Pastors of St. Bernard Church
Rev. Morris Hurnett (1924)
Rev. St. Cyr (1924 to 1925)
Rev. John Powers (1925)
Rev. J.S. O'Neil (1925 to 1927)
Rev. James Lynch (1927 to 1930)
Rev. Harry Meade (1930 to 1937)
Rev. John O'Callaghan (1937 to 1940)
Rev. Leroy Callahan (1940 to 1941)
Rev. Thomas Moran (1941 to 1949)
Rev. Thomas Barry (1949 to 1964)
Rev. Dennis E. Murphy (1964 to 1973)
Rev. Patrick McNulty (1973 to 1992)
Rev. H. Gerald McSorley (1992 to 2011)
Rev. Perry D. Leiker (2013 to present)
Administrators of St. Bernard Church
Rev. St. Cyr (1924)
Rev. Patrick J. Dignan (1949)
Rev. John Cummings (unknown)
Rev. Thomas Dowling (1957)
Rev. Dennis E. Murphy (1960)
Rev. Perry D. Leiker (2011)
The early years
In April, 1924, then-Archbishop of Los Angeles John J. Cantwell (1874-1947) established a new parish in Glassell Park and placed it under patronage of St. Bernard. The area, which formerly was part of Divine Savior Parish, roughly encircled a triangular section bounded by York Boulevard, Division Street and San Fernando Road.
The Catholic participation was largely made up of families of Italian descent. The first Masses were celebrated in the residence of the Pastor Rev. Morris Hurnett, a rented bungalow, at 2627 W. Ave. 31, and later at the larger homes of Mr. and Mrs. J. C. McMullen, and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Probst until the completion of the new church in July 1925.
Original lay pioneer families include: Handorf, McMullen, Probst, Floss, Wallendorf, Wick, Mockenhaupt, and Koch.
Much of the original congregation was primarily of German, Italian, and Irish descent. Presently, we are a parish community which combines many ethnic groups. The three largest are families with Italian, Spanish, and Filipino surnames.
On Oct. 18, 1925, the new church, at Avenue 33 and Verdugo Road, was dedicated by Archbishop Cantwell. Rev. John Powers was the pastor.
Fathers James Lynch, James M. Martin, and S. McSweeney concelebrated the Mass. Master of ceremonies was Father John J. Devlin; Father Francis J. Conaty delivered the homily.
This building was later converted to a parish hall when our present brick church was constructed in 1967.
St. Bernard Catholic School
In 1941, St. Bernard School, a one-story building consisting of four classrooms was completed and dedicated on Jan. 19, with 135 St. Bernard School children in procession.
The school was staffed by four religious of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) from Dubuque, Iowa. Sister Mary Gilbert was the school's first principal. The first graduation of six students took place on June 28, 1942. The demand for space soon exceeded availability, and a second story was added to the original building during the summer of 1945, providing eight separate classrooms, which were staffed by eight Sisters of Charity.
In September of 1993, a kindergarten classroom and computer lab were added to the educational facility. The building was put up through the generosity of the Shea Construction Company on land across the street on Avenue 33, purchased by the parish community. The computer lab was completely equipped by the generosity of then-Mayor of Los Angeles Richard Riordan. The tables, shelving, etc., were built and installed by parishioner Dagoberto Ramos. The first kindergarten class graduated from St. Bernard School in June of 2002.
Over the past 50 years, significant changes have taken place in the ethnic makeup of the school population. Originally, the school population was predominately of Italian background. Today, the school population is predominately Hispanic and Filipino.
Today, the staff is composed of qualified teachers and administrators dedicated to fulfilling the mission and philosophy of St. Bernard Catholic School and to working tirelessly to ensure that all students meet our school-wide learning expectations.
Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
In 1946, the convent, now the Pastoral Center, was completed. The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary arrived at St. Bernard with the opening of the school in 1941. Sister Mary Gilbert was the first principal. Through the years, these wonderful sisters have given dedicated service to our parish school and community.
Among them, are Sister Dolores O'Dwyer, BVM, served as principal for 31 years, and Sister Joan Maga, BVM, who served for 30 years as a teacher and coach.
Sister Dolores's contribution to Catholic education was tremendous. Her determination, unselfish devotion, love, faith and skills as an educator influenced the lives of many students, parents, teachers and staff. She was a source of inspiration as she taught by example that every person is loved and cherished by God, and that we are all one family. She truly made a difference.
Sister Dolores died on Dec. 16, 2017, at her home in Caritas Center in Dubuque, Iowa. She was 94.
On May 3, 1946, the Rev. Dennis Earl Murphy became the first, and so far only, St. Bernard parishioner to be ordained.
The next day, he celebrated his first Mass at St. Bernard.
In 1954, Father Murphy returned as associate for 15 months. In 1960, he was appointed administrator of the parish, and in 1964 he became pastor of St. Bernard where he served until 1973.
In 1960, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles bought the Theme Hosiery Building on San Fernando Road and converted it to Pater Noster High School, now Ribèt Academy. It was staffed by the Brothers of St. Patrick. Father Murphy was appointed as the school's first administrator.
On April 30, 1962, St. Bernard Catholic School graduate Robert W. Gipson was ordained to the priesthood; on May 6, celebrated his first Mass at St. Bernard.
Father Gipson is the first, and so far, only St. Bernard Catholic School graduate to be ordained a priest.
The present rectory was built in 1964. That year, Charlotte Gipson, mother of Father Gipson, became the first secretary of St. Bernard. She remained in her position until she retired in 1993.
Parishioners were always assured of a warm welcome and of a very kind and capable person to help them when they came to the rectory door. Pastors and associates came and went throughout the years, but Charlotte remained, giving parishioners the same pleasant service.
Charlotte passed away in 2002.
In 1977, Paul A. Chacon was ordained deacon and began his ministry in our parish.
Deacon Chacon passed away in Arizona in 2014. He was 79.
In 1977, the first archdiocesan deaf center was established in our parish. Rev. Brian Doran, director of the Office of Pastoral Ministry to Handicapped Persons for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and with the enthusiastic cooperation of St. Bernard Pastor Father Patrick McNulty, developed a special ministry for the deaf and hard of hearing. It continued to grow, and in 1987, the ministry moved to the new Holy Angels Church for the Deaf in Vernon. Father Doran is pastor at Holy Angels Church of the Deaf.
On June 11, 1978, the parish celebrated the 25th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood of Father McNulty. He was honored by Pope John Paul II with the title of monsignor in 1992 and continued to serve as pastor until his retirement the following year when he was named pastor emeritus.
St. Bernard Church grows
On Sept. 10, 1967, Bishop John J. Ward broke ground for the new brick church. St. Bernard Pastor Father Dennis E. Murphy assisted the bishop as he blessed the site adjacent to the new rectory.
The new ranch-style and reinforced brick structure featured stucco walls, a wood roof, and a small white cross at the front.
An outstanding feature of St. Bernard is its stained glass windows, designed, executed and designed by artist Roger Darricarrere, whose studio was at 1937 San Fernando Road in Glassell Park. The windows are of many faceted, leaded, colorful stained glass. They depict the Annunciation, the 14 stations of the cross, and the Resurrection. Also included is one larger stained glass window of the same style at each side altar. One portrays the "wheat" design, and the other the "chalice" design. Included in the collection are the large stained glass windows in the baptistry and the Marian Shrine, among several others of the same style, executed by Darricarrere.
In 1968, with great joy, the new church came to life as Father Murphy, and other priests and parishioners, gathered for the first Mass in it — Christmas midnight Mass.
Six years later, the 50th anniversary of the parish was celebrated with a Mass and reception on Dec. 15, 1974. Cardinal Timothy Manning, Father McNulty, and present and former associate pastors and parishioners participated.
In 1978, the multipurpose and school library buildings were constructed.
On Aug. 16, 1980, St. Bernard parishioners celebrated the feast day of our patron saint, with Cardinal Timothy Manning, Father McNulty, Father Lorenzo Gonzales, and Father Ken Canedo concelebrating the Mass and blessing the new library building.
Through the generosity of a parishioner, a beautiful mural of St. Bernard was erected on the façade of the church in 1985, and in 1993 the kindergarten and computer buildings were added to the parish facilities.
St. Bernard’s is one of a few all-brick churches in existence in Los Angeles.
St. Bernard Church today
Father McNulty retired in 1993 after serving for 20 years as pastor and was given the title of monsignor by Pope John Paul II.
Ireland native Rev. Hugh Gerald McSorley was named pastor that same year.
He ministered as associate pastor at several parishes, including St. Mariana de Paredes, Pico Rivera; Holy Angels, Arcadia; St. Timothy, Los Angeles; and St. Barnabas, Long Beach. He served 12 years (1981-93) as pastor at St. Mariana de Paredes, and in 1993 was named pastor of St. Bernard, retiring as pastor emeritus in 2011.
The 1994 Northridge earthquake caused minor damage to St. Bernard. The tabernacle was destroyed, and small pieces from the church’s stained glass windows came loose, but the church fared well otherwise.
Throughout the years, the Office of Religious Education confraternity and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults ministry has assisted many of the people of our parish with faith formation and prepared them for the reception of the sacraments.
The various parish organizations from the early years, too, have been a powerful force in the life of the parish. These include the Guadalupana and Guadalupano associations, Italian Catholic Federation, Altar Society, Holy Name Society, Legion of Mary, and St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Since the 1970s, the establishment of the Fil-Am Association, Golden Years Association, Cursillo Movement and Fil-Am choir reflect the great number of Filipino-American families who have made their homes at St. Bernard and who are a vital part of our community.
The establishment of the Guadalupana Association, Grupo de Oración and the addition of two Sunday Masses in Spanish — each with its own choir — reflects that we have a large population of Spanish-speaking families who likewise help to make our community a beautiful blend of many cultures, all forming One Faith Community.
In 1999, St. Bernard’s roughly 4,000 families celebrated the parish’s 75th anniversary.
In 2001, St. Bernard launched its website under www.stbernardla.cc, to serve the parish community online.
On Sept. 16, 2001, the parish community gathered as one to reflect and pray on the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., that had occurred that week on Sept. 11.
In 2003, under the direction of parish associate Rev. Armando Ibañez, St. Bernard’s held its first Festival of Spiritual Poetry and Art, titled “On the Wings of An Angel.” The festival encouraged writers, poets, artists and photographers to submit their works for culmination of the festival: a book titled “On the Wings of An Angel.”
In 2010, Father McSorley was honored by Pope Benedict XVI with the title of monsignor. Monsignor McSorley retired in 2011 after serving for 19 years as pastor.
In 1995, Dr. Rene Aravena became the music director for St. Bernard Church, where he was much loved and respected. He was director of the St. Bernard 8 a.m. choir (the Chancel Choir) and 11 a.m. Mass Spanish choir.
A native of Chile, Rene arrived in the United States in 1979 where he pursued his musical career, receiving various university degrees, including a doctorate in music from the University of Minnesota. Among his many accomplishments: Rene was the winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions in Nevada. Rene's baritone voice was heard in many oratorio and recital appearances. His versatility as a performer extended to the opera and operatta state, with roles in "Don Pasquale," "La Traviata," "La Boheme," "The Merry Widow" and Figaro in "The Marriage of Figaro."
In 1991, he sang the role of Guglielmo in the opera “Cosi Dan Tutte” at the Teatro Municipal in Santiago, Chile. As a 1992 winner of the Voices of Vienna Competition, Rene studied voice with Grace Bumbry at the Mozorteum in Salzburg, Austria. As a professor at Cal State L.A. and director of the Cal State L.A. Opera Workshop, Rene influenced the lives and careers of many.
Around Christmas of 2002, Rene was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Throughout his illness, he maintained a wonderful spirit, fortified by his faith in God, by the sacraments and prayers of the church, by the support of his many friends and by the tremendous love and are from his family who came from Chile to be with him.
On March 9, 2004, Rene died peacefully at this home in Alhambra, California.
Monsignor H. Gerald McSorley
On April 17, 2014, Monsignor McSorley passed away after a long battle with cancer.
He was 72.
Upon learning of Monsignor McSorley’s death, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin wrote from Ireland sending “deepest sympathy to the extended family in St. Bernard’s parish. ... Thank you for making [Monsignor McSorley] ‘one of your own’ for such a long time, and may his gentle soul rest in peace.”
And our story continues ...
Los Angeles native Rev. Perry D. Leiker was named parish administrator on July 1, 2011.
And our story continues ...