As World War II raged overseas, the Columbans in the U.S.A. tried to carry on and support their missions as best they could.
The Society was trying to expand its presence in southern California, particularly after the Diocese of San Diego “spun off” from the Los Angeles Diocese in July 1936.
In 1942 Columban Father John M. McFadden, a Cleveland, Ohio native and U.S. Army veteran, had served for several years in the Columban houses in Redlands and San Diego, California. In that year the Columbans assigned him as pastor to the predominately Mexican parish of Los Alamitos, located south of Los Angeles.
The parish later merged with another parish in the area called Westminster, and Father McFadden stayed on as pastor there until 1949.
From his experience in the parish, Father McFadden learned about Mexican and Latino customs, as well as perfecting his Spanish language skills.
In the June 1947 U.S. issue of The Far East magazine, he published an article entitled “Out California Way,” about the Mexican-American community that he served.
During the course of a long and colorful career, Father McFadden went on to serve in various postings in Latin America, including Argentina, Peru, and Oaxaca, Mexico.
Father McFadden’s work in southern California was the beginning of a Columban tradition of ministering to Hispanic/Latino communities in the U.S.A. and Latin America itself.
The Society had not yet established a formal mission in Latin America, but the Columban Mexican apostolate in southern California set the stage.