Msgr. O’Dwyer: Nationally-known advocate for economic justice

Msgr. Thomas O’Dwyer was St. Mary’s longest-serving pastor (23 years). — Credit: THE TIDINGS

A long list of diocesan and (since 1965) Salesian priests have served St. Mary Church in Boyle Heights as pastor and/or administrator since its founding in 1896.

Perhaps none, however, were as involved in the life of the local Church and promoting the cause of its most needy than St. Mary’s longest-serving pastor, Msgr. Thomas O’Dwyer, of County Tipperary, Ireland, who served 23 years as St. Mary’s pastor (1937-60).

Ordained in 1922 for the Diocese of Los Angeles-San Diego, the former St. Patrick’s College (Thurles) seminarian was just as well-known as a nationally-recognized authority on social and welfare work, having been named (at age 30) to directorship of the Catholic Welfare Bureau by Bishop John Cantwell.

For four decades, in the midst of Southern California’s enormous economic growth, he promoted the essential rights each person enjoys (or should enjoy) in society.

“It is our duty,” he said, addressing the Catholic Industrial Conference in 1930, “to sponsor and support, in every way possible, legislation that will secure for the workman his fundamental right to a living wage, adequate protection against industrial hazards, and an income that will provide properly for old age.”

Msgr. O’Dwyer also spoke out in favor of better housing, health care and labor relations, and he expected the Church to offer its active support. “The Church,” he told the National Conference of Catholic Charities in 1937, “has never accepted and can never accept a status quo, and will be found protesting, as ever, against social and individual injustice, knowing that any wrong done the lowliest creature is a wrong done to Christ himself.”

The recipient of numerous awards and commendations, from religious and civic institutions alike, Msgr. O’Dwyer died in San Diego June 7, 1966 at age 70.

 

List of pastors

From parish and Tidings archival records, the list of St. Mary’s pastors includes:

—Father Joseph Doyle (1896-1900).

—Father Joseph Barron (1900-10).

—Father Joseph McManus (1910-18).

—Father John Gallagher (1918-19).

—Father Thomas O’Reagan (1919-37), previously a St. Mary’s associate, who in 1937 became pastor of St. Philip the Apostle in Pasadena, serving until his death in 1957.

—Msgr. Thomas O’Dwyer (1937-60).

—Msgr. James Dessert (1960-65), born in Kansas City, Mo., ordained in 1934. He also served as pastor of St. Joseph (Carpinteria), St. Albert the Great (Compton) and Holy Trinity (Atwater), and died in 2001 at age 96.

In 1965, the archdiocese gave administration of St. Mary’s to the care of the Salesians of Don Bosco.

—Father Albert Negri (1965-68).

—Father Charles Farina (1968-71).

—Father Rafael Sanchez (1974-80), of Cordoba, Spain, who also served in the Caribbean and Texas.

—Father Roger Luna (1980-1984), the first California-born pastor (from Highgrove), a former principal of Salesian High School and associate pastor of St. Dominic Savio, Bellflower.

—Father Joseph Farias (1984-1987 and 2002-10), who also served as an associate.

—Father Avelino Lorenzo (1987-96 and administrator, 2010-11), a native of Spain.

—Father Jim Nieblas (1996-2002), raised in Mission San Juan Capistrano parish.

—Father Francisco Muñoz (2011-13).

—Father Jesse Montes (2013-present).


Voices

Easter and beyond

Anne Hansen

We move quickly from our major religious holidays each year. It’s not intentional. Life hurries along and as soon as the sun sets on one holiday the next is being touted by merchants looking to sell us whatever the next big day brings. To remain in the spirit of the religious holiday — in this case Easter — takes deliberate intention.

Opportunities with Sisters of St. Joseph

Events

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April 25, 2015

  • Saturday, April 25

    Super Groovy 5K Run/Walk, 8 a.m., Woodley Park, 6350 Woodley Ave, Van Nuys. Sponsored by St. Euphrasia School, this year’s “Super Groovy” theme celebrates the school’s 50th anniversary of its founding in 1964 and serves as a tribute to that nostalgic era of peace and love — the 60’s. At the finish line, all runners and walkers will be puffed with clouds of psychodelic color. Registration $25-$40. For more information, contact Susie Sempelsz, (818) 488-1598. info@knights5k.org.

    5th Annual Car Show, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Junipero Serra High School, 14830 S Van Ness Ave., Gardena. Featuring classics, hot rods, and muscle cars as well as food, music, vendors and raffles. (310) 324-6675. la-serrahs.org.

    Challenge Weekend for Men, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and April 26, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Povorello Retreat House, 1519 Woodworth St., San Fernando. Presented by St. John Eudes and Our Lady of Grace Men’s Fellowships. Men will not board overnight; lunch is provided both days. $90 or donation. Register at knowingweekend.eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Fred Perez, (818) 749-5126.

    First Annual Sacred Heart High School Gala, 5 p.m., Los Angeles City College New Student Activities Center, 855 N Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. Proceeds from the event, themed “United to Empower,” will benefit the Comet Scholarship Fund.



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