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|St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Catholic Church||
Bishop Timothy Manning exists the old church following the 1948 Confirmation Mass
In 1922, the distance between Harbor City and Wilmington seemed too great. So thought two Harbor City women, Mrs. Myerscough and Mrs. Crossfield. The two had met at a PTA meeting, and recognized each other from church. In their opinion, the traveling time from their homes to Saints Peter and Paul Church in Wilmington was much too long, and they were determined to do something about that. They decided to petition Bishop John Cantwell if a new church could be built west of Figueroa Street to serve the growing Catholic community. They found other parents who shared the feeling that traveling to Wilmington for Mass, Confession and religious education was too far a journey from their Harbor City homes
With several dozen signatures collected representing Harbor City Catholics, they made their way to the diocesan headquarters, located at the time on 2nd and Main Streets, across from St. Vibiana Cathedral. While cordial, the bishop denied their request - too few names. For the time being, their parish church remained Saints Peter and Paul. Respectfully defiant, they kept alive the dream of a new place to worship. In 1925, Bishop Cantwell recommended that the ladies compile another petition, and this time include the nearby city of Lomita to their signature drive. Their list dramatically grew to over one hundred names. Their efforts were met with success, as Bishop Cantwell established a mission church to be opened, under the parochial watch of the priests from Saints Peter and Paul Church.
As one hurdle was accomplished, now came the next challenge - where to have Mass? The center of Harbor City social life was the second story of the California Cleaners Building which housed a meeting hall. The building was located on Pacific Coast Highway (then called Anaheim Street). Banquets, wedding receptions and service clubs used the hall regularly. Now the new Catholic mission church wished to be included in the schedule. On a weekly basis, the small group of families would arrive at the hall late Saturday nights following the scheduled dance or banquet, clean the facility and set it up for Sunday Mass. A priest would come from Wilmington each Sunday morning to lead the worship and administer the sacraments. The hall’s restrooms served as the confessionals.
While the Catholics were gathered each Sunday, a small group of “ushers” stood outside the hall. Their ministry of hospitality not only included showing people to their row and collecting the weekly offering. Their service was further defined to stand guard and protect.
You see, there was a significant anti-Catholic movement in the area. The thought of the formation of a Catholic community was too much of a threat for some. Death threats and vandalism faced the young community from the beginning. The ushers were called to assure the religious freedom of the mission churchgoers. This anti- Catholic sentiment declined over the next few years as the church established itself as a permanent part of the fabric of the local neighborhood.
In the late 1920's a small parcel of property was donated by a parishioner on Lomita Boulevard. A small wooden frame church was built at a cost of $4,500.00, surrounded by acres of celery fields. The community finally had a home. The years of make-shift facilities were finally behind them.
May 14, 2007