Church Built for 200 Families Serves 4,500
In 2001, the Diocese of San Bernardino asked the Columban Fathers to take charge of St. Mary's Parish in Fontana, California. The ethnic mix of the people was a natural fit for the Columbans as the parish is more than 90 percent Mexican/American, with the balance being Filipinos, Koreans, Nigerians and others from Central American countries. Columban Fr. Al Utzig serves as the current pastor and Columban Fr. Brendan O'Sullivan is the associate pastor.
Since it's founding in 1939, the parish has grown from just 200 families to well over 4,500 registered families. As can be seen in the photo, the present church is a "warehouse style" metal building that is just 110 feet by 110 feet. On the weekends, 1,100 portable chairs are moved into place for those attending Mass. There are no kneelers, so those that are able, kneel on the concrete slab floor. An old farmhouse on the property is home to the parish offices. Amidst all these obstacles, the faithfulness of the community is inspiring.
A new church needs to be constructed that will hold at least 1,200 attendees at each Mass. The parish plans to use architectural plans that have been used previously by the Diocese, saving the parish hundreds of thousands in expenses. The existing Church (metal) building will be converted to flexible meeting spaces and a hall.
The parish has been fundraising for over five years and has raised over $2.1million to date. The parish festival nets over $100,000 each year and is augmented by a weekly second collection and memorial brick sales. A generous benefactor has pledged a $1 million gift to be paid over five years, half of which has been received.
The Columbans will help, too, but at the current rate, it will take another 6-7 years to reach the goal.
Help the Columban parish of St. Mary, Fontana, Calif. Come play in the Columban Centennial Golf Tournament on Monday, October 1, 2018, at Tregaron Golf Club in Bellevue, Neb.