrick, who has been a parishioner since the beginning.
“I was a child when the parish was being built,” she said.
St. Michael Parish traces its history back to the Fall of 1957, when San Diego’s founding bishop, Charles F. Buddy, established what was then known as “Catholic Church of Paradise Hills.”
The first Mass was celebrated on Nov. 4, 1957, in a rented house on Alleghany Street. In early 1958, Bishop Buddy announced that the parish would be named St. Michael’s.
As Mass attendance increased, a vacant theater at the corner of Granger and Ridgeway Drive in Lincoln Acres became the second temporary parish location. Mass was celebrated there for the first time on Dec. 1, 1957.
Construction of a church and rectory at the parish’s current location on Homedale Street began on Aug. 25, 1958. The first Mass was celebrated inside the new church on Pentecost Sunday, May 10, 1959, and it was officially dedicated on July 10, 1959.
A volunteer crew, composed of members of the parish’s Holy Name Society, built the parish hall between October 1961 and January 1962. They followed this with the construction of St. Michael Academy, which welcomed its first students in June 1962.
Decades later, St. Michael Academy would become a casualty of COVID-19.
“During the pandemic, less than 50% of our student population came back to our school,” Father Ediza said.
Unable to sustain itself, the school closed at the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year.
However, the preschool has remained open and is working to increase its enrollment. Eventually, Father Ediza said, the parish hopes to “restore our Academy,” one grade level at a time.
Over the past 65 years, St. Michael Parish has grown steadily. There were only about 300 parishioners when its first Masses were celebrated. Today, more than 3,000 families participate in parish life.
The existing parish hall has proven too small for the growing community. In 2017, the parish launched a capital campaign for a new, multi-purpose parish center, which will be built on the site of the current parish office and will house the office, a social hall, meeting rooms, and an adoration chapel.
Reflecting on the parish’s future, Algoso said, “My deepest hope is for our youth now to carry on with what has been started here. The old parishioners are slowly fading away, but the Spirit will live on regardless, and God will always remain faithful to us.”